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Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Conservation biology, from molecules to ecosystem

Periods
January 1, 2018 - December 31, 2023
Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
1.03.00  Natural sciences and mathematics  Biology   
3.08.00  Medical sciences  Public health (occupational safety)   

Code Science Field
B000  Biomedical sciences   

Code Science Field
1.06  Natural Sciences  Biological sciences 
3.03  Medical and Health Sciences  Health sciences 
Keywords
Evolution, biodiversity, conservation ecology, species adaptation, Mediterranean ecosystem, genetic diversity, agriculture, plants, bioactive substances, functional food, antimicrobials, microbiome, marine vertebrates, mammals, health, wellbeing, sustainable urbanization, wood treatment
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (18)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  20038  PhD Dunja Bandelj  Biotechnology  Researcher  2018 - 2023  275 
2.  07674  PhD Darja Barlič Maganja  Microbiology and immunology  Head  2018 - 2023  431 
3.  32571  PhD Alenka Baruca Arbeiter  Plant production  Researcher  2023  127 
4.  24375  PhD Elena Bužan  Biology  Researcher  2018 - 2023  364 
5.  56962  Tanja Črešnovar  Public health (occupational safety)  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023  17 
6.  54838  Urška Gerič  Biology  Junior researcher  2020 - 2023  16 
7.  30863  PhD Matjaž Hladnik  Biotechnical sciences  Researcher  2019 - 2023  92 
8.  37619  PhD Vladimir Ivović  Biology  Researcher  2019 - 2023  95 
9.  24263  PhD Zala Jenko Pražnikar  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2018 - 2023  228 
10.  27826  PhD Mihaela Jurdana  Neurobiology  Researcher  2018 - 2023  200 
11.  25525  PhD Saša Kenig  Metabolic and hormonal disorders  Researcher  2018 - 2023  138 
12.  37503  Tea Knap  Biology  Junior researcher  2018 - 2019  26 
13.  51947  PhD Katja Kramberger  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Junior researcher  2018 - 2023  33 
14.  31274  PhD Andreja Kutnar  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2018  396 
15.  33766  PhD Bojan Lazar  Biology  Researcher  2018 - 2023  141 
16.  30883  PhD Ana Miklavčič Višnjevec  Chemistry  Researcher  2018 - 2023  111 
17.  24764  PhD Ana Petelin  Cardiovascular system  Researcher  2018 - 2023  231 
18.  39241  Marko Posavčević  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Junior researcher  2018  12 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  2413  Universita del Litorale, Facolta di Scienze della Salute  Izola  1810014005  9,128 
2.  2790  University of Primorska, Faculty of mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies  Koper  1810014009  17,493 
Abstract
Overexploitation of natural resources and other man-driven changes in the ecosystem result in the massive biodiversity loss and in the alteration of ecosystem’s structure and function. For understanding ecosystem functioning and for planning their conservation, the interdisciplinary scientific approach is needed which include different fields such as taxonomy, applied ecology, genetics, transcriptomics, molecular/cellular biology and public health. As a team we will investigate both, natural and anthropogenic (agricultural/urban) Mediterranean habitats as drivers of both positive and negative impacts on human health. The research program is organized into three work packages: 1) Conservation ecology 2) Conservation genetics and 3) Healthy Mediterranean ecosystem. In the field of conservation ecology, the research will be focused on ecology of endangered natural/human-disturbed terrestrial systems; and conservation ecology of marine systems. The study will include different taxa of plants and animals, which are either endangered or can serve as bioindicators of human-induced changes. To provide additional information about conservation of studied taxa, ecological data will be upgraded with population genetics studies. The special attention will be given to local adaptation and genetic differentiation between populations. In the field of healthy ecosystem the research will be focused on multidisciplinary study of health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The increasing demand for natural antioxidants, together with the introduction of new technologies to meet the new quality standards, justifies the search for new sources of natural bioactive compounds. Metabolomics approaches are powerful tools for studying plant metabolism and physiology through identification of biomarkers, investigation of metabolic pathways, study of stress tolerance mechanisms, and analysis of food. Using these tools we will identify bioactive compounds and determine their antioxidant activity, which could represent an added value from tree main perspectives; it is important to maintain broad molecular biodiversity, to explore their contribution to health, and for successful development of new commercial products. Particular attention will be drawn to the use of by-products as a source material, which will allow us to reduce the burden to the environment and optimize economical value of particular crops. The research program includes various methods: sampling of plant and animal material in selected habitats, tissue sampling for genetic, skeletochronological and ecotoxicological analyses, microscopy, morphometric, genetic and chemical analyses, methods in cell biology, microbiology and molecular biology and clinical interventional studies.
Significance for science
