Centro de Biologia Molecular e Ambiental

Centre of Molecular and Environmental Biology

Conservation Biology

Research highlights

The Conservation Biology team has built a reputation of excellence in biodiversity and conservation research, participating in several projects dedicated to the conservation of species/ecosystems, and promoting the responsible use of natural resources. The aim of the team is to identify, develop and propose solutions to interdisciplinary problems in biodiversity and natural resources conservation, with innovative and unbiased research and stakeholder engagement. As a result of the engagement with external entities, several projects of specialized services have been implemented in the field of ecosystem evaluation and natural resources management. In addition, the team is co-responsible for the management of the Quiaios Field Station (QFS), located 200 km south of Braga, in Quiaios-Figueira da Foz. The QFS provides the logistics for several research works and, in the last years, a motivating and innovative Conservation Medicine and Wildlife Rehabilitation program became one of main goals of the QFS.

Main achievements can be described as follows:


- The establishment of relationships between vertebrate / invertebrate populations and landscape composition and structure and the development of habitat suitability models to assess potential impacts of human infra-structures in the conservation of several species. Habitat suitability models are important tools for species management and conservation.


- Evaluation of biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics using invertebrates as models in coastal zones (dune systems, estuaries, rocky shores and infra-coastal zone), in order to monitor changes in time of these systems.


- The integration of ecological research and wildlife rehabilitation (Conservation Medicine) of several species groups (mainly marine animals, but also some key species in the terrestrial environment). Searching for ecological tools and bioindicator species that help in understanding how to deal with ecological health issues from various standpoints, including the emergence of infectious diseases/zoonoses and the increasing biological effects of persistent pollutants.


- Implementing long-term ecological research concerning the evolution of the populations of small cetaceans in Marine Continental waters, evaluating life-history traits, abundance, distribution and Human factors that influence the conservation of this species (mainly by-catch evaluation and exposure to contaminants). Technical solutions to reduce by-catch are being essayed together with fishermen.

The accurate identification of each agent of the association Trichodoridae nematode/ virus/ plant was carried out using traditional and molecular diagnosis. This will be of most relevance for a rapid diagnosis of the pathogenic agents and to evaluate the risk of this association when proposing clean measures of phytosanitary control to avoid the excessive use of chemicals.

Ongoing and future Work

The Conservation Biology team conducts multidisciplinary research in biodiversity and conservation on both managed and natural systems of relevance to stakeholders and community members. The team addresses broad and specific research in:

- Focusing on aspects ranging from abundance to biotic relationships between wild species (predator/prey, parasite/host), including soil nematodes, spiders, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Scanning of benthonic invertebrate communities in order to find native species able to produce secondary metabolites with biotechnological interest or that may act as vector for repositories of potentially pathogenic microorganisms or dangerous toxins;

- Conservation biology and sustainable use of natural resources - Conservation is a constantly mutating and developing discipline. It urges for continuous research on better methodologies and models that allow the implementation of dynamic conservation schemes for sustainable use and conservation of threatened and men managed species. Particular attention is given to systems were global changes are more likely visible, such as coastal and marine areas. Development of mitigation measures that allow the exploitation of natural resources together with the conservation of protected species is one of the mains research areas. Monitoring of landscape temporal changes, key species and ecosystem processes, constitute also an important goal of the research;

- Conservation medicine and ecotoxicology - Human health problems are being increasingly associated with environmental causes; conservation medicine is a ground-breaking discipline that combines the fields of human, animal and ecosystem health. In fact, this subject deals with ecological health issues from various standpoints, including the emergence of infectious diseases, the effects of persistent pollutants and hazardous substances and their health implications.

The strong interaction between the Conservation Biology team and local environmental management entities trough specialized services is a key opportunity of knowledge transfer from the academic community to stakeholders.

Key References

Fontaine, M.C.; Tolley, K.A.; Michaux, J.R.; Birkun, A.JR.; Ferreira, M.;Jauniaux, T.; Llavona, A.; Öztürk, B.; Öztürk, A.A; Ridoux, V.; Rogan, E.; Sequeira, M.; Bouquegneau, J.M. and Baird, J.S. 2010. Climate change fragments populations of a top cetacean predator: the harbour porpoises in the European waters. Proc. R. Soc. B. 2010 May 5.

Gomes, P. and Leal, H. (2010). Biodiversidade em espaços naturais de Viana do Castelo. 48pp. CMIA, Câmara Municipal de Viana do Castelo

Ribeiro A.R., Eira C., Torres J., Mendes P., Miquel J., Soares A.M.V.M and Vingada J. 2009.Toxic elements concentrations in the razorbill Alca torda (Charadriiformes, Alcidae) in Portugal. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 56: 588-595. doi:10.1007/s00244-008-9215-5.

Eira C., Torres J., Miquel J., Vaqueiro J., Soares A.M.V.M. and Vingada J. 2009. Trace element concentrations in Proteocephalus macrocephalus (Cestoda) and Anguillicola crassus (Nematoda) in comparison to their fish host, Anguilla anguilla in Ria de Aveiro, Portugal. Science of the Total Environment, 407: 991-998. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.10.040.

Rodrigues A, Rocha D, Araújo DN, Araújo H and Gomes P (2009) Avifauna em Viana do Castelo. Câmara Municipal de Viana do Castelo (ed). 256 pp. ISBN 978-972-588-206-1.

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