New Project to Link Extreme Weather Events, Atmospheric Biodiversity and Human Health

A new ICTA-UAB project led by researcher Jordina Belmonte will study the effects of extreme meteorological events on the biological biodiversity present in the atmosphere in order to predict changes in the environment and possible affectations on human health.

Bolivian Amazon on road to deforestation

Amazon biodiversity hotspot to suffer even more “alarming” losses after contentious law passed, according to a study involving ICTA-UAB researchers.

ICTA-UAB’s success: five ERC grants in two years

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) has been awarded five European Research Council (ERC) grants in two years, which is about ten per cent of all ERC grants arriving in Catalonia over the period from the end of 2015 to the end of 2017.

Scientists Alert of Swift Degradation of Marine Ecosystems and Grave Consequences for the Planet

A book edited by researchers from the ICTA-UAB, the UB, the CNRS and the IEO addresses the concept of "animal forest" and highlights the importance of the role seas and oceans have in combating climate change.

New ICTA-UAB map shows success, concerns and challenges of the transition away from fossil fuels and coal industry in Australia

Resistance against massive coal-mining in Australia and a growing movement for a ‘just transition’ from fossil fuels have enjoyed some success but face massive challenges, as shown in a new map developed by researchers from the international ACKnowl-EJ project of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB)  and the Australian Environmental Justice (AEJ) research team at the Centre for Urban Research (RMIT University.

ICTA-UAB researcher Victoria Reyes-García receives an ERC Consolidator Grant

ICREA researcher at ICTA-UAB Victoria Reyes- García has been graced with a Consolidator Grant of the European Research Council (ERC) for the development of a project aimed at bringing insights from local knowledge to climate change research.

Research to study the health effects of forests

The ICTA-UAB, CREAF and the "la Caixa" Bank Foundation recently presented the project "Healthy Forests for a Healthy Society".

Blockadia map by ICTA-UAB reveals global scale of anti-fossil fuel movement

A new interactive map by researchers of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) reveals the worldwide impact of resistance direct actions by people putting their own bodies in the way of fossil fuel projects.

Launch of the Alliance of Severo Ochoa Centres and Maria de Maeztu Units of Excellence

​ The Secretary of State for R&D+i, Carmen Vela, chaired the kickoff meeting of the new Severo Ochoa and Maria Maeztu Alliance of Excellence.

Green gentrification can limit the favourable effects of green areas on health

A scientific research conducted by ICTA-UAB and IMIM suggests that more socially disadvantaged neighbours do not benefit equally from the effects newly created green areas have on health.

Oil contamination in the Amazon modifies chemical composition of rivers

A scientific study by the ICTA-UAB and ISS-EUR quantifies the environmental impact of oil extraction activities and contamination in headwaters of the Amazon.

ICTA-UAB researchers alert that oil palm plantations produce infertility in tropical lands

Oil palm plantations are replacing 40% of tropical forests and 32% of basic grain crops, according to an ICTA-UAB research conducted in Guatemala.

EJAtlas Includes 2,100 Case Studies on Socio-Environmental Conflicts Around the World

The Environmental Justice Atlas (EJAtlas), created by researchers of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), currently includes 2,100 cases of ecological distribution conflicts identified in different parts of the world.

Ice age thermostat prevented extreme climate cooling

During the ice ages, an unidentified regulatory mechanism prevented atmospheric CO2 concentrations from falling below a level that could have led to runaway cooling, reports a study conducted by researchers of the ICTA-UAB and published online in Nature Geoscience this week.

The New Theory of Economic “Agrowth” Contributes to the Viability of Climate Policies

 ICTA-UAB researcher Jeroen van den Bergh publishes in Nature Climate Change a study in which he proposes a new economic theory compatible with the fight against climate change.

New ICTA-UAB 'Welcome Guide'

The new ICTA-UAB 'Welcome Guide' it is at your disposal now. With this document, we aim to help you discover the basics of the PhD programme, ICTA-UAB’s structure, etc.
Scientists Alert of Swift Degradation of Marine Ecosystems and Grave Consequences for the Planet

Date: 2017-12-20

A book edited by researchers from the ICTA-UAB, the UB, the CNRS and the IEO addresses the concept of "animal forest" and highlights the importance of the role seas and oceans have in combating climate change.

Researchers from the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), the University of Barcelona (UB), the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Spanish Institute for Oceanography (IEO) alert about the progressive deterioration of marine ecosystems and the serious consequences this can have in conserving the planet from today's global climate change.

