CREAF Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications
Recent publications
Comparing the impacts of future scenarios is essential for developing and guiding the political sustainability agenda. This review-based analysis compares six IPBES scenarios for their impacts on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 20 biodiversity targets (Aichi targets) for the Europe and Central Asia regions. The comparison is based on a review of 143 modeled scenarios synthesized in a plural cost–benefit approach which provides the distances to multiple policy goals. We confirm and substantiate the claim that transformative change is vital but also point out which directions for political transformation are to be preferred. The hopeful message is that large societal losses might still be avoided, and multiple benefits can be generated over the coming decades and centuries. Yet, policies will need to strongly steer away from scenarios based on regional competition, inequality, and economic optimism.
Arctic fires can release large amounts of carbon from permafrost peatlands. Satellite observations reveal that fires burned ~4.7 million hectares in 2019 and 2020, accounting for 44% of the total burned area in the Siberian Arctic for the entire 1982–2020 period. The summer of 2020 was the warmest in four decades, with fires burning an unprecedentedly large area of carbon-rich soils. We show that factors of fire associated with temperature have increased in recent decades and identified a near-exponential relationship between these factors and annual burned area. Large fires in the Arctic are likely to recur with climatic warming before mid-century, because the temperature trend is reaching a threshold in which small increases in temperature are associated with exponential increases in the area burned.
In humid regions, the chemical flux and cycling of elements is intimately linked to the hydrologic cycle. This insight opened in the late s. XX a worldwide avenue for the use of small watersheds as ecological units to study the hydrological and biogeochemical functioning of ecosystems at the small catchment scale. The Montseny catchment research, starting in 1978, initially addressed the forest response to acid rain. But continuous recording for about 4 decades in two small catchments allowed to describe the changes in streamwater chemistry related to changes in atmospheric deposition (with particular emphasis to S, N and P deposition), to climate change and to the inputs of African dust. Further research and new hypothesis testing may take advantage of the collected data series in these long-term study sites at a Mediterranean site. This is the motivation for the publication of the quality-checked original stream and atmospheric deposition chemistry files whose links accompany this paper.
Vector-borne diseases are responsible for more than 17% of human cases of infectious diseases. In most situations, effective control of debilitating and deadly vector-bone diseases (VBDs), such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, Zika and Chagas requires up-to-date, robust and comprehensive information on the presence, diversity, ecology, bionomics and geographic spread of the organisms that carry and transmit the infectious agents. Huge gaps exist in the information related to these vectors, creating an essential need for campaigns to mobilise and share data. The publication of data papers is an effective tool for overcoming this challenge. These peer-reviewed articles provide scholarly credit for researchers whose vital work of assembling and publishing well-described, properly-formatted datasets often fails to receive appropriate recognition. To address this, GigaScience's sister journal GigaByte partnered with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) to publish a series of data papers, with support from the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), hosted by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Here we outline the initial results of this targeted approach to sharing data and describe its importance for controlling VBDs and improving public health.
Freshwater species and their habitats, and transportation networks are at heightened risk from changing climate and are priorities for adaptation, with the sheer abundance and individuality of road-river structures complicating mitigation efforts. We present a new spatial dataset of road-river structures attributed as culverts, bridges, or fords, and use this along with data on gradient and stream order to estimate structure sensitivity and exposure in and out of special areas of conservation (SAC) and built-up areas to determine vulnerability to damage across river catchments in Wales, UK. We then assess hazard of flooding likelihood at the most vulnerable structures to determine those posing high risk of impact on roads and river-obligate species (fishes and mussels) whose persistence depends on aquatic habitat connectivity. Over 5% (624/11,680) of structures are high vulnerability and located where flooding hazard is highest, posing high risk of impact to roads and river-obligate species. We assess reliability of our approach through an on-ground survey in a river catchment supporting an SAC and more than 40% (n = 255) of high-risk structures, and show that of the subset surveyed >50% had obvious physical degradation, streambank erosion, and scouring. Our findings help us to better understand which structures pose high-risk of impact to river-obligate species and humans with increased flooding likelihood.
