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Research

MedRecover research is focused on providing spatial and temporal baselines to assess (at population and community level) the impact, recovery and consequences of the strong disturbances associated with global change, and to develop predictive tools to explore future trajectories of affected communities. To achieve this, an original interdisciplinary approach has been adopted including temperature and ecological surveys at population and community levels, and population genetic analysis and modelling. Finally, the group has developed an active communication strategy for managers and the public, to transfer the knowledge needed to implement effective conservation and management plans.

What conservation problems?

Increasing evidence demonstrates that global change is already affecting terrestrial and marine ecosystems. In the marine realm, the main disturbances linked to global change are overfishing, pollution, mechanical habitat destruction, invasive species and, more recently, global warming. Coastal marine habitats are a focus of attention as they harbour high biological diversity, are among the most productive systems in the world, and present high levels of anthropogenic interaction. Biodiversity loss in coastal marine ecosystems is increasingly impairing the ocean’s capacity to provide ecosystem services such as food supply, maintain water quality and recreational benefits.

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What research goals?

The aim of the MedRecover research group is to obtain further information on the consequences of global change in marine ecosystems. The group identifies and characterises impacts on marine biodiversity, and develops the capacity to foresee future changes and implement restoration measures in marine communities. To achieve these objectives, MedRecover has adopted a multidisciplinary approach to integrate different levels of biological organisation, from individuals to communities, as well as relevant time and space scales.

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What Biological models?

The main objective of MedRecover is to contribute to the conservation of rocky coastal ecosystems, by focusing on the main Mediterranean benthic species and communities.

In particular, we research on photophilic and sciaphilic algal communities and coraligenous communities, which are experiencing the same problems, despite their differences: an increase in the number of disturbances related to human activities. For conservation purposes, it is essential to understand how these communities function and to assess the main impacts on them. Given the complexity of carrying out studies at community level, our research also focuses on the study of model species, which are of key importance from an ecological and heritage point of view. These serve as models that are used to explore the effect of disturbances and changes at community level.

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Main study sites

The MedRecover group works in several marine reserves and adjacent areas along Mediterranean coasts, mainly in Spain and France. The choice of reserves as study sites is fully justified by the fact that they are one of the main tools for conservation biology. Marine reserves provide a valuable reference of the state and functioning of marine ecosystems, as they are not subjected to most of the disturbances that affect many marine areas. Furthermore, the regulation of activities within these areas mean that studies can be designed that assess the effects of different type of disturbances and the effectiveness of management measures. Likewise, selected marine reserves are subject to varying environmental conditions: gradient from north to south, continent versus islands, and/or sites which have suffered different degrees of strong disturbances, such as mass mortality events and invasive species. Overall, the study of marine reserves enables us to carry out comparative studies, formulate hypotheses on the future evolution of ecosystems, and evaluate impacts at spatial scales that have rarely been examined in the past.

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