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Long-term dynamics of Mediterranean vegetation in response to climatic change and disturbance: combining paleoecological and dynamic modelling approaches

English title Long-term dynamics of Mediterranean vegetation in response to climatic change and disturbance: combining paleoecological and dynamic modelling approaches
Applicant Tinner Willy
Number 114886
Funding scheme SNSF Professorships
Research institution Institut für Pflanzenwissenschaften Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Start/End 01.03.2007 - 28.02.2011
Approved amount 932'551.00
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All Disciplines (4)

Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Environmental Research

Keywords (13)

Climate change; global change; paleoecology; vegetation history; fire history; dynamic models; paleolimnology; paleoclimatology; projections; Mediterranean ecosystems; fire disturbance; invasions; extinctions

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Modeling studies suggest that global warming will induce abrupt vegetational changes and that more frequent fires will substantially contribute to biosphere changes, altering rates and magnitudes of vegetational responses. For instance, simulations suggest that evergreen species (e.g. Quercus ilex) will expand across large areas of western, central, eastern, and northern Europe in response to global change during the next few decades, whereas in the Mediterranean region large areas will be affected by extinctions of native tree species. However, a major limitation of existing simulations is their static nature, i.e. they portray a potential future equilibrium state without considering transient changes that are likely to last for decades and centuries. Moreover, model simulations should be validated by empirical data, a difficult task given the long-term aspects of the simulated vegetational dynamics.Paleoecological records (e.g. pollen as proxy for vegetation) provide one of the few possibilities for such reality checks, but unfortunately high-resolution records are very sparse, especially if compared to contemporary environmental observational networks. Our project provides the possibility to close such scientific gaps. The main aims of our project are a) to gain new high-resolution paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic records in central and southern Italy, b) to develop realistic temperature and precipitation scenarios for the past 12000-10000 years, c) to collect ecological and eco-physiological data about the Mediterranean vegetation to upgrade an existing dynamic vegetation model (LANDCLIM), d) to evaluate the model outputs by paleo-vegetational series, and e) to project the possible future behaviour of Mediterranean and temperate landscapes under climatic warming (IPCC) with the use of the LANDCLIM model.
Our project will deliver new high-resolution paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic data that will be of great value to assess how the biosphere responds to large-scale environmental change on decadal and longer time scales. For instance, the project should provide answers to key questions on the past and present ecology of Mediterranean vegetation, such as whether or not Quercus ilex stands depend on fire or other disturbances.Our study will provide the possibility to address or to close important scientific gaps and to check how well paleovegetational responses to climatic change and disturbances are simulated with predictive models.The validated models will provide first quantitative predictions that are essential to enhance scientific assessments of vegetation responses to future climate and disturbance conditions. Considering the ongoing invasion of evergreen broadleaved species south of the Alps, as well as modeling results that forecast a spread of Mediterranean tree species such as Quercus ilex in non-Mediterranean Europe in response to global change, the issue of our project appears of great ecological and societal significance.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
134616 Paleo-environmental and modeling insights into Mediterranean fire-vegetation interactions in response to Holocene climate and land use changes 01.12.2011 Project funding (Div. I-III)
128248 Responses of vegetation and human society to climatic changes in Ukraine 01.01.2010 SCOPES
133817 Environmental Analysis and Dating with Radiocarbon using MICADAS 01.12.2010 R'EQUIP