Mediterranean forests and fire regimes are closely intertwined. Global change is likely to alter both forest dynamics and wildfire activity, ultimately threatening the provision of ecosystem services and posing greater risks to society. In this paper we evaluate future wildfire behavior by coupling climate projections with simulation models of forest dynamics and wildfire hazard. To do so, we explore different forest management scenarios reflecting different narratives related to EU forestry (promotion of carbon stocks, reduction of water vulnerability, biomass production and business-as-usual) under the RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 climate pathways in the period 2020–2100. We used as a study model pure submediterranean Pinus nigra forests of central Catalonia (NE Spain). Forest dynamics were simulated from the 3rd National Forest Inventory (143 stands) using SORTIE-nd software based on climate projections under RCPs 4.5 and 8.5. The climate products were also used to estimate fuel moisture conditions (both live and dead) and wind speed. Fuel parameters and fire behavior were then simulated, selecting crown fire initiation potential and rate of spread as key indicators. The results revealed consistent trade-offs between forest dynamics, climate and wildfire. Despite the clear influence exerted by climate, forest management modulates fire behavior, resulting in different trends depending on the climatic pathway. In general, the maintenance of current practices would result in the highest rates of crown fire activity, while management for water vulnerability reduction is postulated as the best alternative to surmount the increasingly hazardous conditions envisaged in RCP 8.5.
Marine ecosystems have been significantly altered by the cumulative impacts of human activities. Pelagic sharks have become vulnerable to increases in mortality rates caused by fishing. The decrease in number of these top predators could have substantial cascading effects on wider marine communities. Concerns about these potential impacts, and the critical need for effective management, have led to an increased interest in assessing the trophic ecology of sharks. While stable isotope analyses have been used to provide relevant insights about the trophic ecology of sharks, the causal factors leading to trophic variation between individuals has been largely overlooked. Here, we investigated the relative effect of biological factors, geographic location, and environmental factors on the spatial trophodynamics of the blue shark (Prionace glauca). Specifically, stable isotope values of δ¹⁵N and δ¹³C, and the estimated trophic position (TP) were analysed for 180 blue sharks collected from south of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, to the north-western Mediterranean Sea. The results showed that models which included combined variables explained the variation in δ¹⁵N, TP and δ¹³C values better than models which considered only stand-alone predictors. The independent contributions of environmental variables and biological factors seemed to be more important than geographic location for δ¹⁵N and TP. δ¹⁵N and TP increased in a curvilinear fashion with body size, and TP was higher for females. In the case of δ¹³C values, only an effect from sex was observed. Among environmental variables, chlorophyll-a, pelagic productivity, and sea-surface temperature proved to be reliable predictors, particularly for δ¹⁵N and TP, most likely due to their relationship with productivity and prey availability. This study provides new information on ranking the factors that influence the trophodynamics of the blue shark, namely the environment, the geographic location, and the biological factors of the species.
Physical distancing and contact tracing are two key components in controlling the COVID-19 epidemics. Understanding their interaction at local level is important for policymakers. We propose a flexible modeling framework to assess the effect of combining contact tracing with different physical distancing strategies. Using scenario tree analyses, we compute the probability of COVID-19 detection using passive surveillance, with and without contact tracing, in metropolitan Barcelona. The estimates of detection probability and the frequency of daily social contacts are fitted into an age-structured susceptible-exposed-infectious-recovered compartmental model to simulate the epidemics considering different physical distancing scenarios over a period of 26 weeks. With the original Wuhan strain, the probability of detecting an infected individual without implementing physical distancing would have been 0.465, 0.515, 0.617, and 0.665 in designated age groups (0–14, 15–49, 50–64, and >65), respectively. As the physical distancing measures were reinforced and the disease circulation decreased, the interaction between the two interventions resulted in a reduction of the detection probabilities; however, despite this reduction, active contact tracing and isolation remained an effective supplement to physical distancing. If we relied solely on passive surveillance for diagnosing COVID-19, the model required a minimal 50% (95% credible interval, 39–69%) reduction of daily social contacts to keep the infected population under 5%, as compared to the 36% (95% credible interval, 22–56%) reduction with contact tracing systems. The simulation with the B.1.1.7 and B.1.167.2 strains shows similar results. Our simulations showed that a functioning contact tracing program would reduce the need for physical distancing and mitigate the COVID-19 epidemics.
