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How can we spruce up Europe’s flora and fauna?

  • The number of species on earth has fallen by more than a quarter in the last 35 years. In fact, so many species of plants and animals have been killed off that, on over 58 % of the earth’s surface, biodiversity has dropped below the level deemed by ecologists as sufficient to ensure the sustainability of ecosystems. So what can we do about it? Since one root cause is deforestation, researchers on the EU-funded ZEPHYR project built a robotic nursery assistant to repopulate forests. With the help of this robo
  • These sapling nurseries can also hit the road – they are housed inside a solar-powered shipping container so they can travel around Europe and grow trees on site. This greenhouse system uses 85 % less energy than other traditional methods and gathers much of the electricity it needs through photovoltaic panels on the roof. After receiving funding from the EU to develop the idea, the project has helped create a university spin-off to bring it to market. Image courtesy of ZEPHYR
  • One side effect of deforestation is desertification, as is in the case in Senegal. The population of this West African country has increased more than fourfold since 1960, which means that more trees have been cut down. This, combined with climate change, has turned much of the land into desert. But the EU-funded UNDESERT project is trying to reverse this by working with communities to plant over 20 species of native trees, and since 2010 has planted 40 hectares with 5 000 trees. The project has set up a ca
  • Even though less than 5 % of the ocean depths have been explored so far, we know that human pressure has already affected them by changing their chemical properties and altering food chains. Scientists in the EU-funded DEVOTES project are trying to find out how this affects the biodiversity of European seas by installing monitoring systems that collect data to be studied by genomic tools. Image courtesy of DEVOTES (AZTI)
  • The World Wildlife Fund estimates a 50 % decline in the wild Atlantic salmon population in the last 20 years, mostly from human environmental damage such as acid rain due to climate change, the destruction of spawning and rearing grounds, and more hydropower turbines and dams. Researchers in the EU-funded IMPRESS project in Norway are working to make sure there will still be plenty of fish in the sea. Biologists in Sunnmøre are helping to rebuild local salmon stocks after a parasite devastated many of river