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Open Access

Preliminary Tests of a Hybrid Cable Splice (Synthetic–Metal) to Innovate Timber Harvesting in the Mediterranean Forestry Sector

2024, Alcoverro, Gerard, Raddi, Adriano, Picchi Draghi, Gianni

Forest operations in the Mediterranean basin are still largely based on lowly mechanized systems. In this context, hauling is generally performed with equipment deploying steel cables, such as winches on farm tractors or skidders. In the last decades, several efforts focused on the substitution of steel cables with synthetic rope to improve safety, comfort and productivity. Despite the expected benefits, these efforts were generally frustrated due to the higher cost and lower duration of synthetic cables. These are relevant constraints, particularly for Mediterranean forest companies, which feature a relatively low financial capacity. As a possible solution, the present study introduces a hybrid splice of steel and synthetic cables, merging the benefits of the two materials. For that purpose, several possible splicing solutions were tested. The most efficient splice proved capable of withstanding up to 7.6 t of tension in the laboratory. In the forest, it allowed the extraction of about 450 t with a skidder before breaking. On a farm tractor, it extracted over 700 t without failure. Preliminary tests and the positive feedback of the operators proved the potential of this solution. Further research is ongoing to create a stronger splice and reduce its diameter to allow its deployment in any type of winch.

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Open Access

Assessing human exposure to pesticides and mycotoxins: optimization and validation of a method for multianalyte determination in urine samples

2024, Marín-Sáez, Jesús, Hernández-Mesa, Maykel, Ramos Girona, Antonio J., Gámiz-Gracia, Laura, García-Campaña, Ana M.

Humans are exposed to an increasing number of contaminants, with diet being one of the most important exposure routes. In this framework, human biomonitoring is considered the gold standard for evaluating human exposure to chemicals. Pesticides and mycotoxins are chemicals of special concern due to their health implications. They constitute the predominant border rejection notifications for food and feed in Europe and the USA. However, current biomonitoring studies are focused on a limited number of compounds and do not evaluate mycotoxins and pesticides together. In this study, an analytical method has been developed for the determination of 30 pesticides and 23 mycotoxins of concern in urine samples. A salting-out liquid–liquid extraction (SALLE) procedure was optimized achieving recoveries between 70 and 120% for almost all the compounds and limits as lower as when QuEChERS was applied. The compounds were then determined by liquid chromatography coupled to triple quadrupole mass spectrometry. Different chromatographic conditions and analytical columns were tested, selecting a Hypersild gold aQ column as the best option. Finally, the method was applied to the analysis of 45 urine samples, in which organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides (detection rates (DR) of 82% and 42%, respectively) and ochratoxin A and deoxynivalenol (DR of 51% and 33%, respectively) were the most detected compounds. The proposed analytical method involves the simultaneous determination of a diverse set of pesticides and mycotoxins, including their most relevant metabolites, in human urine. It serves as an essential tool for biomonitoring the presence of highly prevalent contaminants in modern society. Graphical Abstract: (Figure presented.)

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Open Access

Grassland vegetation height affects bird responses to forest edges in Mediterranean open farmland

2024, Faria, João, Reino, Luís, Beja, Pedro, Gonçalves, David, Sánchez-Oliver, Juan S., Moreira, Francisco, Catry, Inês, Rotenberry, John T., Morgado, Rui, Brotons, Lluís, Dullinger, Stefan, Schindler, Stefan, Santana, Joana

