Biodiversity research receives major funding from Jane & Aatos Erkko Foundation

Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation has granted funding of nearly one million euros to the Research Centre of Ecological Change (REC). The allocated funding enables a unique synthesis of ecological change in Finland using long-term observational data. This improves the ability to predict which species and ecosystem are most vulnerable to change, and can be used to guide decision making to stop ongoing biodiversity loss.

The newly granted funding is a continuation of the funding REC received from Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation in 2018. During the past three years, REC has brought together a large network of scientists working with large observational datasets collected by universities, volunteers and research institutes. This collaboration has generated insight on how individual species and communities respond to environmental change. During this new funding period, the efforts will be targeted to generate a synthesis of ecological changes at the ecosystem level, and to reveal how strong and fast the changes are, as well as to determine the mechanisms underlying the change.

“Long-term ecological datasets collected from nature are irreplaceable archives that document how biodiversity is responding to fast ongoing changes in our environments. Finland has exceptionally strong traditions in collecting systematic long-term datasets, and we can utilise this wealth of information to guide our efforts to protect biodiversity”, says Professor Anna-Liisa Laine, the director of REC.

New mathematical and statistical methods for biodiversity research

The project will also develop and improve mathematical and statistical methods for analysing long-term datasets and recognising causalities in the data. “In particular, we develop multivariate time-series models to predict how species communities change over time, including both the direct responses of individual species to climate warming and other environmental drivers, as well as the indirect cascading effects due to species interactions”, says Jarno Vanhatalo, one of the five REC group leaders.

Across the world, biodiversity is declining at an accelerated rate. In the past decades, local population abundances have declined by some 60 %, and species extinction rates are 100 to 1000 times higher than their natural background extinction rates. The work done in REC will not only reveal the drivers and mechanisms of biodiversity loss, it can also help guide data collection efforts in the future to ensure we continue to accurately document how our nature is responding to human-driven environmental change.

REC consists of five group leaders (Anna-Liisa Laine, Otso Ovaskainen, Tomas Roslin, Marjo Saastamoinen and Jarno Vanhatalo) and their research groups. REC works at the University of Helsinki under Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme and HiLIFE Helsinki Institute of Life Science.

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