Research in Progress


RIHEL –  Balancing RIparia and HydroELectricity: from the RIver to the LAb

The world heavily relies on non-renewable energy sources to meet energy requirements. This project ultimate aims to investigate the effect of sub-daily variations of hydropower operations on riparian vegetation. It will enable the identification of the best mitigation measures involving most of the operational scenarios in a multi-market framework and the most effective compensatory measures which maximeize the ecosystems sustainability and the power plant profitability.

Principal Investigator: Maria Dolores Bejarano Carrión


FCT – Project RIVEAL RIver and riparian forest Values and Ecosystem services in uncertain freshwater futures and Altered Landscapes (PTDC/CTA-AMB/29790/2017; 1st. December 2018 – 30 November 2021) Website:

Principal Investigator: Francisca C. Aguiar
Rivers, riverine ecosystems and humans concur for space, water and energy. Riparian forests are multifunctional ecotones that generate a range of goods and services to human well-being and society, collectively called Ecosystem Services, ES. RIVEAL aims to quantify key-ES of riparian forests and predict the gains/losses of ES under diverse climatic, land use and water management scenarios in the Portuguese fluvial landscapes. We focused on three ES: Fluvial Ecological Integrity (Supporting), Carbon Sequestration (Regulating), and Socio-cultural values (Cultural). We selected two rivers in agricultural landscapes of Portugal: River Lima impaired by the run-of-river Touvedo dam and River Alva by Fronhas, a reservoir deriving water to another watershed. Bayesian Belief Networks models will combine drivers of riparian change and ES values to enable decision-makers to quantify tradeoffs associated with management choices and prioritize investments in natural capital to increase ES.

FCT – Portugal 2020: OPTIMUS PRIME – Optimal Greening of Irrigated farmland to achieve a prime environment (FCT-PTDC/ASP-AGR/29771/2017; 27 November 2018- 30 September 2021) Website:

Principal Investigator: M.T. Ferreira
The project aims to quantify the ecosystem services provided by irrigated croplands to ecological focus areas (EFA) such as field margins, hedges, trees, fallow land, landscape features, biotopes, buffer strips, and afforested areas, and the habitat configurations serving the maximum capacity of services. The project will also simulate water and habitat delivery of biodiversity services for different climate change scenarios and agriculture storylines in the future. Economic costs and agro-policy environmental trade-offs will be analyzed and an EFA calculator produced at the farm level. The project develops over two case-studies, collects information in situ and remotely, and the results will receive the input and testing from the farmers, during the project lifespan.


RIPCARBON: Riparian carbon stock estimations using remote sensing data

Funding: Forest Research Centre
Principal Investigator: M.R. Fernandes

Summary: RIPCARBON is a pioneer operating project aiming to estimate carbon stocks of riparian forests. Forest carbon stock and sequestration are for long recognized as an Ecosystem Service of major importance to mitigate the effect of greenhouse gases and climate change. RIPCARBON will estimate carbon stocks in a pilot riparian area using geometric and spectral attributes derived from high-resolution multispectral Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) imagery. These remote sensing estimations will be validated with field data and will establish the foundations for future studies addressing riparian carbon sequestration (dynamics of carbon stocks over a period of time) at a regional scale.


RIPONFIRE Riparian forests: firebreaks or wicks to fire spread?
Principal Investigator: D. Oom

Funding: Forest Research Centre

Riparian forests are crucial components of landscapes, influencing numerous ecological processes from local to landscape levels. The riparian fire regimes and fire effects are different from the adjacent lands and vary among river types. There is an open debate on the technical and scientific community questioning if riparian forests can act as firebreaks or can be preferential corridors to fire spread due to their specific location, fuel density, and inflammable potential. The effects of fire in planted forests are relatively well studied in Portugal, however, the fire behavior and severity over riparian forests are particularly lacking. This study will estimate fire severity over different riparian forests in Portugal using satellite imagery and relate to riparian composition and biophysical templates from field data. The findings will provide valuable information for better management of both riparian and planted forests, which should take into account simultaneously the wildfire risk management and the provision of ecosystem services.


ALBUFEIRA: Joint evaluation program of the water bodies of Spanish-Portuguese hydrographic river basins [Programa de evaluación conjunta de las masas de agua de las cuencas hidrográficas hispano-portuguesas]

Operational Program: EP – INTERREG V A España Portugal (POCTEP). ID: 1605
(01/10/2017 – 31/12/2021)
Main aim is the protection and the restablishment of the biodiversity and soils on the view of the promotion of ecosystem services through NAtura 2000 and ecological infrastructures. Specific aim: Enhance the protection and sustainable management of natural fluvial ecosystems in transnational river basins.

PRESERV: Preserve Riparian Ecosystem SERVices in a context of land-use change and streamflow disturbance. Post-doctoral Research (FCT SFRH/BPD/112417/2015)
Principal Investigator: Francisca C. Aguiar

Funding: Forest Research Centre

Summary: PRESERV aims to quantify in economic terms the main Ecosystem Services of riparian forests, and predict the gains/losses of ES under diverse management scenarios, concerning dam regulation of streamflows and land-use.
Specifically, the proposed framework aims:

To rank major ES and determine their monetary values for Mediterranean riparian zones in regulated rivers, providing a relevant ES assessment -> a basic knowledge for stakeholders’ decisions, that is totally lacking at national level;

To determine the effects and synergies of land-use conversion and streamflow regulation on ES of riparian forests -> proposing a realistic framework using major drivers of change for Mediterranean regions;

To provide understanding of land-water-riparian linkages across spatial and temporal scales -> allow identifying chief-specific indicators of change, such as hydropeaking or land abandonment and the social dimension of changes;

To enlarge understanding of the effects of hydrologic alterations by different dam operations in riparian vegetation, namely run-of-river dams and storage dams -> contributes to strategically manage dams to both accommodate human uses and provide for the functioning of riparian ecosystems.