Background of the PRIDE programme

Background of the PRIDE programme

Documenting and understanding the evolution and the demise of the Pontocaspian biota.

Since the 1930s, the unique endemic aquatic biota of the Caspian-Black Sea region is facing a biodiversity crisis as it is severely affected by anthropogenic activities such as habitat destruction, invasive species and pollution.

This is what mollusc diversity in the Caspian Sea offshore the Kura River, Azerbaijan, looked 80 years ago and how it is now. A diverse (probably 80+ species) endemic fauna is almost entirely replaced by few invasive species.

Understanding long-term natural biotic and abiotic drivers of lake system change and biotic response to perturbations in the past two million years – i.e. gradual, rapid and/or threshold responses – is absolutely necessary to assess the current response of Pontocaspian biota to rising natural- and human-induced perturbations.

The Pontocaspian biodiversity crisis mirrors the complex global ecological and biodiversity challenge due to Global Change. This challenge can only be addressed through an integrated cross-disciplinary research involving climate, earth- and bio-sciences. PRIDE (drivers of Pontocaspian biodiversity RIse and DEmise) is a fully integrated academia-industry training network of scientists with complementary cutting-edge competences. 

The Pontocaspian Region. Currently the Marmara Sea and most of the Black Sea are part of the marine Mediterranean systems, but through times these basins hosted brackish Pontocaspian lakes and biota.

PRIDE focuses on the evolution of Pontocaspian lake systems and its biota over the past two million years. The extraordinary endemic biodiversity, coupled with a high-amplitude record of palaeoenvironmental change, makes it an ideal system to study drivers of past and current biodiversity crises.

The PRIDE programme contains three Research/Training work packages (WP1 lake system evolution, WP2 Quaternary biodiversity change, WP3 Anthropocene biodiversity crisis) that each contain five projects and fourth WP managing the programme. The latter is coordinated by the PRIDE programme manager >Caroline van Impelen and programme director >Frank Wesselingh and their colleagues within Naturalis.