Monday, 18 May 2015

New article: Predictive modelling of fire occurrences from different fire spread patterns in Mediterranean landscapes


In a new work published recently in International Journal of Wildland Fire, we present a modelling exercise for predicting different fire spread patterns in Catalonia, NE Spain.

We introduce mathematically a novel classification of fires according to dominant fire spread pattern, an approach considered in operational fire-fighting, to help understand regional-scale spatial variability in fire regimes. Dominant fire spread patterns are usually linked to specific synoptic weather conditions, topography, or vegetation patterns, determining fire behavior and thus fire suppression opportunities. More deeply, we studied whether climate, topography and fuel variables allowed the prediction of occurrences from different fire spread patterns in Catalonia, NE Spain.

We used MaxEnt to model fire occurrences of wind-driven, topography-driven and convective fires for two different time periods (1989-1999 and 2000-2012). A cross-validation between the two decades modelled was conducted, and results were consistent in all types of fire. The variation partitioning analysis showed how convective fires were more related to forest fuel factors, while wind-driven fires were mostly predicted by unmanageable factors, as topography and wind. Topography-driven fires occurred over a broader range of environments where stronger fire spread determinants such as fuel loads or strong winds were not greatly inducing the occurrence of the other fire spread patterns.

The results presented offer new insights about potential approaches allowing the assessment of environmental change impacts on different types of fire spread patterns. Changes in land-use vegetation cover or changes in forest structure are just an example of the type of events that can differentially determine the occurrence of different kinds of spread patterns. Under a global change context where the future of fire regimes still being uncertain, these findings may have a strong impact on investigations into how fire regimes may be projected into the future under forecast global change as they suggest that future environmental changes may affect different fire spread patterns in an idiosyncratic manner.

Duane, A., Piqué, M., Castellnou, M., & Brotons, L. (2015). Predictive modelling of fire occurrences from different fire spread patterns in Mediterranean landscapes. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 24(3), 407-418.

En català or click here for more info!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

New article: Optimising long-term monitoring projects for species distribution modelling. How atlas data may help

L.collurio-4-D.VieuxtempsIn this work, recently published in Ecography, we provide a method based on modern atlas data to guide the establishment of monitoring projects that will deliver useful data to build accurate distribution models. Long-term monitoring data are used to evaluate population trends, but they may also be integrated in spatial models to produce detailed species distribution maps at large spatial scales. However, sampling design has a strong impact on the predictive accuracy of distribution models and this issue is to be addressed when using this type of data.

We examined how the number of sampling sites influences the predictive accuracy of the models and we determined the minimum number of sites required to generate reliable spatial models as a direct output of monitoring projects. To do this, we calibrated large-scale, fine-resolution distribution models for 20 bird species using data collected during the ‘Breeding Bird Atlas of Wallonia’ (BBAW) project. Modern atlas projects like BBAW provide data that are analogous to monitoring data. We manipulated the amount of calibration data to represent a range of sampling coverage and we used independent evaluation data to calculate modeling performance parameters.

The modeling performance was sensitive to particularly small sample sizes and reached an asymptotic level beyond a fairly large sampling coverage. This asymptotic level varied considerably among species depending mainly on their prevalence. Our results suggest that a sampling coverage of 4-5% of the study area is sufficient for most of the species. This innovative analytical framework will guide the design of long-term monitoring projects suited to document and regularly update species distribution maps.

Aizpurua O., Paquet J.-Y., Brotons L. & Titeux N. (2014) Optimising long-term monitoring projects for species distribution modelling: how atlas data may help. Ecography, early view, doi: 10.1111/ecog.00749.

En català or click here for more info!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Post-Doctoral position on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Scenarios and Modelling in Mediterranean Forests


A new position to conduct post-doctoral research is open at CEMFOR (CTFC) - CREAF Joint research unit (InFOREST JRU) for one to two years (with the possibility of an extension) in the context of the new joint research unit between the two research institutions and the new project INFORMED of the FORESTERRA-ERA-NET.

