Environmental Stress & Functional Ecology - ESFE

Environmental Stress & Functional Ecology - ESFE

The ESFE research group includes eight senior researchers (4 holding academic positions), and a variable number of PhD and MSc students. In addition, the group collaborates in the supervision of PhD students with other national and international Universities.

There are three sub-groups:

(i) Plant community ecology and ecological restoration, coordinated by Prof. Otília Correia,

(ii) Stable isotope ecology and ecosystems functioning, coordinated by Prof. Cristina Máguas, and

(iii) Tropical plants and systems, coordinated by Dr. Luís Catarino.

Our group specializes in the physiological ecology of plants in relation to natural and anthropogenic stresses and disturbances. A mechanistic understanding of plant response to the immediate environment, from leaf to ecosystem levels, can help explain current vegetation patterns, but also predict future distributions. Therefore, our central goal is to extend current, basic knowledge of plant-environment interactions, but to further provide applied information presently needed to mitigate anthropogenic impacts and biodiversity loss.

We are particularly interested in the impacts of abiotic factors such as drought and other climatic variations on plant ecological processes in Mediterranean and tropical ecosystems.

We use an impressive array of popular and novel tools and methods to answer those burning questions in plant community ecology today, which includes biogeochemistry, plant anatomical structure and function, stable isotopes, and finally process-based modeling. Our studies often combine lab-based experiments and field-based studies. We are also fortunate to have access to long-term monitoring data to further augment quantitative laboratory analyses and modeling approaches to find the main mechanisms and drivers affecting plant form and function, and thus ecosystem stability. Our group is also responsible for the Stable Isotopes and Instrumental Analysis Facility (CRIE-SIIAF).

Using the principles of functional ecology, we ultimately intend to contribute data and disseminate knowledge on:

  •          Strategies for the management and conservation of drought-prone agro-ecosystems.
  •          Understanding how invasive plant species establish and spread, their subsequent ecosystem impacts, and how to manage these.
  •          Ecological restoration of degraded ecosystems.
  •          Tools to trace the geographic origin of natural products.




Plant Community Ecology and Ecological Restoration Stable Isotope Ecology and Ecosystems Functioning Tropical Plants and Systems