Through the Foreign Visiting Professor Program (PVE) of the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes), since 2015 the Swedish professor Göran Sahlén, from Högskolan i Halmstad, has been working with the research "Effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity of the Odonata taxocenose (Insecta: Odonata) in the portion of the pampa biome of Rio Grande do Sul", coordinated by Professor Eduardo Périco in the scope of the Postgraduate Program in Environment and Development (PPGAD) of Univates.
The research is developed in the Laboratory of Ecology and Evolution and, after the collections made in the previous visits, Sahlén and Périco are now dedicated to the analysis of the materials and to the production of three articles that will present the data obtained.
The last work published in November by the group was "Effect of tree plantations on the functional composition of Odonata species in the highlands of southern Brazil", in which they address the presence of Odonata (order of insects to which dragonflies belong) and planting of trees.
The study relates the presence of dragonflies in areas with native vegetation and with mixed forests that have native vegetation and exotic plants. "Our results suggest that the conversion of native areas to especially exotic tree plantations results in a change in the less specialized Odonata communities with changes in the biological characteristics of the species, reflecting on the functional groups. This result highlights the negative impact associated with the conversion of native forests to exotic plantations, that is, odonatas with specialized traits are limited to sites with native forests, which makes conservation of these areas crucial", points out Périco.
According to the Univates professor, the species and environments studied are different in Brazil and Sweden, but it is possible to make a relation between the researches carried out.
“In the European country, the climate changes are more visible because the climate is temperate, making global warming more explicit. In addition to data from Brazil and Sweden, the survey will be expanded with information from Namibia, where Professor Sahlén also conducts studies”. Eduardo Périco
The research project counts on the participation of five scholarship holders of scientific initiation, one master's degree candidate, three doctoral students, and two researchers in post-doctorate.
Students conducted research in Sweden
Capes PVE also provides for the exchange of students abroad, so the scientific initiation scholarship holder Norton Dametto and Marina Dalzochio, who holds a postdoctoral internship at PPGAD, spent about five weeks in Sweden, received by Professor Sahlén. In the period, they got to know the Swedish research system. Dametto and Marina also collected and tabulated updated information and identified materials for the climate change database maintained at Högskolan i Halmstad. According to Marina, from the data of this bank, it was possible to perceive that there is a certain pattern in the increase of the average temperature registered in Sweden and there have been changes in relation to the communities of dragonflies studied since 1997.
"In 20 years there was an increase of 1ºC in the average temperature in Sweden, which is a lot, since the projection was 0.6ºC until 2025. In other words, the increase recorded was higher and in a shorter period", Marina says, adding that from this data it is possible to model scenarios on future climate changes. Concerning the pampa biome, for example, projections are being set up until 2070.
According to Périco, the 3°C increase in the planet's average temperature would be enough to melt a large part of the world's glaciers, which would cause an increase in the level of the oceans and affect the coastal cities.
"If we got to an increase of 3ºC, it would be a catastrophe", analyzes the professor. He explains that it is not possible to measure the impact of climate change directly on man, so other indicators are used and research on plants and animals is carried out, so that it is possible to estimate what can happen to humans. "Climate change directly affects the entire food production chain and health, as well as allowing the emergence of new viruses, especially in areas of tropical climate", he exemplifies.
Still in relation to the environmental changes, Marina says that the dragonflies are aquatic, so they reflect the quality of the water, that is, changes in the environment affect the water and, consequently, the population of dragonflies. "So if there are dragonflies, it is likely that the nearby water is of better quality".
The collaboration between professors Sahlén and Périco began about six years ago when they participated in an exchange of professors between institutions in 2011 and 2013 through the Linnaeus-Palme program. Since 2015, this is the Swedish professor’s sixth visit to the Institution, as he comes to the Taquari Valley twice a year, usually in the months of April and November, when dragonflies are active in adulthood.