Published 2021-04-22

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Mistra plans calls for research proposals on biodiversity and the sea

Mistra works continuously on global environmental analysis to identify possible new research initiatives. Currently, Mistra is investigating two areas in depth: biodiversity linked to our economic system, and the marine ecosystem and offshore activities. The target is to issue two calls for proposals before year-end.

In Mistra’s process for new research initiatives, environmental topics and societal challenges are continuously analysed to find knowledge gaps where research funding would meet important needs. Biodiversity and the sea are the focus areas that Mistra’s co-workers, with experts’ assistance, are now investigating more thoroughly.

The InsectGapMap project was created as part of analysis in the area of biodiversity and actions to reverse habitat loss. One conclusion from the project was that knowledge of how conservation measures can be implemented with broad social and political support is lacking.

The project is becoming part of documentation for decisions, now that an international expert group has been appointed to work on a background report focusing particularly on biodiversity associated with our economic system.

Linda Bell, Programmes Director at Mistra

‘We know from our unique position as both research funder and asset owner that there’s an incipient understanding of biodiversity among those who own and manage assets, and great demand for tools and knowledge. We need to redirect investment flows to strengthen biodiversity globally, and through this forthcoming call we hope to contribute to knowledge development,’ says Linda Bell, Programmes Director at Mistra.

Conflicting objectives and AI

Bell points to the widely referenced Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which documents the acute situation of countless species globally. In early 2021, the report The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review, which reveals the connection between our economic system and biodiversity, was also published.

‘Nature is our most valuable asset. At the same time, the Report shows that we’ve fundamentally failed to understand and appreciate it. The Report places a heavy emphasis on the need to recognise the intrinsic value of nature. We believe this may become highly important to biodiversity conservation work in the future.’

Bell cites artificial intelligence (AI) and real-time data as potentially important tools. And the biodiversity challenge is closely bound up with other environmental challenges, such as climate change and consumption patterns.

‘Like climate change, biodiversity highlights the importance of a just transition and the need to manage various environmental challenges in parallel. There are constant goal conflicts where it can be a matter of using natural resources to meet day-to-day needs while preserving the environment we depend on in the long term. These are issues we hope a future research programme can address,’ Bell says.

Persistent marine problems

A great deal is under way in the area of marine research, not least in the EU, because of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. In the spring, a report commissioned by Mistra focusing on the open sea and the marine ecosystem will be published. It describes challenges and significant maritime livelihoods, and provides an overview of ongoing research initiatives and other activities in Sweden and the EU.

Thomas Nilsson, Programmes Director at Mistra.

‘We can say there’s been a lot of research on marine issues, notably the Baltic Sea’s environmental problems. But many of the problems remain, which is why we think a new initiative is needed,’ says Thomas Nilsson, Programmes Director at Mistra. The sea is also closely associated with other challenges, such as energy supply and climate change.

In this area too, Mistra is appointing an expert group to give advice and recommendations, based on the report, on the form a call for proposals could take. Its intended focus is the open sea around Sweden, maritime activities and environmental problems related to the sea.

‘To address the important issues, we don’t want to restrict it too much. One area we envisage is about the challenges and potential of the whole ecosystem — the impact and prospects of marine industries, policies and regulations, and data and technological development for monitoring,’ Nilsson says.

To learn more, contact:

Linda Bell, Mistra Programmes Director,

Thomas Nilsson, Mistra Programmes Director,