TUMBRA (abgeschlossen)

Using ecological analysis to deepen our understanding of the relationship between biodiversity and sustainable land use

TUMBRA Partners:

Technische Universität München (TUM), Germany
Universidade de Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil
Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Natal (UFRN), Brazil
Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre (UFRGS), Brazil


Prof. Dr. Wolfgang W. Weisser
Chair for Terrestrial Ecology
Department of Ecology and Ecosystem Management
Technische Universität München


Among the major drivers of current changes of biodiversity and of ecosystem processes and services, land use change is the most prominent ranging from local and regional to national, international and global scales. Currently, biodiversity experiences a general decline at the local and regional scales along with the ecosystem services it provides. Biodiversity conservation and restoration, and the development of sustainable ways in using ecological services, are high on the political agenda, but there is a need for more advanced theory, experimental approaches and improved implementation to produce a stronger impact.

In the temperate regions such as in Germany, past experience of human overexploitation has led to the development of strategies of ecosystem management that aim at the sustainable use of resources. As a consequence, elaborate systems, e.g. of forest and grassland management, have been developed that can successfully be applied to other regions of the world with similar climate. Nevertheless, strong pressure on land use, the increasing energy demand and changes in energy production put continuing pressure on land use systems. Many open questions remain in the context of the sustainable provisioning of ecosystem services at the regional level and national level. In the tropical regions of the world, e.g. in Brazil, biodiversity is far greater than in temperate regions  and human use of natural resources has only recently reached the scale where biodiversity is suffering. As a consequence, there is little tradition of biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of ecosystems. In Brazil, for example, forestry has only recently begun to explore sustainable ways in producing wood and other commodities from forests. Current land use practises, supported by the way land use is implemented into laws, are, however, a major threat to biodiversity which is rapidly declining.

The different conditions found in the tropical regions, including abiotic, biotic and cultural factors, are a challenge when applying management techniques developed in the temperate region. Fortunately, the past decades have seen a strong development of sustainability science in many tropical countries, at least partly due to exchange and collaboration with researchers in North America and Europe. In Brazil, an increasing investment in science has resulted in the development of world-class university departments that are successfully developing strategies for the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of resources The network TUMBRA Funded by DAAD (Qualitätsnetz Biodiversität) is set to combine expertise from both Germany and Brazil to develop a deeper understanding of the ecosystems under threat, and to design strategies for biodiversity preservation and the sustainable use of resources.

The aims of TUMBRA

The overall aim of TUMBRA is to develop a scientific network including the TU München, a leading European university with a successful history in research on sustainable use of natural resources, and three leading Brazilian universities with strong interest in the area of biodiversity research and sustainable land use. While the network focuses on ecological analysis and the scientific basis of the sustainable use of resources, it is open for other disciplines and will include in its activities researchers from diverse fields such as economics, sociology and urban planning. The network will foster research cooperation between two or more of the partner universities, and it will lead to the development of joint teaching programs.

The network builds on the long-standing cooperation between TUM and the Brazilian universities. UNICAMP is an official partner university of TUM since 2009, for UFRGS a cooperation contract was signed in 2003. Cooperation with UFRN started officially in 2012.

Description of partner universities and responsible units

TUM: Technische Universität München

is one of the first universities to be nominated in the German Federal “Excellency Initiative”. TUM’s strength in basic and applied research is reflected in top positions in international rankings. In the past years TUM has developed successful cooperation with a number of Brazilian universities. Currently, the exchange with Brazil includes around 15 Brazilian universities. In 2009, TUM´s seven Brazilian partner universities were included into the bilateral exchange programme TUMexchange, centrally coordinated by TUM´s International office. In 2009/10, TUM´s International office also coordinated the “European-Brazilian Network for Academic Exchange EUBRANEX” (EUBRANEX), funded within the mobility scheme Erasmus Mundus External Cooperation Window (EM ECW). Altogether 210 academic mobilities on the undergraduate, doctorate and post-doc level have been managed, from which around 40 directly involved TUM as receiving or sending university.

The TUM faculty Center of Life and Food Sciences Weihenstephan (WZW) has a range of excellent groups working on application-oriented aspects of biodiversity including agriculture, forestry, fisheries and planning. The WZW (www.wzw.tum.de) is a strong and dynamic cluster of departments including more than 80 professorships that combine expertise in biosciences, biotechnology, agronomy, forestry, ecology, ecosystem management, nutrition, food sciences and life science engineering. The WZW has a matrix structure that consists of six research departments and six academic faculties where teaching is organised.

