Assessing long-term trends in the vegetation of European habitats and evaluating the effectiveness of protected areas (VegTrends)

Project Identification
101090344
Project Period
10/2022 - 10/2024
Investor / Pogramme / Project type
European Union
MU Faculty or unit
Faculty of Science

Across most of the globe, ecosystems are being altered by a number of anthropogenic drivers. In Europe, more than 30% of terrestrial habitats have been assessed as "threatened" and, at the same time, the extent to which existing protected areas effectively safeguard biodiversity is currently debated. Halting biodiversity loss, ensuring current and future provisioning of its associated benefits, and protecting natural habitats are core priorities of worldwide conservation agendas, e.g. the UN Sustainable Goals or the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. To achieve these goals, assessments of biodiversity changes through time are essential, especially if accounting for multiple diversity facets and for different levels of biological organization. Resurveying studies of vegetation, i.e. the re-sampling of historically surveyed vegetation plots, are being increasingly used as a cost-effective means to detect temporal changes in many ecosystems. The recent availability of databases including long-term vegetation datasets spanning across geographical areas and ecosystems offers an unprecedented opportunity to quantify biodiversity change efficiently and on previously intractable spatial extents. In light of these considerations, VEGTRENDS aims to: i) provide a multi-habitat assessment of temporal vegetation changes accounting for multiple diversity facets (taxonomic, functional, phylogenetic) and different biological levels (community and species), all while testing for non-random shifts; ii) evaluate the effectiveness of protected areas in conserving European habitats. To address these aspects, VEGTRENDS will make use of two unique databases of long-term vegetation time-series. These extensive datasets, together with a novel and comprehensive methodological approach, will allow gaining unique insights into the temporal trends of European vegetation while pinpointing those habitats that appear more "at risk”.

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