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Biodiversity and Conservation Research

The world is in the midst of a major biodiversity crisis. As nature's variety of species rapidly declines, society has responded with political actions to maintain biodiversity through the provision of international and domestic legislation, such as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the EU Birds and Habitats Directives and domestic nature conservation law. These mechanisms commit Denmark to contribute to the maintenance of global, European and Danish biodiversity, e.g. through site designation under the Natura2000 network of protected natural sites, maintenance of a national nature monitoring programme for species and habitats and the Danish red list of endangered and near-endangered species.

We work with biodiversity and nature conservation in relation to this legal framework. We gather information about the state and changes in biodiversity in the world around us, and we examine how human activities and natural processes affect biodiversity, with particular emphasis on rare and declining habitats and species, as well as assessing how well we meet the needs of the relevant legislation.

Among our core services are

  • developing new methods and concepts to monitor biodiversity
  • compiling national databases of habitats and species, analysing monitoring data and reporting the results
  • regular updating of the Danish red list of threatened species
  • developing and implementing cost-effective tools to maximise the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation efforts.

Research areas in brief

European tree frog / Photo: Lars Dalby ©

Nature monitoring in Denmark

Data are collected, processed and disseminated on species and habitats covered by our national and international commitments, laws and directives in our Biodiversity and Terrestrial Nature databases to assess compliance with relevant legislation. We prepare annual reports on the status and trends of bird population as required under the Birds Directive and on terrestrial species and habitats as specified under the Habitats Directive. Every 6 years, we provide the scientific basis for a major report on the state of nature conservation in Denmark to the European Commission. .


The Danish Red list

The Danish red list is a comprehensive review of the known status and trends of all Danish species, providing information on the level of threat to all species as well context about their habitats, trends, history, etc.

See the Danish Red list here


Tools for prioritising nature efforts

We develop methods that demonstrate the effectiveness of existing nature conservation interventions in order to maximise the value of nature management and more efficiently target agricultural subsidies for the best benefit to biodiversity conservation. Combining existing data and historical nature indicators with ongoing research projects, we attempt to identify how effective current nature conservation actions are in the face of current threats to our nature.

See HVN map here.     See biodiversity map here.


Nature management and restoration

We research all aspects of nature management, but with focus upon restoring natural processes associated with hydrology, coastal dynamics and key species in order to promote a cost-effective approach to managing biodiversity. We combine a variety of approaches in this work, including DNA sequencing to identify species, GPS marking of, for example, moose and red deer and remote sensing using drones, LiDAR and satellite imagery.


Denmark's biodiversity in ecological space

We study why species diversity varies across species groups and work towards understanding the distributional factors affecting the presence of endangered species. Our concept of ecological space (ecospace) describes the environment and the associated biological resources. Understanding how ecospace changes over time with respect to biodiversity enables the conversion of our research results into sound advice on how land management affects biodiversity.



Coastal natural dynamics and nature

Despite Denmark’s disproportionate area of coastal dunes and beaches, coastal management has meant that most of these habitats are no longer subject to the natural dynamics (such as floods, erosion, deposition and bare sand) that shaped them. We study the impact of coastal protection on the coastal dynamics and biodiversity of the coastal zone, and regularly organise workshops on dune management, where dune managers and researchers exchange knowledge and experience.


Taking nature into account in cities and cropland

We assess the degree to which nature can benefit in areas used for purposes other than biodiversity conservation, such as on agricultural land, managed forests and urban/recreational areas. We work closely with landscape architects, silviculturists, agricultural consultants, hunters and other users to explore the potential for creating space for vulnerable species and habitats without compromising major land use objectives.


Simulating socio-ecological systems

Our SESS centre aims to facilitate systems understanding and decision-making. We focus on the development of simulation as a tool to explore the implications of management decisions on the environmental, societal and economic aspects of managed systems. Further, we work with a virtual ecosystem (ALMaSS: The Animal, Landscape and Man Simulation System), within which we can examine the effects on environment and wildlife of changes in the structure of the landscape and in farming practices. The effects are expressed as changes in population size and distribution of selected species, providing an effective tool to assess how farmland wildlife may be affected under different future scenarios.


Applying artificial intelligence to ecological monitoring

We develop effective hardware and software solutions and methods for automated monitoring of species and ecosystems in collaboration with engineers and computer scientists. We work on finding solutions for field observations and for working with specimens in the lab with particular focus on image-based detection and classification of species and their interactions. The data streams from cameras provide novel insights into the occurrence and activity of species, and their interactions and are used to gain a better understanding of how species are affected by environmental variation and change.