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Project context


The current rapid loss of biodiversity, added to climate change and human population growth, is a new global phenomenon that requires entirely new approaches and mitigation strategies together with a societal response that must deal with the full spectrum of human socio-economic activities as well as with the ecological complexity of the world. The end of the XX century and the beginning of the XXI century were characterized by major acquisitions at scientific and theoretical levels, regarding the approach, identification and characterization of nature’s complexity and social organization. Important progresses were recorded in understanding the complex phenomena and processes from nature/environment and human society, and the impact of human activities on the environment, biological and ecological diversity and human health state. But the decisions that society has to take, and the required actions need high quality scientific information, as well as a certain type of knowledge and expertise that are, in the now days, dispersed, inadequate and not accessible. One of the major challenges of the XXI century is represented by globalization, global transition to the sustainable development model, society information and the need to scientifically assist the sustainable development process through multi- and transdisciplinary knowledge and training of the human resources, capable to produce and use this knowledge.

 

 

The EU sustainable development strategy, decided in Goteborg/2001 and the global political project adopted in Johannesburg/2002 aim at development orientation towards a new development model that corresponds to sustainability criteria. This requires the replacement, both in research activity (developing the knowledge) and in managerial activity, of the disciplinary/sectoral approach by a holistic/integrative one. This international research orientation stimulates the development of multi- and transdisciplinary research networks and platforms at regional, national, European and global levels.  At international level, variants of incomplete operational structures were designed and applied, having as intention, to facilitate the coagulation of research efforts, of human resource training and knowledge’ transfer towards beneficiaries, in order to develop a society based on knowledge. It is now recognized that, despite the high capacity in researching the biological and ecological systems, the results are poorly turned into account because of resources dispersion, use of inadequate approach -at the real spatial and temporal scales- of the socio-ecological complexes, and of poor knowledge transfer systems for the users.

 

Even recently started, the process of concentration the efforts and resources is in fully effervescence all over the world. The process consists in differentiation of researcher’s networks and consortia of laboratories and institution, dedicated to the study of biological systems complexity and diversity, to the test of the development models and instruments for selected socio-ecological complexes, organized in adequate long term research and monitoring networks.

 

At the European level only few such complex research structures, able to meet the most exigent requests concerning the knowledge development and its transfer to the society and policy makers exist. Such a research platform in the environmental field is Alterra Institute/Netherlands. It is part of Wageningen University and Wageningen UR research centres concern, and has a national space distribution. With five research centres and cooperation with 20 departments from Wageningen University, the platform has a reach expertise in environmental problems and sustainable development. At the level of this structure, multidisciplinary projects are promoted, which are very important because the sustainable management supposes keeping equilibrium between environment, economy and life quality.

 

In the last years at European level (FP6), an important project for an Excellence Network, ALTER-net (A Long-term Biodiversity, Ecosystem an Awareness Research Network) started and it will continue also in FP7, aiming to design a pan-European virtual institute by differentiating an interdisciplinary consortia for long term research of complex relationships between ecological systems and socio-economic systems from socio-ecological complexes. In this project, 25 partners from different countries are associated, through which Romania is represented by the University of Bucharest/Department of Systems Ecology and Sustainability.

 

At the national level, the efforts to design and develop a similar structure as the ones from European level, didn’t obtain the needed integrative level, remaining tributaries to the previous fragmented approaches. As a consequence, this project proposal was determined by the necessity of investigation and research of the regional (national) complexity of biological/ecological systems and of designing an adequate infrastructure/platform, in order to integrate the logistics and human resource capable to complete this complex objective, to make possible the integration of multi- and transdisciplinary existent knowledge and to guarantee the operationalization of ecosystem and adaptive management.

 

The platform is unique at the national level and will integrate the expertise existent at the level of the research basis with multiple users from the Faculty of Biology, that are in a modernization, reorganization and restructuring process. The high scientific and operational levels at which the platform will operate are due on one hand, to the high quality/performance of the equipments selected for the new created/developed laboratories and, on the other hand to the design of the platform structure itself. The equipments to be purchased are of the last generation of models created, of high sensitivity and resolution, able to assure the approach of very complex and difficult research themes (e.g. the investigation of biological diversity and elucidation of species phylogeny through genetic analyses, investigation of key ecological processes using isotope ratio analysis, study of the response mechanisms of biological organisms to climate change, oxidative stress mechanisms etc.). These instruments are very expensive and have limiting accessibility even for the European research canters. That’s way we assist to a new tendency of creating virtual international laboratories which allow an efficient use of the expensive equipment, of last generation.

The RDI infrastructure was design in such a way as to meet the required criteria/standards for integration in similar existent/or in the under development structures at European and international level, that will drive to the increase of performances in system biology and ecology research, to the increase of efficiency in resources use and will improve the scientific products transfer towards a large range of users. One of these structures is the international biodiversity research network – LIFE WATCH, which is in implementation process in FP7. Building a system that supports a better understanding of Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems and from that knowledge contributing to adequate management, sustainable development and informed, rational decision making, is the core of the Life Watch project. The Life Watch project is now in the preparatory phase. The major objective of this phase is to identify the centres/countries from different ecological and climatic areas that already projected an investment in such an infrastructure and to establish the legal framework needed for its operation. Romania, through University of Bucharest and Department of Systems Ecology and Sustainability is a partner (since 2008) in this network, alongside partners as: Amsterdam University (UvA), Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO), Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Centre for Ecology and Hydrology - UK, The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and other partners (29 partners).

 
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