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Members in Action: CREAF

Sunday, September 6, 2020  
Posted by: Keith MacCallum
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CREAF is a public research centre dedicated to terrestrial ecology and territorial analysis, producing knowledge and methodologies for conservation, management and adaptation of the environment to global change. Our objective is to work as a bridge between academia, administrations and society, promoting awareness and exchanging knowledge within its scope of activities at the local, regional and global levels.

At the end of October 2019 we received the Severo Ochoa Research Excellence Accreditation with a proposed strategic research plan to provide knowledge to the most important environmental challenges of the 21st century. After a rigorous international evaluation, the distinction was awarded based on our scientific results and strategic programmes presented.

Our multidisciplinary research portfolio integrates fundamental research advances with important contributions in environmental issues of great socioeconomic impact. We dedicate a special attention to soil function and recovery, as it responsible for key ecosystem functions such as the production of food and biomass, nutrient recycling and the sustainability and biodiversity of terrestrial ecosystems.

The main lines of our work and experience in this soil function and recovery include the following:

  • Soil quality. Analyse the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil.
  • Soil ecology. Evaluate the taxonomic and functional diversity of belowground trophic webs in natural and managed ecosystems, with special mention to their role in C sequestration.
  • Nutrient cycles. Quantify C storage, soil-atmosphere gas exchange, and nutrient cycles, with particular emphasis on N and P. Our studies include natural soils as well as soils affected by anthropic disturbances (e.g. global change or pollution).
  • Restoration of degraded land. We work in land restoration at different scales (from the plot to the landscape level) and from different approaches (ecological restoration, Natural Based Solutions, recovery of the fertility and biodiversity of agricultural soils…). We also do research on the creation of techno soils, combining mineral and organic waste
  • Soil contaminants and remediation. Carry out evaluations on the necessity and/or required intensity of restoration activities and their effectiveness with time.
  • Ecotoxicology. Evaluate the ecotoxicology of contaminants and wastes using standardized bioassays (ISO, OECD) based on microorganisms, plants and invertebrates.
  • Organic wastes and amendments. Analyse the use of organic amendments to improve soil fertility or decontamination, as well as post-treatments which improve their efficiency.
  • Soil genesis and optimal use. Assess the genesis and diversity of soils of a given area, as well as optimal uses and limitations.

Some of our projects on the research field in the soil function and restoration area are as follows:

  1. The Green Link - Restore desertified areas with an innovative tree growing method across the Mediterranean border to increase resilience
  2. ImbalanceP - Effects of phosphorus limitations on Life, Earth system and Society.
  3. StoiCa - Resilience of stoichiometry in subartic soils under temperature-induced Carbon losses: where does the Nitrogen go?
  4. Fert-Warm - Saturation of carbon sinks: from a CO2 and N fertilization-dominated period to a warming-dominated period.
  5. PHUSICOS – about Natural Based Solutions to reduce risks in mountain landscapes.

Through excellence in science, we push the frontiers of knowledge of some of the biggest and more complex challenges currently faced by society. Research done in our centre is now classified into four research areas: global change, biodiversity, earth observation and ecosystems functioning. And in six cross-cutting topics: forests, Mediterranean basin, ecosystem services, sustainability, citizen science and big data and data quality.

Becoming a member of the Society for Ecological Restoration means for us having a voice in one of the most prestigious international forums on ecological restoration and, in particular, soil recovery. In addition, it allows us to share knowledge and access to revised scientific research, news, events and opportunities, as well as web seminars and sessions led by experts in the field of ecological restoration.

The CREAF researchers associated to SER as active members and their specialities are as follows:

Pilar Andrés, specializes in soil ecology, biodiversity and sustainable land planning and management. From basic and applied research, she faces the conservation and restoration osf soil biodiversity and derived ecosystem functions.

Vicenç Carabassa, specialized in restoration ecology and rehabilitation of degraded soils (mine, landfields, road slopes), works on the development of tools to monitor and execute the restoration process, and on the design of new techniques to create technosols.

Xavier Domene, his field of study is the ecotoxicology of soils in both laboratory and field work, the biology and protection of soil functions, and carbon sequestration.

Josep M. Espelta, analyses forests and, in particular, the factors and processes that determine their natural dynamics in environmental gradients and in the face of disturbances, such as fires, drought or herbivory.

Guille Peguero, researcher at the Global Ecology Unit specialising in biodiversity. His research work has focused on next generation ecosystems, the impact of global change on Mediterranean forests and the differential adaptation capacity of dryland grasses.

Josep Peñuelas, Highly cited from ISI Essential Science Indicators in ecology, environment, plant and animal biology, agricultural sciences, geosciences and in all scientific fields. He is one of the most respected and influential ecologists in the world today.

Angela Ribas, specialized in next generation ecosystems, ecology and ecophysiology and in atmosphere-biosphere interaction in the context of terrestrial ecosystems.

Santi Sabaté, examines the structure and functioning of ecosystems, carbon, water and nutrient balances, as well as the ecophysiological responses of forests to climate change, drought, fire and management

CREAF is a consortium between different public entities, including the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), the University of Barcelona (UB), the Institute of Catalan Studies (IEC), the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), the Government of Catalonia, and Interior and the Institution of Research Centres of Catalonia (CERCA).


CREAF is a business member of the Society for Ecological Restoration.