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We are seeking multi-disciplinary hearted researchers to investigate the relationship between forest dynamics and drivers of environmental change in a Mediterranean forest context. Main focus of the work will be on testing and applying state-of-the-art methods and models in forest and biodiversity dynamics modelling at different spatial and temporal scales. More specifically the candidates will:

• Integrate knowledge on socio-economic-ecological processes that operate at different spatial and temporal scales.

• Produce robust and credible projections of future changes in forest ecosystem services under different scenarios of global change drivers and management options.

• Translate the acquired knowledge on processes and interactions into operational tools.

• Increase research capacity by efficient interaction with other related projects in this research area.

The candidate is also expected to be involved in the activities related to the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and promote the leadership of the InForest JRU in terms institutional organisation, development of research activities (workshop organisation) and project writing and coordination (H2020 and similar calls).


- PhD. in environmental sciences (ecology, forestry, geography or similar).

- Excellent publication record.

- Expertise in forest or biodiversity modelling development (statistical, landscape and/or process based models).

- Strong background in modelling, programming and analytical skills in R or equivalent.

- Contrasted capacity to lead work and team up with other researchers.

- Previous experience in international project management and leadership.

Institutional context and collaborations

The InFOREST JRU is a joint research venture by CTFC and CREAF. These are two forest research centres belonging to the Catalan network of research institutions CERCA. A strength of CREAF-CTFC is that it is built on strong national, European and global networks. Collaborating with scientists within CREAF-CTFC and with the InForest research partners across Europe, America and Australia will greatly expand the candidate international network. The post-doc will be expected to coordinate collaborative research with these research groups, and participate in meetings and in the writing of project proposals related to the topics of the call.

Research context

Mediterranean forests are complex socio-ecosystems characterized by an important biodiversity, high levels of spatial environmental heterogeneity, deep interlinking with human populations to which they provide a bunch of ecosystem services. Mediterranean forests are also considered as a hotspot of global change impacts. Based on meta-disciplinary research, the InForest JRU and the project INFORMED will develop a dynamic approach to the resilience of Mediterranean forests by considering an integrated socio-ecosystem where management, ecological processes and socio-economic processes interact. Climate change, land-use change and new demands on ecosystem services act on the system as new disturbance factors or modify previous disturbance regime, which will simultaneously impact the different compartments of the system. Resilience is the maintenance of the capacity to respond to disturbance and continue providing ecosystem services, forest composition and structure can change. There is also a feed-back of the socio-ecosystem on global change: forest functions may contribute to climate change mitigation and governance response will contribute to changes in the demand for particular ecosystem services.

The InForest JRU and its research activity through research projects such as INFORMED will aim at fill-in knowledge gaps on the basic mechanisms that determine the response to disturbance of the socio-ecosystem, and it will extend existing models to integrate different processes and perform simulations that account for their interactions. Modelling expertise by project partners includes: forest dynamics and silviculture, fire behaviour, fire vegetation succession, niche models, functional and evolutionary models, economics and optimization strategy, innovative governance modes.

Working conditions

- Equivalent to the Juan de la Cierva Programme of the Spanish “Ministerio de ciencia e innovación” (

- Working place in Solsona (120 km north of Barcelona, Spain), CEMFOR-CTFC ( Travelling often abroad with European project partners.

Send CV, a motivation letter (one page maximum) and the contacts of two reference researchers, via e-mail before March 6th 2015 to: , InForest JRU (CEMFOR-CREAF), Solsona.

En català or click here for more info!

