Within its mission, understanding the functioning of (agro-)ecosystems to design and enable the development of sustainable and multifunctional production and land use systems, research in PE&RC focuses on sustainable production, biodiversity and ecosystem services, the bio-based economy and multifunctional land use, addressing various global crises, such as those on food security, climate and biodiversity loss.
The (agro-)ecosystems within PE&RC cover the full range from intensive agricultural production systems (e.g. greenhouses) to extensive semi‑natural and natural systems (e.g. agroforests, wetlands, savannas and protected areas). Bio- and geosciences are corner stones of PE&RC research on agro- and (semi-)natural ecosystems. To understand these systems, they need to be investigated at various spatial and temporal scales and at different levels of biological integration and complexity. Therefore, PE&RC research challenges are to:
Supporting technologies and approaches, such as genomics, remote sensing, (geo-)information systems, and novel statistical and modelling practices are an integral part of the research activities. Moreover, input from the socio-economic sciences is essential for, among others, the design and development of sustainable and multifunctional land use systems (i.e. the interdisciplinary research approach). As socio-economic sciences are not directly part of PE&RC, we communicate and collaborate with these sciences extensively, including via the relevant Graduate Schools.
To visualise research in PE&RC, four, partly overlapping, research themes have been identified:
These themes have been developed, based on recommendations of the 2009 peer review committee and of the PE&RC International Advisory Board, and guided and inspired by developments in science and society. The research themes are shown in the figure below.
PE&RC research themes are connected across scientific goals and levels of integration. Dotted lines mark the transition to the domains of other graduate schools (e.g. Experimental Plant Sciences). The blue area marks the transition to goals and levels of integration beyond the scope of PE&RC.
Within this framework, 3 focal areas have been identified that would form the basis of the PE&RC research strategy for the coming years (see figure below). These are:
PE&RC focal areas of research within the PE&RC research domain. The PE&RC research groups (represented by the orange circles) cover the domain and provide an essential contribution to the focal areas of research.