DIVERSITAS was established in 1991, with the goal of developing an international, non-governmental umbrella programme that would address the complex scientific questions posed by the loss of and change in global biodiversity. Its founding sponsors, UNESCO, the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and the International Union of Biological Science (IUBS), identified three projects:
One example of the activities undertaken is a series of six workshops on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, organised under the auspices of SCOPE. These meetings, and the resulting publications (listed below), established a platform for further investigation of key topics by DIVERSITAS.
Together, these books laid the groundwork for experimental and theoretical research carried out by DIVERSITAS and the Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems (GCTE) Project of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). The books also contributed to the Global Biodiversity Assessment, an initiative of the World Resources Institute.
In 1996, DIVERSITAS welcomed two new sponsors, the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS), and added seven more projects to its portfolio:
Two more initiatives were undertaken toward the end of Phase 1 of DIVERSITAS. Established in 1997, the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) continues to investigate how invasive species affect biodiversity. Over the course of 2001-2002, DIVERSITAS also organized a one-time event to celebrate biodiversity on the global scale. The International Biodiversity Observation Year (IBOY), helped raise the profile of ongoing science from around the globe and establish links between scientists and educators to communicate science-based information about biodiversity to a broad audience.
During this first phase, which ended in 1998, the DIVERSITAS Secretariat was hosted by UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme.
In 2001, the Sponsors of DIVERSITAS decided to launch a second phase of the Programme. They opened a new Secretariat, hosted by ICSU in Paris, and called upon a Task Force of scientists to develop an international framework for biodiversity research. Under the co-chairmanship of Bernard Schmid (University of Zürich, Switzerland) and Michel Loreau (Université Pierre et Marie Curie), DIVERSITAS undertook a series of workshops and web-based consultations to engage scientists from around the world. In 2001, a Scientific Committee was appointed to guide the implementation of the Programme.
The resulting Science Plan, published at the end of 2002, clearly identified three interrelated areas for further development:
In 2003, DIVERSITAS hosted a series of scoping meetings to produce a science plan and implementation strategy for each of its three Core Projects. In recognition of their primary goals, participants chose to identify the Core Projects by the following names: bioDISCOVERY, ecoSERVICES, and bioSUSTAINABILITY.
At present, DIVERSITAS is convening workshops and developing integrative and collaborative research projects. Initial results of DIVERSITAS scientific activities will be presented at the First DIVERSITAS Open Science Conference. (November 2005, Oaxaca, Mexico).