Holder: Meta Virant Doberlet, PhD
Duration: 1. 1. 2017 - 31. 12. 2022
The authors acknowledge the financial support from the Slovenian Research Agency (research core funding No. P1-0255).
In the proposed research programme ‘Communities, interactions and communications in ecosystems’, we will use integrative and interdisciplinary approach to study key mechanisms underlying the structure and function of ecosystems. Slovenia is one of Europe biodiversity hotspots and still has large areas of preserved pristine habitats, thus providing an ideal opportunity for studying dynamic of natural ecosystems. By integrating knowledge across different organisational levels, from molecules to ecosystems, we will address core scientific questions and issues that are central to a sustainable development of humanity. This gives the proposed programme strong international relevance, already established in strong international connections, as well as in a leading role in various fields of basic and applied science included in the programme.
In WP1 'Biodiversity: processes and patterns', the goal is to reveal the key evolutionary and ecological mechanisms underlying biodiversity patterns. We will investigate processes promoting and maintaining biological diversity in target ecosystems, from identification of the relevant phylogenetic units and dynamics of sexual selection, to effects of biota coexistence expressed through communication networks, trophic interactions and interspecific competition.
In WP2 'Ecosystem management', the aim is to provide sound scientific knowledge needed to enable sustainable use of renewable natural resources and development of effective conservation measures in order to prevent biodiversity decline and ecosystems degradation. The objective is crucial for preservation of key ecosystem services in changing environment. To fulfil this objective, we will study invasive potentials of alien species under different ecological scenarios, ecology of wild pollinators, sublethal effects of pesticides on predators, and survival of grassland birds in managed cultural landscape. We will develop new plant protection strategies, as well more effective approaches for management and monitoring of endangered saproxylic beetles. Special emphasis will be on studies determining the significance of environmental drivers on biota and key ecological processes in surface-groundwater ecotones of karstic and alluvial aquifers important for water purification and on development of improved mitigation and restoration measures for surface and groundwater ecosystem management.
The research programme will be carried out by the Department of Organisms and Ecosystems Research at the National Institute of Biology and by the Slovenian Museum of Natural History. Both institutions possess key and complementary infrastructure needed to achieve the aims of the programme, from state-of-the-art laboratories, to the national historical biodiversity collections crucial to assess past and future environmental and biodiversity changes. Besides scientific excellence, the programme supports also the transfer of knowledge and promotion of science.