Conservation and Restoration of Ecosystems and Agrosystems


In our group we are dedicated to the research in ecological restoration using innovative technologies such as precision restoration, seed protectors, smart seeds or drones. In addition, we study the ecological and ecophysiological aspects that determine the success of forest or shrubland ecosystem restoration. Our main objective is to recover and preserve natural ecosystems, promoting biodiversity and contributing to environmental conservation.

Ecological restoration is a key discipline in a world where environmental degradation and loss of natural habitats are of increasing concern. We seek to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in restoration projects in order to develop them on a large scale, seeking to develop innovative methods and techniques that can be applied both in natural environments and in degraded areas, such as areas affected by wildfires or human activities.

Our multidisciplinary team is composed of experts in biology, ecology, technology and data analysis. We work in collaboration with local organizations, government institutions and other universities to address the most pressing challenges in ecological restoration.
Through our research, we are committed to spreading knowledge and raising awareness of the importance of ecological restoration. We conduct scientific experiments, publish research in relevant journals, and participate in conferences and congresses to share our progress and promote public participation in environmental conservation.
If you are interested in our projects, collaborations or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us!


Group staff

Person in charge

Castro Gutierrez, Jorge


Research lines

  • Restoration of terrestial ecosystems.
  • Biodiversity conservation.
  • Plant-animal interactions: dispersal of seeds and herbivory.
  • Soil-plant interactions.
  • Ecosystem services.
  • Regeneration of disturbed ecosystems.

Research projects

  • Title: Efecto del fuego sobre la diversidad de insectos claves (Hormigas y Abejas) en el monte andaluz: aspectos funcionales e implicaciones para la conservación.
    • Financing entity: Consejería de Innovación, Ciencia y Empresa. Junta de Andalucía.
    • Duration: 2014 - 2018
    • Researcher in charge: Jorge Castro
    • Funding: 163.000 €.

Ph.D. dissertations of the group

  • PhD student: Carlos Ruben Molinas González.
    • Title: Dinámica post-incendio de la madera muerta e implicaciones de su manejo para las comunidades de insectos.
    • Promotors: Jorge Castro Gutiérrez, Alex B. Leverkus.
    • Defence date: 30/01/2020.
  • PhD student: Diego Francisco Salazar Tortosa.
    • Title: Factores que determinan la respuesta de los pinos ante un escenario de cambio global: una aproximación ecofisiológica y evolutiva.
    • Promotors: Jorge Castro Gutiérrez, Rafael Rubio de Casas.
    • Defence date: 14/01/2019.


  • 2023

    • Juan‐Ovejero, R., Elghouat, A., Navarro, C.J., Reyes‐Martín, M.P., Jiménez, M.N., Navarro, F.B., Alcaraz‐Segura, D. & Castro, J. Estimation of aboveground biomass and carbon stocks of Quercus ilex L. saplings using UAV‐derived RGB imagery. Annals of Forest Science 80, 44.
    • Lázaro-González A, Tamultaityté G, Castro J, Uscola M, Leverkus AB 2023. Seedling establishment in a deciduous and an evergreen oak under simulated climate change. For Ecol Manage 550: 121498. Publicación (pdf)
    • Cours J, Bouget C, Barsoum N, Horák J, Le Souchu E, Leverkus AB, Pincebourde S, Thorn S, Sallé A (2023) Surviving in changing forests: abiotic disturbance legacy effects on arthropod communities of temperate forests Current Forestry Reports 9: 189–218.
    • Kriegel P et al. (autor 20/32) 2023. Ambient and substrate energy influence decomposer diversity differentially across trophic levels. Ecology Letters 26:1157–1173
    • Juli Pausas, Leverkus AB, 2023. Disturbance ecology in human societies. People and Nature 5: 1082-1093
    • Lázaro-González A, Andivia E, Hampe A, Hasegawa S, Marzano R, Santos AMC, Castro J, Leverkus AB. 2023. Revegetation through seeding or planting: A worldwide systematic map. J Environ Manage 337:117713
    • Molina‐Morales M; Leverkus AB; Albaladejo‐Robles G; Martínez‐Baroja L; Pérez‐Camacho L; Villar‐Salvador P; Rebollo S; Rey‐Benayas JM; Castro J. 2023 Linking animal behaviour and tree recruitment: caching decisions by a scatter hoarder corvid determine seed fate in a Mediterranean agroforestry system. Journal of Ecology 111:400–411
  • 2022

