The Centre for Functional Ecology (CFE) is a Research Unit hosted by the Department of Life Sciences of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra. CFE seeks to improve knowledge about ecosystem functioning, from microorganisms, plants and fauna biodiversity to the ecological complexity of their interactions at the community level.
The Centre for Functional Ecology (CFE) is a Research Unit hosted by the Department of Life Sciences of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra. CFE seeks to improve knowledge about ecosystem functioning, from microorganisms, plants and fauna biodiversity to the ecological complexity of their interactions at the community level. It currently embraces 124 PhD researchers and 135 non-PhD researchers, that are divided into nine main research lines:
(i) terrestrial ecosystems and global changes;
(ii) marine and coastal processes;
(iii) biodiversity and evolution;
(iv) environmental risk assessment;
(v) natural resources and sustainable development;
(vi) biotechnology and microbiology;
(vii) socioenvironmental governance and sustainability;
(viii) paleoecology and forensic sciences;
(ix) history and communication of science.
The main goal of the CFE is to assert itself in the scientific domain of Ecology. It has been consolidating several national and international networks with other research groups from the same areas of expertise, either through establishing collaborative partnerships (e.g. PEERS), joint applications for research projects (e.g. COST actions, EU projects), or even by joint organization of scientific events and interchange of researchers and students. In fact, CFE members have been able not only to secure funding through national agencies (FCT, Ciência Viva, QREN), but also in competitive applications to European Agencies.
CFE has also made a progressive and consistent effort to increase its support towards economic activity through the creation of the spin-offs FitoLab (hosted at Pedro Nunes Institute) and UC-InProPlant, that are leaded by CFE researchers. The applied projects promote the transfer of knowledge to the business activity and are developed by researchers from the various research groups. Here, several projects are undergoing, some of them in the fields of nature conservation; agroforestry biotechnology; anthropology; phytopathology; microbial structural and functional diversity; ecotoxicology; aquaculture; mycology; and in the field of bioenergy and circular economy, the latter made effective with the installation of a biorefinery in the Center of Portugal, which will allow to valorize forest residues, contributing at the same time for the reduction of forest fires. In the context of knowledge transfer, the UNESCO Chair “Biodiversity Safeguard for Sustainable Development” recently attributed to the CFE coordinator – Helena Freitas – stands out and will allow to frame and dynamize all the research and training activity that is already taking place in Africa.
Transversal to all these areas – from the theoretical and evolutionary ecology to applied ecology and industry – the CFE highlights Science Communication by promoting workshops, lectures, conferences, events, online platforms, publications, among others, either in national or international press. In a strong logic of Open Science, it is intended that all research, its objectives and findings, can – in a clear and common way – reach everyone without exception.