After studying general biology and ecology I chose to focus my interest on forest ecology and, more particularly, on Mediterranean forests functionning. This interest is motivated by the very challenging nature of research in this field due both to the high ecological value of the Mediterranean forests in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services as well as their high sensitivity regarding climate change and the evolution of the anthropic pressure. While Mediterranean forests are characterized by a strong water limitation during summer it is expected that this constraint will increase in the future due to overall lower precipitation and higher temperatures. Furthermore the agricultural land abandonment and forest under-management trends that have been observed since the XXth century are yielding denser forest structure with high level of competition between the trees. The interaction of those two trends rises main concern about the future of the Mediterranean forests and it is consequently critical to understand how it can affect their functioning (e.g increase in drought-related die off events and fire risk, lower productivity).
The objectives of my PhD at the CTFC therefore are to characterize the water-limitation degree of forests in Catalonia by integrating the strong climatic gradient present in this area (from Mediterranean to alpine) as well as other determinant factors such as forests functional and structural diversity or the spatial variation of the soil water capacity; and integrate the water and carbon cycles at the physiological scale (i.e describing processes such as transpiration, photosynthesis, cambium expansion and their interaction) in order to predict the effect of climate change on tree growth and mortality.
The main tools of my PhD are process-based models developed in the R package 'Medfate', which are working at the cohort level and aiming to be applied at the regional scale (Catalonia).