Biodiversity dynamics

Amazone woud

We aim to contribute to the challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change by answering the question: what determines terrestrial species diversity and how is it affected by human actions? Specifically we focus on terrestrial forest systems, ecosystem services, ethnobotany and integrate data and functions at different scales from species to traits to networks to distributions.

Group leader

Prof. Dr. Hans ter Steege
hans.tersteege@naturalis.nl

Who
work here

Our programmes
& research themes

In the Research Group “Biodiversity Dynamics” we are interested in the processes that generate and maintain diversity. We study this central topic from several angles and with different taxonomic groups using large amounts of collection data and various types of modelling. Combining our data and expertise, we identify the most relevant variables shaping diversity patterns at different scales.

We generate information on how land use change and climate change affect the populations and functioning of species and systems now and in the future. We provide crucial and yet unavailable baseline information on biodiversity, community composition, species’ niches and their distributions to better understand the factors that influence ecosystem dynamics and thus facilitate the conservation and sustainable use of natural habitats and agroforestry matrices.

The baseline knowledge we accumulate, coupled with experimental projects, can be applied to solve problems in agroforestry and land use strategies. Moreover, our research on how biological communities respond to climate change provides unique insights into how present-day ecosystems can transform when subjected to warming or changes in precipitation with profound implications for global nutrient and hydrological cycling. Our research is linked to international conservation efforts such as WWF, IUCN CBD, IPBES, South-East Asia Rainforest Reserve Program, International Tundra Experiment, Global Legume Diversity Assessment, as well as local efforts such as Fundación ProYungas, Osa Conservation, and the Corcovado Foundation.

Current
topics

Botanical collection

Botanical collection

By relating the Naturalis botanical collection to abiotic bioclimatic spatial data allows us to define ecological niche profiles of crop species, and their evolutionary related wild relatives.
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Collaborations of
Biodiversity dynamics

We collaborate in extensive international networks but also collaborate with our colleagues within Naturalis, such as Sector Collections, Systematics, Molecular Biodiversity and all researchgroups. The collections and evolutionary systematics are the foundation of our work and the data holders are our taxonomic experts (NBC, PGO). We collect field data ourselves and identify our material with other experts. Because patterns/models we produce are only as good as the input data, excellent curation and systematics are essential. With 37 million collections NBC has an important global role to play in this field.