Interview Fernando T. Maestre (UA) – Project BIODESERT

The BIODESERT project is a combination of field observations of dryland ecosystems collected around the world, satellite data, mathematical and statistical modelling and manipulation experiments conducted in the field and under controlled conditions. It is funded by the ERC.

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Department of Ecology and Multidisciplinary Institute for the Study of the Environment “Ramón Margalef” (IMEM) University of Alicante.

Current European projects:

  1. Probing the active fraction of biocrust microbiomes in the face of climate change (MICROBIOCLIM) > MSCA.
  2. The contribution of mycorrhizal fungi to multifunctionality in global drylands (MYFUN) > MSCA.
  3. Biological feedbacks and ecosystem resilience under global change: a new perspective on dryland desertification (BIODESERT) > Excellent Science – European Research Council.

El proyecto BIODESERT, financiado por el CEI, tiene por objeto:

  1. Test how changes in climate and grazing pressure determine spatiotemporal patterns in ecosystem functioning in the global drylands
    Assess how the attributes of biological communities, such as biodiversity, modulate the resilience of ecosystems (e.g. their ability to respond to and recover from shocks) to climate change and grazing pressure at various spatial scales (from local to global).
  2. Testing and developing desertification early warning indicators.
  3. Foresee the onset of desertification and its ecological consequences in different climatic and grazing scenarios.

How can your European research project help society now or in the future?

Identifying the consequences of climate change and desertification on arid ecosystems and providing information to establish effective mitigation measures.

How is research done on this topic? What kind of results are obtained?

We carry out multidisciplinary work that includes both fieldwork and laboratory and cabinet work on multiple spatial-temporal scales (from the genes of soil microorganisms to the planet as a whole and from years to centuries). We obtain information about the characteristics of the vegetation, the soils and their microbial communities and the climate of arid ecosystems scattered around the planet, which we then analyze using statistical techniques.

How’s your work team?

Multidisciplinary, international and joint.

What challenges do you face for the future?

A few! Perhaps one of the ones I want to work on is to evaluate in detail the impacts that forest reforestation programs have on arid ecosystems around the planet, which are being proposed as a key solution to combat climate change and desertification.

Why is it important for people to support and institutions to fund research projects like this?

Because drylands are key to achieving sustainable development goals and understanding the impacts of climate change and desertification is essential for effective mitigation measures.

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