Forests are the most prominent and influential terrestrial ecosystems on the planet.  They cover approximately 30% of the Earth's surface and are found on all of the continents. They contain 80% of terrestrial ecosystem's plant biomass and account for 75% of gross primary productivity. Forests provide a large number of ecosystem services which are vital for society. They absorb and fix carbon, play a key role in the regulation of water resources, and curb erosion and desertification processes. They also help regulate gas exchange, produce wood, and favor the conservation of biodiversity and habitats. However, global change has significantly modified the structure, composition and functioning of forest ecosystems. Forests are being affected by different natural processes and disturbances, such as forest fires, acid rain, drought, and pests, as well as different forest management regimes.

In this area, CREAF focuses its research on the structure, dynamics and functioning of forests. In particular, we study the decline, regeneration and global functioning of forests by studying nutrient and water cycles and uses. In addition, we develop mathematical models, carry out forest inventories, and create databases. The results of this research are used to plan and improve sustainable forest management strategies that allow us to preserve the natural, social and economic value ​​of forests.

The main lines of work and expertise of CREAF in this field include:

  • Forest dynamics: We analyze forest dynamics and long-term changes in the structure, composition and functioning of these ecosystems. For this work we carry out forestry inventories which are repeated over time, or we design targeted programs to monitor forest health.
  • C stocks and flows: We identify the patterns of distribution of carbon stocks and flows in forests.
  • Water economy: We identify the ecological factors regulating the water economy of woody plants.
  • Nutrient cycles: We study forest nutrient cycles and uses and changes in each.
  • Functional traits: We characterize the global patters of functional trait distributions in both plants and animals.
  • Animal communities: We study the effects of forest dynamics on animal communities.
  • Vulnerabilities to climate change: We study the vulnerability of forest ecosystems to disturbances and climate change.
  • Metabolomics: Using metabolomic techniques, we study the adaptive responses of forests to global change.
  • Forest-atmosphere: We study forest-atmosphere relationships and how these are modified with global change.
  • Modeling: We create models of forest dynamics under different scenarios of climate, disturbances, and changes in use.
  • Ecosystem services: We develop indicators to measure the ecosystem services provided by forests.
  • Sustainable forest management: We design and implement sustainable forest management measures to reduce forests' vulnerability to environmental impacts.
  • Adaptation of forests to climate change: We propose forest adaptation strategies so that they will be able to cope with extreme climatic phenomena and climate change.

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