Substantial funding for Finnish biodiversity research

The Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation has awarded €2.44 million in funding to the University of Helsinki’s Research Centre for Ecological Change for the term 2023–2027.

This is one of the largest grants ever awarded to biodiversity research in Finland. The Research Centre for Ecological Change (REC), established in 2018 and headed by Professor Anna-Liisa Laine, has grown from a research project into one of the most significant producers of knowledge pertaining to biodiversity both in Finland and abroad.

Environmental observation series in a single database

Biodiversity loss is a threat to human food supply, economic life and even health. The threat cannot be controlled without clear knowledge on the state and developmental trends of the natural world. Finland’s nature data pool, or long-term environmental monitoring data, is exceptionally high in quality and extends far back in time. As a first in Finland, researchers at the Research Centre for Ecological Change have compiled environmental observation series of the country into a single database. This covers periods ranging in duration from 16 to 250 years and contains information on nearly 3,000 species.

“The database makes it possible to analyse how nature in Finland has changed in recent decades. Our work provides an overview of how the state of biodiversity in Finland has been monitored as well as what current monitoring reveals and does not reveal,” Laine says.

In the new term beginning in 2023, the centre wishes to respond to three central information needs: What, alongside climate change, is the impact of changes in land use on biodiversity; how do different biodiversity indicators perform in describing multidimensional changes; and how does change observed in biodiversity affect ecosystem functions such as pollination and carbon sequestration?

“Our project provides, in support of decision-making, quantitative data on the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem services and their economic value,” says Jarno Vanhatalo, deputy director of REC.

The centre’s operations are guided by close collaboration between four research group leaders.

Professor Anna-Liisa Laine is an evolutionary ecologist specialising in interspecific interaction and epidemiology.

Professor Tomas Roslin is a community ecologist specialising in the response of species communities to environmental change.

Associate Professor (tenure track) Marjo Saastamoinen is an evolutionary biologist specialising in stress biology as well as in the effects of climate change on species communities, population trends and the genetic variation of populations in nature. Saastamoinen works at the Helsinki Institute of Life Science (HiLIFE) and in the Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme.

Associate Professor (tenure track) Jarno Vanhatalo is a statistician specialising in developing computational solutions for the analysis of long-term datasets as well as in decision analysis in the sustainable use of natural resources. At the University of Helsinki, Vanhatalo works both in the Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme and at the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.