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New large centre on agricultural production and biodiversity

AU researchers receive a total of DKK 60 million kroner for a new 6-year-old centre called SustainScapes. The centre will work with research-based solutions on how biodiversity can be future-proofed in a changing climate and in a world with an ever-increasing need for resources. The Novo Nordisk Foundation provides the grant as part of the "Novo Nordisk Foundation Challenge Program."

[Translate to English:] Foto: Novo Nordisk Fonden logo

How can the cultural landscape be rethought so that agricultural production is developed sustainably, while at the same time achieving the goal of increased biodiversity? A new centre under the Novo Nordisk Foundation's Challenge Program will investigate this question.

The Challenge Program was established in 2014, and since then the foundation has annually awarded a generous million to ambitious research projects focusing on global challenges within changing themes. This year, the focus has been on biodiversity in particular. This has meant that researchers from AU have received a total of DKK 119.1 million in grants. 60 million goes to the centre SustainScapes, which is a collaboration between the Department of Biology and the Department of Agroecology. 

Rethinking the cultural landscapes

Professor Signe Normand, Department of Biology, heads "SustainScapes - Centre for Sustainable Landscapes in a Changing World", along with Professor Tommy Dalgaard, Department of Agroecology, who with a strong team from the Department in Foulum handles the agricultural aspects of the centre . 

The research in the new centre will help us understand how changes in land use and climate conditions have historically affected biodiversity across Denmark. Based on the new knowledge, tools are developed to predict how and on what areas nature restoration in relation to agricultural production will have the greatest effect on biodiversity in the future.

"The competencies we can build in the centre through the recruitment of younger researchers at different levels are incredibly important for the development of our research and policy support, and play fantastically well with other national and international projects we have in the field," says Tommy Dalgaard , who also coordinates a number of related EU project activities.

“We are particularly looking forward to examining the value of nature-based solutions for sustainable production, as well as how farmers will respond to the new challenges and opportunities arising from national and European reforms of agricultural, climate and environmental policies. SustainScapes also focuses on the effects of changing land use over time, the impact on the land resource, and the development of new methods for studying the consequences for the land resource in the future. This work especially involves Professor Lis Wollesen de Jonge and section leader Mogens H. Greve at the Department of Agroecology," continues Tommy Dalgaard.

“With SustainScapes, we rethink the use of the Danish landscape and explore nature-based solutions for the conservation of biodiversity and bio-based production. We will contribute with new knowledge about where - and how quickly - we can expect biodiversity to be rebuilt and use data obtained from space to follow the changes. By linking local and global models, we will put local choices in a global context. Hereby we strive to deliver local, sustainable solutions that benefit both biodiversity, climate, and production. We want to make it easier for citizens and decision-makers to initiate local initiatives for a sustainable future,” explains Signe Normand, who is very much looking forward to the interdisciplinary collaboration.

In addition to the two departments at Aarhus University, the work in SustainScapes takes place in close collaboration with a large number of national and international researchers.

About the Novo Nordisk Foundation Challange Programme

Every year, the Novo Nordisk Foundation Challenge Program awards large grants to  applications for ambitious research projects focusing on global challenges. The foundation has just opened for applications for next year's Challenge Program, where up to a total of DKK 360 million will be allocated to projects focusing on how cross-cutting research will solve tomorrow's challenges in disease and food.

Read more about Challenge Programme 2021 via this link


Professor Tommy Dalgaard, Department of Agroecologt, Aarhus Universitet. Tel.: 20706132. Email: tommy.dalgaard@agro.au.dk

Professor Signe Normand, Deparment of Biology, Aarhus Universitet. Tel.: 23718009. Email: signe.normand@bio.au.dk