The Mammal Research Institute (MRI) of the Polish Academy of Sciences lies within the region of Podlasie, which includes some remaining parts of the huge primaeval forest that once stretched across the European plain. These areas are home to a rich biodiversity, including the rare European bison, or wisent. The aim of the BIOCONSUS (Research potential in conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity) project was to develop biodiversity research in Poland's Podlasie region by enhancing the scientific potential of the MRI. BIOCONSUS enabled the Institute to become a centre of excellence in biodiversity research, conservation and regional sustainable development. This was achieved by developing new partnerships with other European institutes through increased exchanges in scientific personnel and by upgrading research equipment and the expertise of the research staff. Project partners purchased sophisticated research equipment in addition to establishing a genetic laboratory and a geographic information systems office to further ecological field studies. The new equipment included cameras for remote video recording, a satellite telemetry system for large mammals, a variable-speed centrifuge, powerful computer hardware and cutting-edge software to advance research. The Podlasie Regional Forum for Environmental Knowledge Transfer (PREFEKT) was established, attracting the participation of nearly 90 partners from the region. These included prominent authority figures and local government representatives, as well as conservation stakeholders, academics, researchers, business people and non-governmental organisations. The MRI gathered best practices regarding protected areas and their possible use for regional development, and transmitted these to stakeholders through the forum. Activities such as seminars, school visits, open days, training and conferences were organised under the auspices of PREFEKT. They were used to transfer knowledge on the benefits of nature conservation, regional sustainable development, ecological economics, spatial planning and infrastructure development, among others. Following the project's completion, the MRI inaugurated a new series of scientific seminars that will be held every two months to enable the exchange of knowledge and presentation of latest research results. The Institute will also exploit BIOCONSUS results through new research and sustainable development initiatives, including proposals for joint international research that will be submitted to Horizon 2020.
Biodiversity, sustainable development, mammal research, conservation, protected areas