Friday, 26 December 2014

New article: Rewilding: a potential alternative approach to conservation in abandoned mountain areas?

imageLand-use change is a large component of global change and the effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services currently represent a major challenge for ecologists and conservationists. Several authors have recently suggested that REWILDING may be an appealing conservation response to farmland abandonment in areas of Europe where the social structure of farming communities has been eroded and low-intensity farming is no longer socially or economically viable. ECOLAND group, in collaboration with GRUMETS lab (CREAF and Autonomous University of Barcelona) and University of Santiago de Compostela (USC), have assessed the relative positive and negative effects of land abandonment on Gerês–Xurés Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (NW Iberian Peninsula) in order to quantify the potential conservation costs and benefits of a rewilding as a land-use management policy.

In a first study published in International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, we aimed to determine if the abandonment of the rural areas was the main driver of landscape dynamics on this particular mountain area, or if other factors, such as wildfires and the land management were also directly affecting these spatio-temporal dynamics. For this purpose, we used earth observation data acquired from Landsat TM and ETM + satellite sensors, complemented by ancillary data and prior field knowledge, to evaluate the land use/land cover changes in our study region over a 10-year period (2000–2010). Our findings showed that rural exodus of the last century, differences in land management and fire suppression policies between Spain and Portugal and the different protection schemes could partly explain the different patterns of changes recorded in these covers.

In a second study, recently accepted in Regional Environmental Change, we investigated the effects of land abandonment processes on bird assemblages at both landscape and local scale. We combined medium-term data on avifauna distribution with information on temporal changes in land-use/land-cover extracted from satellite data. In light of our results, rewilding appears to have overall positive effects on biodiversity and should be considered by policy makers as alternative land-use strategy in marginal mountain areas, particularly if they have been historically affected by wildfires. Fire management aimed at favouring the creation of small burned areas in progressively closed landscapes derived from rewilding may be a complementary alternative to maintain open habitats in these areas.

Regos, A., Ninyerola, M., Moré, G., Pons, X., 2015. Linking land cover dynamics with driving forces in mountain landscape of the Northwestern Iberian Peninsula. Int. J. Appl. Earth Obs. Geoinf. 38, 1–14.

Regos, A., Domínguez, J., Gil-Tena, A., Brotons, L., Ninyerola, M., Pons, X., 2014. Rural abandoned landscapes and bird assemblages: winners and losers in the rewilding of a marginal mountain area (NW Spain). Reg. Environ. Chang.

En català or click here for more info!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Tools for exploring habitat suitability for biodiversity under scenarios of rapid land use change.

A new article published in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment used scenario development based on changes in key socioeconomic drivers together with resource-based habitat suitability models to develop plausible visions of future pathways of agricultural land use and evaluate their potential consequences on conservation of target species. Analyses focused on three steppe bird species in a protected Natura 2000 area, located in the Iberian Peninsula. Our results showed that changes in land use composition under different scenarios can have important effects on habitat suitability, but that the size of those effects would vary depending on species-specific requirements and spatial distribution of land use changes.

Laura Cardador, Miquel De Cáceres, David Giralt, Gerard Bota, Núria Aquilué, Beatriz Arroyo, François Mougeot, Carlos Cantero-Martínez, Lourdes Viladomiu, Jordi Rosell, Fabián Casas, Alba Estrada, Jorge Álvaro-Fuentes, Lluís Brotons (2015).  Tools for exploring habitat suitability for steppe birds under land use change scenarios. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 200: 119-125.

En català or click here for more info!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

We search for PhD candidates: Applications of spatial and temporal models in the assessment of global change impacts on biodiversity in the Mediterranean

We search for PhD candidates interested in applying for a contract in the context of the Call “Formación de Profesorado Universitario (FPU)” of the Spanish Ministery of Education.
The candidate will develop a PhD on the applications of species trend modelling and species distribution models (SDM) in the evaluation of the impacts of climate and land use changes on biodiversity with a strong focus on birds and fire regimes. The successful candidate will work in the Biodiversity and landscape Ecology lab within the InForest Joint research unit that the CTFC has recently created with the CREAF in Barcelona.
•    Excellent academic (above 2.5 in 1 to 4 Spanish academic evaluation system)
•    Academic qualifications that allow starting a doctoral degree (Official master degree already obtained).
•    Proven experience in GIS and remote sensing data (i.e Landsat).  analyses. Programming skills preferred.
•    Experience in R statistical programming language .
•    Experience in writing scientific articles.
•    High proficiency in English language.
Interested candidates can send a CV (and request further information)via e-mail to

