The division of conservation biology investigates major mechanisms involved in the degradation of ecosystems and in the decline of threatened species. The main objective is to propose sound conservation guidance for stopping biodiversity erosion, i.e. restoring ecosystems and populations. A further overarching objective is to bridge the wide gap that exists between research and practice, a major challenge of Conservation Biology. Research in our division is thus mostly practice-oriented and solution-driven, with a major focus on the ecology of threatened biodiversity in farmland, woodland and Alpine ecosystems. We also include analyses of the attitude of various stakeholders towards biodiversity and the use of natural resources. Our research thus consists of field observations and real-field experiments, covering a great variety of topics, from population biology of rare, emblematic species of plants, invertebrates and vertebrates to community ecology of grasslands, forests and river ecosystems, and even political issues around biodiversity. It typically combines community ecology approaches and species-specific approaches, which enables embracing the overall complexity of an ecosystem and its functionalities, from biomass productivity, population abundance and species diversity at the lower trophic levels, through functional groups and guilds of consumers at intermediate levels, up to emblematic apex predators. Various modern methods are applied to extract the essential information, such as resource selection, spatial modelling, population dynamical studies, genetic analyses, socio-ecological inquiries, etc. Results lead to tangible guidelines for conservation management. Joint ventures with practitioners and collaborations with stakeholders guarantee that the recommendations drawn from our research are effectively implemented to promote biodiversity, which certainly makes this division standing out from other conventional academic research units.
Exceptionally low lynx density in Valais
A study conducted by the University of Bern in the past five winters has revealed an exceptionally low density of lynx in the canton of Valais. This result contrasts with density measured in other mountainous areas of Switzerland, as well as with the situation in Valais in the 1980s. Ongoing investigations tests different hypotheses for this low population density. Poaching might well be the most plausible cause according to the scientists. (28.11.2016)