CREAF Expertise

Research done in our center is now classified into six cross-cutting topics and four research areas.

Objectives

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.

Objectives

Ecosystem or environmental services are those services resulting from ecosystem function which are of utility to society, promoting wellbeing. Examples are the production of clean water, soil formation, climate regulation by forests, pollination, etc. Though many of these services go unnoticed, they must be conserved because they support human health, economy, and quality of life. When they are not adequately preserved their degradation is accompanied by serious negative affects for human wellbeing. For this reason, ecosystem services are increasingly being moved to the center of national and European policies, and used as indicators of the quality of society's interaction with the environment. The next step is to place ecosystem services in the centre of decision-making and environmental policies. Once this is done we will have the tools to identify what management options can help mitigate the effects of global change, optimize the benefits, and avoid costs and potential risks to ecosystems and societies.
  • Social and ecological vulnerability: We identify the ecosystem services of watersheds in order to establish adaptation measures which increase their resilience.
  • Definition, evaluation and mapping of biophysical indicators: We measure the main functions and ecosystem services of forests, including provisioning services (mushrooms, fresh water), regulating services (carbon sink capacity of forests, water regulation), cultural services (nature tourism) and support services (biodiversity).
  • Prediction and models: We formulate predictions of climate change’s impacts ecosystem services and their adaptation, with particular attention to extreme climatic phenomena. To accomplish this we integrate models for land use change, forests, and the landscape.
  • Remote sensing and GIS: Using remote sensing data (MODIS, Landsat, Sentinel, etc.), we conduct monitoring over time and space and create cartographic products for ecosystem service indicators.
  • Synergies and trade-offs: We analyze synergies and trade-offs between different ecosystem services on the ground (spatial relationships) and with time (temporal relationships), also taking into account relationships between flows of service supply and demand.