PASTURCLIM – IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON PASTURE’S PRODUCTIVITY AND NUTRITIONAL COMPOSITION IN THE AZORES

PROJECT TITLE:

PASTURCLIM – IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON PASTURE’S PRODUCTIVITY AND NUTRITIONAL COMPOSITION IN THE AZORES

 

PROJECT CODE:

ACORES-01-0145-FEDER-000082

MAIN GOAL:

Increase quality scientific output and oriented towards intelligent specialization.

The PASTURCLIM project has the main objective to study the possible effects of climate change on the productivity and nutrient composition of the pastures in the Azores, answering the societal challenge of adaptation to climatic change. As such, it will allow a better preparation to face the effects that climate change will have over agriculture (this is a priority in the RIS3 strategy for smart development). With the results from this project we will be able to generate several outputs: adaptation of grassland to climate change, making them more resistant; recommendations to decision makers of how to maintain or increase the productivity of grassland in the future (keeping the socio-economical status of the meat and milk industry on the Azores); generate innovating data.

The main objectives of this project are to:

A. Determine the direct consequences of raising temperature and extreme drought on Azorean pastures;

B. Determine the consequences for soil nutrient availability;

C. Evaluate the changes in grassland, herbivore and predatory arthropod abundance, taxonomic and functional diversity;

D. Investigate the ecophysiological responses of the grassland species;

E. Generate field data that can be used to predict more accurately what the consequences of climate change are and how these can be addressed by decision makers.

We mainly seek to answer the following questions:

i) What is the effect of climate change (rising temperature and erratic rain patterns) on the grass species abundance of pastures?

ii) What is the effect of climate change on net productivity of grasses in pastures?

iii) What are the consequences of climate change for soil nutrient availability?

iv) What are the consequences of climate change for nutrient composition in the grasses?

v) Which type of pasture is more resistant to the effects of climate change (semi-natural vs intensive)?

vi) How does climate change affect the arthropods present in pastures in terms of abundance and diversity (pests vs helpers)?

 

BENEFICIARIES: Universidade dos Açores / Fundação Gaspar Frutuoso

TOTAL AMOUNT: 179.444,78€ €

EUROPEAN REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FUND: 152.528,06€

DESCRIPTION:

This study will occur in Terceira Island, the second most productive island in terms of dairy cattle in the Azores. An experimental approach will be undertaken in order to simulate the predicted climate change, and analyze the potential effects over the grassland of pastures in the Azores. In order to reach our objectives a manipulation in situ experiment will be set up. To perform this manipulation we will use structures called open top chambers (OTC’s) and rainout shelters in order to simulate the increase in temperature, as well as the erratic rain patterns, namely summer droughts. There will be three different treatments: increased temperature; summer drought; and increased temperature and summer drought. Because these chambers will be placed in-situ it allows for a better understanding of the effects of climate change on a more realistic scenario, as opposed to ex-situ experiments. There will be a total of 48 plots with the different treatments, plus the controls, in four different sites in Terceira island. Several measurements will take place throughout the duration of the project.

For the three year period, soil samples will be collected every six months and analysed in the specialized laboratory of University of Azores. In each plot the cover of all grass species will be recorded. For arthropods, flight interception traps, and pitfall traps will be used to collect them. Number of live and dead plants will be counted, and leaf litter biomass will be measured. A monitoring scheme using thermal digital photography applied to each plot will be developed in order to evaluate and monitor phenologic events and determine above-ground green biomass, and net primary productivity. Net primary productivity will also be determined by measuring Chlorophyll a concentrations. Samples of grass will be collected before and after the growth season to be analysed in the laboratory in order to determine the mineral and protein content within them in order to evaluate the nutrient changes throughout the project.

 

RESULTS:

From this project, we expect to obtain the following results:

1) Determine what climate change will cause to grassland in terms of :soil changes in nutrient availability; changes in growth rates of grasses; changes in flowering timings; changes in total biomass of grasses; changes in chlorophyll a content; and changes in mortality of grasses;

2) Determine what changes climate change causes in arthropod species abundance, diversity, and functional guilds;

3) Determine the reliability of arthropods as good indicators of climate change for pastures;

4) Determine what changes climate change causes in nutritional value of grassland;

5) Use the obtained innovative data to support stakeholders and decision makers in strategies in dealing with climate change.

 

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