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300 Years of Growth


The issue:

Biodiversity, or the variety of life on the planet, can be thought of at three levels: within species, i.e. genetic diversity; biodiversity among species, the variety of different plants, animals and micro-organisms on the planet; and habitat or ecosystem diversity. All this biodiversity allows for healthy functioning ecosystems which provide “ecosystem goods and services” – benefits which sustain human well-being. However, biodiversity is in decline – habitats are being destroyed and fragmented, novel species are being introduced by human activities, pollution, over exploitation and, increasingly,  climate change, are all driving biodiversity loss. There is an urgent need to not only document the biodiversity that we have, but to understand its relationship with ecosystem functioning and the provision of goods and services, and to halt its decline.

The role of plant scientists:

In order to document biodiversity and its loss, biological expertise is required to measure genetic diversity, species diversity and biodiversity at the landscape scale. Molecular biology and taxonomy and systematic are fundamental to this assessment, as is accurate field monitoring and analysis of patterns at a landscape scale. This requires not only good understanding of the biology of organisms but analytical skills for high precision sampling and mapping. Furthermore, in order to understand how biodiversity relates to ecosystem functioning and the provision of goods and services, we need good ecological data, knowledge of how organisms interact with each other, and with the environment in which they live. This knowledge is also crucial for management and sustainable conservation of biodiversity.

Current relevant research in the Botany Department:

The Trinity Centre for Biodiversity Research. [Link to] has recently been established to coordinate College research in this area. It aims to become the leading hub for research on global aspects of biodiversity in Ireland and have a leading international profile.
The TCD herbarium is the only one in Ireland to contain significant holdings of non-Irish material; these are based around the huge collections of great historic importance amassed by Coulter, Harvey, Kerr and later workers. Current research includes the publication of the eight edition of the Irish Flora in 2011 and significant contributions to the ongoing Flora of Thailand project:

The TCD Botanic Gardens support botanical teaching and research with TCD by providing living plant material, controlled growth environments, glasshouses and other experimental facilities. The gardens also houses the Irish Rare and Threatened Plant Genebank:

Planning and Management Tools for Biodiversity in a Range of Irish Forests: The PLANFORBIO project aims to increase our understanding of biodiversity in a variety of forest types in Ireland, and inform management decisions to optimise the preservation of species diversity:

Pollination services are economically valuable in agriculture, and in natural ecosystems. Many of the projects in the Plant-Animal Interactions research group are investigating the fundamental links between plants and their pollinators and the drivers of changes to these interactions.

SIMBIOSYS: Sectoral IMmpacts on BIOdiversity and ecoSYSem services: This project is quantifying impacts of key sectoral activities in Ireland on biodiversity and ecosystem services, including pollination, biological pest control, carbon sequestration and resistance to alien species invasion:

BioChange is an integrative, multi-disciplinary research framework to support national and local biodiversity policy in Ireland:

Relevant undergraduate and masters modules taught in the Botany Department:

BY1102 Evolution Biodiversity and Environment
BY2206 Global biodiversity
BO3110  Lower Plant Diversity and Evolution
BO3111  Angiosperm Diversity and Systematics
BO3107  Plant Molecular Biology
BO3108  Field Botany
BO4102  Plant Community Ecology
BO4103  Plant Conservation and Biodiversity
BD7050 Introduction to Biodiversity
BD7052 Introduction to Conservation Biology
BD7055 Taxonomy & Systematics
BD7058 Overseas Field Course
BD7060 Practical Conservation Skills
BD7056 Human Biodiversity Interactions

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Last updated 24 February 2011 by