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Past projects


DIVERSITAS supported the following projects, which participated in the implemention of its scientific strategy:

  • ACSC: Advancing Conservation in a Social Context
  • BESTNet: The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Training Network
  • BioCycle: Biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles: a search for mechanisms across ecosystems
  • MIRLU: The effect of migration and remittances on land use change: Is there a forest transition?


ACSC: Advancing Conservation in a Social Context (2007-2011)

ACSC provided guidance for the advancement of conservation by focusing on the analysis of trade-offs that exist between development, and biodiversity conservation and the maintenance of ecosystem services.

ACSC was especially relevant to the activities of the DIVERSITAS ecoSERVICES core project.

Contact: Thomas O. McShane, Arizona State University, USA

More on ACSC.


BESTNet: The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Training Network (2007-2010)

BESTNet played a key role in the implementation of the DIVERSITAS ecoSERVICES project. The project was supported by the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

BESTNet focused on the interactions between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and the production of ecosystem services. It had three goals:

  • Developing international and interdisciplinary research on biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being,
  • Linking the results of this new research to relevant international policy initiatives, and
  • Training young US researchers.

BESTNet was a very successful project and led to a series of outreach products.

BESTNet funded the International Project Office of the DIVERSITAS ecoSERVICES core project and was responsible for the implementation of most of its activities from 2007 to 2010.

Contact: Charles Perrrings, Arizona State University, USA


BioCycle: Biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles: a search for mechanisms across ecosystems (2006-2009)

BioCycle, a European Science Foundation EuroDIVERSITY collaborative research project, assessed the importance of biodiversity in biogeochemical cycles. It examined the interactive effects of substrate diversity, in the form of plant litter, and decomposer fauna diversity on carbon and nutrient cycling across a gradient of paired terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems running from the subarctic to the tropics. An experimental and comparative approach were combined within the framework of BioCycle that bridged distinct research domains across ecosystem types and climate zones. By doing so the project aimed to address a number of critical questions related to how changing biodiversity affects ecosystem functioning and provide information for predictive modeling.

Five pairs of sites were established: (1) subarctic, (2) boreal, (3) temperate, (4) Mediterranean and (5) tropical vegetation zones. Two sites were selected within each biome, i.e. a forest and a forest stream site, that received the same type of leaf litter inputs. By using the same experimental setup and protocol across this range of sites the project gained an unprecedented general understanding of diversity controls over decomposition across ecosystem types and climatic zones. The following hypotheses were tested:

  • The diversity of plant litter and litter consumers interactively influence carbon fluxes and nutrient dynamics during decomposition, with process rates decreasing as diversity declines.
  • The significance of biodiversity in determining decomposition and nutrient dynamics diminishes with increasing environmental constraints along the latitudinal gradient.
  • Diversity has a stronger influence on decomposition in terrestrial than in aquatic ecosystems, because complementary resource use is a more effective mechanism for synergistic interactions in a structurally complex environment like soil than in a homogenous environment like water.
  • Decomposition in more diverse litter and decomposer systems shows greater resistance/resilience to perturbation (insurance hypothesis), and thus, are less affected by negative impacts of ongoing global change such as increasing drought severity.

BioCycle was relevant to the freshwaterBIODIVERSITY cross-cutting network and ecoSERVICES core project of DIVERSITAS.

Contact: Stephan Hättenschwiler, CEFE-CNRS, France


Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in South African streams (2006-2009)

Sponsor: Research Grants Council

This project aimed at quantifying a variety of values related to wetlands in the Orange Basin in South Africa, looking at the benefits provided by wetlands to humans, with a view to provide some motivation to decision makers to increase conservation efforts in wetland areas of the upper basin. This valuation was based on values of wetland goods and services to support livelihoods, wetland functions for water purification, and wetland benefits to support economic development from biodiversity based tourism.

The project was relevant to the activities the freshwaterBIODIVERSITY cross-cutting network of DIVERSITAS.

Coordinator: Caroline Sullivan, Southern Cross University, Australia


EDIT: European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy

EDIT is a European virtual Network of Excellence that coordinated European taxonomic efforts to improve the quality of and access to a unified taxonomic research information base.

EDIT was especially relevant to the activities of the DIVERSITAS bioGENESIS core project.

Coordinator: Simon Tillier, National Museum of Natural History, France

More on EDIT.

EDIT publications.


EEPA: Evaluating the effectiveness of participatory approaches in protected areas (2006-2009)

EEPA, developed jointly by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, the Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD), and the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), aimed mainly at developing a methodology to evaluate the effectiveness of participatory approaches in protected areas governance and testing it in pilot fields. The project was funded by the Geneva International Adademic Network (GIAN).

