The main research lines that I have pursued during my scientific career have aimed at improving our understanding on the key processes that govern the functioning and persistence of wood-pastures and forests and how these processes are affected by the components of global change. I have used this knowledge to inform management strategies that aim at improving the adaptive capacity of these systems. Throughout my scientific career, I have studied several components of global change, focusing mainly on those derived from the abandonment of agricultural lands. In my Ph.D., my research focused on the consequences of the global phenomenon of shrub encroachment on the pastoral value, persistence and water relations of Mediterranean wood-pastures. The main output of my Ph.D. research work was its contribution to maintaining a cultural landscape endangered by the lack of tree regeneration.
After the completion of my Ph.D., I continued to be interested in informing management strategies in a context of global change. This led me to take a postdoctoral position in the Department of Silviculture at the University of Mendel (Czech Republic). In this competitive position, I had the opportunity to test the impact of other components of global change of major importance for terrestrial ecosystems – CO2 fertilization. I tested if the admixture of two tree species of major importance for temperate forestry can help to mitigate the impact of CO2 fertilization. On one hand, I studied the feasibility of using mixed forest of Fagus sylvatica and Picea abies, to enhance soil carbon sequestration. On the other hand, I assessed how CO2 fertilization will affect the performance of these plantations.
During my stay in the Czech Republic, my research interests developed to understand how these principles of adaptive management could be used to address other global threats such as forest loss and subsequent restoration. This led me to take a position in the University of Pretoria (South Africa). My research activities focused on the recovery of regenerating coastal dune forest that develops after mining by applying a trait-based approach. This position, funded by the government of South Africa through a competitive call, allowed me to face the challenge of using functional traits to guide the recovery of a high diversity forest.
I have now returned to Spain with a Juan de la Cierva fellowship. In my current position, I used the knowledge acquired in my previous posts to inform management strategies aimed at reducing the impact of climate change on wood-pastures. Particularly, I have started a research line on the use of process-based models to predict the exposure to drought of wood-pastures at multiple spatial and temporal scales. In addition, I am also interested in understanding how changes in the functional composition of the herbaceous layer are key to understand the carbon balance of wood-pastures.