Assessing the distribution of forest ecosystem services in a highly populated Mediterranean region

Roces-Díaz J.V., Vayreda J., Banqué-Casanovas M., Cusó M., Anton M., Bonet J.A., Brotons L., De Cáceres M., Herrando S., Martínez de Aragón J., de-Miguel S., Martínez-Vilalta J. (2018) Assessing the distribution of forest ecosystem services in a highly populated Mediterranean region. Ecological Indicators. 93: 986-997.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.05.076

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Forest ecosystems provide a wide range of goods and services to society and host high levels of biodiversity. Nevertheless, forest ecosystem services (ES) are often quantified and assessed using simplified methodologies (e.g., proxy methods based exclusively on Land Use Land Cover maps) that introduce substantial uncertainty in the analysis by ignoring, for instance, the species composition and spatial configuration of the ecosystems studied. In this work we defined and calculated a set of 12 indicators of several ES for the forests of the highly populated region of Catalonia (North-eastern Iberian Peninsula). The indicators combined different sources of information such as forest surveys, ecological model predictions and official statistics, but also included additional land cover information. All ES indicators were aggregated at the municipality level to compare their values and distribution patterns. We assessed spatial trade-offs and synergies among ES, as well as their relationships with a set of socioeconomic, climatic and biodiversity variables using correlation analyses and mixed-effects models. The results suggest a clustering of provisioning and regulating ES in mountainous zones towards the North of the study area. These two types of services showed a high degree of spatial similarity and presented high positive correlations. In contrast, cultural ES showed a more scattered pattern, which included lower elevation areas in the South of the study region. Climatic conditions were the main determinants of the spatial variability in the supply of the different ES, with most indicators being positively associated with precipitation and negatively associated with temperature. In addition, biodiversity (particularly woody species richness) showed positive relations with most of these ES, while socioeconomic variables (such as population density and the percentage employment in agriculture) showed negative associations with most of them. The combination of information from different data sources (including primary data) allowed for a detailed analysis of forest ES, likely removing some of the problems derived from approaches based only on proxy methods. In addition, the use of municipalities as study unit makes results directly relevant to management and planning strategies operating at this scale (e.g., forest management and planning). © 2018 Elsevier Ltd

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The spatial level of analysis affects the patterns of forest ecosystem services supply and their relationships

Roces-Díaz, J.V., Vayreda, J., Banqué-Casanovas, M., Díaz-Varela, E., Bonet, J.A., Brotons, L., de-Miguel, S., Herrando, S., Martínez-Vilalta, J. (2018) The spatial level of analysis affects the patterns of forest ecosystem services supply and their relationships. Science of the Total Environment. 626: 1270-1283.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.01.150

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A review of the combination among global change factors in forests, shrublands and pastures of the Mediterranean Region: Beyond drought effects

Doblas-Miranda, E., Alonso, R., Arnan, X., Bermejo, V., Brotons, L., de las Heras, J., Estiarte, M., Hódar, J.A., Llorens, P., Lloret, F., López-Serrano, F.R., Martínez-Vilalta, J., Moya, D., Peñuelas, J., Pino, J., Rodrigo, A., Roura-Pascual, N., Valladares, F., Vilà, M., Zamora, R., Retana, J. (2017) A review of the combination among global change factors in forests, shrublands and pastures of the Mediterranean Region: Beyond drought effects. Global and Planetary Change. 148: 42-54.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2016.11.012

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Coupling a water balance model with forest inventory data to predict drought stress: The role of forest structural changes vs. climate changes

Caceres M.D., Martinez-Vilalta J., Coll L., Llorens P., Casals P., Poyatos R., Pausas J.G., Brotons L. (2015) Coupling a water balance model with forest inventory data to predict drought stress: The role of forest structural changes vs. climate changes. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 213: 77-90.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2015.06.012

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Mechanistic water balance models can be used to predict soil moisture dynamics and drought stress in individual forest stands. Predicting current and future levels of plant drought stress is important not only at the local scale, but also at larger, landscape to regional, scales, because these are the management scales at which adaptation and mitigation strategies are implemented. To obtain reliable predictions of soil moisture and plant drought stress over large extents, water balance models need to be complemented with detailed information about the spatial variation of vegetation and soil attributes. We designed, calibrated and validated a water balance model that produces annual estimates of drought intensity and duration for all plant cohorts in a forest stand. Taking Catalonia (NE Spain) as a case study, we coupled this model with plot records from two Spanish forest inventories in which species identity, diameter and height of plant cohorts were available. Leaf area index of each plant cohort was estimated from basal area using species-specific relationships. Vertical root distribution for each species in each forest plot was estimated by determining the distribution that maximized transpiration in the model, given average climatic conditions, soil attributes and stand density. We determined recent trends (period 1980-2010) in drought stress for the main tree species in Catalonia; where forest growth and densification occurs in many areas as a result of rural abandonment and decrease of forest management. Regional increases in drought stress were detected for most tree species, although we found high variation in stress changes among individual forest plots. Moreover, predicted trends in tree drought stress were mainly due to changes in leaf area occurred between the two forest inventories rather than to climatic trends. We conclude that forest structure needs to be explicitly considered in assessments of plant drought stress patterns and trends over large geographic areas, and that forest inventories are useful sources of data provided that reasonably good estimates of soil attributes and root distribution are available. Our approach coupled with recent improvements in forest survey technologies may allow obtaining spatially continuous and precise assessments of drought stress. Further efforts are needed to calibrate drought-related demographic processes before water balance and drought stress estimates can be fully used for the accurate prediction of drought impacts. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.

