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Ponencias Plenarias
 
Se impartieron un total de 6 ponencias plenarias a cargo de investigadores reputados ya consolidados así como de jóvenes ecólogos de brillante carrera emergente.
 
"Marine ecology: scientific challenges and societal needs"
 
MARE – Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal.
 
Marine ecology scientific research have been evolving towards more complex and holistic frameworks, addressing cutting edge topics, common to all environmental sciences. Although a large volume of literature have been published in recent years, several key research topics have been recognized as requiring further research, namely biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, relationships between human pressures and marine ecosystems, impacts of climate changes, assessment of the ecological quality of marine habitats, ecosystem services, habitat rehabilitation, ecosystem management and modelling of marine systems. These cutting-edge research topics not always correspond to what is important for human society, being often evident, for certain domains, a mismatch between current research challenges and societal needs. In this work we present some of the most important contributions to marine ecology science and we highlight the major needs for society, namely those related to food production and fisheries management, marine hazards, ecosystem health, recreation and cultural heritage.
 
 
"Implications of oak decline for the structure and functioning of Iberian forests" 
 
 
Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology (IRNAS), CSIC, Seville, Spain 
 
In the last decades widespread tree dieback has been documented in forests all over the world. In the Iberian Peninsula in particular, evergreen oaks Quercus ilex and Quercus suber are among the tree species most severely impaired by problems of defoliation and mortality. To date, the emphasis has been on analyzing the patterns and causes of this decline. However, much less is known about the consequences of oak mortality for the structure and functioning of declining forests. In this talk I will provide an overview of our current knowledge about the impacts of oak decline on plant and soil communities and the ecosystem processes that they control, using examples from recent work conducted in Q. suber forests of southwestern Spain.
 
The evidence thus far suggests that ongoing alterations in health and cover of canopy oaks do translate into changes in understory plants and microbial communities, and that such changes occur more consistently in terms of abundance and functionality than of taxonomic diversity. For example, the decline of Q. suber has been shown to reduce the abundance of seedlings and saplings of tree species, particularly late-successional oaks, but not of other functional groups such as shrubs or lianas. These differential responses among woody species could affect successional trajectories, potentially leading to vegetation shifts. Belowground, the decline of Q. suber has been linked to lower soil respiration rates but higher heterotrophic respiration and microbial biomass, altered probabilities of establishing mycorrhizal interactions, higher pathogen loads, lower nematode abundance, and an increasing role of bacterial-feeder nematodes in soil food webs. Overall, the process of oak decline seem to translate into functionally altered above- and below-ground biotic communities that could threaten the quantity and quality of the goods and services provided by these valuable forest systems.
 
 
Rúben Heleno, Ecología de Comunidades, (CEF/UCoimbra)
 

Centre for Functional Ecology, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, 3000-456 Portugal.

 

In recent decades, the use of network analysis has grown popular as a framework to explore ecological processes and the relationships between community structure and its functioning. The field has rapidly developed and contributed with several important descriptors of biological communities, such as connectance, nestedness or network specialization. By evaluating emergent properties of biological community and their constituent nodes (e.g. species, individuals), networks provide a dynamic viewpoint from which ecologists can simultaneously “see the forest and the trees”. Modularity analysis”, is a recent and highly promising descriptor of ecological networks which allows us to detect nuclei of strongly interacting species within large interaction networks. These nuclei, or modules, are delimited by the interaction patterns of the species and not by arbitrary decisions of the researchers and thus can provide a very special insight into the organization of biological communities or the very “architecture of biodiversity”. In this talk I will present data on insect- and bird-pollination, frugivory and seed-dispersal, plant-mycorrhiza associations and bat-roost networks, from broad geographic contexts such as the Galápagos and the Canary Islands, the Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique and Europe to highlight the potential of modularity analysis to ecology. Specific questions will be addressed on the fields of biogeography, community organization, inter-habitat connectivity and applied conservation planning.
 
"How is diversity maintained during host and parasite adaptation?" 
 
CE3C: Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes Faculty of Science University of Lisbon Edificio C2,30 Piso Campo Grande P-1749016 Lisbon, Portugal. 
 
