ICTA-UAB researcher Gara Villalba receives an ERC Consolidator Grant

The European Research Council (ERC) announced the recipients of its Consolidator Grant competition: 291 top scientists across Europe.

The ICTA-UAB awarded an Erasmus+ for running a project on higher education and research in Biosphere Reserves

For the first time since its founding, the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) has been awarded approximately 1 million euros by the European Commission through the Erasmus+ funding scheme.

ICTA-UAB contributes to bridging science and society in the 100xCiencia.3

ICTA-UAB took part in the 100xCiencia.3 “Bringing Science and Society”, the annual event of the SOMMa Alliance held on November 15th at the CNIO in Madrid.

Citizens prefer landscapes that combine nature with built infrastructure

A pioneering study analyses the photographs shared by citizens in social networks to evaluate the aesthetic consideration of natural landscapes.

Co-managed small-scale fisheries lead to social and ecological improvements

The co-management model of small groups of fishermen contributes to a greater abundance and habitats of species.

ICTA-UAB to design participative and concurred forest fire prevention strategies for the Montseny region

Scientists from the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) aim to design prevention strategies for forest fires occurring in the Montseny Biosphere Reserve through a citizen participation process.

Nace El Observatorio del Besòs: un proyecto de seguimiento de la calidad de los sistemas fluviales de la cuenca

La Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) a través del Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA-UAB), y el Consorci Besòs Tordera evaluarán el estado de calidad a largo plazo de la cuenca del Besòs gracias a la creación de la Observatorio del Besòs.

Shift in large-scale Atlantic circulation causes lower-oxygen water to invade Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence

The Gulf of St. Lawrence has warmed and lost oxygen faster than almost anywhere else in the global oceans.

Climate Change Modifies the Composition of Reefs

Corals devastated by climate change are being replaced naturally by other species such as gorgonians, which are less efficient in acting as a carbon sink.

ICTA-UAB launches the first master’s Degree in “Political Ecology. Degrowth and Environmental Justice”

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) launches the master’s Degree in “Political Ecology.

Pioneering study analyses the effects of forests on human health

A group of volunteers have participated in an experimental study conducted by the ICTA-UAB to analyse the potential health benefits of forests.

Marine Litter on Mediterranean Beaches Triples in Summer

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) analyses and quantifies the waste generated by tourists in eight islands of the Mediterranean as part of the European BLUEISLANDS project.

Mapping the Urban Vitality of Barcelona

Researchers at the UAB have mapped Barcelona and and 9 surrounding towns using a new methodology based on urbanism activist Jane Jacobs' ideas on how cities should be configured to become vital spaces: 25% of the area is classified as having high vitality.

Agricultural intensification not a “blueprint” for sustainable development

Social and ecological results of increased agricultural intensification are not as positive as expected.

Green urban planning must consider social equity criteria

Cities that do not include social equity criteria into their political strategies to make their urban environment greener and more ecological will not achieve long-term sustainability and risk creating green enclaves only for the social elite.

The ICTA-UAB alerts of a new invasive Asian beetle pest in Catalonia that kills mulberry trees

A study by researcher of the ICTA-UAB and the Department of Agriculture Víctor Sarto i Monteys has identified in the province of Barcelona the presence of a species from Asia that could spread through Europe.

More than 120 ICTA-UAB researchers addressed environmental challenges at a symposium, especially those arising from global and...

The Institut of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) organized its 1st Spring Symposium with the aim of addressing some of the main environmental and sustainability challenges.

Low-carbon energy transition requires more renewables than previously thought

A new study by ICTA-UAB analyzes the impacts on lifestyles of substituting fossil fuels for cleaner energies.

Climate Change Threatens World's Largest Seagrass Carbon Stores

Shark Bay seagrass carbon storage hotspot suffers alarming losses after a devastating marine heat wave, according to a study led by ICTA-UAB researchers.

Amazon's indigenous people hunt animals feeding in areas contaminated by oil spills

A study by the ICTA-UAB and the UAB Department of Animal Health and Anatomy demonstrates that the main species hunted by the indigenous popoulations of the Peruvian Amazon ingest water and soil contaminated with hidrocarbons and heavy metals.

The new Planttes app warns of allergy risks in different urban areas

The Planttes application is a citizen science project which aims to encourage people to identify and locate on a map the existence of allergy-causing plants and indicate their phenological state.

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.

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  http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319210117

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