Current projects


Global environmental change threatens biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and, ultimately, the sustainability of human activities on Earth.Rivers and streams are among the most threatened ecosystems. While effects of environmental change on ecosystems are most usuallystudied with space-for-time approaches, data series from monitoring networks are becoming long enough to directly describe and interpretthe complex effects of climate and other environmental changes. Nevertheless, stream data are noisy, as they are subjected to frequentlocal disturbances; therefore, to obtain sound spatiotemporal patterns, it is essential to analyse highly spatially detailed time series fromthe perspective of metacommunity dynamics. Using a time series with a high spatial and temporal resolution, RiMSECisinvestigating the response of riverine metacommunities to environmental changeduring the last three decades to identify changes and drivers of the diversity, stability and the food web energetics of river ecosystems.RiMSEC will also study the spatial turnover of diversity and food web energetics in headwater fluvialnetworks, which are underrepresented on monitoring schemes, unravelling the role of landuse and organic matter availability and quality. Additionally, we will assess the effect of metacommunity dynamics on diversity and foodweb energetics by comparing isolated small catchments that flow to the sea with similar catchments that are connected tolarger fluvial networks. The project RiMSEC will yield a significantleap towards disentangling the dynamics of freshwater metacommunities facing global environmental change.

Sampling organic matter availability and qualityin headwater fluvialnetworks

MERLIN. Mainstreaming Ecological Restoration of freshwater-related ecosystems in a Landscape context: Innovation, upscaling and transformation

The MERLIN project (Mainstreaming Ecological Restoration of freshwater-related ecosystems in a Landscape context: Innovation, upscaling and transformation) is an international river restoration project in which the UPV/EHU and the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa are collaborating. This project seeks new widely applicable formulas to restore the functions of European river ecosystems, for example, to reduce flooding and store carbon dioxide, or to facilitate natural water flow and fish migration through nature-based solutions (NbS). In Gipuzkoa, 10 disused dams that fragment the connectivity of the Deba River are planned to be removed. At the European scale, MERLIN identifies landscapes with high potential for transformative restoration and analyzes the cost-benefit ratio of restoration scenarios. Overall, the MERLIN Academy and virtual marketplace will multiply innovations for the community of practice, investors and policy makers across Europe and beyond. MERLIN is focused on pursuing a sustainable, climate-neutral and resilient, inclusive and transformative path, incorporating restoration as a cornerstone of systemic change.

Staff from the Gipuzkoa Province Council and from the University of the Basque Country discussing in the field detail of the actions to be taken for dam removal

MERLIN project

GLoBE Network

GLoBE is an international network of freshwater ecologists, which main aim is to explore ecological patterns and processes in stream ecosystems at the global scale. Originally designed to specifically study one key stream ecosystem process, leaf litter breakdown (hence its name, which stands for 'Global Lotic Breakdown Experiments'), it has now expanded in order to consider a wide variety of ecological issues that are globally relevant. The network currently counts with collaborators from approximately 50 research teams from >30 countries across 6 continents.

Decomposition and Diversity in streams: a global experiment (DecoDiv)

A key question in contemporary ecology is how the loss of biological diversity affects ecosystem functioning. Plant litter decomposition is a fundamental ecosystem process with major consequences for the carbon cycle, but it is unclear how the loss of plant diversity affects decomposition rates. In a global-scale stream study, Boyero et al. ( examined decomposition rates of litter mixtures differing in phylogenetic diversity across latitudes and found that more diverse mixtures decomposed faster in the tropics, while less diverse mixtures decomposed faster at high latitudes. This suggested that different mechanisms could operate at different latitudes, possibly because different biological assemblages decompose litter at these different latitudes. While detritivores (key decomposition agents at high latitudes) might benefit from the concentration of particular resources in less diverse mixtures, microbes (dominant in the tropics) might be more efficient when using more varied resources (in more diverse mixtures) as they can optimize nutrient acquisition. We aim to explore the above question by examining decomposition rates in 3-spp litter mixtures differing in phylogenetic diversity (and hence in the concentration of different resources) at multiple sites across climatic zones. Although phylogenetic diversity and the diversity of functional traits do not always show a linear relationship (given that not all traits are phylogenetically conserved and due to the existence of convergent evolution and phenotypic plasticity), the usefulness of a phylogenetic proxy for trait diversity is maximized in studies with broad taxonomic scale. This approach can be particularly useful because phylogeny can represent a great deal of information that is not encompassed in the few traits that are generally measured.