Theoretical Ecology and Biodiversity Change Lab

Momentos  - Spatial scaling of species diversity

Project Momentos (PTDC/BIA-BIC/5558/2014) has as its main assumption that any description of biodiversity that does not explicitly include species abundances is likely to miss important relationships on how species interact with the environment, assemble into communities, or evolve in time. However, biodiversity is not a fixed quantity, when sample size increases the number of species increases and the species relative abundances change. But if the scaling patterns on the number of species as a function of sample size have been studied thoroughly, those of species abundances have not. The number of species and their abundances are important descriptions of a community, but to fully understand an ecosystem one needs to know how species impact its functioning, i.e., the functional diversity, and this is also a function of sample size. This project aims at answering the question: How do the relative abundance of species and the functional diversity change as a function of sample size? The novelty of our approach lies on the premise that we should focus on the description of how diversity changes as a function of sample size and not on its characterization at one single scale. We use the species abundance distribution (SAD) to describe species relative abundance in a community. A SAD contains information on the number of species, the number of individuals and how these are distributed among species. However, because we are interested in the description of the SADs at several scales, we need to develop methods to describe how the distributions change as function of sample size. Although the research proposed in this project is original, it builds on theoretical and empirical research already published, thus its methods have already been tested and stand on firm ground. It is clear from our previous work, however, that much remains to be done, and it is the objective of this project to fill in those gaps.

NGC - Next Generation Conservation: preserving the continuum of life in space and time

Given the present biodiversity crisis and the limited resources to preserve it, one of the major international goals is to improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding species and genetic diversity in conservation areas¿ networks (Convention on Biologic Diversity Aichi Targets - strategic goal 6). Standard conservation prioritization approaches use species as currencies for biodiversity, disregarding that some species are more similar to each other than others, and that intra- specific genetic diversity is essential to allow adaptation to environmental changes and maintenance of evolutionary processes. Evolutionary processes and adaptive potential are often overlooked since phylogenetic and genetic data are unavailable for most organisms. Thus, addressing evolutionary processes in conservation planning requires understanding of historical processes that shaped current spatial biodiversity patterns to identify effective surrogates. This project aims at developing a novel and general framework to assist in delineating priority conservation areas, optimized to preserve biodiversity at different evolutionary levels, while accounting for adaptive potential and evolutionary and spatial dynamics under climate change. To develop this framework, we will study spatial patterns of diversity of Iberian amphibians at different evolutionary levels (inter- and intra-specific) to infer the historical, geographic and environmental factors underlying those patterns. We will then investigate whether the relevant factors may constitute effective surrogates for genetic diversity in data-limited taxa, and develop generalized conservation planning rules based on our findings. We will combine molecular, spatial and decision analyses in order to answer the following questions: Are species distributions efficient surrogates for inter- and intra-specific diversity? Which environmental or geographic variables can be used as efficient surrogates for inter- and intra-specific diversity? Are priority conservation areas identified based on neutral diversity alone also suitable to preserve the adaptive diversity? How can we optimize priority conservation areas to simultaneously preserve inter- and intra-specific diversity (both neutral diversity and adaptive potential)? Which areas should be preserved and managed in order to represent and ensure persistence of overall evolutionary amphibian diversity in the IP while accounting for predicted future climate changes?

Riverscale  - Ecological patterns and processes across scales - application to river networks

Fresh water bodies play a major role in the maintenance of terrestrial ecosystems. However, they are presently under several threats, ranging from climate and land use change to species introductions, thus, their proper conservation and management are environmental priorities. This project looks at the diversity of riparian vegetation within the entire geographical region of continental Portugal using the data collected under the Water Framework Directive. Biodiversity has several components, including not only the number of species, but also their relative abundance and functional roles in a community. The major novelty of this project is to add to the traditional study of the several diversity components the description of their scaling properties. ?Scaling properties? are those observed when one considers several scales simultaneously. The species area relationship is an example of a scaling property because it reveals how the number of species changes as a function of a scale ? the area. However, other diversity components tend to be analyzed at one single scale, for instance, the species abundance distribution (SAD). In such studies it is implicit that the scale chosen is representative of all other scales, however, that is often not the case, including for the SAD. Therefore, instead of looking at only one scale, one should concentrate on describing how the diversity aspect under consideration changes across scales - an idea borrowed from fractal studies. To our knowledge this is the first time that a data set covering a territory with a wide range of habitats will be analyzed taking into account this approach. The project evolves along three activities: The first deals with the basic ecological description of the diversity patterns and associated processes in riparian communities all over continental Portugal, the second will apply this information to problems of climate and land use change, and the third to species introduction. Importantly, this project complements the ongoing FCT project PTDC/BIA-BIC/5558/2014, led by Luís Borda de Água. The latter project is theoretical oriented hence, can provide tools to the data analysis but, on the other hand, will benefit from having a large data set to test the methods developed. The main results of this project encompass basic and applied ecology. On the basic side is the exploration of new ways of describing ecological patterns and their relations with known processes. On the applied side is the collection of information that can be used in conservation and management projects.

Primeira fase da Cátedra Infraestruturas de Portugal

No âmbito do projeto de execução da Variante entre a Estação do Pinheiro e o km 94 da Linha do Sul, ficou a REFER obrigada a realizar um Programa de Monitorização da Fauna (PMF) para a Fase de Exploração, que avaliasse os potenciais impactes da entrada em funcionamento da Infraestrutura: (i) na permeabilidade da via à fauna terrestre não-voadora, (ii) na mortalidade provocada por colisões, e (iii) no potencial efeito de exclusão para as aves.Deste programa resultaram três relatórios (relatório de Junho de 2013, relatório de Junho de 2014, relatório de novembro de 2014) que integram a análise dos 2 anos de monitorização da permeabilidade da via, e os dados das 16 campanhas realizadas. Neste âmbito efetuou-se a resposta às primeiras três questões constantes no documento de Operacionalização do Programa de Monitorização da Fauna, tendo por base os dados de monitorização de 18 passagens Hidráulicas e de Fauna, a realização de transetos de monitorização de mortalidade de fauna terrestre e voadora, e o cálculo de variáveis em Sistema de Informação Geográfica.

Ainda como parte da primeira fase da cátedra, ir-se-á editar um livro visando especificamente o impacto de estruturas ferroviárias na biodiversidade em geral e, em particular, em populações de animais selvagens.