Phenotypic plasticity is a main mechanism for organisms to cope with changing environments and broaden their ecological range. Plasticity is genetically based and can evolve under natural selection, such that populations within a species show distinct phenotypic responses to the environment if evolved under different conditions. Understanding how intraspecific variation in phenotypic plasticity arises is critical to assess potential adaptation to ongoing climate change. Theory predicts that plasticity is favored in more favorable but variable environments. Yet, many theoretical predictions about benefits, costs, and selection on plasticity remain untested. To test these predictions, we took advantage of three genetic trials in the northern Rocky Mountains, USA, which assessed 23 closely located Pinus ponderosa populations over 27 years. Mean environmental conditions and their spatial patterns of variation at the seed source populations were characterized based on six basic climate parameters. Despite the small area of origin, there was significant genetic variation in phenotypic plasticity for tree growth among populations. We found a significant negative correlation between phenotypic plasticity and the patch size of environmental heterogeneity at the seed source populations, but not with total environmental spatial variance. These results show that populations exposed to high microhabitat heterogeneity have evolved higher phenotypic plasticity and that the trigger was the grain rather than the total magnitude of spatial heterogeneity. Contrary to theoretical predictions, we also found a positive relationship between population plasticity and summer drought at the seed source, indicating that drought can act as a trigger of plasticity. Finally, we found a negative correlation between the quantitative genetic variance within populations and their phenotypic plasticity, suggesting compensatory adaptive mechanisms for the lack of genetic diversity. These results improve our understanding of the microevolutionary drivers of phenotypic plasticity, a critical process for resilience of long‐lived species under climate change, and support decision‐making in tree genetic improvement programs and seed transfer strategies.
Behavioral individuality is a ubiquitous phenomenon in animal populations, yet the origins and developmental trajectories of individuality, especially very early in life, are still a black box. Using a high-resolution tracking system, we mapped the behavioral trajectories of genetically identical fish (Poecilia formosa), separated immediately after birth into identical environments, over the first 10 weeks of their life at 3 s resolution. We find that (i) strong behavioral individuality is present at the very first day after birth, (ii) behavioral differences at day 1 of life predict behavior up to at least 10 weeks later, and (iii) patterns of individuality strengthen gradually over developmental time. Our results establish a null model for how behavioral individuality can develop in the absence of genetic and environmental variation and provide experimental evidence that later-in-life individuality can be strongly shaped by factors pre-dating birth like maternal provisioning, epigenetics and pre-birth developmental stochasticity. You’re unique just like everyone else. But when does such individuality appear? Laskowski et al. find that clonal fish show unique behavioral patterns on their first day of life, and these patterns predict their behavior up to at least 10 weeks later.
