Understanding the effects of environmental stressors on ecosystems
Department of Ecology
Multidisciplinary Institute for Environmental Studies "Ramon Margalef"
University of Alicante
Pabellon 13. Ciencias. PO BOX 99, 03080 Alicante. Spain
Tlf: 965903400 Ext: 2232
Our research interests deal with the effects of environmental stressors on ecosystems. Through an ecosystem based approach, we try to understand how these stressors affect ecosystems to disentangle the consequences on the ecosystem functions and, thus on the services that ecosystems provide to society.
To do this we combine observational approaches (samplings) with manipulative experiments in the field, as well as in the laboratory.
We aim to provide environmental managers and policy makers relevant information and help them in the development of prevention, adaptation and mitigation measures against environmental stressors. We work towards the development of reliable tools to assess, monitor and mitigate the effects of the several environmental stressors that ecosystems are suffering.
Our area of study is generally coastal ecosystems, but we also work in land.
The main environmental stressors we study are pollution and the ones derived from climate change.
Keywords: Marine ecology, coastal pollution, ecosystem functioning, biogeochemistry, climate change, extreme events, invasive species, plastic pollution, material biodegradability, multiple stressors, seagrass ecology, ecotoxicology.
CURRENT AREAS OF RESEARCH
Most research on climate change has focused on the changes in the trends of mean climatic values, while extreme events have been studied to a much lesser extent, despite their catastrophic effects. Through manipulative experiment in the field and in the laboratory we study the effects of different types of extreme events (heat waves, storms, …) on different communities and the interactions with other environmental stressors.
We focus on these areas:
- Effects of different types of extreme events (heat waves, storms…) on biological communities
- Interactions of extreme events with other environmental stressors (invasive species, eutrophication...) .
- Specific methodologies developed to do manipulative experiments to test the ecological effects of extreme events
- Effects of climate change on marine biogeochemistry
We aim to quantify litter accumulation and identify the main drivers that promote its accumulation. We study the ecological effects of plastic pollution. We are familiar with microplastic extraction in different environmental matrices and their identification with Raman and FT-IR spectroscopy.
We focus on these areas:
- Estimating the concentration of plastics exported to the environment by human activities.
- Studying the ecological and biogeochemical effects of plastics.
- Estimating the biodegradability of conventional and bioplastics in marine and terrestrial conditions. comprising several ecosystem compartments.
- Quantification and drivers of accumulation of (micro-)plastic:
- Remote islands
- Urban areas
- Marine Protected Areas
- Contribution of microplastis by sewage treatment plants and effects on plants.
We study the effects of aquaculture in the environment focusing on:
- Impact assessment on the seabed.
- Patterns of diversity in different habitats and in different communities.
- Calculation of pollution thresholds.
- Multi-trophic integrated aquaculture (IMTA) and proposals for its implementation.
- Development of biological tools to monitor aquaculture residues.
- Using residues of mollusc shells to mitigate organic pollution following circular economy principles.
- Scientific advice to increase the sustainability of aquaculture.
DO BIOPLASTICS POLLUTE LESS?
Studying the biodegradability of bioplasticss
Pollution by plastics is a major environmental challenge due to its high production, poor waste management and low degradability. As a result, materials such as bioplastics are being developed. However, the biodegradability is very different between types of bioplastic, environmental conditions, or if they are found in the sea or on land. The objective of this project is to measure the degradability of these polymers by reproducing different terrestrial and marine ecosystems.