Together for Biodiversity

Biodiversity of Deserts and Arid Regions - BIODESERTS



Group Description

BIODESERTS develops leading scientific research in the desert, arid and semi-arid regions, with emphasis in North Africa and the Mediterranean Basin, the latter a global biodiversity hotspot, and particular attention is given to the mountain “sky-islands” of the Sahara-Sahel. Climate Changes predictions forecast significant warming with consequent aridity increase for these regions and bordering areas of current deserts. The UN settled the 2010-2020 as the Decade for Deserts and Fight against Desertification and the Mediterranean and the Sahel are upfront desertification areas where knowledge about biodiversity patterns and processes is urgent to provide conservation planning options. The group is committed at gathering reliable data at useful scales and at producing outputs of high scientific standard, to be used as guidelines for conservation policies.


The research carried out in the BIODESERTS group is organised in three complementary lines that aim to answer the following main questions:

BIODIVERSITY DISTRIBUTION: Where are located biodiversity hotspots? How is species richness related to environmental variation, particularly in water-dependent taxa? Is there cryptic diversity in mountain taxa?

Research focuses on the production of atlases of distribution of species, multi-scale identification of biodiversity hotspots, identification of environmental and physiological factors related to distribution, and multi-time scale modelling of biodiversity distribution;


EVOLUTIONARY AND LANDSCAPE PROCESSES: Which are the evolutionary relationships between closely-related taxa) Which is their systematics position? Are paleoecological events associated to diversification patterns? Are species´ genetic structure explained by common biogeographic processes? How important are adaptive processes in the presence of steep environmental gradients on deserts? How do landscape features and climatic traits relate to gene flow dynamics and connectivity in metapopulation systems and contact zones?

Research focuses on the determination of biogeographical relationships and spatial patterns in morphological and genetic variation, identification of barriers to gene flow, investigation of the role of paleogeographical mechanisms in diversification events, identification of landscape features related to metapopulation dynamics and hybridisation, and reconstruction of past landscapes/climates to address diversification events;


CONSERVATION PLANNING: Which taxa are most threatened? Can sensible conservation units be identified? Where should be located optimal reserve solutions for biodiversity conservation in face of climate change? How is repeated-fire affecting the composition and distribution of biodiversity?

Research focuses on the identification of genetic conservation units in endangered desert-dwelling taxa and Red List evaluation of Sahara-Sahel taxa, on the design of optimised reserve solutions for biodiversity conservation that integrate demographic and molecular data to cover distinct biodiversity levels under climate change scenarios, on the simulation of the effects of climate change on biodiversity distribution, and on the estimation of the effects of repeated-fire regimes on biodiversity distribution in arid areas of the Iberian Peninsula.


Advanced training of human resources (PhD and MSc graduations) has a central role in the group and supervision is being given to students from both European and African universities. Dissemination of scientific information and culture to the general public is also a priority mission for the group.


For additional information, please visit the BIODESERTS Group's blog




Student Supervisions