Understanding how species turnover responds to environmental change may provide insights into the ecological factors influencing biogeographical patterns. Here, I examined geographic patterns in taxonomic and functional turnover of tree assemblages in Europe and compared the influence of environmental factors on turnover. I conducted a principal component analysis with nine above- and below-ground plant traits for 210 tree species. I used the resulting four principal components (82% of the variance) to create five functional dendrograms considering all trait dimensions together and individually. Further, I used species composition and the functional dendrograms to calculate pairwise taxonomic and functional turnover between tree assemblages in 100 × 100 km grid cells across Europe. To assess the influence of temperature, precipitation, precipitation seasonality, soil pH and geographic distance on taxonomic and functional turnover, I conducted multiple regression on distance matrices (MRM). I also compared the slope of the relationship between functional turnover and environmental distance among trait dimensions to detect what ecological strategies may be more sensitive to environmental changes. I found that mean taxonomic and functional turnover was particularly high in lowland areas of the Mediterranean Basin. Geographic patterns of individual trait dimensions largely reproduced those considering all trait dimensions together, additionally revealing some regional differences. MRM explained a similar fraction of the variation in taxonomic and functional turnover. The influence of environmental distance was stronger for trait dimensions related to tree size and woodiness than for trait dimensions related to the leaf and root economics. I conclude that geographic patterns in the turnover of tree assemblages in Europe coincide with major biome transitions. Deterministic assembly processes act differently on key ecological strategies of tree assemblages at the continental scale.
Measuring the societal impact of research has become a key issue in scientific research worldwide. Most competitive research funding agencies demand societal impact in research proposals. We must not only bring science closer to the public, but also make it improve the condition in which the science is found. But how can we measure the societal impact of a research once it has been completed? Through this article we present the Social Impact ex-post Evaluation Protocol (SIEP), a proposal of a tool to gather and measure the social impact of research. It is based on the qualitative work developed in the framework of NET4IMPACT, a Research Network on the Social Impact of Science. The work was developed applying communicative methodology, comparing across disciplines, and culminating in the establishment of a tool that can help in the measurement of societal impact from a great diversity of scientific areas.
Estimates of riverine nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions have great uncertainty partly due to the fact that the data is still sparse for stream sizes and land uses. Here we determined water dissolved N2O concentration and water-air interface N2O flux across the land uses and stream orders in Min River Basin of southeast China. N2O concentrations ranged from 11.1 to 27.4 nmol L⁻¹, increasing from first- to eighth-order rivers. The first- and second-order streams showed negative N2O flux (-0.33 and -0.05 µg m⁻² h⁻¹, respectively) compared to third- to eighth-order rivers (from 0.29 to 2.85 µg m⁻² h⁻¹). Average N2O flux was significantly higher in urban (1.60 µg m⁻² h⁻¹) and cropland rivers (0.89 µg m⁻² h⁻¹) than in forest rivers (-0.47 µg m⁻² h⁻¹), which could be due to the main effect of land use was on the nitrogen load. Indirect N2O emission factor varied between 0.035 and 0.14% across the rivers, which decreased from the urban to forest rivers and were lower than the IPCC default value (0.26%). N2O concentration and flux were positively correlated with NO3⁻, NH4⁺, depth, velocity and temperature, suggesting the importance of stream surface hydromoprhology to N2O emissions. Land use indirectly affected N2O flux by affecting water NO3⁻, NH4⁺, DO, DOC, pH and temperature, which could further explain the land use dependence of N2O emissions on water variables. High DOC:NO3⁻ ratio (> 6) was the main factor of N2O sink in the small streams, which may be due to the enhanced N2O consumption and low N2O production. Therefore, riverine N2O emissions are highly variable across stream sizes and land uses, which are not only increased by inorganic nitrogen load and are also dependent on stream hydraulics and morphology.
