current projects

"A representative sample of the projects and activities in which I am currently involved"

Terrestrial and marine ecosystems provide essential services to human societies. Anthropogenic pressure, however, causes serious threat to ecosystems, leading to habitat degradation, “novel ecosystems” and increased risk of collapse, with related loss of ecosystem services. Knowledge-based conservation, management and restoration policies are needed, in order to improve ecosystem benefits in face of increasing pressures. ECOPOTENTIAL will make significant progress beyond the current state-of-the-art and create a new unified framework for ecosystem studies and management of protected areas (PA). ECOPOTENTIAL will focus on internationally recognized PAs in Europe and beyond; most PAs are UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites, Biosphere Reserves, national parks and Natura 2000 sites. LTER sites and Large Marine Ecosystems are included. Best use of Earth Observation (EO) and monitoring data will be made possible by new EO ecosystem data services (ECOpernicus). New modelling approaches able to include information from EO data will be developed, ecosystem services in current and future conditions will be assessed, and the requirements of future protected areas will be defined. Open and interoperable access to data and knowledge will be assured by a GEO Ecosystem Virtual Laboratory Platform, fully integrated in GEOSS. Support to transparent and knowledge-based conservation and management policies, able to include information from EO data, will be given. Knowledge gained in the PAs will be upscaled to pan-European conditions and used for planning and management of future PAs. A permanent stakeholder consultancy group (GEO Ecosystem Community of Practice) will be created. Capacity building will be pursued at all levels. SMEs will be involved to create expertise leading to new job opportunities, ensuring commercial uptake and long-term continuation of services. In summary, ECOPOTENTIAL will use the most advanced technologies to improve future ecosystem benefits for humankind.

Collaborative (re)design of the Natural Processes Monitoring Program of the Doñana Biological Station

In this project I am collaborating with the Doñana Biological Station in the evaluation and reorganisation of their Monitoring Program in the Doñana Nature Reserve, based on the lessons learnt during the last ten years. The program's historical goal has been to provide data and information to support the Reserve's managers in their decisions and conservation measures. In synergy with the recent inclusion of the Reserve in the Andalusian Global Change Observatory Network, the current reorganisation aims at collaboratively: (1) evaluating the program and establishing the objectives for the next monitoring period; (2) eliciting both conservation priorities and long-term research needs in collaboration with key stakeholders (e.g., Reserve's managers and decision makers); (3) redesigning measuring protocols and strategies as required. 

Benchmarking adaptive management in Doñana

In this research in collaboration with Spatial Ecology Group of the Doñana Biological Station we have detected a number of processes and functions at the institutional level that may be subject to improvement in a restoration project applying adaptive management tenets at the Doñana Nature Reserve. In this research, through process benchmarking, we are (1) undertaking a comparative analysis of the processes and functions that can be improved, and (2) generating specific guidelines of best practices in adaptive management.

Modulating contingency in explanations of institutional dynamics in social-ecological systems

Current development trends are causing major damages to our life-support systems. Thus, the need for transitions towards sustainability in the use of natural resources and ecosystems has been advocated along the last decades. This task requires a sound understanding of the architecture of the policy and institutional design of both the process of change and the target output. However, this constitutes a very uncertain task that, if improperly managed, might lead to less effective or even counterproductive designs.

This research aims at contributing to current research on the institutional conditions necessary for successful sustainability transitions in coupled social-ecological systems, addressing two interrelated theoretic-analytical concerns through an in-depth case study: the Doñana region (Guadalquivir estuary, south-west Spain). First, there is the need for enhanced historical causal explanations of present maladaptive social-ecological systems characterized by institutional rigidity. Second, there is the explanatory potential of political-economic interests, prevailing discourses and power, as contextual factors contributing to shape maladaptive outcomes, especially when the core logic of path dependence fail to predict those outcomes in historical, evolutionary perspective. When this occurs, such outcomes are often qualified as unexpected due to their divergence from purported superior, optimal alternatives, hence subject to contingency. The main argument here is that the latter can be modulated away from randomness and better characterized as unpredictability, through the systematic inclusion of the mentioned contextual factors into analysis. This would, in turn, increase our capacity to better inform future policy and institutional, transitional designs towards sustainability in social-ecological systems.

KNEU project  

BiodiversityKnowledge is an initiative by researchers and practitioners to help all societal actors in the field of biodiversity and ecosystem services to make better informed decisions. In this challenge, stakeholders are invited to develop an innovation called Network of Knowledge - an open networking approach to boost the knowledge flow between biodiversity knowledge holders and users in Europe.