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New Biodiversity Monitoring Center of Mediterranean Mountains

The new Biodiversity Monitoring Center of Mediterranean Mountains is promoted by the University of Barcelona and the Barcelona Provincial Council, with the support of the Biodiversity Foundation from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

The new Biodiversity Monitoring Center of Mediterranean Mountains is promoted by the University of Barcelona and the Barcelona Provincial Council, with the support of the Biodiversity Foundation from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Professor Joan Real, from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio).

Professor Joan Real, from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio).

Long-term biodiversity monitor and research projects are some of the most efficient tools to track global change  (image: Àlex Rollan, Conservation Biology Group, UB-IRBio)

Long-term biodiversity monitor and research projects are some of the most efficient tools to track global change (image: Àlex Rollan, Conservation Biology Group, UB-IRBio)

Developing a monitoring program for invertebrates with a forest ranger of the Natural Park of Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac (image: Vicenç Bros)

Developing a monitoring program for invertebrates with a forest ranger of the Natural Park of Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac (image: Vicenç Bros)

The experts Joan Real and Antonio Hernández Matías also collaborate with the team of Dr Charles Krebs in the boreal forests of Kluane (Yukon, Canada). (image: Joan Real, Conservation Biology Group, UB-IRBio)

The experts Joan Real and Antonio Hernández Matías also collaborate with the team of Dr Charles Krebs in the boreal forests of Kluane (Yukon, Canada). (image: Joan Real, Conservation Biology Group, UB-IRBio)

The Mulligans Flat Woodland Experiment in Australia is also a scientific reference for UB and IRBio researchers (image: Joan Real,Conservation Biology Group, UB-IRBio)

The Mulligans Flat Woodland Experiment in Australia is also a scientific reference for UB and IRBio researchers (image: Joan Real,Conservation Biology Group, UB-IRBio)

22/02/2017

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Discovering the changes in biodiversity over time in Mediterranean ecosystems and having a diagnose of the state of nature on a regular basis is the main objective of the new Biodiversity Monitoring Center of Mediterranean Mountains, led by Professor Joan Real, from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio).

 The new Center, located in La Mata de Mura building in the Natural Park of Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac, is one of the pioneer initiatives in the Catalan area and in Spain within the field of biodiversity preservation and management studies, and is co-funded by the University of Barcelona, the Barcelona Provincial Council, and the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

A station to monitor the state of biodiversity

Society has daily indicators that show the state of economy, such as the gross domestic product or GDP, stock exchange, social situation (employment rate, etc.). These indicators, which allow having an annual diagnose of the socio-economic status of our surroundings, should also enable us to improve policies and people’s status.

In a constantly changing world, and in our country, we do not have indicators for the state of our surrounding biodiversity and nature so that we know about the situation of natural resources and processes on which we depend (in short, the “health state” of our environment). Therefore, and looking up to pioneer countries in this field, the Biodiversity Monitoring Center of Mediterranean Mountains has been created. Located at the Natural Park of Sant Llorenç del Munt, the center aims to create indicators for biodiversity, establishing monitoring protocols to be applied in this Natural Park as a pilot area, and which can be extrapolable to other areas with Mediterranean ecosystems, through the coordination of all those interested institutions and researchers.

In a situation marked by the impact of global change, having long-term information on the biological and environmental elements of specific areas –though scientific and standardized protocols- is an essential tool to understand the occurring changes and predict future situations.    

“Long-term biodiversity monitor and research projects are some of the most efficient tools to track global change and also to control what happens locally” says Joan Real, director of the UB Conservation Biology Group, linked to Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences and the IRBio, and head of the new Pilot Monitoring Center for the Mediterranean Mountain Biodiversity.  

Although it is more common to have scientific monitoring stations in other knowledge fields –for example meteorology-, there are few available infrastructures and equipment in this territory.

“Getting information about species, habitats and ecological processes over time as well as information on the factors involved in changes is essential to establish management and preservation policies -in protected spaces and all the territory- apart from conducting a sustainable management in natural resources and a better planning and management of the territory. The areas where these controls are carried out would be the ‘weather stations’ of biodiversity” says Joan Real. “Moreover, all these scientific data will be health indicators of the state of the ecosystems we live in”.

Looking for key indicators for environmental change

In this situation full of environmental challenges, the project for the creation of the Biodiversity Monitoring Center of Mediterranean Mountains started in June 2016, with the creation of an inventory to track the information on biodiversity in Catalonia in order to create key indicators for the biodiversity in Mediterranean ecosystems.

“The specific objectives of the project –says Joan Real- are based on the selection of a set of key indicators and the creation of standardized and applied biodiversity protocols, both for species, habitats, ecosystems and ecological processes, and in accordance with the international protocols of action in this field, and collaborating with the monitoring already carried out by several institutions in Catalonia”.

In a first stage, some areas, properties and parcels of the Natural Park of Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac will be the place to set the standardized protocols and monitoring methodologies for the selected indicators. Working protocols, initially in the area of the Natural Park of Sant Llorenç, will also be extendable for common Mediterranean ecosystems in other geographical areas, and specially, in protected areas such as the ones that build up the Natura 2000 network.

According to the director of the Natural Park of Sant Llorenç del Munt, Àngel Miño, “having continuous information on the state of nature will help us understand the past and predict the future”. According to Miño, this knowledge is essential to foresee possible dramatic changes and start looking for solutions: “The example of natural parks as environment observatories is ideal to seize global changes, since they are natural ecosystems influenced by human activity in a controlled and planned way, creating a greater stability than the rest of the territory; therefore it is unthinkable to have a dramatic change in their uses”.

The set of scientific monitorings and protocols to be driven by the new Pilot Center can only be unfolded within institutional collaborations, which can bear current and future initiatives, in Catalonia and other regions and ecosystems with a global perspective. “The resulting information, on the one hand, has to be essential in the framework of environmental changes that our ecosystems receive, and on the other, a new strategic element for a sustainable management of resources and preservation” says Joan Real.

International collaboration in long-term monitoring

Long-term biodiversity monitorings to know more about global change in ecosystems is a tool that has been used for a long time in other countries, and consists on setting monitoring stations in which managers and researchers collaborate. In this global framework, researchers from the UB Conservation Biology Group established collaborations that allowed them to have solid bases in the initiative set in Catalonia. The three main centers to inspire this initiative were Mooligans Flat Woodland Experiment in Australia, promoted by the Australian government and the Australian National University; Hubard Brook Ecosystem Study, in New Hampshire (United States) and the Community Ecological Monitoring Program (CEMP) in Canada, among others.

One of the most distinguished collaborations is with the team of Dr Charles Krebs (The University of British Columbia, Canada), a prestigious ecologist and reference in the field of community ecology who, since 1973, has led the Community Ecological Monitoring Program (CEMP), one of the oldest and most complete biodiversity monitors worldwide, carried out in the boreal forests of Kluane (Yukon, Canada). The participation from researchers Joan Real and Antonio Hernández-Matías (UB-IRBio) in this international project has a dual objective: adapting indicators and monitoring protocols from the CEMP project to the Pilot Monitoring Center for the Mediterranean Mountain Biodiversity conducted in Catalonia, and also, starting a project in Yukon to study the observed changes in the interspecific relations between primary consumers and predators (Canadian lynx, etc.) and assessing whether its origin is circumstantial or related to global change.   

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