Jorge García Girón, is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Biodiversity and Environmental Management at the University of León. He has been awarded the prize for the best European Doctoral Thesis 2019-2020. His research was entitled ‘Geographical Variation in the Biodiversity of Aquatic Macrophytes: Towards an Integration of Scale and Ecological Organisation’. It was directed by professors Camino Fernández Aláez and Margarita Fernández Aláez (ULE). Janne Alahutha (University of Oulu Finland) also participated. This is an award given annually by the European Federation for Freshwater Sciences (EFFS).
This award is awarded in competitive competition among the candidates who, previously, have been recognized as the best doctoral theses. These finalists are chosen in a total of 10 European countries (Ireland, Hungary, England, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Romania, Finland and Switzerland).
In the case of García Girón he was able to participate because previously the Iberian Association of Limnology awarded him the XII Prize for Research in Limnology. The jury that failed the prize for this young researcher of the ULE was composed of five professors. They participated from the Universities of London (England), Bucharest (Romania), Montpellier (France), Girona (Spain) and Bielefeld (Germany).
Objective of the Research
The main objective of García Girón’s thesis was to study the biodiversity of aquatic plants on a global scale. It characterized their patterns of geographical distribution and the effect of climate, land uses and biotic interactions on the functional characteristics and evolutionary relationships of these organisms.
“We found that aquatic plant communities (scientifically ‘macrophytes’) are significantly more diverse in tropical areas. These areas have maintained relatively stable climatic conditions in the last 20,000 years”, explains Jorge García Girón, This researcher has developed all his academic training at the ULE with extraordinary end of career award in Environmental Sciences. He has a scientific career backed by his record of 43 honors, without forgetting that he already brings together several articles in international journals of impact.
He first conducted research on the benign climatic conditions of Ecuador that have allowed a greater diversification of these lineages. Later, García-Girón, valued that these zones are hot spots for the organisms that inhabit freshwater ecosystems. “This hypothesis is a known fact for terrestrial flora and fauna. Although our studies corroborate, for the first time, that tropical latitudes act as climatic and evolutionary refuges of freshwater vegetation.”
Special of great ecological and cultural value
In the course of his research he also discovered sufficient empirical evidence that changes in climate are producing an alteration on the spatial distribution limits of aquatic plants across the planet. This includes tropical, temperate and boreal areas. “To reach such a suggestive conclusion, I led several studies in collaboration with about twenty colleagues from more than 15 universities on five continents. Universities of Florida, Sydney, Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro or the Chinese Academy of Sciences, for example, participated.”
Similarly, their statistical and molecular models suggest that the fragmentation of landscapes resulting from anthropic activity and globalization “could accelerate the local extinction of these species of great ecological and cultural value. These phenomena alter the dispersive flows that ultimately control models of aquatic flora diversity.”
Overall, this thesis has been, to date, the only systematic study on a planetary scale that proposes “global empirical solutions for the conservation of the fascinating vegetation that inhabits our lakes, lagoons, wetlands and rivers”, explains García Girón. The researcher considers that his research calls for the joint collaboration of multiple social agents. It ranges from supranational entities to popular groupings. In this way it can “ensure the comprehensive protection of macrophytic biodiversity. In the same way, the success of environmental conservation strategies can be crystallized. They have been implemented in the long term through the Water Framework Directive.”
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