Elena Piano

Elena Piano
Università degli Studi di Torino | UNITO · Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e Biologia dei Sistemi

PhD

About

60
Publications
15,544
Reads
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991
Citations
Introduction
I have a tenure track position at the University of Torino. My scientific activity mainly focuses on the impacts of anthropogenic pressures on biotic communities and natural ecosystems, with special reference to subterranean ecosystems and urban areas. I am currently working on the project "SHOWCAVE" that investigates the effects of the anthropogenic impacts in touristic caves. I am Council Member of the European Society of Arachnology and I teach Nature Conservation and Ecosystem Dynamics.
Additional affiliations
January 2019 - May 2020
Amedeo Avogadro University of Eastern Piedmont
Position
  • PostDoc Position
August 2018 - December 2018
Università degli Studi di Torino
Position
  • PostDoc Position
January 2018 - April 2018
Amedeo Avogadro University of Eastern Piedmont
Position
  • PostDoc Position
Education
October 2006 - October 2011
Università degli Studi di Torino
Field of study
  • Environmental sciences

Publications

Publications (60)
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The Su Marmuri cave is located at 874 m a.s.l. on Tisiddu Mountain (Ulassai). A huge sinkhole, evidence of an ancient water drainage, gives access to a large, mostly horizontal, underground tunnel. The difference in height from the entrance to the sinkhole is ~35 m, and the length of the tunnel is about 900 m. Su Marmuri is a remarkable geoheritage...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Speleothems in show caves are often subjected to tourism-driven alterations, including corrosion due to CO2 increase, undersaturated water and photosynthetic biofilms (e.g. Piano et al., 2015; Pulido-Bosch et al., 1997; White et al., 2021). In particular, the growth of the so-called “lampenflora” causes physical, chemical and aesthetic damage to sp...
Article
Full-text available
Subterranean ecosystems are among the most widespread environments on Earth, yet we still have poor knowledge of their biodiversity. To raise awareness of subterranean ecosystems, the essential services they provide, and their unique conservation challenges, 2021 and 2022 were designated International Years of Caves and Karst. As these ecosystems h...
Preprint
The metacommunity framework has been rarely adopted to investigate the underlying ecological mechanisms shaping microbial communities. With the aid of advanced molecular techniques, we investigated sediment communities of Fungi, Bacteria and Archaea in four Italian show caves aiming to disentangle the effects induced by tourists on species richness...
Article
Full-text available
Citations remain a prime, yet controversial, measure of academic performance. Ideally, how often a paper is cited should solely depend on the quality of the science reported therein. However, non-scientific factors, including structural elements (e.g., length of abstract, number of references) or attributes of authors (e.g., prestige and gender), m...
Conference Paper
Over the past decades, interest for the underground karst environments has grown remarkably, not only from the scientific viewpoint, but also from an economic perspective. The so-called “show caves” are caves open to the public for touristic purposes, managed by a governmental or commercial organization. The numbers of visitors (up to 500,000/year/...
Article
Full-text available
Spiders are a highly diversified group of arthropods and play an important role in terrestrial ecosystems as ubiquitous predators, which makes them a suitable group to test a variety of eco-evolutionary hypotheses. For this purpose, knowledge of a diverse range of species traits is required. Until now, data on spider traits have been scattered acro...
Article
When artificial lighting systems are installed in show caves, alien photosynthetic epilithic prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms —the so-called ‘lampenflora’— form extended biofilms on cave speleothems, causing structural and aesthetic damage. Among the environmental drivers influencing their proliferation, light intensity and duration of ill...
Article
Full-text available
Anthropogenic increase of fine sediment loading is one of the main pressures for rivers worldwide. Particularly, Alpine streams are increasingly facing this issue due to sediment flushing operations from hydropower reservoirs, aimed at recovering storage for preserving electricity generation. Although Controlled Sediment Flushing Operations (CSFOs)...
Article
Full-text available
We investigated the ecological requirements in the emergence phase of two congeneric species of Aeshnidae, Aeshna grandis (Linnaeus 1758) and A. juncea (Linnaeus 1758), occurring in syntopy at the southernmost limit of their range. We sampled the exuviae of the two species at the peak of their emergence in three lakes in NW Italy. In each lake we d...
Article
Full-text available
Aim: Although running waters are getting recognized as important methane sources, large‐scale geographical patterns of microorganisms controlling the net methane balance of streams are still unknown. Here we aim at describing community compositions of methanogenic and methanotrophic microorganisms at large spatial scales and at linking their abunda...
Article
Over the last decades, the combined effects of global climate changes and severe land use modifications have been exacerbating river hydrological alterations and habitat fragmentation in many Mediterranean rivers. This trend is predicted to intensify, with expected significant impacts on taxonomic and functional diversity of benthic communities in...
Article
Full-text available
Several Alpine streams are currently facing recurrent summer drying events with detrimental consequences on stream detritivores, i.e., shredders, due to negative effects via changes the organic matter (CPOM) availability. We examined the ecological requirements of three phylogenetically related shredder genera belonging to the family of Nemouridae...
Article
• Mountain streams in southwestern European Alps are currently shifting from perennial to intermittent flow due to the combined effects of climate change and local anthropogenic pressures. Given that flow intermittency is a recently documented phenomenon in the Alps, only scattered studies have investigated functional and taxonomical diversity of b...
Article