In recent decades, die-off events in Pinus sylvestris populations have increased. The causes of these phenomena, which are usually related to local and regional extreme hot droughts, have been extensively investigated from a physiological viewpoint. However, the consequences of die-off process in terms of demography and vegetation dynamics have been less thoroughly addressed. Here, we projected P. sylvestris plot dynamics after a die-off event, under climate change scenarios, considering also their early demographic stages (i.e., seedlings, saplings and ingrowth from the sapling to adult class), to assess the resilience of P. sylvestris populations after such events. We used Integral Projection Models (IPMs) to project future plot structure under current climate, and under RCP4.5 and RCP8.0 climate scenarios, using climatic suitability – extracted from Species Distribution Models – as a covariable in the estimations of vital rates over time. Field data feeding IPMs were obtained from two successive surveys, at the end of the die-off event (2013) and four years later (2017), undertaken on populations situated across the P. sylvestris range of distribution in Catalonia (NE Spain). Plots affected by die-off experienced a loss of large trees, which causes that basal area, tree diameter and tree density will remain lower for decades relative to unaffected plots. After the event, this situation is partially counterbalanced in affected plots by a greater increase in basal area and seedling recruitment into tree stage, thus promoting resilience. However, resilience is delayed under the climate-change scenarios with warmer and drier conditions involving additional physiological stress, due to a reduced abundance of seedlings and a smaller plot basal area. The study shows lagged effect of drought-induced die-off events on forest structure, also revealing stabilizing mechanisms, such as recruitment and tree growth release, which enhance resilience. However, these mechanisms would be jeopardized by oncoming regional warming.
Coastal wetlands are essential in terrestrial carbon balance because they act as natural “blue carbon” sinks, influenced by anthropogenic nitrogen (N) enrichment. N enrichment alters soil environment and plant growth, impacting carbon loss through soil respiration (Rsoil). However, the responses of Rsoil to N enrichment remain elusive in coastal wetlands, hindering the estimation of carbon fluxes. To bridge this knowledge gap, we used an 8-year field N fertilization platform in the coastal wetlands of the Yellow River Delta, China, to measure Rsoil composed of heterotrophic respiration and autotrophic respiration, and multiple indicators of soil properties, microbial activities, and plant growth. We found long-term N enrichment increased Rsoil by 26.6 ± 1.2% (mean ± standard deviation) and quadrupled microbial biomass carbon, accounting for 26.9 ± 1.2% of the increase in heterotrophic respiration. In addition, N enrichment boosted plant growth, increasing the above-ground biomass by 28.7 ± 6.9% while inducing a cooling effect that partly offsets the increase in autotrophic respiration. In particular, N enrichment elevated soil temperature sensitivity of Rsoil with the increase of N levels, suggesting that the nutrient-related control of Rsoil responds to warming. The study indicates that N enrichment stimulates Rsoil in coastal wetlands by boosting microbial biomass carbon through interactions between soil environmental conditions and plant growth. These results have implications for predicting the carbon cycle with anthropogenic N enrichment.
Understanding the organisational principles of sperm motility has both evolutionary and applied impact. The emergence of computer aided systems in this field came with the promise of automated quantification and classification, potentially improving our understanding of the determinants of reproductive success. Yet, nowadays the relationship between sperm variability and fertility remains unclear. Here, we characterize pig sperm motility using t-SNE, an embedding method adequate to study behavioural variability. T-SNE reveals a hierarchical organization of sperm motility across ejaculates and individuals, enabling accurate fertility predictions by means of Bayesian logistic regression. Our results show that sperm motility features, like high-speed and straight-lined motion, correlate positively with fertility and are more relevant than other sources of variability. We propose the combined use of embedding methods with Bayesian inference frameworks in order to achieve a better understanding of the relationship between fertility and sperm motility in animals, including humans.