    • Juan-Ovejero, R., Castro, J., & Querejeta, J.I. (2022). Low acclimation potential compromises the performance of water-stressed pine saplings under Mediterranean xeric conditions. Science of The Total Environment, 831, 154797.
    • Leverkus, A.B., Thorn, S., Lindenmayer, D.B., Pausas, J. (2022). Tree planting goals must account for wildfires. Science 376:588–9
    • Viljur et al. (autor 32/54), 2022. The effect of natural disturbances on forest biodiversity: an ecological synthesis. Biological Reviews 97: 1930-1947.
  • 2021

    • Leverkus A.B., et al., 2021. Resilience impacts of a secondary disturbance: Meta-analysis of salvage logging effects on tree regeneration. Journal of Ecology 109:3224–3232
    • Leverkus. A.B., Navarro, F.B. 2021. One size fits some (serie EcoPics). Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 19: 333
    • Leverkus A.B. et al., 2021. Seeding or planting to revegetate the world’s degraded land: Systematic review and experimentation to address methodological issues. Restoration Ecology 29:e13372
    • Martínez-Baroja et al.  2021. Caching territoriality and site preferences by a scatter-hoarder drive the spatial pattern of seed dispersal and affect seedling emergence. J. Ecol. 109: 2342-2353
    • Gustafsson, L., Granath, G., Nohrstedt, H.Ö., Leverkus, A.B., Johansson, V. (2021) Burn severity and soil chemistry are weak drivers of early vegetation succession following a boreal mega-fire in a production forest landscape. Journal of Vegetation Science 32: e12966
    • Gustafsson L et al. (author position 3/6) 2021. Disturbance interval modulates the starting point for vegetation succession. Ecology 102: e03439 doi:
    • Leverkus, A.B. et al., 2021. Restoring oak forests through direct seeding or planting: Protocol for a continental-scale experiment. PLoS ONE 16: e0259552
    • Seibold S., Rammer W., Hothorn T, Seidl R., Ulyshen M.D., Lorz J., Cadotte M.W., Lindenmayer D.B., Adhikari Y.P., Aragón R., Bae S., Baldrian P., Varandi H.B., Barlow J., Bässler C., Beauchêne J., Berenguer E., Bergamin R.S., Birkemoe T., Boros G., Brandl R., Brustel H., Burton P.J., Cakpo-Tossou Y.T., Castro J., Cateau E., Cobb T.P., Farwig N., Fernández R.D., Firn J., Gan K.S., González G., Gossner M.M., Habel J.C., Hébert C., Heibl C., Heikkala O., Hemp A., Hemp C., Hjältén J., Hotes S., Kouki J., Lachat T., Liu J., Liu Y., Luo Y.-H., Macandog D.M., Martina P.E., Mukul S.A., Nachin B., Nisbet K., O’Halloran J., Oxbrough A., Pandey J.N., Pavlícek T., Pawson S.M., Rakotondranary J.S., Ramanamanjato J.-B., Rossi L., Schmidl J., Schulze M., Seaton S., Stone M.J., Stork N.E., Suran B., Sverdrup-Thygeson A., Thorn S., Thyagarajan G., Wardlaw T.J., Weisser W.W., Yoon S., Zhang N., Müller J. (2021). The contribution of insects to global forest deadwood decomposition. Nature 597: 77-81 (doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03740-8)
    • Castro J, Morales-Rueda F, Navarro FB, Löf M, Vacchiano G, Alcaraz-Segura D (2021). Precision restoration: a necessary approach to foster forest recovery in the 21st century. Restoration Ecology (doi: 10.1111/rec.13421).
    • Martínez-Baroja L., Pérez-Camacho L., Villar-Salvador P., Rebollo S., Leverkus A.B., Pesendorfer M., Molina-Morales M., Castro J., Rey-Benayas J. (2021). Caching territoriality and site preferences by a scatter-hoarder drives the spatial pattern of seed dispersal and affect seedling emergence. Journal of Ecology (doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.13642)
