Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Perennial vegetation, an indicator of desertification in Spain

08.09.2009
A team of scientists has analyzed 29 esparto fields from Guadalajara to Murcia and has concluded that perennial vegetation cover is an efficient early warning system against desertification in these ecosystems. The study has been published in the Ecology magazine.

In order to foresee the appearance of desertification processes, defined by the United Nations as the "degradation of the land into arid, semi-arid and sub-humid areas, resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activity", the team of scientists from the Rey Juan Carlos University (URJC) has evaluated the spatial distribution of vegetation as an "early" indicator of the appearance of desertification processes.

To do so, they analyzed the formations dominated by esparto or needlegrass (stipa tenacissima), one of the most representative ecosystems in the Iberian Peninsula.

Fernando T. Maestre is the main author of the study published in the Ecology magazine and is the Senior Lecturer at the Higher School of Experimental Sciences and Technology of the URJC. "The losses of vegetable cover in the ecosystems studied lead to a decrease in the fertility and functionality of the ecosystem and bring about the beginning of desertification processes", he explained to SINC.

After characterizing the spatial distribution of the vegetation and analyzing the fertility of the soil and the capacity of the ecosystem to recycle the organic matter into nutrients which can be assimilated by the plants, the researchers showed that the spatial distribution of the vegetation on all the plots of land was characterized, from the statistical point of view, by displaying a potential "truncated" distribution. This takes place when the areas of vegetation of the greatest size are lost.

In spite of the above, "the plots studied showed, for example, a great variation in aspects as important as the content of nitrogen and phosphorus, while many of them did not display any symptoms of undergoing desertification processes", indicated Maestre. The researchers also found that the total vegetation cover was "positively and significantly" related to the fertility of the soil.

The conclusions indicate that perennial vegetation cover, "a parameter easily attainable by means of taking samples in the field or air photographs", can be used in a "satisfactory and robust manner" in order to evaluate the early appearance of desertification processes in semi-arid esparto fields.

18% of the surface area of Spain, at risk

Identifying that a specific ecosystem is undergoing desertification is of "great importance" when identifying the causes which are leading to its desertification and for knowing how this complex phenomenon may affect its functioning and the services it provides. Besides, "the search for early warning desertification indicators allows us to establish management and restoration measures before the degradation process of the ecosystem becomes irreversible", indicated Maestre.

Nevertheless, these results do not support those obtained by another team of researchers, whose study was published in 2007 in Nature (449: 213�). This research endorsed the use of the spatial distribution of vegetation as a universal indicator of the early appearance of desertification processes. "In that work, it was suggested that when the vegetation of a specific area characterized by a potential distribution becomes characterized by a potential truncated distribution, the risk of desertification is imminent", clarified Maestre.

Spain is the country with the greatest risk of desertification in Europe. According to the estimates of the Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs, 18% of the surface area of Spain displays a high or very high risk of suffering this phenomenon. Desertification has already had significant consequences from the ecological and socio-economic point of view all around the world, and "directly affects about 250 million people in the developing countries", according to the estimates Maestre made in another study published in 2007 in Science (316: 847-851).

References: Maestre, Fernando T. y Escudero, Adrián, "Is the patch size distribution of vegetation a suitable indicator of desertification processes?", Ecology 90(7):1729-1735, julio de 2009.

SINC | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.plataformasinc.es

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>