The world's islands support disproportionate levels of endemic avian biodiversity despite suffering numerous extinctions. While intensive recent research has focused on island bird conservation or extinction, few global syntheses have considered these factors together from the perspective of morphological trait diversity. Here, we provide a global summary of the status and ecology of extant and extinct island birds, the threats they face and the implications of species loss for island functional diversity. Global. Birds. We provide a review of the literature on threatened and extinct island birds, with a particular focus on global studies that have incorporated functional diversity. Alongside this, we analyse IUCN Red List data in relation to distribution, threats and taxonomy. Using null models and functional hypervolumes, in combination with morphological trait data, we assess the functional diversity represented by threatened and extinct island endemic birds. We find that almost half of all island endemic birds extant in 1500 CE are currently either extinct or threatened with extinction, with the majority of threatened extant species having declining population trends. We also found evidence of 66 island endemic subspecies extinctions. The primary threats to extant island endemic birds currently are agriculture, biological resource use, and invasive species. While there is overlap between the hotspots of threatened and extinct island endemics birds, there are some notable differences, including the Philippines and Indonesia, which support a substantial number of threatened species but have no recorded post‐1500 CE bird extinctions. Traits associated with threatened island endemic birds are large body mass, flightlessness, aquatic predator, omnivorous and vertivorous trophic niches, marine habitat affinity, and, paradoxically, higher dispersal ability. Critically, we find that threatened endemics (i) occupy distinct areas of beak morphospace, and (ii) represent substantial unique areas of the overall functional space of island endemics. We caution that the loss of threatened species may have severe effects on the ecological functions birds provide on islands.
Alpine ecosystems are hotspots of biodiversity despite their cold climates. Here we investigate spatial patterns in the phylogenetic diversity (i.e. the degree of species relatedness) of European alpine floras and quantify the influence of climatic conditions since the late Pleistocene and historical climatic instability in shaping these patterns. We collected species-pool data for 22 alpine regions in central and southern Europe and calculated phylogenetic diversity within and between regions using two metrics sensitive to terminal branching in the phylogeny. We regressed phylogenetic diversity against macroclimatic variables representing seasonal extremes between the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; 21 000 years BP) and the present at 1000-year intervals. We found the lowest phylogenetic diversity in the Carpathians and the central Alps, and the highest in the northeastern and southern Iberian Peninsula. Phylogenetic diversity decreased with temperature seasonality and low winter temperature. While the effect of temperature seasonality was relatively constant over time, the influence of winter temperature decreased after the LGM. We also found that phylogenetic diversity decreased with historical climatic instability. Between regions, phylogenetic diversity was mainly explained by current climatic distance rather than geographic distance, suggesting that alpine floras were primarily driven by species sorting along climatic gradients. Our results confirm the role of environmental filtering in shaping the current phylogenetic diversity of alpine floras, resulting in more closely related lineages in regions with relatively cold and unstable climates. We also highlight the importance of explicitly incorporating climatic variation through time to better understand the processes structuring the current biodiversity of alpine floras.
Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) that increases the area of forest cover or bio-energy crops inherently competes for land with crop and livestock systems, compromising food security, or will encroach natural lands, compromising biodiversity. Mass deployment of these terrestrial CDR technologies to reverse climate change therefore cannot be achieved without a substantial intensification of agricultural output, i.e., producing more food on less land. This poses a major challenge, particularly in regions where arable land is little available or severely degraded and where agriculture is crucial to sustain people's livelihoods, such as the Global South. Enhanced silicate weathering, biochar amendment, and soil carbon sequestration are CDR techniques that avoid this competition for land and may even bring about multiple co-benefits for food production. This paper elaborates on the idea to take these latter CDR technologies a step further and use them not only to drawdown CO2 from the atmosphere, but also to rebuild fertile soils (negative erosion) in areas that suffer from pervasive land degradation and have enough water available for agriculture. This way of engineering topsoil could contribute to the fight against malnutrition in areas where crop and livestock production currently is hampered by surface erosion and nutrient depletion, and thereby alleviate pressure on intact ecosystems. The thrust of this perspective is that synergistically applying multiple soil-related CDR strategies could restore previously degraded soil, allowing it to come back into food production (or become more productive), potentially alleviating pressure on intact ecosystems. In addition to removing CO2 from the atmosphere, this practice could thus contribute to reducing poverty and hunger and to protection of biodiversity.
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132 members
Dani Villero Pi
  • Biodiversiy & Landscape Ecology Lab
Miquel De Cáceres
  • Ecosystem Modelling Facility
Barcelona, Spain