Lea de Nascimento

Project: Tracking past human impact on islands by improving palaeoecological reconstructions with PalEnDNA analysis

I completed my PhD at the University of La Laguna (Canary Islands, Spain) in collaboration with the Oxford Long-Term Ecology Laboratory (University of Oxford) working on the first long-term vegetation reconstructions of the Canary Islands and the role of humans, climate and volcanic events as drivers of past vegetation change. At the University of La Laguna I am a member of the Island Ecology and Biogeography Group where I participate in research projects related to different aspects of past and present vegetation dynamics in Macaronesian islands, including palaeoecology, forest ecology, fire and grazing impacts, and restoration ecology.

I have been awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship and will be working for two years at the Landcare Research Long-Term Ecology Laboratory, to be trained on palaeoenvironmental DNA (PalEnDNA) analysis. The project aims to improve the reconstruction of past environments of the Canary Islands trying to resolve the timing and extent of human impact in Canarian ecosystems. Combining both conventional (pollen, charcoal) and novel (PalEnDNA) proxies I aim to improve the detection of key ‘ghost taxa’, such as trees in the laurel family (Lauraceae), that are difficult to track in the fossil record. PalEnDNA analysis will be also used to obtain information from lowlands ‘silent sites’ where plant fossils are not well preserved due to the dryer conditions. In the last year of my fellowship, at the University of La Laguna, I will work on how to integrate palaeoecological results in conservation ecology and management strategies in the Canary Islands.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 700952

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