The Research Unit (URT) is located at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Technologies at the University of Salento, Lecce. The URT was created in order to give continuity and strengthen the collaboration between the Research Institute on Terrestrial Ecosystems (IRET) and the University of Salento, to conduct activities within the framework of LifeWatch ERIC, the European research infrastructure for biodiversity and ecosystem research.
LifeWatch ERIC is committed to increasing the knowledge of biodiversity and ecosystem functionality in order to support society in responding to priority environmental and ecosystem protection challenges.
The Lecce URT strives to achieve the following objectives:
- Establish in IRET a research group on the issues of e-biodiversity & ecosystem research, which combines consolidated skills and experience of ecosystem biology and ecology with the ability to use and develop IT tools for the collection, integration, analysis and modelling of data, according to FAIR principles and the concept of Open Science;
- Strengthen the participation of IRET in the coordination and organization of the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre, hosted at the University of Salento, contributing together with the University to the development and validation of tools that allow the deepening of scientific knowledge on the topics of biodiversity organization and conservation, and the functioning and services of terrestrial ecosystems in a biosphere under conditions of great change;
- Promote and support at an educational level, with URT staff, advanced study courses on e-biodiversity & ecosystem science at master's degree, doctorate and post-doctoral levels, which contribute to the training of new generations of researchers. These courses, activated jointly with other European universities involved in LifeWatch ERIC, will contribute to strengthening the internationalization of the URT itself;
- Promote projects in connection with LifeWatch ERIC and participate in the planning of the European Infrastructure, which will allow an increase in the scientific and technological competitiveness of the URT with dedicated financial resources;
- Contribute to the consolidation, development and operation of the hub of national research data on biodiversity and ecosystems, financed by the infrastructure project LifeWatch PLUS, whose main node will be in Lecce.
The activities of the URT will be developed along the following main lines of research:
- Analysis of the mechanisms underlying the organization and conservation of biodiversity in terrestrial and inland water ecosystems;
- Models and scenarios of variation of the distribution ranges of species in the context of global changes and mechanisms of decoding at the level of population, individual and related interrelations;
- Ecosystem services, natural capital and environmental accounting;
- Tools for the organization, query and semantic inference of data resources and semantic platforms that render data resources FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable);
- Modelling and eco-computer tools for the quantitative analysis of data resources in virtual research environments.
The URT has for its research activities a dedicated multidisciplinary laboratory (BIOforIU), which integrates state-of-the-art technological instruments for the study of biodiversity at different scales of biological organization, and a field research infrastructure, equipped for continuous data collection, the sampling of different abiotic and biological matrices, and analytical determinations.