For TUMBRA, the Department of Ecology and Ecosystem Management (head: Prof. Dr. A. Fischer) will take the leadership as an overall coordinator of the network, for both research and teaching activities. Strong research groups in the areas of ecology, soil science, climatology and planning are core members of the Department; they are supplemented by experts in forestry, agriculture and biology.

Contact person: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang W. Weisser, Chair for Terrestrial Ecology

UNICAMP: The University of Campinas (Universidade Estadual de Campinas)

was founded in 1966. Although a young institution, it has already developed a strong tradition in education, research and services to society. UNICAMP is the second top-ranking Brazilian research and teaching university (according to most internationally accepted rankings) and, in ecology, it holds the only top-ranked (CAPES level 7) Brazilian graduate program, which is also one of the four Brazilian pioneering programs, founded in 1976. At UNICAMP, the Departamento de Biologia Animal (head: Prof. Dr. Arício X. Linhares), which co-sites the Ecology Program, will be the contact partner of TUMBRA. The Department includes research groups in theoretical and applied ecology, with focuses on biodiversity structure and measurement, ecology and evolution of plant-animal interactions, tropical ecosystem processes, and restoration ecology. Other research groups in UNICAMP with potential involvement in TUMBRA are based in other departments of the Institute of Biology (IB), the Centre for Environmental Research (NEPAM), which bases an interdisciplinary PhD Program in Environment and Society, and the Institute of Geology (IG). These research groups have a solid tradition in helping to develop large research programs funded by state and national research agencies: in ecology and biodiversity, these include the FAPESP Biota and Genome Programs and the Brazilian SisBiota program. UNICAMP, and particular its ecology research groups, also have an extensive and longstanding tradition of strong international connections and collaborations within Latin America, North America and Europe.

Contact person: Prof. Dr. Thomas M. Lewinsohn, Professor of Ecology

UFRN: The Federal University of Rio Grande

do Norte in Natal originates from the University of Rio Grande do Norte, founded in 1958. Originally a university with a regional focus, it has in the past years seen a significant increase in staff number and national importance. The Departamento de Botânica, Ecologia e Zoologia (www.cb.ufrn.br/dbez), the TUMBRA partner at UFRN, has recently recruited 15 researchers at the professorial level with expertise in restoration ecology, biodiversity and climate modelling, ecological analysis as well as a number of other areas. The Department now includes researchers applying a wide range of tools, from community analysis, restoration ecology to socioeconomic analysis of indiginous fisheries, to understand the relationship between land use, biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. Since 1997 UFRN has a post-graduate course in ecology which nowadays comprises 30 researchers working on aquatic and terrestrial ecology. An additional post-graduate course of systematics and evolution was created at the end of 2010. This strong expertise has led to increased research activities in the area of biodiversity and the sustainable use of resources.Researchers of UFRN were in charge of e.g. large forestry research projects, funded by Capes/CNPQ, comparing various types of forestry in their role for biodiversity conservation and investigating the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem function.

Contact person: Prof. Dr. Gislene Ganade, Professor of Ecology

UFRGS: The Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS)

founded in 1934, but with its roots stemming to the 19th century, is the leading research and university-level education institution in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. The Institute of Biosciences (Instituto de Biociências), the TUMBRA partner at UFRGS, consists of six departments and offers four different programs at the Master and Ph.D.-level. Among these are the programs in ecology, botany and animal biology, with a staff of more than 70 professors. Lines of research related to the present proposal include taxonomy, population and community ecology, functional ecology, numerical ecology, physiology, reproductive biology, and phylogenetic studies. Biodiversity conservation and restoration of different ecosystems have become established as important fields of research in the past years, with much of the work conducted in close cooperation with land use sciences, e.g. the UFRGS Agricultural Faculty with its experimental facilities, the UFRGS Postgraduate-Program of Rural Development or other federal or state research institutions.

Research at the Institute of Biosciences covers all types of ecosystems in Rio Grande do Sul, including the Pampa grasslands (Pampa biome) with their high species richness and the southernmost parts of the Atlantic Rain forest (Atlantic Forest biome), which includes Araucaria forests and mosaics of grassland and Araucaria forests. Currently, a large-scale biodiversity assessment with more than 70 researchers and students from the UFRGS and partner institutions is underway (project “Biodiversity of the Southern Grasslands and Associated Forest Ecosystems: Ecological Bases for Conservation and Sustainable Land Use”, financed by CNPq and FAPERGS).

Contact person: Prof. Dr. Valério Pillar, Professor of Ecology