    • Leverkus A.B., Lázaro-González A., Andivia E., Castro J., Jiménez M.N., Navarro F.B. (2021). Seeding or planting to revegetate the world’s degraded land: systematic review and experimentation to address methodological issues. Restoration Ecology 29, No. 4, e13372 (doi: 10.1111/rec.13372)
    • Juan-Ovejero R., Molinas-González C., Leverkus A.B., Martín-Peinado F.J., Castro J. (2021). Decadal effect of post-fire management treatments on soil carbon and nutrient concentrations in a burnt Mediterranean forest. Forest Ecology and Management 498, 119570 (doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2021.119570 )
    • Leverkus A.B. et al., 2021. Environmental policies to cope with novel disturbance regimes –steps to address a world scientists’ warning to humanity”. Environmental Research Letters 16: 021003.
    • Leverkus, A.B., Crawley, M.J. (2020) Temporal variation in effect sizes in a long-term, split-plot field experiment. Ecology 101:e03009.
  • 2019:
    • Salazar-Tortosa D., Saladin B., Zimmermann N.E., Castro J. y Rubio de Casas (2019). The evolution of seed dispersal is associated with environmental heterogeneity in Pinus. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 41: 125464 (doi:10.1016/j.ppees.2019.125464).
    • Löf M., Castro J., Engman M., Leverkus A.B., Madsen P., Reque J.A., Villalobos A. y Gardiner E.S. (2019). Tamm Review: Direct seeding to restore oak (Quercus spp.) forests and woodlands. Forest Ecology and Management 448:474-489 (doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2019.06.032).
    • Molina-Morales M., Albaladejo G. y Castro J. (2019). Cache marking under field conditions does not affect recovery rate in a scatter-hoarder corvid. Ardeola 66: 77-87 (doi: 10.13157/arla.66.1.2019.sc2).
    • Martínez-Baroja, L., Pérez-Camacho, L., Villar-Salvador, P., Rebollo, S., Quiles, P., Gómez-Sánchez, D., Molina-Morales, M., Leverkus, A.B., Castro, J. & Rey-Benayas, J.M. (2019) Massive and effective acorn dispersal into agroforestry systems by an overlooked vector, the Eurasian magpie (Pica pica). Ecosphere 10:e02989.
    • Molinas-González, C. R., Castro, J., González-Megías, A., Leverkus, A.B. (2019) Effects of post-fire deadwood management on soil macroinvertebrate communities. Forests 10:1046.
    • Thorn, S., Müller, J., Leverkus, A.B. (2019) Preventing future forest diebacks. Science 365:1388.
    • Rebollo, S., et al.(2019) Servicios de la avifauna (high mobile link species) en mosaicos agroforestales: regeneración forestal y regulación de plagas. Ecosistemas 28:32–41.
    • Leverkus, A.B., García Murillo, P., Jurado Doña, V., García Pausas, J. Wildfire: Opportunity for restoration? Science 363:134-135.
    • Thorn, S. Leverkus, A.B., Thorn, C.J., Beudert, B. (2019). Education and knowledge determine preference for bark beetle control measures in El Salvador. J. Environ. Manage 232:138-144.
    • Castro, J., Leverkus, A.B. (2019). Effect of herbaceous layer interference on the post-fire regeneration of a serotinous pine (Pinus pinaster Aiton) across two seedling ages. Forests 10:art74.
