Workshop on ecosystem services

Ecosystem services are the direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to the human wellbeing. The remediation of contaminated soils after the Aznalcóllar mine spill, and the restoration of the Guadiamar Green Corridor (Sevilla, Spain) provide with multiple ecosystem services to local and regional societies.

The stakeholder workshop for the evaluation of ecosystem services was held on November 29th 2017. Benefits arisen from the implementation of two remediation measures – amendment addition and tree plantations – were valuated by stakeholders.

This workshop was organized by the IRNAS, CSIC and Evenor Tech, in the Guadiamar Visitor Centre at Aznalcázar, Sevilla, thanks to the collaboration of Guadiamar Educa. It was part of the projects RECARE and RESTECO.

Stakeholders valuated mainly the benefits associated to regulation services, such as stabilization of contaminants, soil formation and mitigation of climate change by carbon sequestration. They also valuated highly the cultural services related with recreational activities, ecotourism, landscape value and the scientific interest as natural laboratory for environmental research. Lastly, some provisioning services were valuated, like production of biofuel and of forage for horses.

The workshop presentations and the Report with the results will be uploaded at the communication platform Recare-hub.

Contribution to Soil Organic Matter course

Under the current situation of climate change, the carbon storage in terrestrial ecosystems, particularly in forest soils, becomes very relevant for the mitigation of the increasing CO2 in the atmosphere and the reduction of global warming.

A conference about “The soil and organic matter in ecosystem services provision” has been delivered. After the general introduction of the concept “ecosystem services”, the importance of the regulation service associated to the soil carbon storage for the mitigation of climate change was explained. Examples of the projects RECARE and RESTECO were used to illustrate the importance of soil and its ecosystem services.

The conference was part of the Course “Soil organic matter: methods for analysis, and incidence on the environment and climate change”, coordinated by José María de la Rosa Arranz, held in the IRNAS, CSIC, Seville (Spain), during 16-19 Octobre 2017.

A pdf copy of the conference presentation can be downloaded from Digital CSIC.

Conference about ecosystem services in Córdoba University

The RESTECO researcher María T. Domínguez has given the conference “Soil contamination and provision of ecosystem services in the Guadiamar River Basin”, within the Open Classroom program of the University of Córdoba, Spain, on May 9th 2017.

In the conference, the main concepts relative to the role of soil provisioning ecosystem services were introduced. The Guadiamar River Valley was presented as a case study, where many works focused on the impact of soil contamination on the provision of ecosystem services have been carried out.

Biology degree students visit the Guadiamar River

On March 24th, the students of the subject “Ecology of Global Change: Current Transition of the Biosphere” visited the Guadiamar River basin. The subject belongs to the Biology degree of the University of Seville (US).

The objective of the excursion was to carry out an ecological and environmental analysis of the landscape and ecosystem transformations produced by the anthropic action during centuries in the outskirts of the city of Seville. The Guadiamar River, because of its ancestral importance as a source of water and resources, is a good example of these transformations that can be observed from its birth in the Sierra Norte until its mouth in the Guadalquivir River, in the marshes of the Doñana Park.

The professors María Cruz Díaz Antúnez-Barradas (US) and María José Leiva Morales (US) described the different ecosystems where the Guadiamar River flows. In its high part, in the mountain range, the Guadiamar River crosses forests and plantations of eucalyptus trees. In the middle section, the amplitude of the fluvial valley appears increasing riverside vegetation in the borders and meadows in the high zones. Further down, the river enters the Protected Landscape of the Guadiamar Green Corridor where the forest of the alluvial plains was reforested with Mediterranean shrubs and trees (oaks, olive trees, brooms, etc.), while the forest gallery shows poplars, ash trees and willows. Finally, in the low section, it ends in the marshes of Doñana, where crops of rice and brackish pastures appear.

At the Doblas stop (Sanlúcar la Mayor), Marta Gil Martínez (IRNAS-CSIC) was invited to talk about the consequences and restoration measures after the Aznalcóllar mine spill to the Guadiamar River, as well as the results of the investigations which is carried out by IRNAS-CSIC researchers in the Green Corridor (RECARE and RESTECO projects). Soil contamination by heavy metals, such as lead, zinc, cadmium and copper, affects the growth and health of plants, soil organisms and, in general, the ecosystem food web. Soil-plant-microorganism interaction is being investigated in soils with different levels of contamination. The ability of plants and their associated microbes to stabilize heavy metals in the soil (a technique known as phytostabilization) and thus reduce the risk of toxicity in the ecosystem is studied.

Soil organic matter and ecosystem services

The soil organic matter (SOM) plays an important role determining physical (structure, water retention), chemical (nutrient availability, buffer effect), and biological (microbial diversity, biologically active compounds) properties.

There is a generalized problem of organic matter loss in Mediterranean soils, and one of the solutions is to add compost from organic residues, as part of the circular economy.

Soils improved with compost provide with ecosystem services of provision (increasing food production) and regulation (nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration), thus contributing to human wellbeing.

