Our work is focused in plant breeding and conservation of forest genetic resources, studies about physiology and functional anatomy, population dynamics, diversity and gene flow, forest biotechnology, health and history.
PLANT BREEDING AND CONSERVATION OF FOREST GENETIC RESURCES
Knowledge about the heritable genetic parameters is essential for plant breeding and conservation of forest species and their genetic resources. Results are transferred to conservation programs in order to protect the ecosystemic resources provided by our forests, through a sustainable and productive management.
This has been one of the major drivers for our research group over the last few decades, resulting in the construction of large databases that allow the development and breeding of high-value species, as well as the most vulnerable species to climate change projections.
PHYSIOLOGY AND FUNCTIONAL ANATOMY
This research line aims the understanding of functional processes involved in growth and survival of forest species, and how these factores are modified by human activity, in order to provide a comprehensive knowledge to attend the management of natural resources with special importance for society. For this purpose, different experiments are conducted encompassing from the molecule to the ecosystem, using techniques related to anatomy, physiology and chemistry of leaf and wood, and focusing water absortion and transport, or carbon assimilation, transport and loss. This line is implemented for the studie of the Dutch Elm disease, the coexistence of mixed forests, or adaptability to stress factors. Moreover, plant anatomy provides the oportunity to determine morphological and structural traits affected by disturbances.
POPULATION DYNAMICS, DIVERISTY AND GENE FLOW
Population dynamics are strongly influenced by great disturbances, and plants face these environmental changes due to a genetic diversity required for the evolution of the species. These temporary and spatial dynamics are analyzed through studies of ecological and evolutive processes, resulting in ideas about the behaviour of forest systems in changing environmental conditions, and contributing to overcome current and future challengues.
In this research line, different strategies are analyzed, including reponses to drought, forest-fires, or vulcanism (in the case of the Canary Island pine), gene flow, or recovery of marginal populations of oaks, pines, beeches and elms.
Application of biotechnological tools to forest science is crucial for the understanding of the biological and ecosystemic processes of our forests. This research line relies in molecular biology and genetics as fundamental pillars, allowing the synthesis of a complete “from landscape to gene” framework. Biochemestry pathways and gene expression of constitutive and induced processes are being studied from genomic and transcriptomic, obtaining a comprehensive view of forest dynamics.
Furthermore, our work is focused in increasing the information available and to ease the access through the development of new bioinformatic tools, stablishing a common working plan for forest species.
Global warming is increasing the effect of pests and diseases in our forests, and the presence of foreign and exotic species threats the survival of forest areas.
Our work aims to develop methods and strategies that decrease the damages casused by native and foreign biotic agents, and from the last 30 years we have conducted and led breeding programs of the Iberian elm, Ulmus minor, against the impact caused by the Dutch Elm disease. Currently, this program is focused in the development of a genetic databae based in resitant genotypes, in order to recover their populations in reparean areas. Moreover, we aim to achieved deep understanding of the gentic diversity of the pathogen, Ophiostoma novo-ulmi, the ecology of the vector (genus Scolytus), and the genetic and physiological factors underlying to the resistance to the disease.
Forest History works in the analysis of the current forest reality, and it socio-economic integration, from a historical point of view, in order to reinterpret the past and clarify the links between society and nature over time.
By more than 20 years, we conducted these studies in the Montejo Beech Wood, the most southern habitat for the sessile oak (Quercus petraea) and the beech (Fagus sylvatica), mixed with a great population of the Pyrenean oak (Q. pyrenaica), providing the historical reconstruction of the pastoral uses of this land, and evincing how the abandonment of these practices has led to its current state.