A team of scientists has analyzed 29 esparto fields from Guadalajara to Murcia and has concluded that perennial vegetation cover is an efficient early warning system against desertification in these ecosystems. The study has been published in the Ecology magazine.
In order to foresee the appearance of desertification processes, defined by the United Nations as the "degradation of the land into arid, semi-arid and sub-humid areas, resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activity", the team of scientists from the Rey Juan Carlos University (URJC) has evaluated the spatial distribution of vegetation as an "early" indicator of the appearance of desertification processes.
To do so, they analyzed the formations dominated by esparto or needlegrass (stipa tenacissima), one of the most representative ecosystems in the Iberian Peninsula.
Fernando T. Maestre is the main author of the study published in the Ecology magazine and is the Senior Lecturer at the Higher School of Experimental Sciences and Technology of the URJC. "The losses of vegetable cover in the ecosystems studied lead to a decrease in the fertility and functionality of the ecosystem and bring about the beginning of desertification processes", he explained to SINC.
After characterizing the spatial distribution of the vegetation and analyzing the fertility of the soil and the capacity of the ecosystem to recycle the organic matter into nutrients which can be assimilated by the plants, the researchers showed that the spatial distribution of the vegetation on all the plots of land was characterized, from the statistical point of view, by displaying a potential "truncated" distribution. This takes place when the areas of vegetation of the greatest size are lost.
In spite of the above, "the plots studied showed, for example, a great variation in aspects as important as the content of nitrogen and phosphorus, whil
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology