Integration of experimentation, models and images multiscale as a tool to manage multifunctionality in pastoral mountain systems

The project IMAGINE aims at assessing biodiversity and multifunctionality distribution in pastoral ecosystems, currently active or abandoned, at several scales in the context of global change through the analysis of drone and satellite multi-spectral imagery, in combination with other standard and cutting-edge molecular, analytical and modelling techniques.

The increasing capability to capture and process ecological images at multiple scales (regional, landscape, ecosystem, soil) is changing our understanding about ecosystem dynamics and the relationship between ecosystem patterns and processes, including the role of biodiversity on multiple ecosystem functions (multifunctionality).

In addition, the application of molecular techniques in ecological studies are revealing the fundamental role of soil diversity and function in interaction with plants and other organisms on ecosystem service provisioning. The combination of those techniques constitutes a powerful tool for the understanding of the role of biodiversity on the carbon and nutrient cycles under climate change, including greenhouse gas emissions, and for the management of agro-pastoral and forest ecosystems under global changes, including prescribed burns.

Based on the multidisciplinary expertise of the research group and an existing body of information gathered in previous projects, we select three areas within the Western Mediterranean region -Western Pyrenees, Eastern Pyrenees and Montseny- to assess the vulnerability of climatically contrasted Mediterranean mountains to global change factors, including climate and management changes, and abandonment.

Data within IMAGINE will feed regional studies in EU projects by members of the scientific team. At landscape scales, the project proposes the mapping of several ecosystem services, including wildfire regulation, quality forage provisioning and biodiversity conservation. At ecosystem and intra-ecosystem scales, IMAGINE proposes the combination of imaging with analytic and molecular techniques to increase our understanding about the mechanistic processes behind ecosystem service provisioning, including ecological interactions of biological diversity with the environment, and among organisms at different taxonomic levels.

Aerial view of one of the study areas of IMAGINE

Selected publications

Marí, T., Castaño, C., Rodríguez, A., Ibáñez, M., Lobo, A., Sebastià, M.T., 2020. Fairy rings harbor distinct soil fungal communities and high fungal diversity in a montane grassland. Fungal Ecol. 47, 100962.

Ibañez, M., Altimir, N., Ribas, À., Eugster, W., Sebastia, M.T., 2020. Cereal-legume mixtures increase net CO2 uptake in a forage system of the Eastern Pyrenees. Biogeosciences Discuss. 1–30.

Debouk, H., Emeterio, L.S., Marí, T., Canals, R.M., Sebastià, M.T., 2020. Plant functional diversity, climate and grazer type regulate soil activity in natural grasslands. Agronomy 10, 1291, 1–20.