How are animals and plants influenced by the surroundings and by each other? This is the overall question that research in ecology seeks to answer. It may involve investigating what happens in an ecosystem when foreign, invasive species arrive, or looking at what happens to other animals and plants if a particular species becomes extinct.

Much of the research at LiU focusses on the role of humans in the ecosystems, and the links between our society and the world we live in. One of the major questions of our time is how nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus circulate in the natural world. One example of the research at LiU is the EU research programme BONUS MIRACLE, which looks at the seepage of nutrients into the Baltic Sea. The project considers what society must do to change these flows, which have a negative effect on the oceans, and how we can preserve species that are at risk of disappearing. Several research projects at LiU are investigating the flows of substances such as carbon and chlorine, and of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, in such ecosystems as lakes and water courses.

Researchers at LiU are using maths and computer simulations to help get a grip on complex questions within ecology. Human agriculture has led to nutrients from our fields causing eutrophication of the seas and lakes, while at the same time people are starving in other regions, with too little fertiliser on the fields. The researchers want to use mathematical models to find ways in which society can retain the fertilisers and return them to the fields, keeping them out of the water systems. Theoretical ecology can also help us predict what will happen when the balance of ecosystems is disturbed, as a consequence of, for example, climate change or the extinction of species.

Species extinction and the loss of biological diversity is a central question within research in conservation ecology. Researchers here attempt to find out more about how biological diversity is affected by the use of land by humans. They consider also how we can manage the countryside such that reduction in the diversity of animals and plants is halted, and instead promoted.

Research in ecology works in close collaboration with both the business world and international researchers. Two examples are the Vinnväxt programme Agtech2030 and the EU research programme BONUS MIRACLE.

Translated by George Farrants



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