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A thesis studies artificial wetlands constructed to stop the loss of biodiversity


Researcher at the University of Girona Albert Ruhí has focused his thesis on the study of newly constructed wetlands. The research studies the phenomenon of primary succession at different temporal and spatial scales by using different approaches and subjects of study.

Constructed wetlands are often designed to compensate for the loss and degradation of natural ones. However, the understanding of the processes occurring in these artificial environments is still superficial, especially at a community level.

In his doctoral thesis, Albert Ruhí, researcher at the Institute of Aquatic Ecology (University of Girona), has studied the phenomenon of primary succession at different temporal scales (short, medium and long term), spatial scales (at a local, regional and interregional level) by using different approaches and subjects of study (taxonomic and functional; invertebrates and amphibians, respectively).

The thesis findings regarding  temporal scales show a pattern of succession based on three stages, where in the short-term (1 year) processes of colonization prevail; in the medium term (2 to 7 years), succession signs begin to be conspicuous, and later (? 10 years), parameters such as species richness reached an asymptote. At this advanced stage, some biological strategies prevail, and biodiversity indices show that communities can be the same in natural wetlands and newly constructed ones.

Spatial effects

As for spatial effects, the researcher has confirmed that both local and regional factors affect communities established in these areas. In particular, the low hydrological stability of the Mediterranean region has favored biological traits that provide resilience and resistance to disturbances, especially when compared with the nearby communities of continental moderate climate.

Even within the same Mediterranean region, low levels of hydrological stability may have major effects on the dynamics of succession. In these cases, local communities are highly nested in natural wetlands at a regional level, and therefore can hardly make net contributions to regional richness. Also the thesis shows the influence of the regional pool of colonizers on local communities, both in the case of amphibians and invertebrates. Especially for the latter group, the newly created Mediterranean temporary ponds (BTMs) can play an important role in their preservation.

Impact on science journals
The thesis, entitled ‘Primary succession in man-made wetlands: biodiversity, structure and dynamics of macrofaunal assemblages’, is structures in five chapters, four of which have already been published as articles in various major science journals.

The research, developed within the framework of the research group in Continental Aquatic Ecology (GRECO), is the result of collaborations with Linnaeus University (Sweden), which allowed testing how the processes of colonization /succession are affected by climatic factors. The last chapter, devoted to amphibians, is the result of a collaboration with the University of Barcelona. The thesis was directed by Dr. Dani Boix and Dr. Stéphanie Gascón.


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Proyecto financiado por el Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte en el marco del Programa Campus de Excelencia Internacional

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