    • Leverkus, A.B., Thorn, S., Gustafsson, L. & Lindenmayer, D.B. (2018). Salvage logging in the world’s forests: Interactions between natural disturbance and logging need recognition. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 27(10): 1140-1154.
  • 2018:
    • Salazar-Tortosa D., Castro J., Villar-Salvador P., Viñegla B., Matías L., Michelsen A., de Casas R.R. y Querejeta I. (2018). The “isohydric trap”: a proposed feed-back between water shortage, stomatal regulation and nutrient acquisition drives differential growth and survival of European pines under climatic dryness. Global Change Biology 24: 4069-4083 (doi: 10.1111/gcb.14311).
    • Salazar-Tortosa D., Castro J. de Casas R.R., Viñegla B., Sánchez-Cañete E.P. y Villar-Salvador P. (2018). Gas exchange at whole plant level shows that a less conservative water use is linked to a higher performance in three ecologically distinct pine species. Environmental Research Letters 13 (2018):045004 (doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/aab18f ).
    • Leverkus, A.B., Thorn, S., Gustafsson, L. & Lindenmayer, D.B. (2018). Salvage logging in the world’s forests: Interactions between natural disturbance and logging need recognition. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 27(10): 1140-1154.
    • Leverkus, A.B., et al. (21 autores). (2018). Salvage logging effects on regulating and supporting ecosystem services – A systematic map. Can. J. For. Res. 48(9): 983-1000.
    • Müller J, Noss R, Thorn S, Bässler C, Leverkus AB, Lindenmayer D. 2018. Increasing disturbance demands new policies to conserve intact forest. Cons. Lett. e12449.
    • Thorn, S. et al. 2018. Impacts of salvage logging on biodiversity – a meta-analysis. J. Appl. Ecol. 55:279-289.
  • 2017:
    • Thorn S., Bässler C., Brandl R., Burton P.J., Cahall R., Campbell J.L., Castro J. , Choi C.-Y.., Cobb T., Donato D.C., Durska E., Fontaine J.B., Gauthier S., Hebert C., Hothorn T., Hutto R.L., Lee E.-J., Leverkus A.B., Lindenmayer D.B., Obrist M.K., Rost J., Seibold S., Seild R., Thom D., Waldron K., Wermelinger B., Winter B., Zmihorski M. y Müller J. (2017). Impacts of salvage logging on biodiversity –a meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Ecology (en prensa).
    • Matías L., J. Castro. P. Villar-Salvador, J.L. Quero and A.S. Jump A.S. 2017. Differential impact of hotter drought on seedling performance of five ecologically distinct pines species. PlantEcology 218: 201-212 (DOI 10.1007/s11258-016-0677-7).
    • Molinas-González C.R., Leverkus A.B., Marañón-Jiménez S., Castro J. (2017). Fall rate of burnt pines across an elevational gradient in a Mediterranean mountain. European Journal of Forest Research, DOI: 10.1007/s10342-017-1040-9
    • Castro J., Molina-Morales M., Leverkus A.B., Martínez-Baroja L., Pérez-Camacho L., Villar-Salvador P., Rebollo S. y Rey-Benayas J.M. (2017). Effective nut dispersal by magpies (Pica pica L.) in a Mediterranean agroecosystem. Oecologia, DOI 10.1007/s00442-017-3848-x
  • 2016:
    • Leverkus A.B., Rey-Benayas J.M. y Castro J. (2016). Shifting demographic conflicts across recruitment cohorts in a dynamic post-disturbance landscape. Ecology 97: 2628-2639.
    • Herrero A., Almaraz P., Zamora R., Castro J. y Hódar J.A. (2016). From the individual to the landscape and back: long-term impact of climate and herbivory on tree sapling growth at distribution limits. Journal of Ecology 104: 430-442.