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Sustainable solutions

It is only natural that employees and students at the Department of Biology share a strong interest in mitigating the challenges that modern societies are facing, including the biodiversity and the climate crisis. The challenges are summarized in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as they were formulated by the United Nations. Founded in state-of-the-art fundamental research, scientists at the Department are currently either heading or are heavily involved in several research centers that link to Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, Goal 13: Climate Action, Goal 14: Life below water, and Goal 15: Life on Land.

In addition to the larger centers, scientists at the Department of Biology also carry out more targeted research projects addressing specific questions within the 17 goals. Irrespective of the size of the project and the number of participants, independence and excellence are the common denominators in our search for solutions.


Read more about the aspects of sustainable development in the research here:


Arctic Research Centre (ARC)

ARC focus on the melting cryosphere and it’s feedback on the climate system and effects on ecosystems and societies. It investigates the effects of climate changes on the Arctic cryosphere and ecosystems as well as their impacts on future Arctic livelihoods and societies. ARC also looks at how a melting Arctic will affect connected global processes and social systems and how human activities may affect the Artic. 

Growing global economic interests in the possibilities for establishing new, shorter shipping routes and for extraction of mineral resources entails potential economic benefits for Arctic societies but also unknown risks to the environment, biodiversity and the fishing industry. These risks are especially imminent when it comes to potential oil spills. ARC investigates if and how we can minimize the harmful effects of oil spills on ecosystem function and biodiversity as well as the impacts on cultural heritage and livelihood of local communities.

Center for Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World (BIOCHANGE)

 

Biodiversity is what makes Earth habitable, and a wonderful place to live. However, biodiversity is facing strong future risks from the large, growing human population, intensifying human activities, and massive climate change. To safeguard and restore biodiversity, we need to improve our understanding and predictive capacity of the complex human-driven biodiversity dynamics and their consequences for people and society, and to develop novel solutions to promote a biodiverse future. BIOCHANGE aims to address these crucial challenges.

DRAMA – Deciphering the Role of Atmospheric Microbial Aerosols

The aim of DRAMA is to contribute to improve the weather and climate models of the future.

Clouds determine the amount of sunlight that reaches earth's surface and are of great importance to the Earth's heat balance. Scientists have increasing evidence that aerosols, in particular bioaerosols like bacteria, strongly affect the properties of clouds. It is known that mineral dust, the majority type of aerosols, promotes ice formation between -15 and -40 ° C. However, it has been shown that bioaerosols affect cloud lifetime and promote ice formation at much higher temperatures, between 0 ° C and -15 ° C. Since ice formation is central for rain formation, we want to understand the impact of bioaerosols on the properties of clouds and on ice formation. The research project DRAMA will close the gaps of knowledge by determining the metabolic activity of microbes and their capacity to form ice under atmospheric conditions.

ECOGENETICS: Center for Ecological Genetics: Integrating ‘genetic diversity’ in biodiversity studies

Insects are extremely important in both natural and many cultivated ecosystems. We are currently experiencing large population declines in insects due to anthropogenic causes, such as intensified land use, habitat loss and fragmentation, but we know very little about the implications for genetic diversity. Loss of genetic diversity increases risk of population extinction, and can reduce the diversity and crucial ecosystem services and functions that insects perform.

Center for Ecological Genetics investigates the population genetic consequences of the dramatic declines observed in insect population sizes, how landscape structure and cultivation practices influences population genetics, and effects of genetic diversity for individual performance and ecosystem services, such as pollination and natural pest control.

Interdisciplinary Centre for Climate Change (I-Climate)

The research centre works with climate drivers and process understanding at a global scale. A part of the research focuses on the Arctic climate, another on agriculture and climate. Furthermore, climate services and solutions is a main subject. Climate services and solutions include impacts, adaptation, regulation, advisory, and services to the public, civil society and private end-users in relation to climate services, energy systems, urban systems, and carbon neutral production systems, including agriculture.

SustainScapes: Center for Sustainable Landscapes under Global Change: Sustainable solutions for maintenance of biodiversity and production across landscapes

SustainScapes has the aim to rethink the use of the Danish landscape by exploring nature-based solutions to maintain biodiversity and biobased production. The challenge is that land must be spared in order to increase biodiversity, which has been subject to a dramatic loss during recent years. At the same time, we need to account for climate change and assure sustainable agricultural production on less land.

The research addresses questions such as: How much area, and which areas, should we allocate to biodiversity protection and ecosystem restoration to halt the loss of biodiversity? Are we able to spare and share the areas needed for biodiversity, and still produce enough food, energy and fibres? How can we prioritize among actions of benefit for climate change, biodiversity, and the increasing global human resource use?

Aarhus University Centre for Water Technology (WATEC)

Aarhus University Centre for Water Technology is focusing on five main topics associated with municipal wastewater treatment, process control and surface and ground water management. The combination of the different research expertise allows us to achieve a deeper understanding of the processes and dynamics in most parts of the water cycle.

WATEC works with restoration of lakes, streams and riparian zones and looks at how restoration targets can be achieved in a future warmer world. The challenge is not only higher temperature and major changes in precipitation patterns, but also a more pronounced variability in these factors.

The Centre performs dedicated research on optimization of municipal wastewater treatment. Among other tools are constructed wetlands (CWs), also known as treatment wetlands, which are engineered systems designed and constructed to treat various types of polluted water.