Afforestation affects Mediterranean farmland biodiversity due to loss and fragmentation of grassland habitats. While the influence of landscape context and plantation edges on farmland bird responses to afforestation is well-documented, less is known about the influence of grassland vegetation height and how it interacts with afforestation to influence bird communities. Here, we examined how changes in grassland vegetation height affect bird responses to afforestation in a farmland region in southern Portugal, and how these are affected by plantation type and edge. This region has experienced afforestation with eucalyptus, pine and oak stands, agricultural intensification, and frequent dry periods. To capture local and landscape-level changes, we collected data in two periods (2005 and 2014–15). Grassland vegetation height varied between sampling periods, emerging as a key factor affecting changes observed. Ground-nesting and cereal-associated species increased in abundance with taller vegetation in 2014–15, while in 2005, with drier weather and shorter vegetation, the species associated with ploughed fields were more abundant. Vegetation height effects on bird assemblages depended on plantation type and distance to plantation edges. Farmland bird abundance, including ground-nesting and cereal crops-associated species, increased with taller vegetation, particularly near oak and pine plantations. Conversely, species associated with ploughed fields declined with taller vegetation, especially near eucalyptus plantations. Results highlight complex interactions between vegetation height, plantation type, and edge proximity shaping avian assemblages. This study supports the importance of field and landscape-level management with special focus on grassland vegetation height and landscape heterogeneity for preserving open-farmland birds in fast-changing Mediterranean farmland landscapes.

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Open Access

Recombination in the wheat stem rust pathogen mediated by an indigenous barberry species in Spain

2023, Rodriguez-Algaba, Julian, Villegas, Dolors, Cantero-Martínez, Carlos, Patpour, Mehran, Berlin, Anna, Hovmøller, Mogens S., Jin, Yue, Justesen, Annemarie F.

The comeback of wheat stem rust in Europe, caused by Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici, and the prevalence of the alternate (sexual) host in local areas have recently regained attention as a potential threat to European wheat production. The aim of this study was to investigate a potential epidemiological link between the aecia found on an indigenous barberry species and stem rust infections on nearby cereals and grasses. Aecial infections collected from Berberis vulgaris subsp. seroi were inoculated on a panel of susceptible genotypes of major cereal crop species. In total, 67 stem rust progeny isolates were recovered from wheat (51), barley (7), and rye (9), but none from oat, indicating the potential of barberry derived isolates to infect multiple cereals. Molecular genotyping of the progeny isolates and 20 cereal and grass stem rust samples collected at the same locations and year, revealed a clear genetic relatedness between the progeny isolated from barberry and the stem rust infections found on nearby cereal and grass hosts. Analysis of Molecular Variance indicated that variation between the stem rust populations accounted for only 1%. A Principal Components Analysis using the 62 detected multilocus genotypes also demonstrated a low degree of genetic variation among isolates belonging to the two stem rust populations. Lastly, pairwise comparisons based on fixation index (Fst), Nei’s genetic distances and number of effective migrants (Nm) revealed low genetic differentiation and high genetic exchange between the two populations. Our results demonstrated a direct epidemiological link and functionality of an indigenous barberry species as the sexual host of P. graminis in Spain, a factor that should be considered when designing future strategies to prevent stem rust in Europe and beyond. Copyright

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Source areas and paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the Serra d'Almenara loess (NE Ebro Valley, Iberian Peninsula) from grain-size and heavy mineral signatures

2024, Plata Moreno, José Manuel, Balasch Solanes, J. Carles (Josep Carles), Boixadera Llobet, Jaume, Baltiérrez, Antoni, Preusser, Frank, Poch, Rosa M.

The northeastern part of the Ebro Basin (NE Spain) features loess that cover an area of about 40 km2 on the northern slopes of the Serra d'Almenara anticline. The deposits and soils developed from them were mapped, described, and dated by luminescence. Additionally, grain size, percentage of heavy minerals (>2.8 g/cm3), and the mineralogical composition of the heaviest fraction (>3.2 g/cm3) were analysed. The coarse textures of the deposits indicate a very proximal origin. Therefore, potential source areas of the sands and silts were analysed with special attention given to the extensive river floodplains and alluvial fans close by, as well as gypsum-rich rocky outcrops. The mineral signature of the loess shows that it mainly originates from the alluvial plain of the Segre River, located about 10–30 km to the west. In some places, the loess also received particles from the alluvial fans of the Ondara and Corb rivers located south of the Almenara reliefs. In addition, the gypsum present in the loess is apparently derived from Eocene deposits. The loess in the study area was deposited during cold phases of the last two glacial cycles when the topographic obstacle of the Serra d'Almenara blocked the dominant winds from the southwest. Analysis of the almost 4-meter-thick profile of Pilar d'Almenara shows initial but limited accumulation phases in Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 6, followed by the formation of a red soil during MIS 5e. Accumulation resumed during MIS3, with more energetic and powerful wind transport during the final phase of MIS 3 (ca. 34–30 ka) and early MIS 2, but prior to the Last Glacial Maximum. Our data highlights the prominent role of large rivers and alluvial fans as the sources of particles that are later reworked by the wind.

