Biweekly researcher forum, which offer an opportunity for researchers in ecology to present and discuss their work

CREAF runs an annual programme of seminars that showcase the global research work in the field of ecological science both within and beyond our centre. Each seminar normally lasts 30-40 minutes with plenty of time afterwards for questions and discussion. Seminars are usually on Wednesday at 3 pm.

Our free seminar programme is open to everyone. For more information, please email CREAF Talks coordinator


Ongoing Seminars

March 11th, 2020
Pavel Němec (Charles University)

"Small brains, great minds: cellular scaling rules for bird brains"


Birds are remarkably intelligent, although their brains are small. Corvids and some parrots are capable of cognitive feats comparable to those of great apes. How do birds achieve impressive cognitive prowess with walnut-sized brains? Songbirds, parrots and owls share extremely high neuronal densities and disproportionately large numbers of neurons in the pallial telencephalon. Remarkably, numbers of pallial neurons in large-brained parrots and songbirds (especially corvids) equal or exceed those found in primates with much larger brains. In contrast, birds representing basal lineages, such as ostriches, tinamous and galliform birds, have lower neuronal densities, a proportionally smaller telencephalon, small telencephalic and dominant cerebellar neuronal fraction. Brains of birds situated phylogenetically in between these groups, such as pigeons or birds of prey, exhibit intermediate characteristics. Compared to mammals, avian brains are built in a more economical, spatially efficient way; even the lowest neuronal densities observed in brains of basal birds are equal to or higher than the highest densities found in homologous brain regions in mammalian species investigated so far. Avian brains thus have the potential to provide much higher "cognitive power" per unit mass than do mammalian brains. We therefore suggest that the large numbers of neurons concentrated in high densities in the telencephalon substantially contribute to the neural basis of avian intelligence.


Pavel Němec is a researcher from the Department of Zoology at Charles University in Prague. His research program mainly focuses on Neurosciences. He has made important contributions on sensory biology, comparative vertebrate neuroanatomy, neural basis of magnetoreception and magnetic orientation, and neurobiology of subterranean mammals. His most influential contributions include the finding that birds may have equal or greater number of neurons in the brain than primates with much larger brains, and the identification in mammals of neurons that are responsive to magnetic stimuli.


March 18th, 2020
Lorena Gómez-Aparicio (CSIC)

"Disentangling the interactive effects of exotic pathogens and climate change on Mediterranean forests"


Global change is a complex phenomenon involving several factors that act simultaneously. However, most of their combined effects on natural ecosystems remain poorly understood. In this talk I will synthesize recent work conducted in mixed oak forests of southern Spain that aims to explore the interactive effects of two main threats to their long-term sustainability: exotic pathogens and climate change.  I will first highlight the understudy role of exotic pathogens as determinants of demographic rates in Mediterranean tree species, and their importance as drivers of plant-soil feedbacks that could reinforce the loss of dominance of tree species affected by pathogen-driven decline. Then, I will discuss experimental evidence from the field and the greenhouse that supports the existence of non-additive, antagonistic effects of exotic pathogens and increasing drought on tree demography. Such results imply that Mediterranean forests could be less susceptible to the combined effects of these two stressors than to their individual effects when considered separately. This pattern of interaction among global change drivers strongly differs from the synergistic effects commonly reported in the literature. Overall, this talk represents an invitation to think and discuss about the complexity of predicting forest responses to multiple global change drivers, particularly under the idiosyncrasy of Mediterranean environments.


Lorena Gómez-Aparicio is a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). She received her PhD from the University of Granada (Spain) in 2004, and was a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies (NY, USA). Since 2010 she works at the Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology of Seville (Spain), where she leads the research group on Mediterranean Forest Systems. She is a forest ecologist interested in understanding the dynamics of forest systems as a fundamental requirement for their sustainable management. Her research combines tools and approaches from different research areas (ecophysiology, plant demography, community ecology, soil microbiology, biogeochemistry) at different spatial scales, from description of large-scale patterns of forest demography to detailed mechanistic studies in the field and greenhouse. Among the different mechanisms driving forest dynamics, she is particularly interested in species interactions among plants, animals and microbes, and how these interactions can vary in sign and magnitude conditioning species coexistence and ecosystem function A large part of the ongoing research in her lab is motivated by the increasing problem of changing tree demographic rates (higher mortality, lower growth and regeneration) in forests worldwide, and in Mediterranean oak forests in particular.


April 8th, 2020
Leonor Calvo (Universidad de León)

"Megafires as a new challenge in the EU: fire ecology knowledge to better-informed decision-making"


Forest fires are a major threat throughout Europe, producing significant impacts in our ecosystems. In the last decades, large scale and more intense wildfires area becoming an increasing concern. These extreme wildfire or megafires events are determined, among other factors, by unfavourable meteorological conditions, such as heatwaves, and the increase in fuel loads and continuity in our landscapes. So, we are faced by a new wildfire context characterised by megafires with a rapid fire spread, intense burning, and unpredictable shifts, which produce extraordinary socio-economic and ecological impacts. For this reason, land management strategies need to account for the drivers of the forest fire regimes, which help to define pre-fire effective activities, and at the same time, the ecosystems resilience to identify the most suitable post-fire management strategies in order to facilitate the recovery of the ecosystems services (regulation, cultural and provisioning) provide by these forestry landscapes. In this new scenario of megafires we must find effective and reliable multi-scale tools for (1) analising the fire regeme parametres; (2) evaluating the drives of the fire severity; (3) identifying suitable severity indicators across different ecosystem compartments (vegetation and soil) and different levels of organisation; (4) predicting the post-fire regeneration of forest ecosystems. This knowledge help us in the design of pre- and post-fire management strategies to promote the recovery of the public goods and services provided by these landscapes, which are essential to the socio-economic development of rural areas.


Degree in Biology from the University of León in 1987 and the PhD in effects of perturbations in the terrestrial ecosystems in 1993 from the University of Leon (Spain). My research interests include plant community ecology and effects of perturbations in terrestrial ecosystems. I focus on the analysis of the effects of disturbances, mainly forest fires, on the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, mainly forestry, both at the community and landscape levels. Likewise, I am interested in the analysis of the effect of atmospheric nitrogen deposition and prescribed fires on the heathlands from the Cantabrian Mountain in Spain. I was an Assistant Professor from 2001 and since 2015 I have been accredited as Full Professor of Ecology. I coordinated 7 research projects and participated in more than 30 related to the analysis of the effects of perturbation in terrestrial ecosystems by studying the effects on the plant community and the mechanism of regeneration after perturbations.



2018 CREAF Talks


2017 CREAF Talks