Protecting biodiversity


Protecting biodiversity is at the heart of Sustainable Development Goal 15 (SDG 15)1 and an important area of research for IRD. Its staff work at different levels to study the ecology, evolution, dynamics and functioning of land-based ecosystems and living resources (plants and animals).

The scientific questions raised by the ‘Ecology, Biodiversity and Continental Ecosystem Functioning’ (Ecobio) department primarily look at the role of living organisms and environments and their interactions in:

  1. SDG 15 — Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. 

Key figures

Flagship projects

Half of the Amazonian tree species are endangered

One in two tree species in the Amazon could be endangered. The Amazon Tree Diversity Network international consortium, which includes the IRD, has just revealed in the Science Advances journal that, according to the predicted deforestation scenarios, 36% to 57% of Amazonian species are at risk of disappearing, i.e. up to 8,700 species out of the 15,000 estimated during the first inventory of the Amazonian Basin, published two years ago.

Asian gudgeon bring new terror to rivers

Small in size but significant in terms of the ecological and economic damage they cause, Asian gudgeon are invading a great number of water courses across the world, particularly in Europe. These fish carry a half‐​animal/​half‐​fungal parasite, which has very likely been present in China for millions of years and which is fatal to most other fish species. Having discovered this pathogen 10 years ago, IRD researchers and their partners have recently demonstrated how quickly it can spread in a Turkish catchment area. Three years after the arrival of the gudgeon, between 80 and 90% of fish were contaminated, including farmed bass, a species of great economic importance in the Mediterranean.

Discovery of a new flowering plant in Gabon’s forest

A new flowering plant has been discovered in Gabon’s tropical forest by Gabonese and French botanists from the Plant Ecology, Systematics and, Evolution laboratory (Paris-Sud University/​CNRS) and the Diversity, Adaptation and Development of Plants laboratory (IRD/​Montpellier University). This flowering plant belongs to a new genus and a new species, and is part of the Annonaceae family. It was named Sirdavidia solannona in honour of Sir David Attenborough, the British naturalist, film director and BBC TV presenter whose work has influenced and inspired numerous biologists. The related study was published in PhytoKeys on 4 February 2015.

New diseases affecting rice and cassava discovered

IRD researchers and their partners in Benin, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire have, for the first time, described new diseases affecting rice and cassava, two basic food crops in the many countries in the Global South. These diseases are caused by Xanthomonas genus bacteria that attack the leaves and stalks and they are spreading in West Africa as rice growing expands and uses more intensive methods.

IPBES: an international group of experts in biodiversity

The Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was founded in April 2012, under the auspices of the United Nations Organisation, to assist governments and strengthen the resources of emerging countries, thus helping them address biodiversity issues.

2015 Highlights
  • New light on the origins of Amazonian biodiversity

    IRD researchers and their partners have discovered and analysed a 13-million-year-old deposit in the Peruvian Amazon, including 7 fossilised crocodile species.

    For more information
  • ‘The Lost World of Lengguru’ exhibition

    In December 2015, the La Porte Dorée tropical aquarium in Paris hosted a photography exhibition devoted to the largest scientific expedition ever led in Indonesia.

    For more information
  • The ‘Our Planet Reviewed’ expedition

    IRD researchers took part in the terrestrial part of this expedition coordinated by the French natural history museum and Pro-Natura International.

    For more information

And in the future?

After EU ratification of the Nagoya protocol, France is going to roll out its system for application of the new European regulations on research and development into genetic resources and traditional knowledge. This requirement is an opportunity for IRD to draw up an inventory of its collections and the traditional knowledge acquired, maintained and shared by the Institute. 

Two new JEAI (young teams affiliated with the IRD) will strengthen the existing partnership networks in West Africa for the themes of bio-invasions and surveillance of emerging crop diseases: the Coana project in Mali (with the IMPE unit – plant-micro-organism-environment interactions) and the IBAO project in Benin and Niger (with the CBGP – Centre for biology and management of populations).