The maintenance of diversity is a classical, yet unresolved issue in both Ecology and Evolution. One tempting hypothesis is that organisms cannot simultaneously adapt to all available habitats: there is a trade-off between traits allowing adaptation to each environments. I will present data aiming at testing this hypothesis in two host-parasite systems: one composed of parasitic spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) and their plant hosts and another of Drosophila melanogaster hosts infected with either bacteria or viruses. The data will show (i) which traits have evolved in response to a biotic challenge and (ii) what are the consequences of such adaptation for host/parasite niche breadth. Finally, with the Drosophila system, the genomic changes associated to adaptation to viral pathogens revealed a simple genetic basis of resistance. Overall, adaptation entailed an expansion of niche breadth, with low specificity. This generalist response was also patent in the properties of the genomic changes associated to adaptation. Therefore, diversity in these systems is not maintained by genetic trade-offs, but may rely on competition among colonizing and resident populations.
 
"How can large flightless beetles disperse by flight? The role of the omnivorous gulls on an oceanic island"
 
 
Island Ecology and Evolution Research Group (IPNA-CSIC). Astrofísico Fco. Sánchez no. 3, 38206 La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
 
The enigma of how large insects can colonize oceanic islands has not being satisfactory explained and often has been attributed to stochastic processes linked to oceanic rafts or other undocumented means of dispersals. Once on an island, these insects often undergo processes of evolutionary radiation, as in the case of the 13 taxa of Pimelia (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) within the Canary archipelago. Field observations carried out in 1986 (El Hierro island), revealed that omnivorous gulls (Larus michahellis) can regurgitate large intact Pimelia laevigata (≈ 16 gr), some of which survived digestion by this large bird. In response to this observation we developed a research project funded by the Canary Island Government (2010-2013). We recorded this process in at least 15 times in the field, and also under experimental conditions. Furthermore, the frequent and high consumption of Pimelia by seagulls takes place during spring and the beginning of summer, coinciding with the optimum maturation of the female eggs. Therefore, post-regurgitation colonization success of this beetle is presumably favorable. A parallel study on mitochondrial DNA has been developed, whose preliminary data indicate a lack of population genetic structure within Pimelia of El Hierro, which, at least in part, could be attributable to this singular phenomenon. Although at the moment we are unable to extrapolate biogeographical implications of this particular process in a context of oceanic islands, this is the first time that is documented how a bird can successfully disperse an invertebrate. 
 
 
"Gypsum plants: living on the edge" 
 
Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científica, Rgto. Galicia, s/n. 22700 Jaca, Huesca, España. 
 
The occurrence of special substrates such as saline, serpentine, dolomite or gypsum soils, with a distinct flora associated to them, has puzzled naturalists for centuries. Some of these substrates, and the adaptations displayed by plants to cope with them, are quite well understood. Such is, for example, the case of saline and serpentine soils, where distinct traits have been identified as characteristic of plants adapted to them. However, other substrates like gypsum soils are still poorly understood, and the mechanisms displayed by plants to survive on them pose intriguing questions to ecologists.
 
Gypsum (CaSO4•2H2O) is a rock-forming mineral that also occurs in soils. Gypsum outcrops are widespread throughout the Earth, being present in the five continents. They are particularly prevalent in arid and semi-arid regions of Africa, Western and Central Asia, where they account for ca. 40%, 75% and 25% of the total surface, respectively. Gypsum is also a key water-holding mineral of Mars, and a targeted substrate in the search of extra-planetary life. Due to its particular physical and chemical properties and the aridity typical of the areas where gypsum soils develop, this type of soil poses very restrictive conditions to plant life, yet it hosts a highly diversified flora, rich in endemic and rare species.
 
This talk is an invitation to discover the most recent advances on the ecology of gypsum plants. We will take a closer look at the diversity of gypsum plant communities, examine the different limitations that restrict plant growth on gypsum soils, explore the various mechanisms displayed by plants to cope with them and analyze the dangers that threaten the conservation of these unique environments.