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In the Guadiamar Green Corridor (Sevilla, Spain), we are evaluating the effectiveness of combined measures of amendment addition and tree plantation, for two ecosytem services: stabilization of trace elements, and storage of soil carbon.

The IRNAS researchers Teodoro Marañón and Engracia Madejón presented the opening lecture entitled “Soil functions and ecosystem services: the importance of organic matter” (in Spanish), within the V Jornadas de la Red Española de Compostaje, held at Sevilla, Spain, on November 16-18, 2016.

A pdf copy of the slides can be consulted in Digital CSIC repository.

The value of the forests

Forests have multiple values for human wellbeing. They provide with raw materials (timber, wood, cork) and food (nuts, fruits, mushrooms, cattle, game animals). These ecosystem services of provisioning have economic value recognized by the society and the market.

Other values are intangibles, like improving the quality of water and air, soil formation and protection against erosion, or the mitigation of climate change by carbon sequestration. These ecosystem services of regulation benefit all us, but society not always recognize and value.

Finally the forests have cultural services contributing to our physical and mental health. They are favourable spaces for outdoor recreation, give us aesthetic pleasure and spiritual comfort, have landscape values, and for many people represent identity and links with local culture.

maranon_ep2016The IRNAS researcher Teodoro Marañón has been interviewed in the report “Values of Andalusian forests” showed in “Espacio Protegido” by Canal Sur on November 2nd 2016.

The interview can be seen at Canal Sur online or the video in the Youtube platform.

Helping nature to help us

Changes in the natural capital’s properties influence soil processes, which support the provision of ecosystem services. The benefits produced by these ecosystem services are explicitly or implicitly valued by individuals and society. This can influence decision- and policy making at different scales, potentially leading to a societal response, such as improved land management.

A group of scientists within the RECARE project, including Teodoro Marañón (IRNAS, CSIC), has presented a comunication on soil-related ecosystem services at the session Strengthening Ecosystem Services Community of Practices, in the European Ecosystem Services Conference, with the motto “Helping Nature to help us”, that was held at Antwerpen, 19-23 September 2016.

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It was proposed an adapted framework for soil-related ecosystem services that is suited for practical application in the prevention and remediation of soil degradation across Europe. It will be applied in the 17 study sites included in the RECARE project.

Gudrun Schwilch, Simone Verzandvoort, Hedwig van Delden, Luuk Fleskens, Elias Giannakis, Teodoro Marañón, Jane Mills, Chris Short, Jannes Stolte (2016). Operationalizing ecosystem services for the mitigation of soil threats. En: European Ecosystem Services Conference, Antwerp, Bélgica, 19-23 septiembre 2016.

A copy of the presentation slides can be consulted here.

Presentation at 5th Ecosummit of Montpellier

ecos2016_300x250The 5th International Ecosummit, Ecological Sustainability, has been held at Montpellier, France, with more than 1,400 participants from 88 countries.

One of the scientific sessions was focused on Soil-plant interactions and soil ecosystem services delivery. In this session, researchers of IRNAS, CSIC have presented results on tree plantations in the Guadiamar Green Corridor (Seville, Spain) and their role in soil trace elements stabilization and carbon sequestration.

The importance of tree-soil interactions was remarked for the delivery of two ecosystem services: 1) improvement of soil quality by phytostabilization of contaminants, and 2) mitigation of climate change by carbon sequestration in biomass and soil.

Marañón, T., Domínguez, M. T., Navarro Fernández, C. M., Madejón, P., Burgos, P., Gil Martínez, M., & Murillo, J. M. (2016). Tree-soil interactions and the provision of ecosystem services in contaminated soils: trace elements phytostabilization and carbon sequestration. 5th International Ecosummit. Ecological sustainability. Engineering change. Montpellier, 29 August-1 September 2016.

Copy in pdf of the slides can be consulted in the CSIC repository.

Evaluation of forest ecosystem services in Andalusia (S Spain)

Castanea IstanForests are suppliers of important ecosystem services, provisioning (timber, foods, resins), regulating (improving air and water quality, soil protection, carbon sequestration) and cultural (recreation, aesthetic, spiritual) contributing to human well-being.

Researchers of the IRNAS, CSIC and EVENOR-TECH have evaluated the state and trends of ecosystem services provided by the forests of Andalusia (S Spain). In particular, changes during the last 50 years have been analysed for two main regulating services: soil protection from erosion and capacity of carbon storage.

In general Andalusian forests have increased their carbon storage by 3040 Gg C during the last 50 years, due to the plantations of conifers and eucalyptus. While the soil erosion risk has increased because the area of open spaces, deforested or burnt has tripled.

This study has been published in the August 2016 issue of the journal Ecosystem Services.

Anaya-Romero M, M Muñoz-Rojas, B Ibáñez y T. Marañón. Evaluation of forest ecosystem services in Mediterranean areas. Ecosystem Services 20: 82-90.