The River Continuum Concept (RCC) is a milestone in stream ecology because of its comprehensive evaluation of the structure and function of lotic ecosystems. Linking stream physical and geo-morphological attributes with patterns in biodiversity, functional traits, and metabolism dynamics, this theory describes downstream gradients in community comp...
Article
Full-text available
Urbanization is a complex process associated with environmental changes affecting many biotic and abiotic ecosystem components, which cause the alteration of biological communities, habitat features, connectivity and stability. In particular, the urbanization process is usually associated with a decrease in species richness that parallels a general...
Article
The conversion of natural lands in urban areas is exponentially increasing worldwide, causing a major decline in biodiversity. Environmental alterations caused by urbanization, such as land conversion and isolation of natural patches, favour tolerant and generalist species, causing both species loss and replacement. In addition, selective pressure...
Article
Over the last decades, the ongoing global climate change, combined with consequent increasing water demand for human needs, is causing recurrent droughts in previously perennial streams. These phenomena have been dramatically increasing their extent, with significant repercussions on the entire food web. Consequences of water scarcity are particula...
Article
Droughts are affecting an increasing number of lotic ecosystems worldwide due to the combined effects of climatic and anthropogenic pressures. Unlike naturally intermittent rivers, where the drying phase is a part of the annual flow regime, water scarcity in Alpine rivers represents a relatively recent phenomenon and, therefore, a major threat for...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: Globally, streams emit significant amounts of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. However, little is known about the stream sediment microbial communities that control the net methane balance in these systems, and in particular about their distribution and composition at large spatial scales. This study investigated the diversity a...
Article
The increasing urbanization process is hypothesized to drastically alter (semi‐)natural environments with a concomitant major decline in species abundance and diversity. Yet, studies on this effect of urbanization, and the spatial scale at which it acts, are at present inconclusive due to the large heterogeneity in taxonomic groups and spatial scal...
Article
1. Janzen's hypothesis (1967; American Naturalist) predicts that tropical habitats with reduced thermal seasonality would select for species with narrow thermal tolerance, thereby limiting dispersal among sites of different elevations showing little overlap in temperature. These predictions have so far been tested by confronting tropical and temper...
Article
Full-text available
Several Alpine streams are currently changing from perennial to intermittent systems with expected detrimental consequences on benthic invertebrates, through the alteration of hydrological conditions, substrate composition, and trophic resources. We examined the ecological niche of three phylogenetically-related scraper macroinvertebrates, namely E...
Article
Full-text available
The aim of our study was to experimentally investigate whether it is possible to reduce nuisance growth of filamentous algae in freshwater ecosystems. We used an experimental set-up mimicking a shallow pond system and performed a field investigation in the eutrophic moat of Krapperup castle (Southern Sweden), which exemplifies an extremely impaired...
Article
Scientists of different disciplines have recognized the valuable role of terrestrial caves as ideal natural laboratories in which to study multiple eco-evolutionary processes, from genes to ecosystems. Because caves and other subterranean habitats are semi-closed systems characterized by a remarkable thermal stability, they should also represent in...
Article
Given their documented capacity to track changes in environmental conditions and human alterations, benthic diatom communities are at present widely used in biomonitoring programs to evaluate stream water quality. However, it is becoming more and more evident that species ecological preferences are not the only drivers of diatom community compositi...
Article
Several mountain streams are currently changing from perennial to temporary regimes due to increasing water abstraction and global climate change with expected detrimental effects on stream biodiversity and functionality. We here examined whether macroinvertebrates and diatoms, experiencing recurring non-flow periods, showed alterations even after...
Article
Hydrological alterations in Alpine rivers have been largely increasing due to the combined effects of global climate change and local impacts. Water flow intermittency starts with a process called lentification, which leads to the transformation of the aquatic ecosystem with severe consequences on biotic communities. These consequences have a great...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Subterranean ecosystems offer intriguing opportunities to study mechanisms underlying responses to changes in climate because species within them are often adapted to largely constant temperatures. However, responses of specialized subterranean species to anthropogenic climate warming are still largely undiscussed. We combined physiological tests,...
Article
Full-text available
Urbanization drastically alters the environment and landscape configuration. Data from four aquatic and eight terrestrial organism groups, obtained within the framework of the SPEEDY project, reveals that an increase in built-up area strongly affects the composition of our native fauna. This change in community composition is due to the selection o...
Article
Full-text available
Body size is intrinsically linked to metabolic rate and life-history traits, and is a crucial determinant of food webs and community dynamics. The increased temperatures associated with the urban-heat-island effect result in increased metabolic costs and are expected to drive shifts to smaller body sizes. Urban environments are, however, also chara...
Article
Flow intermittence occurs in an increasing number of streams, due to climate change, local land‐use alteration and water abstraction. In particular, droughts represent a new element in Alpine river regimes, and their ecological consequences are poorly explored. We here used artificial streams to investigate the resilience of macroinvertebrates to d...
Article
