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ALTER-Net: A Long-Term Biodiversity, Ecosystem and Awareness Research Network

Europe’s ecosystem research network


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ALTER-Net turns 10 and enters its third phase

ALTER-Net, Europe’s biodiversity ecosystems and ecosystem services research network, now 10 years old, is continuing to promote interdisciplinary, collaborative research on biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services.


The network, which began life in 2004, was funded by the European Union Framework Programme 6 until 2009. We then continued independently, relying on support from our partner institutes and a generous grant from the Norwegian Government. ALTER-Net has grown to 27 member organisations in 18 countries throughout Europe.

Now in our 11th year, we have a new leadership. Maurice Hoffmann of INBO, Belgium, takes over from Eeva Furman (SYKE, Finland) as Chair of the Network Council, whilst Leon Braat (Alterra, the Netherlands) hands over the reins as Chair of the Management Board to Allan Watt (CEH, UK) and Jiska van Dijk (NINA, Norway). INBO will host the Secretariat, but during a transition period SYKE (currently Sanna-Riikka Saarela) will give support to the new Secretariat.

We welcome some new faces to our Management Board, who will aim to deliver a revised set of priority activities under the headings: Internal and External Communication; Joint Training Activities; ALTER-Net High Impact Actions; Research Activities; Science-Policy interface; and Infrastructure. Our successful Summer School, now in its 9th year, will continue to provide a unique learning experience for early stage researchers. We also continue to support the development of European long-term research infrastructure, principally through the LTER-Europe network of sites and research platforms. ALTER-Net will strengthen its science-policy interface activities, by playing an active role in areas such as the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services, and BiodiversityKnowledge.

On our 10th anniversary day, Maurice Hoffmann presented ALTER-Net at an event in the European Parliament that focused on setting up a European Network of Knowledge (NoK) for biodiversity and ecosystem services, as continuation of the BiodiversityKnowledge process. Since the goals of the NoK are very similar to some of ALTER-Net’s goals, we will fully support and underpin the new NoK initiative. We will also help our partner institutes to build on previous successes and develop project consortia to attract EU Horizon 2020 research funding. Through a new initiative, called High Impact Actions, we will support the review and analysis of existing scientific knowledge and information on selected hot topics in the fields of biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services. This should become an important new type of deliverable in our third period. Multi Site Experiment initiatives will also continue in ALTER-Net III, the future scope of which will soon be defined further.

On our 10th birthday, we are proud to have come this far, achieving the original vision of European funding, which was durable integration of the consortium, as a Network of Excellence. We now look forward to the challenge of developing ALTER-Net so that it may continue to champion effective, interdisciplinary biodiversity and ecosystems research in Europe.