From its beginnings, the field of ecology has cultivated special interest and effort in understanding living organisms’ patterns of organization in time and space. Employing a temporal perspective, the study of phenology advances understanding of the relative importance of processes in which living beings deal with changes in resource availability or the environment. Also, analyzing how and why species are distributed in space offers a unique perspective for studying how organisms organize and interact in response to environmental gradients in nature. Within the contemporary context of global environmental change, changes in phenology and distribution are being observed on a large scale. Such changes are taking place in a new ecological context in which human activities – a highly important factor - have increasing impact. Analyzing and understanding these patterns of variability will allow us to develop tools which help us anticipate future changes to natural ecosystems.
The main lines of work and experience of CREAF in this field include:
- Changes in composition and structure: We characterize recent changes in the composition and structure of forest ecosystems in order to improve our capacity for understanding and modeling their responses to environmental changes.
- Physiological limits: We assess the physiological limits of plants facing critical stressors in Mediterranean environments (most notably, drought and fire).
- Plant distributions: We aim to understand and model how changes in environmental conditions in the context of global change affect plant species distributions.
- Environmental gradients: We study and characterize how environmental gradients (altitudinal, climatic, or landscape-based) influence the distribution and phenology of organisms in order to interpret the responses of species and populations to environmental change.
- Population genetics: We develop distribution models which predict the effects of climate change and land use on populations’ the genetic structures.
- Invasive species: We evaluate the invasive capacity of different species and study their impacts on the phenology and distribution of native communities.
- Pollinators: We study the spatial and temporal variability of flowers and pollinating insects and their interactions (plant-pollinator and host-parasite networks) as well as the functional consequences of such variability.