Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography


Ongoing research projects in the Conservation Biogeography Lab include


  • FORESTS and CO - Co-Benefits and Conflicts between CO2 sequestration and biodiversity conservation in European Forests’

A new project, funded by the EU under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Programme, and entitled "Co-Benefits and Conflicts between CO2 sequestration and biodiversity conservation in European Forests" (FORESTS and CO) started with a kick-off meeting in October 2015. The project is carried out by Dr. Francesco Maria Sabatini and Prof. Tobias Kuemmerle with the partnership of the European Forest Institute.

FORESTS and CO will test whether policies designed to protect either biodiversity or carbon in Europe’s temperate forests are synergistic or conflicting. Indeed, forests harbor large amounts of carbon and unique biodiversity, suggesting that protecting forests may benefit climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation alike. Yet, forests also provide other essential services, from timber to energy to recreation. Balancing these multiple, sometimes conflicting, objective when managing forests requires understanding trade-offs and synergies among them. Three work packages (WP) will focus on both unmanaged, old-growth forests, representing a baseline for key ecosystem functions, and managed forest, constituting the majority of Europe’s forests. This action will provide new insight into the synergies and trade-offs between carbon and biodiversity in temperate forests and develop methods to map these trade-offs. From a policy perspective, FORESTS and CO will help to tailor forest management options to jointly foster carbon and biodiversity, thereby contributing to key policy goals on curbing climate change and biodiversity loss.

Further information on FORESTS and CO:

Project Webpage

Project Blog: https://forestsandco.wordpress.com/


  • New DFG project started: Understanding links between agriculture and biodiversity in the Chaco

A new project, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG, KU 2458/5-1) and entitledTrade-offs between agriculture and biodiversity conservation in the South American Chaco” started with a Kickoff meeting of German and Argentine project partners in Argentina in October 2015. The Argentine Chaco is among the most rapidly transforming forest ecoregions worldwide, mainly due to the expansion of export-oriented agriculture and cattle ranching. The widespread conversions of natural grasslands and forests to agricultural lands in the Chaco also exert great pressure on the region’s biodiversity, but how different taxa respond to land use change, which species are loosers and which winners of the recent agricultural boom, and how agriculture and conservation goals could be balanced in the region remains highly unclear.

The new project will assess these issues for the entire Argentine Chaco by making full use of the Landsat image archive to reconstruct land-use change for the last 40 years for the Argentine Chaco. We wil, in close cooperation with Argentine partners of INTA Castelar and INTA Salta, as well as the Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires and the Universidad Nacional de Tucuman study bird and mammal communities and explore how these communities change with increasing pressure from land use, and other human disturbances. In addition to new scientific insights, the project seeks to provide important decision support for land use and conservation planning in the region, for example via feeding results into the BMBF funded PASANOA project.

More on this project


  • PASANOA: Pathways to sustainable land management in Northern Argentina

Argentina is one of the world’s major exporters of agricultural products and has increased its production substantially over the last decades, albeit at considerable environmental costs. Recent agricultural expansion and intensification have been particularly rampant in the Chaco in Argentina’s North, mainly for soybean farming and cattle ranching. At present, the region has among the highest rates of forest loss in the world. Current land management in the Chaco is clearly not sustainable and solutions for balancing the goals of agricultural production and conservation are urgently needed.

Focusing on the part of the Argentine Chaco within the five provinces of Salta, Formosa, Santiago del Estero, and Chaco, PASANOA will (1) provide new insights into the trade-offs and synergies between agricultural production, ES provisioning and biodiversity, (2) explore drivers of land use decisions and how they vary across land systems, (3) assess how trade-offs between production and conservation land uses may vary across a set of plausible future land-use scenarios and (4) identify optimal landscape patterns that mitigate trade-offs along with guidance on how to implement such landscapes. To tackle these knowledge gaps, PASANOA will bring together internationally recognized land system experts, agro-ecologists, agricultural economists and conservation biologists from Germany and Argentina. The project consortium aims to producing major scientific advances in land use and conservation science, to generate policy-relevant information on how to transition to sustainable land management systems in the Chaco and to fostering long-lasting international research partnerships.

More on this project: PASANOA - Homepage

  • BALTRAK: Balancing trade-offs between agriculture and biodiversity in the steppes of Kazakhstan

Abandoned grasslands in Kazakhstan constitute considerable untapped agricultural potential, which is likely to be exploited in the near future. Yet these currently unused lands would also allow for restoring steppe ecosystems. Balancing the potentially conflicting goals of conservation and agricultural production is currently hampered by a poor understanding of (1) the spatial patterns of post-Soviet land-use change, (2) the complex interactions of cropland abandonment, grazing, fire regimes and biodiversity, and (3) various potential future trajectories in land use. The interdisciplinary approach will rely on remote sensing, field-based biodiversity research, and econometric modelling. Major stakeholders in agriculture and the conservation sector will be integrated to ensure the relevance and implementation of our results. A strong focus will be placed on capacity building among Kazakhstani stakeholders and scientists, and on academic exchange with young Kazakhstani scholars.

Partners: Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK) and Karaganda University, Universität Münster and IAMO Halle.

More on this project: BALTRAK Homepage - BALTRAK @ Volkswagen Stiftung

  • HERCULES: Sustainable futures for Europe's heritage in cultural landscapes

This project seeks to empower public and private actors to protect and sustainably manage cultural landscapes that possess significant cultural, socio-economic, historical, natural and archaeological value, at a local, national and Pan-European level.
HERCULES is a collaborative project that has received funding from European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration. The Biogeography & Conservation Biology Group is responsible for the administrative project coordination and contributes by leading a work package on mapping cultural landscapes and recent dynamics therein across Europe. More on this project: hercules-landscapes.eu

  • Biodiversity impacts of future land use trajectories

This project seeks to disentangle the trade-offs between agricultural expansion and agricultural intensification for the world’s biodiversity by (1) compiling global indicators of land use intensity, (2) adapting species-area models to better address intensity changes, and (3) studying alternative development pathways across a range of future global land use scenarios. This project is funded by the Einstein Foundation. More on this project.

  • VOLANTE: Visions of land use transitions in Europe

This project analyzes human environment interactions, feedbacks in land use systems, hotspots of land use transitions, and critical thresholds in land system dynamics in order to develop a roadmap for future land resource management in Europe. VOLANTE is a large-scale integrated project funded under the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission. The Biogeography & Conservation Biology Group contributes by leading a work package on mapping and understanding recent land use change at the pan-European scale. More information can be found here: www.volante-project.eu

  • LUCC-BIO: Land use change, protected areas and biodiversity in European Russia

This project, funded by the German Research Foundation and led by the Geomatics Lab of Humboldt-University Berlin, focusses on assessing the effectiveness of state nature reserves (zapovedniks) during times of rapid institutional change, and on studying the effects of the massive land use changes that occurred in European Russia since 1991 on the biodiversity inside these protected areas.

  • Socioeconomic shocks, land-use change, and habitat suitability in the Carpathians

This project investigates trade-offs between land use and biodiversity conservation across a range of future scenarios for the Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Europe. This project is funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation via a post-doctoral Fellowship to Van Butsic.