Research into biodiversity
Driving Europe forward
The EU has long recognised the importance of coherent and focused research as a means of meeting biodiversity objectives – research which must come from all sectors to be successful. The Framework Programmes aim to stimulate European research on selected priority issues, and biodiversity has played a significant role in successive Programmes. In fact, almost 500 projects touching on the subject have been funded. An excellent example of the EU’s role in biodiversity research is the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) (1998-2002), with funding of almost €15 billion, of which the Environment and Sustainable Development Research Programme has a budget of over €1 billion. Funding for biodiversity projects amounts to €36.5 million. Funding in FP5 was available for pan-European work by industry and academics and covered large- and small-scale research, conferences and workshops, networks, research abroad, training, and information dissemination. However, the EC’s commitment to biodiversity research is not limited to projects focusing on that theme – research in all sectors must state how it impacts on the environment, both positively and negatively.
Habitat fragmentation Work in FP5 aimed to improve understanding of the impact of habitat fragmentation that is increasingly characterising the European landscape.
Researchers are studying changes in the seed dispersal capacity of plant species in habitats under differing degrees of fragmentation, determining population characteristics, genetic variation and heritable variation of seed dispersal. This work will allow for the development of models that predict seed dispersal patterns in response to fragmentation, and yield valuable information for nature managers and policy-makers.
Dr Ben Vosman:
Novel screening of genetic variation A new approach to screening genetic variation has been developed that gives insight into variations found in species, populations and families. Research funded by the Commission’s Third Framework Programme developed novel DNA techniques for use in a wide range of animals including whales, dolphins, mice, insects, bats, iguanas and flies, demonstrating how rapid and efficient large-scale molecular analysis of wild populations can be achieved. A similar technique was also developed for assessing plant biodiversity in the biotech programme under the Fourth Framework Programme.
Such information is invaluable in understanding evolution, population structure, social organisation and mating strategies, and allows scientists and politicians to develop successful management strategies for endangered and rare species.
Professor Godfrey Hewitt