Es cerquen candidats de tesi doctoral interessats en demanar un contracte dins de la convocatòria de “Formación de Profesorado Universitario (FPU)” del ministerio d’Educació.
L’objectiu és el desenvolupament d’una tesis sobre l’aplicació dels models de distribución i tendències temporals d’espècies a l’avaluació dels impactes del canvi climàtic i dels canvis d’ús del sol sobre la biodiversitat amb un focus especial sobre els ocells i els règims d’incendis. El candidat treballarà en el marc del Biodiversity and landscape Ecology lab que forma part de la recentment creada InForest unitat mixta de recerca entre el CTFC i el CREAF.
•    Excel.lent expediente acadèmic (per sobre de 2,5) 
•    Master oficial obtingut.
•    Experiència provada en análisis SIG i d’informació provinent de sensors remots (i.e Landsat). Preferentment amb coneixements de programació.
•    Experiència en el llenguatge de programación estadística R.
•    Experiència en la redacció d’articles científics.
•    Nivell d’anglès molt alt.
Candidats interessats podeu enviar el CV  (o demanar més informació) via e-mail a

En català or click here for more info!

Friday, 21 November 2014

New article: Woodland bird response to landscape connectivity in an agriculture-dominated landscape

In a new study published in the journal Community Ecology, Assu Gil-Tena and co-workers  have assessed the role of landscape connectivity in woodland bird species richness, abundance, and community similarity in north-east Brittany (north-west France). Over the last 30 years, ecological networks have been deployed to reduce global biodiversity loss by enhancing landscape connectivity. Bird species dwelling in woodland habitats that are embedded in agriculture-dominated landscapes are expected to be particularly sensitive to the loss of connectivity. In this study, an exhaustive woodland selection protocol was carried out to minimize the effects of woodland size on the response variables. Connectivity of the woodland and forest network in the study area was evaluated using graph-theory, accounting for matrix permeability, and a characteristic median natal dispersal distance at the community level based on the bird species pool recorded in the sampled woodlands. Information-theoretic model selection, controlling for woodland size in all the cases, depicted the response of woodland birds at the community level to the connectivity of agriculture-dominated landscapes. On average, the sampled woodlands (n = 25) contained 15.5 ± 2.4 bird species, with an abundance of 25.1 ± 3.9, and had highly similar bird communities (species composition and proportion); eight species represented 57% of total abundance and were present in at least 22 woodlands. The performance of models improved when using effective, rather than Euclidean, interpatch distances in the connectivity assessment. Landscape connectivity was only significantly related to similarity of proportional species composition. Large woodlands contained communities with more similar species proportions in an inhospitable agricultural landscape matrix than in a more permeable one. Woodland size was the most relevant factor determining species abundance, indicating that the bird population sizes are primarily proportional to the local habitat availability. Connectivity in relation to landscape matrix permeability did not seem to induce the flow of woodland-dependent bird species that are dominant in the community but rather of matrix-dwelling bird species that are less dependent on woodland patch area. In conclusion, both habitat conservation and restoration (i.e., amount and quality), in combination with permeable landscape structures (such as heterogeneous land cover mosaics), are advocated for community level conservation strategies.

Gil-Tena, A., Nabucet, J., Mony, C., Abadie, J., Saura, S., Butet, A., Burel, F., Ernoult, A. 2014. Woodland bird response to landscape connectivity in an agriculture-dominated landscape: a functional community approach. Community Ecology, 15(2): 256-268.

En català or click here for more info!

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