Author Archives: Marcos Fernández

3rd IMBALANCE-P annual meeting – Paris, 1st – 3th February 2017

IMBALANCE_P_Logo_Color_kick off abstractsThe ERC Synergy Imbalance-P project has been running for two years already. A lot of work has been done and some other still needs to be carried out. It is, therefore, time for us to meet again in a confortable city such as Paris.

The format will be similar to last time, researchers will present some of their work/results/projects within the Imbalance-P in short talks of about 15 minutes allowing participants to ask some questions. It is also planned to have time to allow researchers to discuss within the different working groups (experimental, synthesis, modelling…) and among them.

The main aims of the Paris meeting are to:

  1. Present and discuss past, present and future work within the Imbalance-P project.
  2. Share and discuss the results obtained by the different groups.
  3. Develop synergies amongst groups and researchers by increasing collaboration through sharing thoughts, ideas, objectives, experiments, observations and data.
  4. Create a venue where co-authors of different manuscripts can get together to forward their writing and possibilities for such activities to be initiated.

Scientific contact: Philippe Ciais (

Administrative Contact: Zoila Lopez (

Organisers: Marcos Fernández-Martínez ( & Josep Peñuelas (

The program of the meeting is available here.

Pont des Arts. Author: Benh LIEU SONG, This picture is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0


Plausible rice yield losses under future climate warming

Rice fields, researchers analyze the sensitivity of rice yield to climate warming. Photo by Pixabay
Rice fields, researchers analyze the sensitivity of rice yield to climate warming. Photo by Pixabay

Rice is the staple food for more than 50% of the world’s population. Reliable prediction of changes in rice yield is thus central for maintaining global food security. This is an extraordinary challenge.

In a new study in the journal Nature Plants researchers compare the sensitivity of rice yield to temperature increase derived from field warming experiments and three modelling approaches: statistical models, local crop models and global gridded crop models.

Field warming experiments produce a substantial rice yield loss under warming, with an average temperature sensitivity of −5.2 % per degree of warming. Local crop models give a similar sensitivity (−6.3 %), but statistical and global gridded crop models both suggest less negative impacts of warming on yields (−0.8 % and −2.4 7%, respectively).

Using data from field warming experiments, researchers further propose a conditional probability approach to constrain the large range of global gridded crop model results for the future yield changes in response to warming by the end of the century (from −1.3% to −9.3% per degree of warming). The constraint implies a more negative response to warming (−8.3 %) and reduces the spread of the model ensemble by 33%. This yield reduction exceeds that estimated by the International Food Policy Research Institute assessment (−4.2 to −6.4% ).

“Our study suggests that without CO2 fertilization, effective adaptation and genetic improvement, severe rice yield losses are plausible under intensive climate warming scenarios” said Dr. Chuang Zhao, researcher from Peking University.

“The long-term perspective of climate change allows us to prepare agricultural production systems for this challenge, but suitable policies must be put in place in the near future, given that targeted research on adaptation options and their large-scale implementation will require considerable time”, said Prof. Josep Penuelas from CREAF-CSIC Barcelona.

Citation: Zhao, C., Piao, S., Wang, X., Huang, Y., Ciais, P., Elliott, J., Huang, M., Janssens, I.A., Li, T., Lian, X., Liu, Y., Müller, C., Peng, S., Wang, T., Zeng, Z., Penuelas, J. 2016. Plausible rice yield losses under future climate warming. Nature Plants 3, 16202 (2016), doi: 10.1038/nplants.2016.202.

Losses of soil carbon under climate warming might equal U.S. emissions

Carbon stores are greatest in places like the Arctic and the sub-Arctic, where the soil is cold and often frozen Photo by SHUTTERSTOCK


A new global analysis finds that warming temperatures will trigger the release of trillions of kilograms of carbon from the planet’s soils, driven largely by the losses of carbon in the world’s colder places.

 See short video about this paper:

New Haven, Conn. – For the past two decades, scientists have speculated that rising global temperatures may alter the ability of soils to store huge amounts of carbon. If warming accelerates the release of carbon stored in the soil, it could trigger a dangerous feedback effect that could have runaway effects on climate change. Yet, despite thousands of studies around the world, we have remained unclear about whether soil carbon storage will increase or decrease in response to warming.

Finally, a global perspective has allowed us to see past the mixed results of single-site studies to see the global patterns in this effect.