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Soil carbon stocks and their variability across the forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain

Doblas-Miranda E., Rovira P., Brotons L., Martinez-Vilalta J., Retana J., Pla M., Vayreda J. (2013) Soil carbon stocks and their variability across the forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain. Biogeosciences. 10: 8353-8361.
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Doi: 10.5194/bg-10-8353-2013

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Accurate estimates of C stocks and fluxes of soil organic carbon (SOC) are needed to assess the impact of climate and land use change on soil C uptake and soil C emissions to the atmosphere. Here, we present an assessment of SOC stocks in forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain based on field measurements in more than 900 soil profiles. SOC to a depth of 1 m was modelled as a function of vegetation cover, mean annual temperature, total annual precipitation, elevation and the interaction between temperature and elevation, while latitude and longitude were used to model the correlation structure of the errors. The resulting statistical model was used to estimate SOC in the ∼8 million pixels of the Spanish Forest Map (29.3 × 106 ha). We present what we believe is the most reliable estimation of current SOC in forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain thus far, based on the use of spatial modelling, the high number of profiles and the validity and refinement of the data layers employed. Mean concentration of SOC was 8.7 kg m-2, ranging from 2.3 kg m-2 in dry Mediterranean areas to 20.4 kg m -2 in wetter northern locations. This value corresponds to a total stock of 2.544 Tg SOC, which is four times the amount of C estimated to be stored in the biomass of Spanish forests. Climate and vegetation cover were the main variables influencing SOC, with important ecological implications for peninsular Spanish ecosystems in the face of global change. The fact that SOC was positively related to annual precipitation and negatively related to mean annual temperature suggests that future climate change predictions of increased temperature and reduced precipitation may strongly reduce the potential of Spanish soils as C sinks. However, this may be mediated by changes in vegetation cover (e.g. by favouring the development of forests associated to higher SOC values) and exacerbated by perturbations such as fire. The estimations presented here provide a baseline to estimate future changes in soil C stocks and to assess their vulnerability to key global change drivers, and should inform future actions aimed at the conservation and management of C stocks. © 2013 Author(s).

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Reassessing global change research priorities in mediterranean terrestrial ecosystems: How far have we come and where do we go from here?

Doblas-Miranda E., Martinez-Vilalta J., Lloret F., Alvarez A., Avila A., Bonet F.J., Brotons L., Castro J., Curiel Yuste J., Diaz M., Ferrandis P., Garcia-Hurtado E., Iriondo J.M., Keenan T.F., Latron J., Llusia J., Loepfe L., Mayol M., More G., Moya D., Penuelas J., Pons X., Poyatos R., Sardans J., Sus O., Vallejo V.R., Vayreda J., Retana J. (0) Reassessing global change research priorities in mediterranean terrestrial ecosystems: How far have we come and where do we go from here?. Global Ecology and Biogeography. 24: 25-43.
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Doi: 10.1111/geb.12224

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Aim: Mediterranean terrestrial ecosystems serve as reference laboratories for the investigation of global change because of their transitional climate, the high spatiotemporal variability of their environmental conditions, a rich and unique biodiversity and a wide range of socio-economic conditions. As scientific development and environmental pressures increase, it is increasingly necessary to evaluate recent progress and to challenge research priorities in the face of global change. Location: Mediterranean terrestrial ecosystems. Methods: This article revisits the research priorities proposed in a 1998 assessment. Results: A new set of research priorities is proposed: (1) to establish the role of the landscape mosaic on fire-spread; (2) to further research the combined effect of different drivers on pest expansion; (3) to address the interaction between drivers of global change and recent forest management practices; (4) to obtain more realistic information on the impacts of global change and ecosystem services; (5) to assess forest mortality events associated with climatic extremes; (6) to focus global change research on identifying and managing vulnerable areas; (7) to use the functional traits concept to study resilience after disturbance; (8) to study the relationship between genotypic and phenotypic diversity as a source of forest resilience; (9) to understand the balance between C storage and water resources; (10) to analyse the interplay between landscape-scale processes and biodiversity conservation; (11) to refine models by including interactions between drivers and socio-economic contexts; (12) to understand forest-atmosphere feedbacks; (13) to represent key mechanisms linking plant hydraulics with landscape hydrology. Main conclusions: (1) The interactive nature of different global change drivers remains poorly understood. (2) There is a critical need for the rapid development of regional- and global-scale models that are more tightly connected with large-scale experiments, data networks and management practice. (3) More attention should be directed to drought-related forest decline and the current relevance of historical land use.

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