The project built on the partners’ experiences to develop an assessment methodology for investigating the meaning and impacts of the changes in protected areas governance and management brought about by the introduction of participatory approaches. Empirical testing of this methodology was carried out in specific sites in Latin America. The methodology allowed studying correlations between the effectiveness of participatory approaches, in relation with conservation objectives (conservation of ecosystems, species and natural resources) and social objectives (livelihood and governance). Participatory processes and institutions were studied by focusing on actors’ roles, interests, discourses, practices, perceptions, levels of influence and strategic interactions in decision‐making.

It was observed that participation contributed to achieving livelihood and conservation objectives when the local actors themselves took the lead, along with NGOs or other civil society partners, to protect their environment, livelihoods or way of life. At the opposite end of the spectrum, in the older parks, where the level of participation was the lowest, some conservation objectives were achieved, but not due to participation, and no real livelihoods enhancement were noted. EEPA concluded that participation, taken in its original sense – empowerment of local people, mainly through their own will – proves to reconcile conservation and livelihoods and to bring local people out of marginalisation.

See final report here.

EEPA was especially relevant to the activities of the DIVERSITAS bioSUSTAINABILITY core project.

Contact: Marc Hufty, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Switzerland


EREMIBA: Emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases in the Amazon Basin (2006-2008)

EREMIBA's research was on emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases in the Amazonian basin. The project was supported by French research organisations, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, i.e. National Center for Scientific Research) and the Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD, i.e. Research and Development Institute).

EREMIBA was relevant to the implementation of activities in the ecoHEALTH cross-cutting network of DIVERSITAS.

Contact: Christine Chevillon and Jean-François Guégan, IRD, France


A European Catchment Data Base on Freshwater Biodiversity

This project "A European catchment data base on freshwater biodiversity" developed a comprehensive data base containing spatially explicit information on the status of freshwater biodiversity and key environmental pressures for more than 160 catchments across Europe, western Russia, the Caucasus and Anatolia. The data base has been implemented in Access and is linked with GIS-layers. The catchments included cover a total area of 8 million km2 (i.e. 72% of the European continent). At present, the data base includes information on wetland birds, amphibians, fish, odonates, and crayfish. These data are combined with information on land use (proportion of developed area), river fragmentation, water stress, and proportion of exotic fish species, which is used to calculate an impact index for each catchment. The European catchment data base is publicly available and has been integrated into the global database on freshwater biodiversity of the BioFresh project.

More than 75% of the European catchments were classified as heavily impacted and thus likely to threaten freshwater biodiversity. Our first analyses of the data show, for example, that 2 fishes endemic to the River Drin, flowing into the Adriatic Sea in Albania/Croatia, are extinct at the continental scale. Up to 40% of native fishes have disappeared at the catchment scale, especially long-migrating species such as sturgeons, Allis shad (Alosa alosa) and lampreys. In contrast, 76 non-native fishes belonging to 21 families have been introduced into European freshwaters, with ~50 of these having self-reproducing populations. Most non-native fishes originated from North America (34 species) and Asia (26 species), and between 30 and 50 fishes have been translocated within Europe. The proportion of non-native fishes exceeds 40% in some catchments, mostly on the Iberian Peninsula and the Atlantic region of France (Tockner, K. Uehlinger, U. & Robinson, C.T. (eds) 2008. Rivers of Europe. Elsevier. San Diego). The highest proportion of irreplaceable fish (i.e. species with a limited geographic distribution), is found on the Iberian Peninsula, the southern Balkan and Anatolia. These particular regions are expected to face an even higher increase in water stress, pollution, and erosion in the near future.

This project was relevant to the activities of the freshwaterBIODIVERSITY cross-cutting network of DIVERSITAS.

Contact: Klement Tockner, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Germany


GLOWS: Global Water for Sustainability (2006-2009; overall programme ongoing)

The Global Water for Sustainability (GLOWS) programme is a consortium financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This is a 10-year initiative designed to promote integrated water resources management (IWRM) worldwide through innovative field programs, diverse capacity building activities, and international leadership in the theory and practice of IWRM. GLOWS focuses on adapting and communicating the scientific outputs to the policy and management communities through widely accessible publications and special workshops or short courses, seminars, datasets, and decision-support tools.

GLOWS and DIVERSITAS’ freshwaterBIODIVERSITY share common goals, possess complementary skills and have similar time-lines. In collaboration, DIVERSITAS and GLOWS were able to more effectively bridge the gap between the theory and practice of freshwater biodiversity conservation and aquatic resource management.

DIVERSITAS endorsed GLOWS during phase I of the initiate, from October 2006 to September 2009, with the aim of carrying joint activities on capacity building related to freshwater biodiversity issues. The joint products of the collaboration were better trained practitioners in the field and policy, and management-oriented interventions on the ground. Activities were focused in the Mara River Basin of Kenya and Tanzania and the Pastaza River Basin of Ecuador and Peru, with additional training in Costa Rica.

