Thursday, 24 September 2015

Wildfire seen from a drone

InForest mixed unity, composed by CTFC and CREAF, has published the first images taken by drones of the burned area from Òdena’s wildfire (Barcelona area), occurred last july which burned more than 1.200 ha. Ecoland lab and InForest are pioneers in drones use for ecology and conservation research.

These flying machines, according to Lluís Brotons, CSIC researcher of InForests unit (CTFC-CREAF) and coordinator of the new drone service, have a huge potential in fields such as forest ecology and conservation biology. Specially in burned areas, drones will allow to study and monitor the affected vegetation.

En català or click here for more info!

New article: Predicting the future effectiveness of protected areas for bird conservation in Mediterranean ecosystems under climate change and novel fire regime scenarios

Global change challenges traditional conservation approaches based on the selection of static protected areas due to their limited ability to deal with the dynamic nature of driving forces relevant to biodiversity. The Natura 2000 network (N2000) constitutes a major milestone in biodiversity conservation in Europe, but the degree to which this static network will be able to reach its long-term conservation objectives raises concern.

In this work, recently published in Diversity and Distribution, we have evaluated, in collaboration with Antoine Guisan’s lab (Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne), ICO (Catalan Institute of Ornithology) and EBCC (European Bird Census Council), the future changes in the effectiveness of N2000 in a Mediterranean ecosystem between 2000 and 2050 under different combinations of climate and fire-induced land cover change scenarios. To our knowledge, the present study is one of the most ambitious attempts so far to forecast biodiversity changes (i.e. multispecies responses) based on simulations of future vegetation dynamics and fire disturbance under climate change in a fire-prone Mediterranean region.

Our findings show that although the future response of the species to these changes is species specific, large decreases in the amount of optimal habitats are expected for most of the species. In addition, our results also indicate that such a decrease in habitat suitability will be driven by both climate and land cover changes. Interestingly, the response of a high number of species to these changes is predicted to vary substantially depending on the fire management practices that will be implemented in the future. Our results also provide the first assessment of the future effectiveness of the currently established protected areas for the conservation of bird species targeted by N2000 under different combinations of climate and novel fire regime scenarios.

This study offers novel insights into how fire management policies in interaction with land abandonment and climate change might strongly impact on future biodiversity conservation in fire-prone Mediterranean ecosystems. We also emphasize the need for an integrative and proactive conservation perspective wherein agricultural, forest and fire management policies should be considered inside and outside N2000 to effectively maintain key habitats for threatened birds in these types of ecosystems. In the light of our results, we underline the need for an explicit consideration of landscape dynamics when forecasting the future effectiveness of a network of protected areas in a context of global change.

Regos, A., D’Amen, M., Titeux, N., Herrando, S., Guisan, A., Brotons, L., 2015. Predicting the future effectiveness of protected areas for bird conservation in Mediterranean ecosystems under climate change and novel fire regime scenarios. Divers. Distrib. doi:10.1111/ddi.12375

En català or click here for more info!

Tuesday, 2 June 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, 1 June 2015

New article: Dartford Warbler, unplanned fires and biodiversity conservation

Mediterranean landscapes are highly dynamic systems. Climate change is one of the most powerful driving forces of these dynamics and, in the Mediterranean basin, its severity has markedly increased in recent years. However, climate change impacts on biodiversity are often also indirect through changes in disturbance regimes  Fire is a critical factor in the Mediterranean and is likely to drive landscape change effects over large areas.

In this study, recently published in Journal of Ornithology, we ask the following questions: (1) how will climate change synergically with fire-conducted vegetation dynamics affect the distributional range of Dartford Warbler over the next 50 years?; and (2) can fire management offset distributional shifts caused by climate change and natural succession processes? Our group, in collaboration with Antoine Guisan’s lab (Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne), ICO (Catalan Institute of Ornithology) and EBCC (European Bird Census Council), have assessed the potential changes in Dartford Warbler distribution between 2000 and 2050 under different fire management and climate change scenarios, and described landscape dynamics using a spatially-explicit fire-succession model that simulates fire impacts in the landscape and post-fire regeneration (MEDFIRE model).

The Dartford Warbler was recently evaluated on a global scale as Near Threatened in the IUCN Red List, since it is declining at a moderately rapid rate. Declines in the core populations in Spain are largely responsible for the estimated overall decline of the species due to habitat degradation and modification and climate changes. For this study, Dartford Warbler occurrence data were acquired at two different spatial scales from: (1) the Atlas of European Breeding Birds (EBCC) and (2) the Catalan Breeding Bird Atlas (CBBA). Habitat suitability was modelled using five widely-used modelling techniques in an ensemble forecasting framework (BIOMOD2).  

Our results thus highlight the need to take the spatial interaction among climate change, fire-mediated landscape dynamics and fire management policies in highly dynamic and fire-prone ecosystems into account to accurately predict habitat suitability changes of early-succession bird species in a context of land abandonment. Fire management programs must be integrated into conservation plans to effectively preserve sparsely forested and early-succession habitats and their associated species in the face of global change.

En català or click here for more info!

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!

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!

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