The research priority Global Ecology acts at the forefront of the ecological sciences, and has several strong links with innovation and the application of environmental research. It aims at disseminating the research outcomes to stakeholders and the general public.
Water is one of the top-sectors selected by the Dutch government, and the research priority Global Ecology is very active in both freshwater and marine ecosystems. Several research projects relate to the improvement of water quality, for instance through advanced analytical techniques for the detection of newly emerging contaminants and through control of the population growth of toxic cyanobacteria or algae.
Other studies are concerned with management strategies for exploited fish populations and the conservations of coral reef ecosystems. These studies are carried out in collaboration with a wide variety of external partners (e.g., KWR Water Research, Waternet, Deltares, Arcadis, STOWA, Porifarma).
The distribution of plants and their enemies is changing rapidly as a consequence of climate change, as well as globalization and changes in land use. This can lead to disturbed interactions among organisms, for instance in the distribution of pests and diseases and the pollinators of crops and wild plants. It is of great importance to know how organisms react physiologically, and the global diversity of plant defense mechanisms can be utilized for crop breeding (also see the cluster Green Life Sciences).
Changing distribution patterns of interacting organisms also affect the functioning of ecosystems. The field of Functional Agro-Biodiversity studies how biodiversity can contribute to sustainable production systems. Finally, knowledge on the control of pests in natural systems worldwide helps to find innovative ways to control pests in greenhouse cultures.