The programme was relevant to the activities of the freshwaterBIODIVERSITY cross-cutting network of DIVERSITAS.

Contact: Maria Donoso, Florida International University, USA


MIRLU: The effect of migration and remittances on land use change: Is there a forest transition? (2009-2012)

MIRLU was a three-year research project that aimed to explore the effect of international migration and remittances on land use and land-use change in the area of origin of migrants. MIRLU was conducted by The Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM) in collaboration with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB), the University of Denver in the USA, Universidad del Valle in Guatemala and El Colegio de la Frontera Sur in Mexico. The project was supported by the Norwegian Research Council.

The research showed that international migration had important effects on land tenure, land use and patterns of land distribution in the areas of origin of migrants in Chiapas and Guatemala. Excluded groups like women and indigenous peoples had improved their access to land only in few cases. Newly acquired land by migrants was increasingly used for agriculture to produce commodities for the globalised market, like coffee or export vegetables, or turned to urban uses. Migrant households was marked by violence and their daily lives challenged by drug trafficking, climatic change, and conflicts on access and control of natural resources.

Most migrant families used remittances for house building and maintenance, and agriculture. Migrant households had large farm sizes and used remittances to expand farm land putting high pressures on forests in some cases. Migrant households cultivated their lands in fairly similar ways as households without migrants and did not appear to have altered the biological diversity of their agricultural lands and forests. Overall, the research revealed the effect of migration on poverty: families with a relative in the USA were richer than families without migrant relations, and migration was creating new patterns of exclusion.

MIRLU was especially relevant to the activities of the DIVERSITAS bioDISCOVERY and bioSUSTAINABILITY core projects.

Contact: Mariel Aguilar Støen, The Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), Norway


Missouri Botanical Garden's Central Africa Program (2007-2008)

The Central Africa Program of the Missouri Botanical Garden has had activities in Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon since the 1980s. DIVERSITAS  endorsed part of its activities. The programme aimed at measuring, describing and mapping plant biodiversity in Central Africa to come to a better understanding and protection of its rain forest in the face of human deforestation and global climate change. It undertook the following research activities:

  • Locating climatically stable forest in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea by assessing the biodiversity of potential area’s and proposing them as protected areas,
  • Compiling ethno-botanical knowledge from the native peoples (pygmies) of the Massif du Chaillu,
  • Contributing to the Flora of Gabon,
  • Conserving endemic plants and orchids in Sao Tome, and
  • Studying the biogeography of endemic Orchids and Rubiaceae in Atlantic Central Africa.

The programme was relevant to the activities of the DIVERSITAS bioDISCOVERY core project and GEO BON.

Coordinator: Miguel E Leal, Missouri Botanical Garden, USA and Gabon (formerly, now at WCS)


Next Generation Sequencing for Marine Genomics Symposium (2012)

On September 27th, 2012, in Vigo, Spain, the symposium on Next Generation Sequencing for Marine Genomics (NGS4MG) gathered an audience of about 100 people to assist to talks from six scientists from different institutions with known experience in the use of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies in the marine environment.

Monica Bayes (National Centre of Genomic Analysis, CNAG, Spain) opened the symposium by giving a thorough presentation of Second Generation Sequencing technologies. Next, Jason Miller (J. Craig Venter Institute, JCVI, USA) explained the computational problem of assembly of short sequence reads produced by NGS technologies and the current trends in NGS technologies. The second part of the symposium addressed the applications of NGS technologies to the marine environment. Nori Satoh (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, OIST, Japan) talked about genome sequencing while Iria Fernandez (Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, USA) presented her research on tropical goatfishes of the genus Muloidichthys as a model to speciation and the emergence of NGS technologies as affordable tools to study lineage divergence. Mehrdad Hajibabaei (Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, Canada) spoke about to the use of NGS to study evolutionary relationships and to understand species diversity in different domains of life. Last, Ramon Massana (Institute of Marine Sciences, Spain) explained how NGS technologies are helping advance the knowledge of microorganisms in nature and give some insights on the use of NGS for microbial metagenomics and metatranscriptomics (see videos).

The NGS4MG Symposium was relevant to the activities of the DIVERSITAS bioGENESIS core project.

Contacts: Carlos Canchaya or David Posada, University of Vigo, Spain


TraitNet (2007-2012)

TraitNet was dedicated to the advancement and integration of trait-based evolutionary and ecological research by facilitating integration and synthesis of information across their respective disciplines.

TraitNet was one of the activities of the DIVERSITAS ecoSERVICES core project.

Contact: Shahid Naeem, Columbia University, USA

More on TraitNet.

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