Project Investigating Human Impacts on Island Ecosystems Wins ERC Starting Grant

The ISLANDLAB project will investigate how climate factors and the arrival of humans to the Maltese Islands impacted the natural ecosystem

January 10, 2022

Dr. Eleanor Scerri, head of the ‘Lise Meitner’ Pan-African Evolution Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant for her project "Island ecosystem ecology from deep prehistory to the Anthropocene” (ISLANDLAB).

ISLANDLAB aims to document long-term legacies and relationships between ecological changes, societal responses and ecosystem resilience on the Maltese Islands. Researchers from a wide range of disciplines will collaborate to build high-resolution ecological, climatic and archaeological characterisations of the Maltese Islands before and after human arrival, with attention to how the islands’ plants and animals changed in the presence of people. The overarching goals of the project are to better understand the processes that lead to extinctions in landscapes altered by human societies and to reveal the best pathways to ecological restoration.

“Malta once featured an array of unique endemic animals, some of which went extinct only in the last few thousand years. These animals had profound effects on their ecosystems and their loss had cascading effects, lasting until the present day,” says Dr. Scerri. “We want to understand how this impacted ecosystem resilience, and what the implications were for human societies down the line.”

The project will be conducted together with a range of German, Maltese and international collaborators representing a range of disciplines, from climate science to archaeology, and in close partnership with the University of Malta, where Dr. Scerri holds an associate professorship, and the Malta Superintendence of Cultural Heritage. 

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