The project is to achieve a comparative study of (1) the ecological functions and (2) the responses to management practices and environmental changes of the two main oak forest landscapes found in the Western Mediterranean region: the coppices of Southern France and Italy and the savannalike oak woodland of the Iberian Peninsula (dehesas and montados).
These two objectives need to be addressed at two different ecological levels:
(1) at the landscape level and
(2) at the tree level for different spatial scales (local to regional levels).
The working hypothesis considers that the main ecological factor controlling the dynamics of these ecosystems is water availability, which varies greatly in time and space. Moreover, this constraint can be aggravated by inadequate management practices. In order to cope with the temporal variability, the forest plant species react principally by changes in leaf-area, depth of root and opening of stomata. The modifications of the leaf-area index allow an adaptation to the alternance of wet and dry year cycles typical of the mediterranean climate. During the ecosystem dynamics (decline of agricultural practices, coppices), this control results in an overall adjustment of the leaf-area index. In the edaphic or water resource gradients, this index changes and tends to decrease in parallel with the water resource. The understanding of this adjustment mechanism implies consideration of both this functional equilibrium and, secondly, its interpretation in terms of ecosystem vulnerability to management practices and climatic stresses. It is easy to demonstrate that, for the mediterranean region, even small changes in annual rainfall or temperature increases considerably, the frequency of occurrence of high risk events for the forest vegetation.
Field study sites will be established in Southern France, Italy, Spain and Portugal in order to improve the understanding of the key processes involved in the ecological function of these ecosystems at different hierarchical levels. The simultaneous development of remote sensing and GIS studies in France, Spain and Portugal will lead to a regional comprehension of some structural parameters of these landscapes taking into account the mosaic of specific vegetation types in the region.
Synthesis of the results obtained by both local and overall approaches and for vegetative responses over times ranging from a growing season to several decades (age of the formations under study) will be performed. This will provide some of the basic knowledge necessary to predict the responses of Mediterranean oak forests and woodlands to anthropogenic and natural perturbations and for setting up a long-term management and protection strategy for these ecosystems.
Call for proposalData not available
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts