Measuring heights during fieldwork (Stubaital)

Meet an Ecology PhD-student: Lucía LAORDEN CAMACHO

Effects of shrub encroachment on ecosystem services and functions due to land-use and climate change

I have been passionate about mountains as far as I can remember.  As a kid I would go for big mountain tours and was captivated by the adventure and rawness of these ecosystems. As I grew older I came to understand that mountains were also providers of infinite ecosystem services, and that climate change posed a real threat to them. Therefore, I decided to study the bachelor Environmental Sciences in Madrid (Spain) and afterwards the master of Environmental Management of Mountain Areas in Bolzano (Italy) and Innsbruck (Austria).

Stubai view1
Stubai view2

Views of the field site in the Stubai Valley (Credit: Anna-Lena Neunteufel, Lucía Laorden)

Having finished my master studies, I had the great opportunity of joining the group “Ecosystems and Landscape Ecology” at the Universität Innsbruck, where I am now a PhD student. I am part of the LUCSES project, where we investigate the impacts of shrub encroachment in subalpine grasslands. More specifically, our study site is located in the Stubai Valley between 1800 and 2100 m.a.s.l. Land abandonment and climate change are expected to increase the abundance of dwarf shrubs in alpine areas. However, the repercussions of the shift of grasslands into shrublands is still not fully understood.  It is known that shrubs allocate more carbon than grasses, which would have an impact in carbon cycles.

Shrub sample  (Credit: Anna-Lena Neunteufel)

Shrubs also have an impact on water balance in the soils and microbiological soil characteristics. In the LUCSES project we try to unravel the interactions of all these components and how they may result in a change in the ecosystem functions and the delivery of key ecosystem services. The LUCSES project is a result of an international cooperation between the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) and the University of Grenoble Alps (UGA), which is without doubt an added value to our scientific research.

Up to date we have concluded 2 field campaigns (summers 2021 and 2022) from which we expect to have fruitful data very soon. During the last years I had the pleasure to work alongside knowledgeable scientists, learn many infield and lab procedures for data collection and processing. I am truly grateful to be part of such an amazing team and contribute to this interesting research. I also hope that I can soon deliver interesting input that will help to understand and protect our alpine ecosystems.


Lucia Laorden Camacho

Research Group: Ecosystem and Landscape Ecology


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