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Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

Ecosystems management

Ecosystems management

With a growing population and rapid changes in the global environment, a thorough understanding of ecosystems is critical to managing natural resources in a sustainable way. 

Ecosystem research addresses the complex interactions between living organisms, the physical environment and human societies. This work is key to a better understanding of how we can conserve biodiversity, ecosystem services and promote human well-being. The health of humans, animals and plants depends on a healthy environment.

CABI’s ecosystems research focuses on assessing the interactions between species and the environment. 

We offer research support to understand the factors underlying ecosystem degradation and the links with human well-being. We then develop methods that help conserve or restore biodiversity and ecosystems.   

We also work in both temperate and sub-tropical climates to understand and mitigate the impacts of biological invasions on ecosystems and the services they provide for humans. 

The sustainable management strategies we develop and implement contribute to the conservation or restoration of healthy ecosystems. 

Besides our research and implementation activities, we also provide advice to policy-makers in Switzerland, the rest of Europe and Africa. 

The team working at CABI in Switzerland is led by Dr Urs Schaffner and includes two research scientists. In addition, a number of PhD and MSc students join the team during their thesis work. We also work closely with research institutions all over the world, including Africa, Asia, North America and Europe.


Urs Schaffner

Dr Urs Schaffner

Head Ecosystems Management

We are currently working on projects addressing grassland conservation and restoration, the environmental and socio-economic impact of invasive species and integrated weed management. Project highlights include:

  • The ‘Woody Weeds’ project ( aims to quantify the effects of woody invasive alien species on biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being in Eastern Africa and to mitigate their negative impacts. After two years of research, the first research outputs are now being produced and disseminated.
  • In 2017, we started a new project that aims to develop integrated weed management solutions across Europe. Our role in the project includes the integration of biological control in integrated weed management using Rumex spp. weeds as a model system.
  • A global assessment of the environmental impacts of invasive plant species. Interest in the project outputs remains high. The two main publications (Vila et al. 2011; Pysek et al. 2012) have already been cited more than 1,000 times.

Controlling the cabbage seedpod weevil in Canada

The cabbage seedpod weevil is a widely distributed pest of cruciferous crops in Europe and North America, causing substantial economic losses in canola crops in Canada. Current control measures still rely on applying broad-spectrum insecticides. We are collecting European distribution data for a parasitic wasp that is the weevil’s most effective... >>

Protecting leeks and onions from pests

The invasive leek moth poses a significant and immediate threat to producers of leeks, onions, garlic and chives in North America. The larvae mine the green tissues, reducing the marketability of crops. The pest’s distribution is expanding, with no signs of suppression by indigenous natural enemies. We are supporting an integrated pest management... >>

Biological control of brown marmorated stink bug

International trade is a common way for insects to ‘hitch-hike’ their way to new countries. The brown marmorated stink bug, originally from East Asia, has become a harmful invasive pest of many fruit and vegetable crops in North America and Europe. Biological control using Asian or European natural enemies may be an environmentally friendly,... >>

Controlling noxious Russian knapweed in the North America

Russian knapweed is one of several invasive plants of rangelands that arrived in North America as a seed contaminant in the 19th century, in this case from Asia. Biological control is often a good approach for these plants, but a nematode species introduced in the 1970s proved ineffective against Russian knapweed. Funded by a US and Canadian... >>

Partnership with DPR Korea's Ministry of Agriculture

Agricultural production in DPR Korea is low, resulting in food shortages and the need for international aid. Ensuring food security is a priority for the government. We have helped the newly-established Department of Plant Protection to sustainably improve agricultural production by optimizing its ability to develop and implement plant protection... >>

Insects as a source of protein

Global demand for animal-sourced foods is accelerating. Fishmeal and crops such as soya are key ingredients in animal feeds but are not ecologically or economically sustainable. Insect protein presents a viable alternative. The PROTEINSECT project is exploring fly larva (maggots), which are nutritious and can be mass produced at low cost, as... >>

Increasing rice production around the Mekong

Rice is the most important crop in southwestern China, Laos and Myanmar. Despite recent improvements, productivity is still low with millions of tons lost to pests, diseases and weeds. Intensive pesticide use has led to insecticide resistance, outbreaks of secondary pests and damage to farmers’ health. This project is introducing a biologically... >>