Tracking past human impact on islands improving palaeoecological reconstructions with PalEnDNA analysis

Descripción del proyecto

Agencia Financiadora

Unión Europea (Marie Slodowska Curie Actions)


Investigador Principal

Lea de Nascimento (ULL) - Beneficiaria

Otros Investigadores: José María Fernández-Palacios (ULL) (supervisor), Juli Caujapé Castells (Jardín Botánico Canario “Viera y Clavijo”-Unidad Asociada CSIC), Janet Wilmshurst (Landcare Research NZ Ltd).

Resumen del proyecto

One of the main difficulties in the implementation of palaeoecological techniques in the Canaries is to detect fossils. This is due to poor conditions for fossil preservation at certain sites, i.e. “silent sites”, and under-representation of several key taxa, such as Lauraceae, in the fossil record, i.e. “ghost taxa”. The analysis of ancient DNA (aDNA) from palaeoenvironmental samples, defined as palaeoenvironmental DNA (PalEnDNA), provides a novel complementary tool to traditional palaeoecological proxies. PalEnDNA analysis can improve the detection of plant taxa under-represented in other proxies, but also increase the taxonomic resolution and help to distinguish between local or regional origins. So far, PalEnDNA has been mostly applied in cold and temperate continental regions, with little work having been carried out on islands. The use of PalEnDNA on the Canary Islands will significantly advance our understanding of pre-human ecosystems on these islands, especially where pollen or plant macrofossils are poorly preserved. The main aims of ISLANDPALECO are: 1) to improve the reconstruction of past environments in the Canary Islands by revealing the past occurrence of “ghost taxa” and unlocking past records from “silent sites”, 2) to asses the timing and extent of human impact on Canarian ecosystems following the two waves of human colonization, based on new and existing improved palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, providing pre-human vegetation baselines, and related post-(aboriginal)colonization and post-(European)contact vegetation responses, and 3) to communicate the results from ISLANDPALECO to both scientists and managers so that palaeoecological information can be easily incorporated into ecological restoration projects and conservation management, and disseminated to the society via scientific, academic and popular media. In this way, ISLANDPALECO addresses “the improvement of our understanding of elements driving changes in the environment, in order to better tackle them”, one of the aims of the actions included in the societal challenge “Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials” established by the H2020 Work Programme 2014–2015, and the specific topic “More effective ecosystem restoration in the EU”. The ISLANDPALECO proposal also deals with some of the 50 priority research questions in palaeoecology. This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 700952.