Roberto Cazzolla Gatti
Roberto Cazzolla Gatti
Roberto Cazzolla Gatti in a 2015 expedition in Gabon (Africa)
|Born||February 11, 1984|
Noci (BA), Italy
|Alma mater||University of Bari|
University of Tuscia
|Known for||autocatalysis of biodiversity, evolutionary niche emergence, species-volume relationship, animal self-awareness, endogenosymbiosis, avoidance of competition, evolution of Gaia|
|Awards||Best Researcher 2016 TSU Award, Best e-learning course 2017 TSU Award|
|Institutions||University of Tuscia Italy |
Tomsk State University Russia
Purdue University USA
Roberto Cazzolla Gatti (born February 11, 1984) is an Italian environmental and evolutionary biologist, and a biodiversity expert, who studies the diversity, behaviour, evolution, and ecology of species on Earth.
He is an Associate Professor and the Head and Scientific Coordinator of the MSc Program in Biodiversity at the Biological Institute of the Tomsk State University, Russia and a Research Fellow of the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research in Austria.
He also works as a freelance documentary photographer and wildlife filmmaker and coordinates geographic and scientific explorations of some of the most remote places on Earth. In 2019, his documentary-film on the biodiversity of Congo river basin's forests entitled “Ivindo: a journey into the green heart of Africa” was released by the Colibrì Studio Productions.
Education and career
He graduated in 2006 in Biology (Bachelor's Degree), defending a thesis in Marine Ecology and in 2008 in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology (Master's Degree) at the University of Bari, Italy, defending a thesis in Zoology and Anthropology ("Primate visual system and stereopsis").
He holds a Ph.D. in Forest Ecology earned in 2013 at the University of Tuscia in Viterbo (Italy), studying the tropical forests of Africa and their biodiversity. He also holds a II Level master's degree (Hons) in International Policies and Global Environmental Protection earned in 2009 at the University of Tuscia, defending a thesis on "Africa: biodiversity and climate change". He received a diploma from the School in "Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services" at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany with training in Peyresq, Alpes de Haute-Provence, France.
As a post-doc, he conducted research studies in tropical ecology and biodiversity at the Impacts on Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Terrestrial Ecosystems Division (IAFENT) of the Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Climate Change (CMCC)-University of Tuscia (Viterbo, Italy). Then, he joined the Research Consortium "Digamma" to develop a stereoscopic system called "Tredimed" (for which he provided theoretical support during his master's degree thesis) designed for teaching surgical 3D to students graduating in medicine.
In 2018-2019, he was also a Research Associate at the Forest Advanced Computing & Artificial Intelligence (FACAI) Lab and Coordinator of the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative (GFBI) Hub, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources of the Purdue University, USA and a Visiting Professor at the University of Beijing to teach a class in Biodiversity.
At the beginning of 2020, he earned a Research Fellowship at the prestigious Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research in Austria.
He is currently a member of the CEM (Commission on Ecosystem Management), the SSC (Species Survival Commission) and the WCPA (World Commission on Protected Areas) of the IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature).
Research and works
Besides his empirical studies (he has been conducting field research on Mediterranean marine and terrestrial species of Europe, on tropical forests of Africa, India, Indonesia and Australia, on high-mountain and freshwater ecosystems of Russia and China, and on bird and forest diversity of the United States), he is best known for arguing that biodiversity is an autocatalytic ecological and evolutionary process  and for providing evidence of non-primate animal self-awareness (for instance, studying dog and wolf's cognition with a novel "Sniff-test" ).
He also suggested several novel hypotheses and theories in ecology and evolution such as the endogenosymbiotic origin of biodiversity, the canopy height-biodiversity relationship  (proposing the existence of a Species-Volume Relationship in ecology), the coexistence of species through the "avoidance of competition", and the fractal nature of the latitudinal biodiversity gradient.
He strongly advocates against considering competition as the main driver of evolution and endorses a reconsideration of the importance of cooperative/mutualistic relationships to explain the existence of biological diversity. In 2011, he proposed the "Biodiversity-related Niches Differentiation Theory (BNDT)" in which he argued that the number of niches in an ecosystem depends on the number of species present in a particular moment and that the species themselves allow the enhancement of niches in terms of space and number. He found that using a three-dimensional model as an ecological hypervolume and testing the theory on different ecosystems it is possible to demonstrate that each species plays a fundamental role in facilitating the colonization by other species by simply modifying the environment and exponentially increasing the available niches. The BNDT stresses the evidence that the process of niche differentiation is strictly addressed by species. This approach has various consequences, first in the reconsideration of the patterns of species coexistence and second in terms of a better understanding of the actual importance of cooperation and competition in the evolution of biological diversity.
In 2013, he wrote the novel-essay "The paradox of civilization" (in Italian: "Il paradosso della civiltà"). The book is inspired by his journeys in tropical areas, the encounters with African Pygmies and the life in the wild and narrates the abuses of civilised societies over the environment and indigenous people.