In a new study in the journal Nature researchers find that warming will drive the loss of trillions of kg of carbon from the soil. A conservative estimate by the researchers suggest that this value will exceed 55 trillion kg by 2050.

This value would represent up to 17% on top of current anthropogenic emissions that we expect over that time.

The results are based on an analysis of soil carbon data from dozens of warming experiments conducted all over the world in the past 20 years.

Using this worldwide dataset, the researchers generated a global map of the sensitivity of soil carbon to warming, showing that carbon loss is greatest in the world’s colder places, at high latitudes, where massive stocks of carbon have built up over thousands of years and slow microbial activity has kept them relatively secure.

“Soil carbon stores are greatest in places like the Arctic and the sub-Arctic, where the soil is cold and often frozen. In those conditions microbes are less active and so carbon has been allowed to build up over many centuries,” said lead author Thomas Crowther, at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES).

“But as you start to warm those areas, the microbes become more active, that’s when the carbon losses are likely to happen,” Crowther said. “The scary thing is, these cold regions are the places that are expected to warm the most under climate change.”

The study predicts that for one degree of warming, about 30 petagrams of soil carbon will be released into the atmosphere, or about 2-3 times as much as is emitted annually due to human-related activities. This is a sobering prospect, given that the planet is likely to warm by 2 degrees Celsius by mid-century.

Other scientists on the team include Marc Estiarte and Josep Peñuelas from CREAF, as well as collaborating researchers from more than 30 other institutions.

Marc Estiarte commented on the value of the results: “We suspected that cold regions were key because warming could potentially reverse the carbon-accumulating pressure that cold temperatures have been exerting since such a long time”

The results represent a warn because “the vulnerability of the northern soil carbon pool is a threat to the stabilization of the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere due to the positive feedback that can unfold between climate warming and soil carbon losses to the atmosphere”, in the words of Josep Peñuelas.

Understanding these processes at a global scale is critical for our understanding of climate change. “Getting a handle on these kinds of feedbacks is essential if we’re going to make meaningful projections about future climate conditions. Only then can we generate realistic greenhouse gas emission targets that are effective at limiting climate change,” said Crowther.

More information: T. W. Crowther et al, Quantifying global soil carbon losses in response to warming, Nature (2016). DOI: 10.1038/nature20150

A remotely sensed pigment index reveals photosynthetic phenology in evergreen conifers

Boreal forest
Boreal forest, researchers find a close correspondence between seasonally changing foliar pigment level and evergreen photosynthetic activity Photo by ŠtefanŠtefančík

In evergreen conifers, where the foliage amount changes little with season, accurate detection of the underlying “photosynthetic phenology” from satellite remote sensing has been difficult, causing errors in terrestrial photosynthetic carbon uptake models. This represents a challenge for global models of ecosystem carbon uptake.

In a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences researchers find a close correspondence between seasonally changing foliar pigment levels, expressed as chlorophyll/carotenoid ratios, and evergreen photosynthetic activity, leading to a “chlorophyll/carotenoid index” (CCI) that tracks evergreen photosynthesis at multiple spatial scales.

When calculated from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer satellite sensor, the CCI closely follows the seasonal patterns of daily gross primary productivity of evergreen conifer stands measured by eddy covariance.

This discovery provides a way of monitoring evergreen photosynthetic activity from optical remote sensing, and indicates an important regulatory role for carotenoid pigments in evergreen photosynthesis. “This methodology could improve the assessment of the evergreen component of the terrestrial carbon budget, which has been elusive” said Prof. Josep Peñuelas.

“Improved methods of monitoring photosynthesis from space can improve our understanding of the global carbon budget in a warming world of changing vegetation phenology”, said Prof. John Gamon.


Citation: Gamon, J., Huemmrich, J.K.F., Wong, C.Y.F., Ensminger, I., Garrity, S., Hollinger, D.Y., Noormets, A., Peñuelas, J. 2016. A remotely sensed pigment index reveals photosynthetic Q:1 phenology in evergreen conifers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016. In press

Study Finds Limited Sign of Soil Adaptation to Climate Warming

Soil warming experiment at Toolik Station Photo by Jim Tang(1)
This photo shows measurements of carbon flux from soil at Toolik Field Station in Arctic Alaska. Credit: Jianwu Tang


 WOODS HOLE, Mass. — While scientists and policy experts debate the impacts of global warming, the Earth’s soil is releasing roughly nine times more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than all human activities combined. This huge carbon flux from soil, which is due to the natural respiration of soil microbes and plant roots, begs one of the central questions in climate change science. As the global climate warms, will soil respiration rates increase, adding even more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and accelerating climate change?

