Earth is a living planet and what makes it not just a livable, but a wonderful place to live is its rich biodiversity. This natural and biocultural heritage is now under massive pressure from human resource use and associated anthropogenic pressures, with a strong risk that these pressures will become even stronger in the future. To safeguard Earth’s biodiversity is one of the most pressing and difficult challenges facing humanity, e.g., as outlined in the global sustainable development goals (SDGs). With the VILLUM Investigator project the ambition is to improve our understanding and predictive capacity of the complex biodiversity dynamics under anthropogenic global change and their consequences for people and society, and based hereon, on developing novel solutions to promote a biodiverse future.
The project has four linked themes, which are the same as for the BIOCHANGE center overall:
Within these we have key focus on: (1) transient biodiversity dynamics, trophic changes (notably megafauna losses and comebacks), and novel ecosystems, (2) developing next-generation predictive models in relation to current and future climate change, (3) advancing the team’s ecoinformatics capabilities and exploiting the rapidly rising potential for extremely high-resolution spatiotemporal analyses, and (4) novel interdisciplinary work. For the latter, the focus will be on: (a) ecological Big Data, (b) human-nature inter-relations (notably the role of exposure to nature and biodiversity for human mental health and well-being), and (c) interdisciplinary landscape planning to safeguard biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being in the face of strong current and future human population growth, societal challenges, and climate change.
Since the project started in 2017, we have achieved strong progress, both organizationally and scientifically. Most importantly, the BIOCHANGE center, which was established based around this project, has been established as a vibrant, collaborative and ambitious research community, with a strong set of senior scientists, many postdocs and PhD students, as well as MSc and BSc students and numerous international collaborators working towards addressing the four research themes. Several important studies have already been published, with much more started and well under way.