Training school

Intensive Course on Restoring degraded lands to improve biodiversity: hands on a quarry site

Coordinator: Cristina Branquinho

Scope

Land Degradation caused by human activities affects a large area of the world land, including the SW region of Europe. Its effects on ecosystems are deep and widespread and are expected to increase under a global change scenario. Our sustainability on the planet depends on the understanding of how to repair and/or manage damaged and threatened ecosystems. Ecological Restoration and Sustainable Land management are the most positive cost-benefit approaches. Restoration efforts in the Mediterranean Basin have been changing from a silvicultural to an ecological restoration approach. However, these projects are seldom guided by ecological restoration principles, as shown by Nunes et al. (2016). This work showed that restoration in EU countries relies on non-native plant species. Unexpected results (e.g. inadequate biodiversity) were reported for 50% of the projects and restoration success was never evaluated in 22%. Long-term evaluation (>6 years) was only performed in 31% of cases, and based primarily on plant diversity and cover. Absent or inappropriate monitoring may prevent the understanding of restoration trajectories, precluding adaptive management strategies, often crucial to create functional and sustainable ecosystems. This survey highlighted the need for improved scientific assistance and information exchange for planning and implementation, for greater use of native species of local provenance, and for long-term monitoring and evaluation, including functional and ecosystem services' indicators, to improve and spread the practice of ecological restoration. The effect of environmental changes on ecosystems varies according to their resilience, which depends on biodiversity. Traditionally, ecologists have used the taxonomic diversity of communities to assess biodiversity changes in ecosystems. However, environmental changes may lead to compositional shifts in communities over time, which may or may not precede species loss, but might nevertheless affect ecosystem functioning. Species influence ecosystem processes via their functional traits. Functional traits are species attributes, measurable at the individual level, that influence their responses to environmental conditions (by affecting their fitness), or determine their influence on ecosystem properties. Quarries are natural laboratories of extreme situations of land degradation where experiments can be undertaken to test different restoration techniques, and indicators to monitor their success.

Aim

Demonstrate under field conditions a series of experiments developed to restore quarries that are also useful for other types of land degradation. This course aims to: (i) demonstrate the latest scientific and technical advances in land restoration to improve biodiversity; and (ii) develop practical skills concerning tools to monitor restoration success, using biodiversity-based metrics. Adding to these objectives we expect participants to exchanged their own experience with scientists and practitioners of different disciplines involved in the restoration and the monitoring of degraded drylands.

Structure

Show under real conditions a diversity of restoration techniques, their experimental approaches, and outcomes. By the end of the course the participants will have:

1) acquired silks to evaluate functional diversity, in field conditions: sample, identify, calculate, and interpret different biodiversity-based metrics in different species from different taxa, namely functional diversity.

2) compare different biodiversity-based metrics as indicators of the restoration success.

Fees and other useful information

Training school registration will have an extra fee of 45€ which will include lunch, coffee breaks, transportation inside the cement plant and insurance against personal accidents and is restricted to a minimum number 10 participants and a maximum of 25. This activity will be held at SECIL-Outão cement plant. It is advised to book a room in Setúbal city during this period (4th May – 5th May). Special prices on accommodation will be arranged at specific hotel units. Arrival to Setúbal will be made through transportation of the field trip (registration in field trip for training school attendees is mandatory). Travel expenses between Setúbal and cement plant will be made by public bus transportation (further instructions will be given to attendees).

Reference

Nunes A, Oliveira G, Mexia T, Valdecantos A, Zucca C, Costantini EA, Abraham E, Kyriazopoulos A, Salah A, Prasse R, Correia O, Milliken S, Kotzen B, Branquinho C. 2016. Ecological restoration across the Mediterranean Basin as viewed by practitioners. Science of the Total Environment, 566:722-732, DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.05.136.