In 2018, in a paper entitled “Is Gaia alive? The future of a symbiotic planet” – published in the scientific journal “Futures” – he described different situations according to which “Gaia”, our Earth, would be able to reproduce and to transfer her planetary genome to other uninhabited or inhabited planets. Prof. Cazzolla Gatti argued that our species could act as a germinal cell carrying a specific planetary genome, but it is unlikely for Homo sapiens sapiens to reproduce (or survive disconnected from Earth) on another Gaian system. In what is considered a breakthrough in astrobiology, the Italian scientist hypothesised that human beings will reproduce Earth’s biosphere in the universe. ''However - he said - as a spermatozoon, which loses its flagellum and acrosome while entering into the egg of another body, therefore changing its identity, a human being can be considered just as a carrier of its body’s (i.e., Gaia’s) genetic information, not of himself: a means more than an aim''.
In December 2018, he led a study  that shows how the sustainability certifications of palm oil are not reducing deforestation in Southeast Asia and this could represent a catastrophe for the biodiversity of this region.
Books and monographs
- Biodiversity in Time and Space, Nova Science Publishing, New York, 352 pp., 2018
- Animali non umani. Una nuova coscienza: Saggi scelti e racconti, Key Editore, Vicalvi (FR), 154 pp., 2016
- Biodiversità, in teoria e in pratica, LibreriaUniversitaria.it Edizioni, Padova, 360 pp., 2014
- Il paradosso della civiltà, Adda Editore, 242 pp., 2013
- Ambienti, flora e fauna delle Murge di sud-est, Adda Editore, Bari, 520 pp. 2011
- Andrade A. P., Herrera B. F. and Cazzolla Gatti R., Building Resilience to Climate Change: Ecosystem-based adaptation and lessons from the field, IUCN, Gland (Switzerland), 164 pp., 2010
- Indonesia, il regno della bellezza, Villaggio Globale Editore, 72 pp., 63 photos, 2013
- India, i colori dell'anima, Villaggio Globale Editore, pp. 119, 111 photos, 2013
- Australia, l'enciclopedia della vita, Villaggio Globale Editore, 178 pp., 168 photos, 2014
- Africa, dove popoli e natura s'incontrano, Villaggio Globale Editore, 150 pp., 140 photos, 2014
- Itinerari naturalistici nella Puglia delle Murge. Escursioni e passeggiate tra Bari e Taranto, 3 volumi, 247 pp., 2013
References and selected publications
- Colibrì Studio Productions (2019-04-21), Ivindo: a journey into the green heart of Africa, retrieved 2019-05-02
- Cazzolla Gatti, R., Hordijk, W., & Kauffman, S. (2017). Biodiversity is autocatalytic. Ecological Modelling, 346, 70-76.
- Cazzolla Gatti, R. (2016). Self-consciousness: beyond the looking-glass and what dogs found there. Ethology Ecology & Evolution, 28(2), 232-240.
- "Life begets life: The diversity of species on Earth is generating itself".
- Cazzolla Gatti, R., Fath, B., Hordijk, W., Kauffman, S., & Ulanowicz, R. (2018). Niche emergence as an autocatalytic process in the evolution of ecosystems. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 454, 110-117.
- Cazzolla Gatti, Roberto (2018). "Endogenosymbiosis: from hypothesis to empirical evidence towards a Unified Symbiogenetic Theory (UST)". Theoretical Biology Forum. 11 (1–2): 13–26.
- Cazzolla Gatti, Roberto (2018). "Endogenosymbiosis: from hypothesis to empirical evidence towards a Unified Symbiogenetic Theory (UST)". Theoretical Biology Forum. 111 (1–2): 13–26. PMID 31089666.
- Cazzolla Gatti, R., Di Paola, A., Bombelli, A., Noce, S., & Valentini, R. (2017). Exploring the relationship between canopy height and terrestrial plant diversity. Plant Ecology, 218(7), 899-908.
- Cazzolla Gatti, R. (2016). A conceptual model of new hypothesis on the evolution of biodiversity. Biologia, 71(3), 343-351.
- Cazzolla Gatti, R. (2016). The fractal nature of the latitudinal biodiversity gradient. Biologia, 71(6), 669-672.
- Cazzolla Gatti, R. (2011). Evolution is a cooperative process: the biodiversity-related niches differentiation theory (BNDT) can explain why. Theoretical Biology Forum 104(1), 35-43
- "Autocatalytic biodiversity hypothesis aims to supplant Darwin's 'war of the species'".
- "Blog | Progresso, il paradosso della civiltà". August 2013.
- Cazzolla Gatti, Roberto (2018). "Is Gaia alive? The future of a symbiotic planet". Futures. 104: 91–99. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2018.07.010. ISSN 0016-3287.
- "Gaia, our planet, is alive and we are its spermatozoon, a new study suggests". Villaggio Globale.
- Koebler, Jason; Ferreira, Becky (2018-12-21). "The Plan to Seed Life on Alien Planets". Motherboard. Retrieved 2019-05-02.
- Cazzolla Gatti, R., Liang, J., Velichevskaya, A., & Zhou, M. (2019). Sustainable palm oil may not be so sustainable. Science of the Total Environment, 652, 48-51.
- "Certified sustainable palm oil may kill more wildlife, say scientists". The Independent. 2018-12-09. Retrieved 2019-05-02.