Excessive fine sediment accumulation (i.e., siltation) in streams and rivers originates from several human activities and globally results in heavy alterations of aquatic habitats and biological communities. In this study the correlation between fine sediment and several benthic invertebrate community metrics was tested through a manipulative appro...
Article
The extent of drought in Mediterranean streams has been intensifying recently, and the mean annual discharge is expected to experience a decreasing trend in coming years, with significant effects on aquatic ecosystems. The aim of this study was to analyse colonisation patterns of diatom communities that differed in terms of taxonomic composition an...
Poster
Full-text available
L’attività venatoria nelle aree risicole è una pratica molto diffusa, soprattutto nei confronti degli uccelli acquatici migratori e svernanti, spesso attirati nei pressi delle postazioni di caccia tramite l’allagamento post-raccolto delle risaie. Nei mesi freddi, infatti, l’avifauna tende a frequentare maggiormente i campi allagati rispetto a quell...
Article
Mediterranean streams are mostly characterised by intermittent flow regime, with droughts in summer followed by floods in autumn. During droughts, the creation of lentic habitats (i.e. lentification process) and isolated pools in the riverbeds (i.e. fragmentation process) represents a strong selective pressure on biotic communities, which might be...
Article
Clogging, the streambed colmation by fine sediments, is an important widespread source of impact affecting freshwaters. Alterations in stream morphology and hydrology, added to the effects of global climate change, are responsible for this phenomenon, that is particularly pernicious in mountainous lotic systems naturally characterized by coarse sub...
Article
Full-text available
Land use change—mostly habitat loss and fragmentation—has been recognized as one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide. According to the habitat amount hypothesis, these phenomena are mostly driven by the habitat area effect. As a result, species richness is a function of both the extent of suitable habitats and their availability in...
Article
Aim of this study was to investigate the presence and distribution of Hydraenidae in relation to selected abiotic parameters in a single, uniform riffle of the Caramagna Stream (northwestern Italy). Six species belonging to the genus of Hydraena Kugelann, 1794 were found (H. andreinii D'Orchymont, 1934, H. subimpressa Rey, 1885, H. assimilis Rey, 1...
Article
Full-text available
In the context of global environmental changes, Mediterranean rivers are con- sidered highly endangered. Temporal and spatial increases of the dry stretches during the summer lead to the loss of river tridimensional connectivity, which represents a major threat for freshwater biodiversity. In this study, we aimed at exploring the response of diatom...
Article
The increasing conversion of agricultural and natural areas to human-dominated urban landscapes is predicted to lead to a major decline in biodiversity worldwide. Two conditions that typically differ between urban environments and the surrounding landscape are increased temperature, and high patch isolation and habitat turnover rates. However, the...
Article
Full-text available
Mediterranean rivers are subjected to strong seasonality with drought during the hot season and extreme flows in autumn-winter. In particular, drought episodes and water scarcity alter the river morphology, with repercussions on primary production and the trophic chain. In this paper, we aimed at analysing the different responses in terms of chloro...
Article
Full-text available
A 4-year research was carried out at the Malpasso Lake (San Giorio di Susa, TO), a post-mining site in the Susa Valley (Western Italian Alps). Here we sampled the dragonfly community, finding 33 species (48.5% of the total dragonfly fauna of Piedmont). The Malpasso Lake is exploited as reproduction site by 16 species, whereas 3 species are included...
Article
Full-text available
Over the last decades, river lentification processes and droughts have been dramatically spreading worldwide, due to global and local drastic changes due to human activities. Under this scenario, the evaluation of physical disturbance caused by intermittency and droughts has become more and more relevant. In this research, we compare samples collec...
Article
Full-text available
Fine sedimentation was quantified in the upper stretch of the Pellice river basin (Italian Alps), in an area partially disturbed by mining activities. Sediment traps were placed in 52 sites and benthic samples were collected to assess the amount of coarse particulate organic matter and the structure of macroinvertebrate community. The results indic...
Article
The ecological impact of fine sediments is one of the major causes of ecological degradation affecting lotic systems. Interestingly, many studies have investigated the impact of increased sediment loads on specific compartments of the lotic system, but little or no information is available about the overall impact of sedimentation. Aim of this pape...
Article
The proliferation of lampenflora is a major threat for the conservation of show caves, since phototrophic organisms cause physical, chemical and aesthetic damage to speleothems. In this paper we examine the environmental factors influencing the presence and the growth of the three main photosynthetic groups composing phototrophic biofilms in the Bo...
Poster
Full-text available
Mediterranean rivers are subject to strong seasonality with drought during the hot season and floods in autumn-winter. In particular, drought episodes may alter the river ecosystem, with repercussion on primary production (Lake, 2000, Timoner et al. 2014). Despite reduction of water supply may favour the growth of algal biomass (Caramujo et al. 200...
Article
Full-text available
Nupela troglophila sp. nov. is described from epilithic and epiphytic samples collected around the artificial lighting system in the Bossea cave, SW Alps (NW Italy). The morphological features of the new species are described and documented through light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy analysis. A comparison with morphologically similar...
Presentation
Full-text available
Lampenflora is a German term widely used to indicate photosynthetic organisms which are able to grow in subterranean environments by exploiting artificial lights. The main component of lampenflora are microalgae, which can proliferate creating extended biofilms on cave walls. The implementation of management procedures to reduce the growth of lampe...