Previous experimental studies of this question have not produced a consensus, prompting Marine Biological Laboratory scientists Joanna Carey, Jianwu Tang and colleagues to synthesize the data from 27 studies across nine biomes, from the desert to the Arctic. Their analysis is published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This represents the world’s largest dataset to date of soil respiration response to experimental warming.

One prediction from the synthesis is that rising global temperatures result in regionally variable responses in soil respiration, with colder climates being considerably more responsive. “Consistently across all biomes, we found that soil respiration increased with soil temperature up to about 25° C (77° F),” says Carey, a postdoctoral scientist in the MBL Ecosystems Center. Above the 25° C threshold, respiration rates decreased with further increases in soil temperature.

“That means the Arctic latitudes, where soil temperatures rarely, if ever, reach 25° C , will continue to be most responsive to climate warming. Because there is so much carbon stored in frozen soils of the Arctic, this has really serious repercussions for future climate change,” Carey says.

Soil scientists are struggling to find evidences of soil acclimation to warming, as indicated by some individual field experiments, but the current study found limited evidence of it.

“The occurrence of acclimation would provide some relieve on the positive feedback between warming and CO2 release by respiration from soil” says Marc Estiarte, a member of the research teams at CREAF.

The information provided by the study will be critical to improve the soil-atmosphere interactions in the Earth-system models. The results of the study “will greatly improve our mechanistic understanding of how carbon dynamics change with climate warming”, in the words of Josep Peñuelas, a member of the research teams at CREAF

To understand how global carbon in soils will respond to climate change, the authors stress, more data are needed from under- and non-represented regions, especially the Arctic and the tropics.



Carey, Joanna A. et al (2016) Temperature response of soil respiration largely unaltered with experimental warming. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1605365113

Prof. Josep Peñuelas has received the Doctor Honoris causa degree by the Estonian University of Life Sciences

Professor Josep Peñuelas has been appointed by the Estonian University of Life Sciences as Doctor Honoris causa, in base to his outstanding merits. The ceremony was held the 23th September, at the Estonian University of Life Sciences.

The honorary doctorate recognized him as scientist in the field of global ecology who has contributed considerably to promoting international co-operation at Eesti Maaülikool.

Honorary doctorate is the highest recognition by the university rewarded for exceptional service to the University.

Pictures of the ceremony

Video of the ceremony:

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IUFRO 2017 Congress – Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Biological Invasions

For the 125th anniversary congress of IUFRO (Freiburg, September 2017), Stephan Pietsch (IIASSA) has organised, together with Plinio Sist (IRAD) and Robert Nasi (CIFOR), as session entitled: “Progress in tropical forest management: Assuring sustainability, avoiding degradation and assisting restoration”.

Here we attach the full description of sessions under theme 4. The call will be opened until the end of november.

IUFRO 2017 – Session 4

Imbalance-P participates in the 53rd ATBC 2016 Meeting

Dr. Oriol Grau (CREAF) participated with a talk about his work on tropical forests in the 53rd meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (19-23 June 2016 – Montpellier, France).

The speach, entitled “Do soil characteristics determine forest structure and dynamics in poor Amazonian soils?” took place under the session “Management impacts on biodiversity and carbon/nutrient balances in the tropic” moderated by Prof. Stephan Pietch (IIASA).

Grau, O., Peñuelas, P., Ferry, B., Freycon, V., Lilian, B., Desprez, M., Baraloto, C., Chave, J., Descroix, L., Dourdain, A., Guitet, S., Janssens, I., Sardans, J., Herault, B. Do soil characteristics determine forest structure and dynamics in poor Amazonian soils? 53rd ATBC 2016, 19-23 June, Montellier, France.


Josep Peñuelas has been awarded Ramón Margalef’s Prize in Ecology 2016!

Ramon Margalef’s Prize in Ecology was created in 2004 by the Catalan Government to recognize people, all over the world, who have distinguished exceptionally in the field of ecological science. The award honors the memory of Professor Ramon Margalef (Barcelona, 1919-2004), who made a decisive contribution to establishing modern ecological science, to the point where he is regarded as one of the world’s leading figures in the field.

The Catalan television interviewed him yesterday. You can see the video here: Els Matins de TV3

Workshop – Nutrient limitation on land: how accurate are our global land models?

