People and society depend on Earth’s large biological diversity. At the same time the complex ecological systems that support biodiversity constitutes one of the most fascinating aspects of our world. Land use, globalization and climate change are causing major changes in the Earth's environment. One out of every five mammals and plants are endangered and ecological systems experience increasing stress. Therefore, it is a key challenge to understand biodiversity and the dynamics of ecological systems in time and space. Understanding these patterns and processes is the focus of our research in the Section for Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity.
Biodiversity and ecosystems vary considerably spatially and temporally. The factors that determine this variation are central in our research. We explore underlying evolutionary, ecological and geographical mechanisms, and we investigate impacts of humans on biodiversity and ecosystems. We also examine how people depend on biodiversity and ecosystem services, how nature and the environment can be managed, and how future changes can be predicted. One focal point in our research is understanding the impacts of climate on biodiversity over time and space. More generally, we have expertise and research interest in biogeography and macroecology, plant diversity and vegetation ecology, palms, mammals, phylogeny and taxonomy, nature management (including rewilding), ethno-ecology, and ecological geography. To elucidate these complex issues we also have a strong commitment to interdisciplinary research, for example involving computer science (please also read about our collaboration with Computer Science) and anthropology (anthropocene.au.dk
Much of our research uses a "big data" approach to ecology, or ecoinformatics. Ecoinformatics is based on management and analysis of large amounts of often complex data. Traditionally individual researchers collected their own data and targeted them specifically to their research questions. Now, huge amounts of biodiversity and ecological data are being assembled via cyber infrastructure efforts, remote sensing and field-based monitoring programs, and citizen science, for example on plants and animal occurrences, species’ evolutionary relations and ecological functions, and the structure, dynamics, and functioning of ecosystems. With web-based data portals data accessibility is therefore rapidly increasing. Increases in computational power furthermore now enable us to handle such large amounts of data to examine complex questions, for example effects of climate change on large numbers of species across big regions. Read more here: Ecoinformatics - ecology in a stream of data from Aktuel Naturvidenskab. However, as necessary we also collect new data via field and experimental studies to complement the ecoinformatic approach. In this way, we contribute new biodiversity data via field-based research in tropical poorly explored regions of the world.