Traits-based prioritization of native species for restoring biodiversity in woody crops. A case study from Spanish olive orchards

ESR 2A - Stephanie Frischie

As a PhD student, I study native herbaceous species as cover crops to restore biodiversity in Mediterranean woody crops, specifically olive orchards in Spain.  We use traits to determine the suitability of species for cultivated seed production and for ecological fit to olive orchards.Broadly, my professional mission is to play a role in increasing the area of resilient land.  This can be done through restoration and stewardship, fundraising, policy advocacy, seed production, education and the research which supports these activities.  Seeds are plants too and are a very key part of restoring vibrant natural communities and their ecosystem services.

 

My current research with NASSTEC at Semillas Silvestres (Córdoba, Spain) aims to choose native species which are suitable cover crops for restoring biodiversity and sustainability in woody crops, specifically olive orchards in Spain.  Woody crops (olive, vineyards and almond groves) are key crops in the Mediterranean basin. They provide important economic benefits and they characterize the landscape of cultural agro-systems with a long tradition. However, the intensification of agriculture in the last decades and the eradication of weeds has triggered a decline in the plant diversity of these ecosystems. New practices for environmental sustainability are required to provide pollinator-friendly habitats to improve the quality of Mediterranean woody crops and to increase their biodiversity value. Our work identifies beneficial plant species for these agro-systems and to develop protocols for their seed production and commercialization. We study the suitability of potential native species based on criteria matched to olive management regime, biodiversity, seed production and germination behavior.