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Open Access

Climate, host ontogeny and pathogen structural specificity determine forest disease distribution at a regional scale

2024, Caballol, Maria, Serradó, Francesc, Barnes, Irene, Julio Camarero J., Valeriano, Cristina, Colangelo, Michele, Oliva Palau, Jonàs

Predicting forest health at a regional level is challenging as forests are simultaneously attacked by multiple pathogens. Usually, the impacts of each pathogen are studied separately, however, interactions between them can affect disease dynamics. Pathogens can interact directly by competing for the same niche, but also facilitate or suppress each other via indirect effects through the host. We studied 66 native Mediterranean Pinus nigra stands located in the Pyrenees which were affected by two pathogens with different structural specificity: Dothistroma pini causing Dothistroma needle blight and Diplodia sapinea causing Diplodia shoot blight. We explored the ecology of both pathogens and whether the diseases they caused had an impact on trees and recruits. No signs of competition were found on adult trees. Diplodia shoot blight was restricted to the warmest and driest areas, while no climatic restrictions were identified for Dothistroma needle blight. Both diseases caused additive effects on crown defoliation and defoliated trees showed stagnated growth. In the regeneration layer, signs of disease suppression were found. In the warmest and driest areas, seedling mortality was mainly associated with Diplodia shoot blight, even though both pathogens were detected. Clear signs of D. pini spillover from canopy trees to recruits were found. However, seedling mortality caused by Dothistroma needle blight was only restricted to the coldest and wettest sites where D. sapinea could not survive. Large crowns in adult trees probably allow both pathogens to co-exist and cause additive impacts. The smaller size of recruits and a higher susceptibility to environmental stress compared to adult trees probably facilitates the effects of Diplodia shoot blight which masked those caused by Dothistroma needle blight. By considering climatic constraints, host ontogeny and structural specificity, we could dissect the disease impacts of two different pathogens and successfully explain forest health at a regional scale.

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Open Access

Gamification to Engage Healthy Habits in Socially Deprived Secondary School Students

2024, Rodríguez-Ferrer, José Miguel, Manzano-León, Ana, Tadeu, Pedro, Camacho Sánchez, Rubén, Aguilar-Parra, José M.

A sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, and substance abuse are increasingly prevalent among adolescents, necessitating effective interventions within educational environments. This study aimed to assess the effectiveness of a fifteen-week gamified intervention to promote healthy habits among 314 secondary school students residing in socially deprived areas. The gamified PBL (Points-Badges and Leaderboard) approach offers a promising strategy to engage students, enhance their knowledge, and influence their physical activity, nutrition, and substance consumption behaviors. Employing a pre-post-test design with a control group, data were collected through Kimed and IPAQ questionnaires evaluating participants' habits. Results revealed statistically significant differences between pretest and post-test scores in the experimental group and significant differences favoring the experimental group. Participating students exhibited improved physical activity and nutrition, alongside a reduction in harmful substance consumption behaviors. These findings suggest that the gamified PBL intervention holds promise in promoting healthier habits among secondary school students, specifically in socially deprived areas, emphasizing the importance of integrating such interventions into educational curricula.

