This week we continue our series of interviews with researchers from the AQUACROSS project. AQUACROSS is an EU-funded project which seeks to advance the application of ecosystem-based management for aquatic ecosystems, to help support the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and other international conservation targets.
Dr Andrea Funk is an expert in wetland ecology, with a special focus on biodiversity, and the restoration and conservation of river-floodplain systems. Her current research focuses on meta-community dynamics in floodplain networks, and species-distribution modelling with an emphasis on floodplain restoration.
We spoke to Andrea to find out more about her work, inspirations and aspirations in freshwater ecology.
What is your focus of your work in AQUACROSS, and why?
My work focuses on the coordination and implementation of the AQUACROSS assessment framework for the Danube basin. More specifically, my focus is on the river-floodplain system along the navigable stretch of the Danube River where we explore trade-offs and synergies of biodiversity targets (especially related to protected areas), ecosystem services (like recreation or tourism) and multiple human activities (like navigation or energy production) related to hydro-morphological alterations based on statistical models.
Why is your work important?
Floodplains are key elements for biodiversity protection. They are biodiversity hotspots, they provide a multitude of ecosystem functions and services, but, in turn are also hotspots of multiple human activities. Contributing to our understanding of these highly complex systems provides a basis for a strategic and more integrated management approach, as well as restoration planning.
What are the key challenges for freshwater management in Europe?
Biodiversity is declining rapidly, this is particularly acute for freshwater systems. Freshwaters host rich communities of life including many sensitive and endemic species. In turn, freshwater ecosystems are threatened due to multiple human activities which are also conflicting with multiple ecosystem services and ecosystem functions those systems provide. A main challenge is to balance all these different interests toward a sustainable protection of biodiversity.
Tell us about a memorable experience in your career.
I’m used to having those memorable experiences quite frequently – scientific life is always full of surprises.
What inspired you to become a scientist?
I was always fascinated by water, mud (or call it aquatic sediments) and the life in it.
What are your plans and ambitions for your future scientific work?
With my modelling focus I hope that I can further contribute to the understanding of complex systems and therefore the conservation and restoration of biodiversity hotspots.