A Researcher’s Diary: monitoring under a pandemic emergency

How to continue with the monitoring process on the woodland strawberry project obtaining key data for learning about the species’ resilience under this pandemic scenario? Pay attention, then! We are about to tell you.

Despite the health emergency in which we are immersed in as well as global lockdowns, Nature goes on. It does not understand about the economic temporary cessation, neither does she distinguish between essential and non-essential jobs, for the cycle of life is and has always been essential.

As introduced in previous blog post, ‘Sierra de Guadarrama’ Research Center is collaborating with Ghent University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, University of Turku, and King Juan Carlos University in a project investigating how natural enemy communities and drought affect defense and performance of woodland strawberry along a European latitudinal gradient. This gradient consists of 5 common gardens, of which the southernmost is located at the Research Center.

087 01 ciseResearch, Monitoring and Evaluation Centre. Author: Jose Luis Izquierdo

This monitoring was being conducted by the international researchers leading the study: Martijn L. Vandegehuchte, Johan Stenberg y Anne Muola. However, due to the health emergency state following COVID-19 pandemic, international transportation is prohibited, the frontiers are closed, the world’s population is locked at home and jobs have been reduce to a minimum, and so ‘Sierra de Guadarrama’ Research Center has taken the baton and continues with the measurements in order to avoid data loss.

It is spring and Nature awakens after winter, showing its first flowers, and so it is time to assess winter survival of the plants and quantify flowering as well as to keep measuring herbivory, disease, and performance.

Fortunately, it seems to be a rainy spring, and we are making the most of the time between downpours to complete with certain continuity the necessary measurements. The survival of the plants after winter has been extraordinary, as all of them have survived. No doubt this success is due to the excellent transplanting and thinning work done by Martijn in December..

                                    ‘Sierra de Guadarrama’ Common garden in April. Foto 2. Author: Jose Luis Izquierdo

During an estimated measurement carried out on the 6th of April to assess the flowering process, we detected that 5% of the plants had bloomed. Our colleagues in the project have told us that blooming time has been relatively similar in all the common gardens. Two weeks later, during a second evaluation in which we started filling in the measurement sheet related to flowering, almost a 30% of blooming plants were assessed. Frost damages were observed: 38% of the flowers were affected by it, although they presented mild damages in most cases. We will have to verify, later on, if those damages have compromised fruit production. As to florivorous invertebrates’ damages, they were barely detected.

087 03 florAphid on a petal. Mild damages on anthers and stigmas caused by frost. Author: Jose Luis Izquierdoo

The monitoring work we conduct at the Research Centre is vital to protect and preserve natural values, providing accurate and updated information, based on scientific and technical knowledge, which is extremely valuable for the management’s decision-making process. Information that, in most cases, has been gathered for years, constituting historical data series whose interruption would only be detrimental for the protection and conservation of protected habitats and threatened species, such as:

Moreover, there are other monitoring studies bound to be conducted in spring, such as measuring and quantifying the flowering of woodland strawberries.

And thus, Science, monitoring and research projects do not stop before this pandemic, even if that means re-scheduling and reorganizing to conduct individual samplings only with researchers living close to the Park.

Stay tuned for the next article this summer!