Biodiversity is fundamental to our life, providing food, drinking water and stable habitats. But biodiversity is currently in a crisis situation: the increasing loss of species around the world causes profound changes in our environment and threatens the functioning of ecosystems along with the services they provide.
To better understand the role of biodiversity and be able to take action to protect it, its basics must be studied more fully. This requires cooperation and coordination of many disciplines and scientific approaches. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has now established a Senate Commission to better network biodiversity research in Germany and strengthen its international position.
Biodiversity research in Germany is not organised as an independent, single discipline. Rather, it includes many fields that have not collaborated closely in the past. The Senate Commission, which is set up for a period of six years, will give this new branch of science the opportunity to structure itself and find solutions to the urgent problems in this field. The Commission will also create a platform for coordinating the large DFG-funded networks for biodiversity research. Furthermore, it is given the tasks of advising the research community as well as policymakers and of representing German biodiversity research in international networks. In addition, it will look at the current research infrastructure in order to recommend and support measures to improve it.
By establishing this Senate Commission, the DFG continues its efforts to strengthen biodiversity research. The DFG has funded basic research in this field for many years, on topics ranging from recording existing diversity to investigating the functions of biodiversity to understanding species richness as a result of ongoing evolution. In addition to numerous individual projects, the DFG funds several large research networks, including so-called biodiversity exploratories — a unique endeavour that creates an infrastructure for long-term ecosystem research across disciplines.
The work of these exploratories and of seven other major research projects is presented in a brochure entitled Biodiversity Research, which was published by the DFG in the spring of 2008 in conjunction with the ninth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn. This brochure shows a variety of topics and methodological approaches in biodiversity research and identifies future challenges. It was featured at the DFG’s parliamentary evening on biodiversity research in September 2008, where the research community presented its work and formulated recommendations for policymakers. One of these recommendations pertains to the inclusion of basic research in the agenda of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The CBD was concluded in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro as an agreement under international law; Germany became a signatory in 1994. The agreement aims to maintain biological diversity, use its elements in a sustainable manner, and equitably share its benefits. These goals apply to research as well. It is important that it remains possible to conduct biodiversity research anywhere in the world. The CBD regulates the necessary access to biological resources, and the DFG strives to ensure that these regulations are designed with the needs of basic research in mind. The DFG helps scientists to plan and propose CBD-relevant research projects by providing guidelines and recommendations.
Further Information:-For information on the Senate Commission on Biodiversity Research, visit
-The brochure is also available for download in PDF format at www.dfg.de/aktuelles_presse/publikationen/verzeichnis/download/biodiversitaet_engl.pdf.-For information on the DFG’s parliamentary evening, visit
-Guidelines for Funding Proposals Concerning Research Projects within the Scope of the Convention on Biological Diversity are available at www.dfg.de/forschungsfoerderung/formulare/download/1_021e.pdf.
Jutta Hoehn | alfa
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