Island Plant Ecology

PASTURCLIM - Impact of climate change on pasture’s productivity and nutritional composition in the Azores

  • PO Azores
  • Regional Research Project
  • 2019 to 2022

The PASTURCLIM project has the main objective to study the possible effects of climate change on the productivity and nutrient composition of the pastures in the Azores. This study will occur in Terceira Island, the second most productive island in terms of dairy cattle in the Azores. An experimental approach will be undertaken in order to simulate the predicted climate change, and analyse the potential effects over the grassland of pastures in the Azores.
The main objectives of this project are to:
A. Determine the direct consequences of raising temperature and extreme drought on Azorean pastures;
B. Determine the consequences for soil nutrient availability;
C. Evaluate changes grassland, herbivore and predatory arthropod abundance, taxonomic and functional diversity;
D. Investigate the ecophysiological responses of the grassland species;
E. Generate field data that can be used to predict more accurately what the consequences of climate change are and how these can be addressed by decision makers.
We mainly seek to answer the following questions:
i) What is the effect of climate change (rising temperature and erratic rain patterns) on the grass species abundance of pastures?
ii) What is the effect of climate change on net productivity of grasses in pastures?
iii) What are the consequences of climate change for soil nutrient availability?
iv) What are the consequences of climate change for nutrient composition in the grasses?
v) Which type of pasture is more resistant to the effects of climate change (semi-natural vs intensive)?
vi) How does climate change affect the arthropods present in pastures in terms of abundance and diversity (pests vs helpers)?
In order to reach our objectives a manipulation in situ experiment will be set up. To perform this manipulation we will use structures called open top chambers (OTC’s) and rainout shelters in order to simulate the increase in temperature, as well as the erratic rain patterns, namely summer droughts. There will be three different treatments: increased temperature; summer drought; and increased temperature and summer drought. Because these chambers will be placed in-situ it allows for a better understanding of the effects of climate change on a more realistic scenario, as opposed to ex-situ experiments. There will be a total of 48 plots with the different treatments, plus the controls, in four different sites in Terceira island. Several measurements will take place throughout the duration of the project.

Articles in SCI Journals already published within this project:

Melo, C.D., Maduro Dias, C.S.A.M., Wallon, S., Borba, A.E.S., Madruga, J., Borges, P.A.V., Ferreira, M.T. & Elias, R.B. (2022) Influence of climate variability and soil fertility on the forage quality and productivity in Azorean pastures. Agriculture, 12(3), 358. DOI:10.3390/agriculture12030358 (IF2020 2,925; Q1 Agronomy)

Funding Institution:

FEDER & Operational Program Azores 2020.


Team members: 
Alfredo Emilio Silveira de Borba (Ph.D., Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Research and Technology (IITAA));
João da Silva Madruga (Ph.D., Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Research and Technology (IITAA));


Maria Teresa Ferreira (external collaborator, Azorean Biodiversity Group, cE3c);