The Sierra Nevada, natural laboratory of biodiversity


Traditionally known for its natural values, the Sierra Nevada is currently one of the main centers of biodiversity due to the scientific knowledge generated by the study of its ecosystems, which makes it a natural laboratory to understand how they function in scenarios of overall change.

The wealth of information generated by the study of its ecosystems is what the book brings together “The landscape of the Sierra Nevada. A unique global process laboratory in Spain”, considered as the first monograph of a single mountain range with an interdisciplinary approach by bringing together information on all abiotic factors (climate and geology), a biological inventory (plants and animals, aquatic and terrestrial) and the human dimension in the mountains.

The uniqueness of the Sierra Nevada is that it is so “varied and heterogeneous” that the knowledge of its ecosystems can be extrapolated, at least, to the rest of the European and North African mountains, explains to EFEverde Regino Zamora, professor of the Department of Ecology of the University of Granada and editor of the book with the professor of l University of Barcelona Marc Oliva.

Climate change and rural abandonment

Among the advances and scientific knowledge that the study of the mountain range has brought in recent times, both through the satellites and sensors installed there and through the behavior of its ecosystems and lagoons, are those related to the change climate, such as evidence of the significant increase in temperature over the past hundred years.

His study also showed the rural abandonment of mountain areas, something that “curiously, this had a positive effect: the recovery of the vegetation cover”much more abundant today than fifty or sixty years ago, stands out.

Another aspect that differentiates the Sierra Nevada from other mountain ranges is its ability to retain species due to the fact that it is so “large and heterogeneous” and the range of temperatures in the area, which allows it to have corners where “any species can spend time”, even if the conditions are not the most favorable.

It is, ultimately, a “mosaic of shelters” which allows the species to “live reasonably well” thanks to the heterogeneity of this natural space, according to Zamora, for whom the Sierra Nevada still has much to contribute to scientific knowledge as a natural laboratory that can be extrapolated, at least, to the rest of the European and North African mountains.

Sierra Nevada, natural laboratory

Since 1970 there have been more than 800 scientific publications on the biodiversity, environment and ecological aspects of the Sierra Nevada in which more than 1,500 researchers from different research centers in Spain and other countries have worked.

The book published today by the Springer publishing house, which joins these other scientific publications, underlines the relevance of the ecosystems of the Sierra Nevada as natural laboratories for understanding the functioning of ecological systems in scenarios of global change, with their regional and global connections.

It also shows to what extent the singularity of the massif (its geographical position, its high endemicity, its climatic variability, its secular anthropogenic impact, its strong ecological gradients linked to altitude or unique ecosystems such as remote process detection) makes the knowledge generated in the Sierra Nevada of great interest to the international scientific community.

It is the result of the work carried out at the Sierra Nevada Global Change Observatory, as a space for collaboration between the University of Granada and the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Blue Economy.

Character font: EFE GREEN

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