Vineyards, climate change, and biota conservation as an example of a complex system

Vineyards, climate change, and biota conservation as an example of a complex system

Andrés Muñoz-Sáez

Complexity science provides a theoretical framework that allows confronting the challenges of predicting the consequences of human-induced changes in the biosphere (Sole & Bascompte, 2006). I’m interested in predictive modeling of vineyards in Mediterranean areas, under different climate change scenarios and the potential impact of land use change on biodiversity conservation. Mediterranean ecosystems are particularly susceptible to land use change for agriculture and development, and this can have a huge impact on ecosystems because these areas are biodiversity hotspots of endemism (Myers et al., 2000; Hanna et al., 2013; Viers et al., 2013). Thus, biota dependent on native vegetation can be negatively affected (Merenlender, 2000). These changes in habitat and biodiversity loss could be related to ‘critical transitions’ forced by humans in ecosystems, and these transitions could occur in a rapid and unpredictable way in the biosphere (Barnosky et al., 2012).

The biodiversity conservation in multifunctional landscapes is recognized as a key challenge for the conservation science (Martin et al., 2012). An agricultural landscape could be analyzed as complex mosaic of crop areas, semi-natural landscape and rural areas. The way to analyze this landscape heterogeneity understanding how this mosaic is organized within landscapes patches, diversity, and the complexity of the relation between these patches (Burel & Baudry, 2002). Different species use the landscape as habitat at different scales, for these reason Vandermeer & Perfecto (2007) proposed that the conservation should be done in the agricultural matrix in a landscape context, where the remaining patches of natural habitat are key in the understanding of the ecology dynamic at large scale. In the case of vineyards Viers et al., (2013) propose the vinecology concept, with the aim of promote sustainable viticultural practices and ecological principles for biodiversity conservation, watershed management, soil conservation within vineyards in Mediterranean ecosystems.

Vineyards can be viewed as complex systems, where the interactions between agricultural managements, soil fertility, wildlife habitats, watershed hydrology, and climatic conditions have dynamic interactions. These interactions can be represented in models in order to predict future changes based in the actual information, for example, climate change models allows predict new areas for sustainability of vineyards and the potential conflict with biome conservation areas (Hanna et al., 2013). In this way, the maximum entropy models (MaxEnt), which is based in thermodynamic theory, allows predicts patterns of distribution based in from presence-only species records (Phillips et al., 2006; Elith at al., 2011). According with Elith et al. (2011) “MaxEnt minimizes the relative entropy between two probability densities (one estimated from the presence data and one, from the landscape) defined in covariate space”, where covariate could be climatic variables (e.g.: temperature, precipitation, etc.), that influence in the distribution of a plant. In sum, the use of theorical framework of complexity science to develop predictive models, as MaxEnt, provides a powerful tool for biodiversity conservation (Elith at al., 2011; Barnosky et al., 2012).


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