Millenary changes in the ecosystems of insular National Parks

Millenary changes in the ecosystems of insular National Parks: perturbations, resilience, and trends after the seagrass archives


Call Supporting Scientific Research Projects in the National Parks Network, 2014 

Main Researcher: Miguel Ángel Mateo Mínguez, Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Blanes (CSIC)

Image Resources: CSIC


Natural or anthropogenic perturbations are one of the main drivers of change in the ecosystems. Such change occurs at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Discriminating between real state changes, cycles, and trends, is often difficult or not possible without the adequate time perspective. For this reason, long, detailed, and reliable series of data of relevant ecosystem functional and structural variables, are a central priority for natural reserves managers. Long-term series can be generated from monitoring programs or sought in human, biological, or geological records. The former can provide detailed and high-quality information but because of their costly implementation they are often denied by the administrations or drastically limited to a few variables. The later, the modern palaeo-reconstruction techniques can provide an extraordinary wealth of qualitative and quantitative information on environmental and biological features of the ecosystems along very long periods of time and with a remarkable time resolution. 

High human population densities along the coasts of the world, are resulting in constant and intense impact along the coastal environments. Paleo-reconstructions can provide valuable insights on these impacts and on the responses of the ecosystems.


Also, those peaty sediments have been found to hold a remarkable stock of carbon in the organic form. In a warming planet, the study, conservation, and enhancement of efficient carbon sinks have become a priority owing to its potential contribution in the offsetting the rise in atmospheric CO2. 


This project proposes

1. to take advantage of the aforementioned paleo-archives as tools for the reconstruction of the dynamics of coastal and terrestrial ecosystems in the coastal zone of the National Parks, as interacting with natural and anthropogenic perturbations, and

2. to assess and price the carbon stocks and fluxes associated to the seagrass sediments.

Both objectives use the same ‘object’ of study and share exactly the same methodology. The objectives will be achieved by the participation of an international consortium of 25 researchers that will study geological, chemical, micro-paleontological, molecular, genetic, palinological, and isotopic proxies, together with archaeological and historical information in the two Spanish Insular National Parks.

These proxies will help the managers to set background levels (pre-anthropic), to disambiguate between human and natural derived impacts of perturbations, to identify, date, and predict the evolution of invasive species, or to quantify the primary effects of atmospheric CO2 rise in coastal (e.g., sea surface warming and acidification) and terrestrial (e.g., erosion, acidification) ecosystems, among many other features.


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