Institute for Water and Wetland Research becomes Radboud Institute for Biological and Environmental Sciences

Date of news: 20 October 2021

Bestuur RIBES

RIBES board members fltr: M. Frieling, I. Rieu, M. Huijbregts, L. van Niftrik

Mark Huijbregts is institute director of the Radboud Institute for Biological and Environmental Sciences (RIBES), formerly known as Institute for Water and Wetland Research (IWWR). He tells more about the reason for this name change, the mission and research of the RIBES.

More than 'water and wetlands'

“The origins of our institute lie in research into water and wetlands. Over time, our research has become much broader, so the name covered our institute less and less. In the past year we also had a reassessment: what actually drives us as institute, what are the main themes in our research? This resulted in the research mission titled 'Towards Healthy Ecosystems'. We are working on this mission with four research themes in the field of climate change, biodiversity loss, substances and chemicals, as well as physical stressors. These four themes showed that we are much more now than 'water and wetlands'.

Because the name also reflects what you do, and to what extent employees feel at home at the institute, we decided to change the name. In addition, we wanted the word 'Radboud' in the name of our institute to make it clear that we are part of Radboud University. Coincidence or not, RIBES also turns out to be a berry bush. Even the abbreviation has a connection with the type of institution that we are.

Towards Health Ecosystems

The aim of the Radboud Institute for Biological and Environmental Sciences (RIBES) is to perform research in order to understand the response of the natural environment to human impacts with the overarching theme “Towards Healthy Ecosystems”. This overarching research theme is designed to:

  1. quantify and understand the responses of organisms, populations and ecosystems to human-induced environmental change, and
  2. apply this knowledge to designing and evaluating measures and strategies for mitigating or repairing ecosystem damage.

We defined four focus areas for the institute within the overarching research theme “Towards Healthy Ecosystems”, bringing in and bridging complementary expertise from all researchers.

  • In focus area I “Macronutrients and chemicals of emerging concern”, we unravel, understand, and predict the fate and effects of excessive amounts and imbalances of macro-elements (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus) and new contaminants of emerging concern, such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides, in freshwater and terrestrial systems.
  • In focus area II “Physical conditions: understanding responses and adaptation mechanism to stressors” we expand our knowledge of plant and animal developmental and adaptive responses to various environmental stressors. To ensure food security and safety, for instance, we do research towards climate-resilient crops.
  • In focus area III “Biodiversity decline and recovery of ecological communities” we unravel, understand, and find solutions for urgent ecosystem restoration in order to increase biodiversity and support a wide range of ecosystem services. We aim to quantify and understand ecological responses to multiple human pressures via combination of experimental and modeling approaches.
  • In focus area IV, “Mitigation of greenhouse gases” we aim to investigate, understand and ultimately mitigate and counteract climate change in aquatic and wetland ecosystems. In addition, we also quantify the global environmental trade-offs of societal developments, such as moving towards a biobased, circular economy to counteract climate change.

RIBES runs on collaboration

The RIBES is broadly oriented: we conduct research at almost all organisational levels that you can imagine in biology, from cell to ecosystem. And it is a research institute that runs on collaboration. We are strong in our disciplines, and we get better as a team when we can put together and share our knowledge. That leads to exciting results. That is what the RIBES stands for.”