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Projects

Projects (4)
Project
Threats to subterranean ecosystems are largely unknown. Yet, experts worldwide can provide vital information to protect these fragile ecosystems. We aim to assess the main threats and conservation measures for subterranean organisms, to identify effective actions to protect this globally important natural heritage. Help us by filling this short survey: https://forms.gle/pPZsaH2GTwTtCCVL7
Project
The project aims at providing an in-depth characterization and quantification of the environmental impacts related to tourist exploitation in show caves by focusing on the biological, geological, hydrogeological, archaeological and physical components of the cave environment. The major Italian show caves serve as model sites for the project and they have been selected considering their acknowledged awareness, tourist flow and willingness to promote scientific research.
Project
The overall objective of SPEEDY is to obtain integrated insight into the responses of populations and communities to urbanization. The integrated nature of our research programme refers to the fact that we consider different biological levels (communities, populations) and we specifically address interactions between both ecological and evolutionary responses (eco-evolutionary dynamics). We also seek mechanistic explanations by looking at organismal traits, consider different stressors associated with urbanization, and perform concerted research on different organism groups and spatial scales. The research will translate into a capacity to provide improved predictions of responses of natural communities to urbanization by incorporating evolutionary responses. This main objective translates into the following specific objectives: To test the hypothesis that urbanization leads to strong selection pressures impacting both metacommunity dynamics, trait values of communities as well as of individual species (populations). This hypothesis will be tested for a wide variety of organism groups ranging from bacteria to birds. To test the hypothesis that the responses to the same urbanization gradients differ among organism groups as a function of life style, body size, generation time and dispersal capacity. To test the hypothesis that evolutionary responses impact community dynamics and vice versa, and that the impact of these eco-evolutionary dynamics differs among organism groups depending on their life style, body size, generation time and dispersal capacity. In addition to testing these broad hypotheses, SPEEDY will test a large number of more targeted hypotheses on the mechanisms of responses and strength of selection pressures associated with urbanization gradients that will be specific for each of the organism groups and focal species. In addition, by modelling exercises, we will explore the possibilities to extrapolate our findings to different settings and spatial and temporal scales, providing a framework to predict responses to urbanization and other (human-induced) environmental changes