AGRO-ECOSERVICES - Assessing ecosystem services and disservices provided by arthropod species in Azorean agroecosystems

 

PROJET TITLE:

AGRO-ECOSERVICES - Assessing ecosystem services and disservices provided by arthropod species in Azorean agroecosystems

PROJET CODE:

ACORES-01-0145-FEDER-000073

MAIN GOAL:

Increase the scientific production of quality and specialization-oriented smart.

We plan to set the investigations in Azorean agro-ecosystems (pastures, maize fields, vineyards, citrus orchards), which greatly depend economically on Ecosystem Services (ES). Understanding and managing the biodiversity dynamics of island agro-ecosystems for improving ecosystem functioning and the delivery of ES is a key challenge that needs attention. In fact, the crops with the largest cultivation area on the Azores islands are pastures, followed by maize. Maize–pasture rotation is common, both serving animal production. Due to their long coexistence and close taxonomic relationship (both are grasses), several pests interact with both crops all year round. These interactions need to be further understood, because significant yield losses are presently occurring in both crops. Vineyards and citrus orchards are among the most important crops in Azores. Both crops have significant problems with pests and diseases due to benign environmental conditions that facilitate their propagation and sometimes due to improper cultural practices.

Our main objectives are:

1)         To assess the major ecosystem services (ES) and ecosystem disservices (ED) provided by selected groups of native and exotic arthropods (pollinators and predatory spiders, true-bugs and beetles and also main insect pests) living in cultivated habitats (pastures, maize fields, vineyards, citrus orchards), and in selected natural ecosystem sites which will serve as reference monitoring locations;

2)         To study the interrelationships between arthropod biodiversity (pollinators and predatory spiders, true-bugs and beetles and main insect pests), functionality and ES/ED across the selected Azorean agroecosystems;

3)         To implement ecological manipulative studies to enhance ES and possibly minimize ED in the selected Azorean agroecosystems;

4)         Following EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 (which foresees in Target 2, Action 5), map and assess the state of ecosystems and their services on the Azores, accounting and reporting systems at EU and national level by 2020;

5)         To map and classify the ES that agro-ecosystems provide through living organisms, by using the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) protocol;

6)         To adopt S/EICAT, to classify the contributions that agro-ecosystems make to human well-being that arise from living organisms;

7)         Science outreach targeting different stakeholders, including the establishment of a pilot demonstration project;

8)         To propose a standardized rapid and reliable monitoring system for ecosystem functioning.

 

BENEFICIARIES: Fundação Gaspar Frutuoso / Universidade dos Açores

TOTAL AMOUNT: 179. 947,85€

EUROPEAN REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FUND (FEDER): 152. 955, 67€

DESCRIPTION:

The methodologies that will be implemented during the project development will include fieldwork ecological sampling of arthropod biodiversity (pollinators and predatory spiders, true-bugs and beetles and main insect pests), but also cutting edge ES/ED monitoring tools and advanced manipulative studies to enhance ES and possibly minimize ED in the selected Azorean agroecosystems. We will base the project development in Terceira Island where the Azorean Biodiversity Group is based for logistic and scientific support reasons, but results will be easily extrapolated to the whole Azorean archipelago.

The comparability, similarities and replication possibilities of Azorean islands provide valuable opportunities to test and develop theories of biotic system assembly and function, with a special focus on island community ecology, biogeography, macroecology, agro-ecology and sustainable resource management. This project will advance the research on island ES and ED and deliver guidelines for the management of exotic species on agricultural systems. In response to the challenges for island biology research, this project will: i) provide quantitative data about the intensity of several ES/ED under natural conditions on Azorean islands, and ii) in its agro-ecosystems. Moreover, iii) new knowledge on the effect of native and non-native biodiversity on ecological processes that can be beneficial (ES) and/or detrimental (ED) to humans will be produced.

 

RESULTS:

This will be the first effort to quantify ES and ED in several agro-ecosystems from an EU Outermost Region, using Azores as case study. In this way, we will both contribute to Azores RIS3 and for the 2020 EU Biodiversity Strategy.

Results from this project would also serve to obtain quantitative estimates of the minimum number of individual arthropods required in order to maintain the working of ecological processes. During the project, tools to directly monitor ES and ED will be tested and developed, and the quantitative data obtained will help to more precisely articulate the relationship between biodiversity and ES, which remains one of the most important theoretical question in ecology.

Finally,  we intended to test to what extend it is possible to apply the SEICAT protocol to classify the contributions that agro-ecosystems make to human well-being, that arise from living organisms, an important novel aspect arises in this project; the delivering of a novel methodological approach which can be readily integrated into regional and international practices and policies.

Consequently, in addition to advancing fundamental knowledge of the ecology of ES and ED in island agroecosystems, AGRO-ECOSERVICES will have several potential applications in the social, economic and technological domains across multiple societal challenges.

We expect to produce an outreach book in PDF, advising farmers and managers of agroecosystems how to increase the potential of natural ecological mechanisms in order to maximise benefits accrued from ecosystem services, including production, urban environmental conditions, and quality of life.

During the project, we will communicate our results to the scientific community through publications in high profile international journals. We expect to publish at least four papers directly related to this project. It is anticipated that research outputs will be published in high impact scientific journals (e.g. Journal of Applied Ecology, Oikos, Insect Conservation and Diversity). One of the papers will be a data paper targeting the Biodiversity Data Journal (Pensoft). The papers will reflect the collaborative nature of the project and will greatly contribute to the global research agenda in biological conservation and sustainable management on islands.

We expect to publish at least two data papers describing and listing all arthropod distribution and trait data in the Azorean Journal Arquipélago, Life and Marine Sciences.

In the final phase of the project, a Scientific Workshop will be organized in the University of the Azores to disseminate skills and project results amongst local stakeholders, students and other professionals working on Azorean agro-ecosystems. In addition, The Post-Doc will have to set Training Sessions with the interested stakeholders in agro-ecosystems. At least two such sessions will be implemented, one in Pico Island and another in São Miguel Island.

A pilot project on sustainable management of cultivated plots, with suggestions for boosting ESs in a normal Azorean cultivated setting.

 

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