Policy Support



Europe’s ecosystem research network

ALTER-Net is a major partnership of some of Europe's leading biodiversity research organizations which work together, for example on research projects, multi-site experiments and training in interdisciplinary biodiversity research approaches. ALTER-Net started as a Network of Excellence in April 2004 with co-funding by the European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme for Research & Development for a period of five years to help ALTER-Net:

  • create a network for European long-term terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity and ecosystem research, based on existing facilities;
  • develop approaches to assess and forecast changes in biodiversity, structure, functions and dynamics of ecosystems and their services;
  • consider the socio-economic implications and public attitudes to biodiversity loss.

Since May 2009 the ALTER-Net continues with a slightly amended partnership based on Memoranda of Understanding between the partner institutions and with financial or in-kind contributions by the partners. ECNC has signed such a memorandum and continues supporting the Network's activities, with a focus on the science-policy interaction, communication, and stakeholder involvement.


ALTER-Net, in collaboration with a range of national and international organizations, develops integrated research agendas focusing on priority policy issues. This is achieved through the:

  • integration of national centres of excellence in biodiversity research and social science;
  • integration of environmental and socio-economic approaches;
  • development of a network of multifunctional long-term ecosystem research platforms (LTER);
  • development of a partnership between research scientists, science communicators and science-based visitor centres;
  • development of a science-policy link to improve information exchange related to biodiversity assessment;
  • development of a framework for a distributed data, information and knowledge management system.

ALTER-Net also encourages research, management and cultural changes within and between its component organizations through support for training and communication activities to promote the spread of excellence.

Time frame

ALTER-Net started in April 2004 and is currently in its third phase, run until March 2017.


  • Coordination: Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), Belgium
  • Alterra, the Netherlands
  • Biology Centre, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Institute of Hydrobiology, (BC-CAS), Czech Republic
  • Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut National des Sciences de l’Université de l’Environnement (CNRS), France
  • Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Spain
  • Corpo Forestale dello Stato (CFS-CONECOFOR), Italy
  • Danish Centre for Environment and Energy, Aarhus University, Denmark
  • ECNC-European Centre for Nature Conservation, the Netherlands
  • Environment Agency Austria (Umweltbundesamt, EAA), Austria
  • Environmental Social Science Research Group (ESSRG Ltd), Hungary
  • European Regional Centre for Ecohydrology (ERCE), Poland
  • Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Germany
  • Institut de Recherche en Sciences et Techniques pour l’Environnement et l’Agriculture (IRSTEA), France
  • Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam (VU-IVM), the Netherlands
  • Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences of Estonian University of Life Sciences (IAES), Estonia
  • Institute of Ecology and Botany, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (IEB HAS), Hungary
  • Institute of Landscape Ecology, Slovak Academy of Sciences (ILE SAS), Slovakia
  • Institute of Social Ecology (SEC-IFF), Austria
  • James Hutton Institute (JHI), UK
  • Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Germany
  • NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (NERC-CEH), UK
  • Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), the Netherlands
  • Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Norway
  • Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Sweden
  • The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Finland
  • University of Bucharest (UNIBUC), Department of Systems Ecology, Romania


The ALTER-Net first phase of five years was co-funded by the European Commission Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Since 2009 ALTER-Net continues on own resources. ECNC’s involvement since 2012 is supported by the European Commission Life+ programme.

ecnc's output 

  • Facilitation of discussion during ALTER-Net seminar 'Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity: What is the link between the two?', November 2010.
  • Report: Biodiversity science-policy interfaces: lessons learned (see on the right).
  • Coordination of the science-policy interaction.
  • Project: Aggregating biodiversity indicators for policy purposes: sense or nonsense?
  • Side event on ALTER-Net at the Fifth Ministerial Conference 'Environment for Europe', Belgrade, October 2007.
  • Paper: Delbaere, B. (2005) Biodiversity research to support European policy. J. Nat. Conserv. 13(2-3): 213-214.
  • Participation in interdisciplinary research activities (on bioenergy, conflict management).
  • Contribution to ALTER-Net papers.
  • ALTER-Net communication activities and co-author of the ALTER-Net communication plan.
  • Production of the ALTER-Net brochure (see on the right).
  • Participation in the ALTER-Net Council and Management Board.
  • Contribution to the organization of the ALTER-Net conference ‘Science underpinning the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy’, April 2013.

See the ALTER-Net website for all ALTER-Net products.