Despite the existing knowledge on the effect of global change in high mountain aquatic environments, there are few studies on the effect on high mountain aquatic biodiversity, especially in the Iberian Peninsula.

Analyses of biodiversity typically face the difficulty of the taxonomic homogenization of the different groups of organisms studied. In this sense, the use of a set of DNA barcodes applied to specific groups of organisms is becoming a useful and versatile tool.

In previous projects, we studied the effects of fish introductions on some groups of organisms from high mountain lakes and rivers, as well as the peat bog vegetation distribution patterns in space and time. At present, we are working in the project LIFE LIMNOPIRINEUS, focused on the conservation, restoration and management of Pyrenean high mountain aquatic ecosystems. With the basis of these projects, and complementing them, here we propose the use of molecular tools for characterising the global aquatic ecosystems biodiversity from the five Iberian High Mountain National Parks. Our objectives are:

  • To generate a tree of life from the aquatic environments.
  • To model the thermal niche of plant biodiversity and the rest of the peatland eukaryotic communities.
  • To model the thermal niche of invertebrate biodiversity of lakes and rivers.
  • Reconstructing eukaryotic communities in paleolimnological samples.

More specifically, we propose to sequence barcodes of the main species (structural and bioindicators among invertebrates and vertebrates, vascular plants and bryophytes of aquatic environments) that, together with the use of massive sequencing techniques (metabarcoding), will allow describing the parks’ aquatic biodiversity. We will also apply these tools to sediment samples to reconstruct past communities using ancient DNA (together with other indicators, such as pollen remains, photosynthetic pigments, etc.).

All the genetic and environmental data will be used for a paleoecological characterization, which will allow to advance in the critical evaluation of the role of climatic changes in the dynamics of aquatic ecosystems.

Therefore, the aim of the project is to identify hidden biodiversity and assess its sensitivity to global change, in terms of climate change and the introduction of invasive species. With the results of this project, the National Parks network will have a database that can be used for future scientific studies and for the management of aquatic ecosystems and their biodiversity. In addition, as a result of the elaboration of the data obtained, we foresee a remarkable advance in the knowledge of aquatic biodiversity, especially its organization in the altitudinal gradient and its response to fish introductions.