Projects as a principal investigator

Project 1

Climate change impacts on soil MICROorganisms: disentangling the implications for the health and FUNctioning of Mediterranean forests (MICROFUN)

P.I. Lorena Gómez-Aparicio & Ignacio M. Pérez-Ramos

Funding: Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness

Duration: 2019 - 2021

The general objective of this project is to advance our understanding of the impacts of climate change on soil microorganisms in mixed Mediterranean forests disturbed by the exotic soil-borne pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi, and to disentangle the implications for forest health and functioning. The initial hypothesis is that an experimental rainfall reduction and an increase in temperature will produce additive or non-additive changes in the abundance, diversity and composition of soil microbial communities (bacteria, fungi and oomycete), with cascading effects on tree species performance, disease incidence, species coexistence, and the carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycle.

Experiment of rainfall exclusion (Alcornocales Natural Park)

Project 2

Dehesa systems coping with global change: a multi-functional approach (DECAFUN)

P.I. Ignacio M. Pérez-Ramos

Funding: Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness

Duration. 2016 - 2019

The main objective of the present project consists of analyzing experimentally the impact of two sources of stress (climate and land-use changes) on functioning of mediterranean savannah-like ecosystems (dehesa systems) via changes in the functional structure and diversity of plant and soil microorganism communities. For this purpose, we will set up a manipulative experiment of rainfall exclusion and increased temperature in three dehesa systems facing a different grazing intensity. We will use a trait-based, multidisciplinary and multi-trophic approach, quantifying relevant functional attributes not only in dominant plants but also in the soil biota that interacts with them for the provision of key ecosystem services related with net primary productivity and the biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous. In addition, we will evaluate the potential role of isolated trees to mitigate the impact caused by the on-going aridity conditions. We hypothesize that the increasing aridity will exercise a strong impact on the functional structure and diversity of plant and microbial communities, with important repercussions for ecosystem processes and services. In general, it would be expected that the most important changes occur in those dehesas facing to a higher grazing intensity, likely as a consequence of the strong filter of both stress sources.The findings provided by this project will be contribute to better understand the ecological consequences of global change drivers on ecosystem potential to deliver relevant services as well as to implement successful management and conservation plans in future environmental scenarios. 

Project 3

Epigenetics and adaptive evolution of herbaceous species in response to climate change in Andalusian dehesa ecosystems (EPIGEHESA)

P.I. Ignacio M. Pérez-Ramos

Funding: Biodiversity Foundation

Duration: 2017 - 2018

The effect of aridity and warming forecasted by Climatic Change models on plant
communities will depend on its capacity to acclimate and adapt to new
environmental conditions. This acclimation process is mainly driven by
epigenetic regulation, changing structural and chemical modifications on the
genome but with no effect on the nucleotide sequence. In plants, one of the best-known epigenetic mechanisms is cytosine-methylation on some genome regions,
altering chromatin structure and therefore regulating gene expression. In this
project we evaluated the effect of aridity and warming through simulation of
climatic change (30% rainfall reduction and local warming using Open Top
Chambers) in Hordeum murinum subsp. leporinum, a grass species widespread in
mediterranean savanna-like ecosystems and relevant in agroforestry systems.
The epigenetic variability was determined using the MSAP technique
(Methylation-Sensitive Amplified Polymorphism), yielding methylation-sensitive
markers. The existence of specific patterns among climatic treatments was also
analyzed. The results obtained highlight the importance of epigenetic regulation
processes, providing high levels of phenotypic plasticity facing changing
environmental conditions, and, therefore, a high acclimation potential in the
context of Global Warming.

Project 4

Spatial patterns of effective seed dispersal in two oak species: an experimental approach using neighbourhood models 

P.I. Ignacio M. Pérez-Ramos

Funding: Spanish Association of Terrestrial Ecology (AEET)

Duration: 2013

The general objective of this project was to evaluate whether the effectiveness and spatial variation of  the process of seed dispersal in two coexisting oak species could be predicted from composition and spatial distribution of neighbouring trees and shrubs. For this purpose, we used a spatially-explicit approach considering not only the number of seeds dispersed but also the quality of the microsites where these seeds were dispersed.

Project 5

Environmental factors as drivers of mast seeding in tree species across Europe (EUROMASTING)

P.I. Ignacio M. Pérez-Ramos

Funding: LIFE Call (MAPAMA)

Duration: 2010 - 2013

In this project, we were interested in analysing long-term data set on reproductive and vegetative growth of European tree species (mainly Quercus spp. and other widespread tree species) along a wide gradient of environmental conditions in order to determine whether mast seeding is more consistent with the resource-matching hypothesis or the economy-of-scale hypothesis. For this purpose, we explored the presence of switching by examining the relationship between the reproductive effort (seed production) and the vegetative growth (such as radial stem growth or leaf litter production).In addition, we also tested whether this phenomenon is more intense in sites with more limiting resources.

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