Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic
I have a PhD in Ecology from the Czech Academy of Sciences. In the Czech Republic, I am directing the Centre for Tropical Biology, a research consortium of three institutions (the Czech Academy of Sciences, the University of South Bohemia, and the Charles University), active throughout the tropics. In Papua New Guinea, I co-founded and have been directing the New Guinea Binatang Research Center, a research organization active also in rainforest conservation and training of postgraduate students.
I am a tropical biologist interested in the ecology of rainforests, particularly their food webs. My research, increasingly using field-based experiments, focuses on ecological mechanisms of species coexistence of rainforest plants and animals and on ecological drivers of biodiversity along succession, latitudinal and altitudinal gradients in forest ecosystems. I am also interested in the development of ecological research capacity, from paraecologists to postgraduate students, in tropical countries and in the conservation of tropical forests, particularly with indigenous communities. For the past 20 years I have been dividing my time equally between Europe and Papua New Guinea, spending it on scientific, conservation and science policy issues, facilitating interaction and understanding between extra-tropical and equatorial scientists.
Conservation of biological and cultural diversity in lowland rainforests of Papua New Guinea by tribal societies
Papua New Guinea (PNG), where indigenous rainforest tribes control 97% of land and with it also 5% of the terrestrial biodiversity and 15% of linguistic diversity of the planet, represents an extraordinarily important model for the potential of indigenous cultures to become guardians of biological and cultural diversity in their environment. The attempts at rainforest conservation on indigenous lands have been largely unsuccessful in PNG, mostly because they have been based on misleading assumptions about the developmental aspirations of indigenous cultures. Here we review 20 years of conservation activities in Papua New Guinea, provide examples of success and failure, and chart promising approaches that could combine diversity conservation, research and economic development in the future.