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International Day for Biological Diversity: EU Research

The United Nations has proclaimed May 22 The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

Biodiversity is the complex web of life on Earth, incorporating humans and our social and economic systems. The number of life-forms on Earth is unknown, but it may be some 20–30 million species, of which only about 1.8 million are known to science. Biodiversity can be studied at the level of the whole planet or confined to a mountain lake. However, whatever the level, the organisms interact in a complex, dynamic manner – both among themselves and with the non-living environment they share. Animals, plants and micro-organisms are a vital resource for humans, forming important elements in many processes on which we depend. .

European research is directed towards assessing and forecasting changes in biodiversity and understanding the dynamics of ecosystems, particularly marine ecosystems. The relationships between the environment, the society and the economy are analysed in order to identify – and mitigate – potentially harmful effects on the environment and on human health and society. Risk assessments based on European research allow us to better manage, conserve and rehabilitate our ecosystems in a sustainable manner for future generations.

Here are two examples of successful, EU-funded biodiversity-related research projects:

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Reviving Europe's grassland farming

Over the last 30 years, much of Europe's grassland has been lost to urban development and the intensive production of annual crops like green maize. But environmental and food safety concerns, coupled with doubts about the sustainability of today's intensive farming systems, have seen grassland farming making a comeback. An EU-funded project has presented its findings on the value of grasslands for biodiversity and productivity.

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Using gene science to breed drought-tolerant crops

Drought is one of the biggest worries for a farmer, sometimes threatening entire harvests, but a European Union (EU)-funded project is using the latest gene science to see whether the worst effects of water shortages could be averted with drought-tolerant plants.

 

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