A book edited by Sergio Rossi from the ICTA-UAB, with Andrea Gori (Faculty of Biology, UB), Lorenzo Bramanti (CNRS), and Covadonga Orejas (IEO) manifests that in the past 20-30 years human actions have caused dramatic and highly accelerated changes in marine ecosystems, altering their natural ability to absorb the growing amounts of CO2 found in the atmosphere. The book Marine Animal Forest, published by Springer Nature, provides a broad view on the planet’s deep sea ecosystems populated by animals anchored to the seafloor, and addresses the fairly unknown subject of "marine animal forests".

This terminology refers to communities living at the bottom of the ocean (benthic communities) and dominated by corals, gorgonians, sponges and (immobile) bivalves which form highly complex three-dimensional structures which in turn serve as home to many other species.  "These communities are similar to land forests in structure and function although they are made up mainly of animals instead of plants", explains Sergio Rossi. As in forest ecology, the concept aims to provide a common framework for a type of system which functions based on a common strategy: filtering water particles, "which is why they are called benthic suspension feeders which feed off of suspended material" Rossi highlights. The ICTA-UAB researcher emphasises that the "marine animal forest" or "animal forest" is probably the most extensive structure on the planet, given that 70% of the planet's surface is covered by seas and oceans, and contains 90% of life on Earth. Nevertheless, "the unexplored parts of this animal forest is enormous" and this indicates that "we only know about 5% of what lies at the bottom of the ocean, from a biological and community viewpoint, which is very little when compared to our knowledge of land surface".

According to Andrea Gori (UB), "this new volume is the result of the contributions of researchers who study several organisms from different perspectives, and who for the first time coincide in a publication on the general concept of animal forests which demonstrates their important ecological role as structural species of marine ecosystems".

Researchers also mention that the effects of human activities are producing a dramatic loss in biomass and biodiversity, as well as a lower recovery capacity.  The importance of animal forests not only resides in the fact that they provide ecosystem services such as food, protection and refuge for marine fauna, but also that they play a fundamental role in the hydrodynamic and biogeochemical cycles of the seabed, acting as a sink for the carbon emitted by humans into the environment. "The role of forests as carbon sinks is essential, but this has not been taken into account in conservation models and no one has calculated how much carbon can be absorbed. This data simply does not exist", Rossi remarks. The main problem lies in that many of these forests are made up of longevous animals which can take hundreds of years to grow, as happens with surface trees. When they are destroyed by deep sea trawling or mining, the corals, sponges and gorgonians can take a very long time to recover.

For humans, marine animal forests provide services such as fishing, precious corals and species for pharmaceutical and medical purposes, construction materials and souvenirs to be sold to tourists, and their systematic disappearance has repercussions on the economy. All of these services are threatened by human impact and global climate change. In addition to destructive and excessive fishing practices, contamination, uncontrolled aquaculture, oil and gas exploitation, and coastal development, the effects of global climate change must be taken into account, such as global warming, water acidification, a rise in sea levels, icebergs melting and the increase in frequency and intensity of hurricanes. "All this will lead to the degradation of biodiversity, the destruction of complex ecosystem structures and the loss of ecosystem services", Rossi warns.

The book gathers the joint experience and knowledge of a large number of marine scientists involved in the exploration, research and conservation of marine communities, offers a detailed description of marine animal forests and analyses the effects of anthropogenic impacts. An example is the in-depth study of gorgonians which, due to their nature, are replacing corals which disappear from areas such as the Caribbean. "They are more flexible to changes and adapt better, but they store less carbon and their structures do not form reefs such as hard corals, nor are they more resistant to hurricanes", Rossi says as he also highlights that "99% of the energy of waves reaching the coastline during a hurricane is absorbed by coral reefs. The disappearance of these reefs and other complex and longevous biogenic structures only accelerates the degradation process occurring across the planet, which is transitioning towards more simplified and opportunistic systems". 

For this reason, scientists send out a common warning about these ecosystems. "If we do not take precautions, the most complex and biodiverse ecosystems may disappear in a few decades, as are many of the phanerogam forests and longevous marine algae disappearing now due to direct and indirect human actions". 

Rossi S., Bramanti L., Gori A., Orejas C. (Eds.). Marine Animal Forests. The Ecology of Benthic Biodiversity Hotspots.  2017. 1366. ISBN: 978-3-319-21013-1

ICTA's Activities