Environment & Ecology

Environment & Ecology

1 The challenge of preserving biodiversity, the functioning of ecosystems and the environmental services requires innovative approaches both to better know (conceptual level) and to better manage (applied level) the ecological systems. The nature of the threats that ecosystems are currently facing makes traditional experimental approaches insufficient nowadays, although they are necessary and essential. At the conceptual level, experiments in land lots carried out under controlled circumstances are certainly essential to evaluate hypotheses about how nature actually works. Nevertheless, increasingly nowadays, ecology professionals are required to put them within the context of the main environmental problems that humans are facing, with their global character and multiple dimensions.

2 To integrate such a context implies the challenge of studying ecological systems at time and space levels that differ from the ones existing in controlled experiments. Moreover, trying to understand the ecological consequences of, say, climate, atmospheric and territory-usage changes requires placing an emphasis on the different organization levels. This involves the study not only of tangible entities, such as individuals and populations, but also of organization levels with more undefined limits and with changing intangible features, such as communities and ecosystems.

In EKOFASTBA we acknowledge these challenges and have developed full methodologies for remote sensing in ecosystems.

Remote sensoring studies to describe soil coverage, which improve the characterization of landscape heterogeneity and allow us to describe spatial patterns of structural ecosystem units (distribution of vegetation types, for instance). The identification of these patterns is a fundamental step in the development of hypotheses about the control of ecological processes and in the monitoring of changes and uses of soil coverage
Studies aimed at understanding the matter-energy exchanges between the biota and the physical environment. To characterize these exchanges, spectral indexes have proved very efficient, especially those related to heat gains and water losses. Through this approach it is possible to link the spectral characteristics of territory portions (pixels) to features related to productivity, seasonality, phenology, efficiency in the use of precipitation or stress levels in vegetation. In our view, this perspective will allow us to make the greatest progress in the applied aspects of ecology, not only in the assessment of the ecosystems’ reaction to environmental change, but also in the monitoring of nature management actions, from the species to the ecosystem levels
Surveillance through aerial LiDAR to examine possible locations of dams and reservoirs, to model them, to work out the maximum flood level for each given dam design, the water volume it can hold and the impact on the local population
Environmental impact studies in construction works, infrastructure projects and any other type of project developed by humans in the natural environment
Generation of topographic maps and water-flow assessment for hydrologists which assist the planning and safety of infrastructures and the population through a GIS system
Evaluation of damage caused by floods and post-storm water streams
Assisting the study of the effects of climate change in given regions, especially for the assessment of potential hazards for humans and infrastructure in areas where there may be a rise in the sea-water level, an increase in storm intensity, changes in overland flows due to rain, floods, coast erosion or floods from saline waters. Thus it is possible to identify, for instance, critical communication and transport infrastructure works that may be affected by a rise in the water sea level, as well as the barriers and dams that need upgrading to make them effective when facing new levels in rising tides or heavier storms, etc.
Monitoring in the rehabilitation of green areas and development of maps including hiking trails and firebreaks