The research program combines several disciplines that are crucial for the future development of adequate conservation strategies and management of the fragile Mediterranean ecosystem. This rich biodiversity and the complex biogeographical and political region make conservation a difficult task. Species, habitat, ecosystem, landscape approaches and human well-being has to be used to identify conservation targets at various scales: ie, European, national, regional and local. Furthermore, all Mediterranean-type ecosystems are susceptible to degradation and species loss due to intense human activity. This include habitat degradation due to climate change and drought, the loss of sustainable agriculture, disturbance of natural fire regimes and deforestation, urbanization, tourism, pollution, introduction of invasive species and difficulties for getting sustainable linking between human well-being and ecosystem services. The research is oriented in monitoring of selected taxonomic groups and habitats and has a significant impact on the knowledge on several vulnerable taxonomic groups in natural and human-disturbed areas in Mediterranean region. By adding new taxa and habitats we will get samples for conservation genomic and genetic studies of relevant species, especially for those under direct threat by different agents (pollution, habitat change, climate change). With the study of food webs, biomagnification and bioaccumulation of toxic substances in marine organisms of the coastal areas we obtain scientific information about the state of fragile ecosystems. In connection to agricultural landscapes, a special attention is also drawn to traditional varieties of crops in the Mediterranean agroecosystem. The research is focused on five main areas; 1) evaluation of genetic resources of agricultural plants and their relatives as an important contributor to Mediterranean agro-diversity with systematic approach; from gene to phenotype, including also their biochemical and nutritional value by using different omics tools; 2) development and improvements of chemical analytical methods which will serve for further investigations of plant extracts with specific beneficial effects for Mediterranean ecosystem; 3) characterization of Mediterranean agriculture by-products and determination of their possible use based on their properties in different areas; 4) research of agricultural pests and their resistance to phytopharmaceuticals with special emphasis on olive pests using population genetic tools; 5) recovery and reuse of Mediterranean waste products in the field of wood modification techniques. The research brings new findings on understanding varieties of crops in the Mediterranean agroecosystem, health-related molecular mechanism of active substances from local autochthonous crops on cellular, animal and human level and reuse of Mediterranean waste products and extracts in food and wood industry.
Significance for the country
The programme is aiming to solve the problem of underexploited natural resources and currently unappreciated traditional cultural knowledge through the utilization of a new scientific approach. For example, the proposed research examines the potential of some wild and cultivated plants from the Mediterranean region as sources of natural antioxidants for the use in food industry. On the other hand, the olive milled waste needs new alternatives to reduce its environmental and economic impact. The successful outcome of this research will contribute to the economy in Slovenia and will be an excellent basis for the development of new and environmentally sound technologies for the production of new functional foods and their beneficial effects on ecosystem health and new materials for wood industry. With the anticipated improvements in performance, minimising environmental impact, and maximising positive effect for humans, it is expected that the research results will lead to new value added products. These products will increase the competitiveness of the food and wood industry and will have beneficial effects on human and ecosystem health. The increase in competitive advantage will promote the potential for job retention and creation and will help contribute to structural reform, social cohesion, and to more balanced regional development. With environmental sustainability along with social and economic well-being as the new approach for the 21st century, the research of this program will considerably contribute to sustainable development. At the end of 2001 the Slovenian government adopted the national strategy for the Conservation of Biodiversity including objectives and directions which will help to attain in a coordinated manner the following three main objectives of the CBD: conservation of biological diversity; sustainable use of its components; fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources. Protecting biodiversity is an important view for promoting nature parks. Our research will contribute to the knowledge on biodiversity of the Natura 2000 sites. Moreover, the toxicological study of marine vertebrates will indicate the health of these habitats. In Slovenia, the importance of family farming has been emphasized in several strategic documents outlining the development of agriculture towards 2020 (FAO, 2017). The document Resolution on the strategic direction of development of the Slovenian agriculture and food sector towards 2020 – ‘Ensure our food for tomorrow’ provides a foundation for the Strategy on the implementation of this Resolution adopted in 2014 as well as for a rural development programme (RDP 2014-2020). The aforementioned resolution states that agriculture should keep on providing an adequate supply of safe food, thus satisfying one of the basic needs of society, while at the same time it should provide other important social functions and public goods. The ecological function of agriculture is defined by its decisive contribution to the quality of water, soil, air and biodiversity. Moreover, agriculture has a significant impact on the cultural landscape and its aesthetic and natural values. With new production technologies, reduced overall energy consumption, increased recycling of wood products, and reuse and refining of by-products, the wood sector can become a leader on the path to achieving the European Commission’s ambitious target of an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 (European Commission, Roadmap 2050 2011). The orientation of the University of Primorska (UP) located in the Mediterranean part of Slovenia is to contribute to the development of the region and to support its economy by conducting research strongly linked to the society and economy needs. For this reason, the research focused on Mediterranean environment together with agriculture is strategically important orientation of the UP and one of the most important constituents of economy in the
Most important scientific results Interim report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Interim report
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