From The University of Zürich (Universität Zürich) (CH): “Reversing the Trend”

From The University of Zürich (Universität Zürich) (CH)

Stefan Stöcklin

At the World Biodiversity Forum in Davos this week, the focus is on how to slow down species loss and protect ecosystems. The UZH-organized conference aims to inspire action by bringing together researchers and practitioners.

Increasing biodiversity in urban centers – one of the messages of the World Biodiversity Forum. (Image: Natur & Wirtschaft)

Nature and its diversity form the basis of all life on Earth. The biological network provides us with food to eat, water to drink and air to breathe. But even though we are well aware of our dependence on Mother Nature, the destruction continues. Around a quarter of all species are threatened with extinction and the condition of natural ecosystems is deteriorating. “We need to reverse the trend,” says Cornelia Krug, science liaison officer at the University Research Priority Program “Global Change and Biodiversity”.

Together with an international steering committee, Krug is organizing the second World Biodiversity Forum, which this week is uniting more than 500 researchers and biodiversity professionals in Davos. The conference is hybrid – around another 150 people will participate online. It’s not just an opportunity to exchange new results and methods, but above all to work together on finding solutions, says Krug.

Accordingly, the motto of this year’s conference is “Inspiration to Act”. The international gathering, which took place for the first time in 2020, is organized by UZH together with the bioDISCOVERY research network. UZH President Michael Schaepman says it is vital to establish clear goals for global biodiversity efforts: “We need to find a clear message about our biodiversity aims, similar to the Paris climate goals.”

Diverse disciplines

The symposium will be attended by experts from various disciplines such as botany, zoology, genetics, hydrology and remote sensing, as well as by representatives of academic fields that one would not necessarily expect to find at a biodiversity conference – such as banking and finance. Marc Chesney, professor of quantitative finance at UZH, for example, will discuss why the prevailing economic principles could pose a risk for biodiversity. Part of the debate is how to establish new financial instruments that reward sustainable business practices. “There needs to be a rethink in the financial industry,” Krug says.

Another topic on the agenda is mountain regions, where valuable land is declining dramatically. Despite its importance, we still do not know enough about biodiversity in high-altitude mountain areas. This includes microbial diversity in glacial runoff, biodiversity in permafrost, or diversity in mountain meadows. Biodiversity researchers working with Markus Fischer (University of Bern) are therefore calling for comprehensive inventories of species composition. This is an area in which citizen scientists can play a significant role. Interested laypersons are increasingly getting involved in projects to record and preserve mountain flora.
Focus on green cities

Practical approaches are also being pursued by engineer Peter Bach of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). He is leading the conference topic Blue Green Cities looking at ways of increasing biodiversity in urban centers. Species-rich areas and watercourses could be harnessed to create diverse habitats in cities for both people and flora and fauna.

The close link between the biodiversity crisis and climate change is also seen in urban development issues. Green spaces can reduce local temperatures in cities by several degrees. In general, the loss of forests and species-rich landscapes exacerbates warming, and the higher temperatures in turn accelerate species loss. “Climate change and species loss are mutually reinforcing,” Krug says. Limiting species loss is thus just as important as limiting global warming (to a maximum of 1.5 degrees according to the Paris Agreement).

The Davos conference will therefore also shine a spotlight on the Convention on Biological Diversity, which was signed along with the Climate Change Convention at the Rio Earth Summit 30 years ago. The Convention on Biological Diversity reaches an important milestone this December in Montreal, Canada, when its goals will be reaffirmed and its validity extended to 2050. Cornelia Krug would like the Davos conference motto to be also understood in relation to the Biodiversity Convention: it is time to act. At the end of the Davos conference, therefore, a resolution with concrete recommendations for action is planned.

See the full article here .


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The University of Zürich (Universität Zürich) (CH), located in the city of Zürich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 26,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy.

Currently, the university has seven faculties: Philosophy, Human Medicine, Economic Sciences, Law, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Theology and Veterinary Medicine. The university offers the widest range of subjects and courses of any Swiss higher education institutions.
Since 1833

As a member of the League of European Research Universities (EU) (LERU) and Universitas 21 (U21) network, the University of Zürich belongs to Europe’s most prestigious research institutions. In 2017, the University of Zürich became a member of the Universitas 21 (U21) network, a global network of 27 research universities from around the world, promoting research collaboration and exchange of knowledge.

Numerous distinctions highlight the University’s international renown in the fields of medicine, immunology, genetics, neuroscience and structural biology as well as in economics. To date, the Nobel Prize has been conferred on twelve UZH scholars.

Sharing Knowledge

The academic excellence of the University of Zürich brings benefits to both the public and the private sectors not only in the Canton of Zürich, but throughout Switzerland. Knowledge is shared in a variety of ways: in addition to granting the general public access to its twelve museums and many of its libraries, the University makes findings from cutting-edge research available to the public in accessible and engaging lecture series and panel discussions.

1. Identity of the University of Zürich


The University of Zürich (UZH) is an institution with a strong commitment to the free and open pursuit of scholarship.

Scholarship is the acquisition, the advancement and the dissemination of knowledge in a methodological and critical manner.

Academic freedom and responsibility

To flourish, scholarship must be free from external influences, constraints and ideological pressures. The University of Zürich is committed to unrestricted freedom in research and teaching.

Academic freedom calls for a high degree of responsibility, including reflection on the ethical implications of research activities for humans, animals and the environment.


Work in all disciplines at the University is based on a scholarly inquiry into the realities of our world

As Switzerland’s largest university, the University of Zürich promotes wide diversity in both scholarship and in the fields of study offered. The University fosters free dialogue, respects the individual characteristics of the disciplines, and advances interdisciplinary work.

2. The University of Zurich’s goals and responsibilities

Basic principles

UZH pursues scholarly research and teaching, and provides services for the benefit of the public.

UZH has successfully positioned itself among the world’s foremost universities. The University attracts the best researchers and students, and promotes junior scholars at all levels of their academic career.

UZH sets priorities in research and teaching by considering academic requirements and the needs of society. These priorities presuppose basic research and interdisciplinary methods.

UZH strives to uphold the highest quality in all its activities.
To secure and improve quality, the University regularly monitors and evaluates its performance.


UZH contributes to the increase of knowledge through the pursuit of cutting-edge research.

UZH is primarily a research institution. As such, it enables and expects its members to conduct research, and supports them in doing so.

While basic research is the core focus at UZH, the University also pursues applied research.