Ecosystems are essential for preserving the quality of life of human beings, and society should be aware of this, according to Ms Miren Onaindia, biologist and person responsible for the Forest Ecology and Natural Resources research team at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). This group has been investigating the woods and forest of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (CAV-EAE) for twenty years now. In recent times they have focused on evaluating the situation of ecosystems, concentrating on biodiversity.
"If trees are healthy then the mountains are protected. The soil maintains itself in a good state and this protects from erosion, in case of floods". With this simple example, Ms Onaindia explained why it is so important that society as a whole maintains ecosystems in an optimum state.
Ms Onaindia and six other members of the Department of Plant Biology and Ecology make up this working group devoted to examining forests, currently focused on evaluating the ecosystems of the CAV-EAE. With this goal, they analyse plants indicative of the biodiversity and the internal structure in each forest investigated. "Some species have the ability to indicate that a forest is in a good state and other, on the other hand, that the woodland is degrading", explained Ms Onaindia. Cartography has also been of great use in the study. The GIS (Geographical Information System) programme enabled them to examine the terrain in a global manner, thus obtaining information about, for example, how the cover of the plants and the size of the ecosystems are like or the relation between them. With the gathered data and applying a number of formulae, they evaluated the situation of the forest ecosystem, thanks to the calculation of the species existing and the proportions in which they were found.
According to Ms Onaindia, one of the objectives of the research group is to obtain results that can be useful in forestry management, i.e. the rese
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