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Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

Ecosystems management

Ecosystems management

With a growing population and rapid changes in the global environment, a thorough understanding of ecosystems is critical to managing natural resources in a sustainable way. 

Ecosystem research addresses the complex interactions between living organisms, the physical environment and human societies. This work is key to a better understanding of how we can conserve biodiversity, ecosystem services and promote human well-being. The health of humans, animals and plants depends on a healthy environment.

CABI’s ecosystems research focuses on assessing the interactions between species and the environment. 

We offer research support to understand the factors underlying ecosystem degradation and the links with human well-being. We then develop methods that help conserve or restore biodiversity and ecosystems.   

We also work in both temperate and sub-tropical climates to understand and mitigate the impacts of biological invasions on ecosystems and the services they provide for humans. 

The sustainable management strategies we develop and implement contribute to the conservation or restoration of healthy ecosystems. 

Besides our research and implementation activities, we also provide advice to policy-makers in Switzerland, the rest of Europe and Africa. 

The team working at CABI in Switzerland is led by Dr Urs Schaffner and includes two research scientists. In addition, a number of PhD and MSc students join the team during their thesis work. We also work closely with research institutions all over the world, including Africa, Asia, North America and Europe.


Urs Schaffner

Dr Urs Schaffner

Head Ecosystems Management

We are currently working on projects addressing grassland conservation and restoration, the environmental and socio-economic impact of invasive species and integrated weed management. Project highlights include:

  • The ‘Woody Weeds’ project ( aims to quantify the effects of woody invasive alien species on biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being in Eastern Africa and to mitigate their negative impacts. After two years of research, the first research outputs are now being produced and disseminated.
  • In 2017, we started a new project that aims to develop integrated weed management solutions across Europe. Our role in the project includes the integration of biological control in integrated weed management using Rumex spp. weeds as a model system.
  • A global assessment of the environmental impacts of invasive plant species. Interest in the project outputs remains high. The two main publications (Vila et al. 2011; Pysek et al. 2012) have already been cited more than 1,000 times.

Woody weeds in East Africa

Many exotic trees and shrubs have been introduced into Africa and become destructive invasive species. They're reducing native biodiversity and limiting the livelihoods of those that live in rural communities. CABI is trying to mitigate these impacts in East Africa by generating and sharing knowledge on their effects and finding ways that they can... >>

Improving knowledge and understanding of beetle biodiversity in Laos

Global biodiversity is receiving increased attention as it becomes more and more threatened because of the growing human population and development. Beetles or coleopteran are no exception and CABI is running this project to increase knowledge and understanding of their biodiversity in Laos. >>

Restoring grasslands of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Halting and reversing land degradation is one of the biggest challenges to meeting the targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals. This project aims to assess the effects of grassland degradation on soil functions on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau and determine whether manipulation of plant functional diversity can accelerate the restoration of... >>

Integrated weed management in Europe

Weeds are ubiquitous and cause substantial yield losses across all arable and horticultural land. The goal of this European-wide project is to optimise the efficacy, applicability and use of environmentally friendly weed control measures that can replace or complement current chemical control methods. >>