Philippe Ciais, Josep Peñuelas, Sara Vicca and Daniel Goll in collaboration with Chinese colleagues, organised a workshop entitled: Nutrient limitation on land: how accurate are our global land models?

The workshop was hosted by the Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University from the 15th to 17th June 2016 in the Yangling, Shaanxi, China.

You can access the program here.

Yangling together

ERC Imbalance-P participates in the international workshop: “Phosphorus Cycling in Terrestrial Ecosystems”, May 23-25, 2016 Townsend

Phosphorus Cycling in Terrestrial Ecosystems: Taking a new approach to advancing our fundamental understanding through a model-data connection

Townsend, Tennessee, USA (May 22-25, 2016)

Aim of the Workshop:

Phosphorus (P) has been shown to limit a number of fundamental processes in a wide range of ecosystems; however, despite its importance, most earth system models do not currently include any manner of the P cycle. This hinders the utility of these models for generating and testing hypotheses and for forecasting the effects of global change. Importantly, a critical challenge for P modeling efforts is also a critical challenge for the scientific community as a whole; namely, determining a way forward for improving our understanding of the key drivers, processes, and global change responses of the P cycle. Bringing together P experts would allow for the addressing of this need through: (1) a more synthetic understanding and conceptualization of P cycle dynamics, (2) the merging of varied P and associated data, (3) improved process-based modeling of the P cycle, and (4) P data-model integration. Another potential success stems from the power of explicit collaborations between empiricists who study P cycling and modelers considering the inclusion of P into models.

Imbalance-P participation:

During the forth session of the workshop, entitled: “Understanding P processes in the context of global change”, Prof. Josep Peñuelas, Prof. Ivan Janssens and Dr. Daniel Goll  presented the some of the results of the ERC Imbalance-P project in the field of experimentation, data analysis and modelling.

The program of the workshop can be accessed here.


ERC Imbalance-P organises a bayesian modeling workshop with Dr. Kiona Ogle

Bayesian modeling workshop with Dr. Kiona Ogle
Paris, 30 & 31 January, 2017

Summary: This workshop will provide a brief introduction to Bayesian and hierarchical Bayesian modeling. It includes presentation and discussion of basic concepts, including important elements of Bayesian statistics and hierarchical Bayesian modeling. Participants will have the opportunity to develop and implement a Bayesian model in OpenBUGS (in R).

Description: Ecologists are often faced with analyzing relatively complicated data. For example, ecological data sets can be spatially, temporally, or hierarchically structured; they may be missing relevant information; and they likely arise from nonlinear and/or non-Gaussian processes. Additionally, many contemporary problems in ecology require the synthesis of multiple sources and types of data. To accommodate this complexity, Bayesian and hierarchical Bayesian statistical methods are emerging as powerful tools for analyzing such data. This two-daylong workshop will provide an overview of Bayesian modeling at a relatively introductory level. This includes presentation and discussion of basic concepts, including important elements of Bayesian statistics and hierarchical Bayesian modeling. We will also provide an OpenBUGS (Bayesian software package) demonstration. During the workshop, participants will have the opportunity to develop and implement a Bayesian model based on a selection of ecological problems and data. By the end of the workshop, participants will be able to understand the fundamentals of Bayesian modeling and develop basic hierarchical models. We will provide reference materials so participants can explore the topics in greater depth. These materials should serve as a jumping-off point for those interested in employing the methods in their own research, or for those who simply want to familiarize themselves with the topic.

postDr. Kiona Ogle

Científics alerten a la revista Scientific Reports de l’extensa acumulació de contaminants orgànics a la vegetació arreu del planeta

Un article publicat a la revista Scientific Reports alerta d’una extensa acumulació de contaminants orgànics a la vegetació arreu del planeta. L’article ha recollit, analitzat i comparat les dades de 79 estudis sobre aquesta matèria publicats entre 1979 i 2015, més de la meitat dels quals incloïen resultats d’àrees rurals i remotes.
El treball l’ha elaborat la doctora en Biologia i professora de la Universitat de Vic – Universitat Central de Catalunya Mireia Bartrons, juntament amb Jordi Catalan i Josep Peñuelas, ambdós investigadors membres del CREAF, el centre públic de recerca en ecologia terrestre i anàlisi del territori que genera coneixement i metodologies per a la conservació, la gestió i l’adaptació del medi natural al canvi global.

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