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Open Access

La agudización de la represión estructural en Cuba a raíz de las protestas de julio de 2021

2023, Ortiz Hernández, Eimys

El 11 de julio de 2021, por primera vez desde el Triunfo de la Revolución, ciudadanos cubanos salieron a las calles al grito de “Patria y vida” o “Tenemos hambre”. A pesar de la dura represión, la comunidad internacional optó por un enfoque pragmático alejado de las pretensiones del activismo cubano. De modo que el presente trabajo analiza la respuesta jurídica de las autoridades destinada a apuntalar las sistemáticas violaciones de derechos humanos y libertades fundamentales. Asimismo, se expone la reacción de Washington y de Bruselas que comparten un hilo conductor: la garantía de sus intereses ya sea debido a la cuestión migratoria o a la presencia de empresas en el país.

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Global Warming and Long-Distance Spread of Invasive Discoglossus pictus (Amphibia, Alytidae): Conservation Implications for Protected Amphibians in the Iberian Peninsula

2022, Villero Pi, Daniel, Montori, Albert, Llorente, Gustavo A., Roura i Pascual, Núria, Geniez, Philippe, Brotons, Lluís

Discoglossus pictus is a North African amphibian that was introduced in southern France early the 20th century and has spread south and north along the Mediterranean coastal plains up to 170 km. In order to disentangle the conservation implications of the spread of D. pictus for sensitive native species, we examined the impact of long-term climate warming on the basis of niche overlap analysis, taking into account abiotic factors. The study area covered the distribution ranges of all genus Discoglossus species in northwestern Africa (659,784 km2), Sicily (27,711 km2), the Iberian Peninsula, and southern France (699,546 km2). Niche overlap was measured from species environmental spaces extracted via PCA, including climate and relief environmental variables. Current and future climatic suitability for each species was assessed in an ensemble-forecasting framework of species distribution models, built using contemporary species data and climate predictors and projected to 2070′s climatic conditions. Our results show a strong climatic niche overlap between D. pictus and native and endemic species in the Iberian Peninsula. In this context, all species will experience an increase in climatic suitability over the next decades, with the only exception being Pelodytes punctatus, which could be negatively affected by synergies between global warming and cohabitation with D. pictus.

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Routine Outcome Monitoring from Psychotherapists’ Perspectives: A Framework Analysis Study of Expected Benefits and Difficulties

2024, Valdiviezo-Oña, Jorge, Unda-López, Alejandro, Montesano, Adrián, Evans, Chris, Paz, Clara

Psychotherapists’ attitudes and expectations towards routine outcome monitoring can impact the likelihood of its fruitful implementation. While existing studies have predominantly focused on Europe and North America, research in Latin America remains limited. The aim of this study is to explore therapists’ expected benefits and difficulties prior to implementing a routine outcome monitoring system in a university psychotherapy service in Ecuador. An exploratory and descriptive cross-sectional qualitative study was carried out with 20 participants aged 21 to 47. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore participants’ knowledge about routine outcome monitoring, their expectations of the difficulties, benefits, usability and risks of using a monitoring system, as well as their expectations about their role in the process. The data analysis adhered to the framework analysis methodology, leading to the identification of six overarching themes, 36 specific themes and 82 subthemes. The interviews highlighted a spectrum of positive and negative expectations at several levels: institutional/general, therapeutic process, therapists, and clients. Perceived benefits encompassed various aspects, including the availability of supplementary information, continuous adaptation of the therapeutic process, facilitation of organization and treatment planning, opportunities for professional development, and fostering patient trust and empowerment. On the other hand, anticipated difficulties comprised concerns such as discomfort among therapists and clients, increased workload, system usage and technical difficulties, and the risk of excessive quantification. Overall, participants expressed more anticipated benefits than difficulties. We present recommendations that can support and optimize the current local implementation efforts of routine outcome monitoring, both within this service and in other settings. These recommendations consider ways to meet positive expectations and address or mitigate negative ones.