Núria Aquilué Junyent

Adaptive land management for socio-ecological complex systems facing global change: Modelling alternative future conditions
Directeur: Christian Messier
Codirecteurs: Lluis Brotons and Marie-Josée Fortin

(514)-987-3000 poste 3041
Université du Québec à Montréal
Department of Biological Science
141, Av. du Président-Kennedy
H2X 3Y7 Montréal, Québec, Canada


  • Ph.D in Environmental Sciences - Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), 2013 - present
  • M.Sc. in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems - Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and Centre for Ecological and Forestry Applications Research (CREAF), 2010
  • Postgraduate course in Quantitative Techniques for Financial Products - Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya • BarcelonaTech (UPC), 2008
  • B.Sc. in Mathematics - Faculty of Mathematics and Statistics • UPC, 2005

Research project

In a nutshell:
Investigate interactions between vegetation dynamics, natural disturbances, and land management options in a global change context using spatially explicit landscape dynamic models and network analysis

Climate change and land-use land-cover changes are altering structure and functioning of forest ecosystems, compromising the ecosystem goods and services they supply. Global change is also disrupting natural disturbances regimes, and the predictions assure that future perturbations will change in frequency, intensity, and extent. Little is known about the feedback effects between changing climate, landscape mosaics, and disturbance regimes yet. Scientists and ecosystem managers concerned with biodiversity conservation and the maintenance of essential ecological functions need to assess the potential consequences of their decisions at different spatio-temporal scales. However, informing the decision making process in a complex and dynamic world is not an easy task. Managers are challenged to address multi-objective decisions for coupled natural and human systems under uncertain climatic, socio-economic, and environmental conditions and shifting natural disturbance regimes.

In this project, I will use a Mediterranean fire-prone landscape and a North American temperate forest ecosystem as examples of socio-ecological systems in which increasingly human interests on land resources will be in conflict with altered natural disturbances regimes. I will investigate the interactions at landscape scale between land-cover changes, forest management, potential disturbance regimes, and vegetation dynamics in a global change context. An evaluation of alternative management options aiming at reduce the negative effects of perturbation on ecosystems while enhancing overall resilience to current and future natural disturbances will be carried out using cutting edge methods. The Mediterranean ecosystem will be modeled by a spatially explicit landscape model integrating vegetation dynamics, natural perturbations, and land-cover change transitions and the underlying interactions. The impact of resilience-based forest management in the temperate ecosystem will be addressed using a plant-functional approach along with a network analysis. The project outcome will be a set of alternative scenarios of multi-objective management options for forest landscapes facing global change, besides a toolbox of a spatially explicit landscape model accounting for the main Mediterranean ecosystems' components and processes and a network-based procedure to evaluate forest resilience.

The Mediterranean

Alt Urgell, Catalonia

In the European Mediterranean basin, fires and land-use land-cover transformations have historically shaped terrestrial ecosystems leading to heterogeneous fragmented landscape mosaics. Current continuous vegetation-cover matrixes, the spreading of vulnerable wildland-urban interface areas, and increasing available fuel-load in forests have arisen from more recent and acute processes: rural abandonment, downturn of active forest management, urban sprawl, and fire policies promoting total extinction and less prevention. The scientific and social communities are still debating the effects of high fire suppression rates on fuel accumulation and their consequences on fire hazard, being even more challenging when considered over large managed landscapes under climate change conditions.

I aim at investigating alternative measures in a highly humanized Mediterranean landscape prone to fire by studying the spatial interactions between natural- and human- induced disturbances under future climatic and socio-economic conditions. I will evaluate the effects on fire regime and forest structure when combining fire suppression strategies and fuel management under different climatic scenarios. I will couple two spatially explicit landscape dynamic model to investigate the interacting processes modulating Mediterranean regions: the MEDFIRE, a fire-succession model, and the MEDLUC, a land-use land-cover change model.

The Temperate

Forêt Montmorency, Québec

NNorthern ecosystems show an elevate degree of landscape diversity, regional environmental adaptability, and natural disturbance resilience (mainly wildfires and insect outbreaks). But timber harvesting activities, forest homogenization, farming legacies, and climate warming may alter regeneration potential, growing conditions, and disturbance regimes. In eastern temperate Canada a shift in fire activity, insect outbreaks timing or drought intensity will drive current harvesting practices to be increasingly competing with natural disturbances impacts. The certainty that climate change will directly and indirectly modify insects survival and dispersal capacities, fire susceptibility and drought exposure, constraints forest managers to evaluate alternative strategies in terms of resistance and resilience to perturbations. All these new complex feedback interactions between climate, vegetation dynamics, wildfires, insects, and drought will cause unknown variations on ecosystem functioning.

I will propose alternative forest management options based on plant functional enrichment and species connectivity increasing to cope with multiple natural disturbances. Multi-objective strategies will focus on reducing fire and insect landscape vulnerability and guarantee a long-term functionality. I will use a network analysis approach to quantify the modularity, centrality, and connectivity of functional rich forest patches to evaluate the resilience at the landscape scale.


Peer-Reviewed Articles

  1. Aquilué N., De Cáceres M., Fortin, M.-J., Fall, A., Brotons L. (2017). A spatial allocation procedure to model land-use/land-cover changes: accounting for occurrence and spread processes. Ecological Modelling 344:73-86. (Ecological Modelling )
  2. Duane A., Aquilué N., Gil-Tena A., Brotons L. (2016). Integrating fire spread patterns in fire modelling at landscape scale. Environmental Modelling and Software 86:219-231. (Environmental Modelling and Software )
  3. Gil-Tena A., Aquilué N., Duane A., De Cáceres M., Brotons L. (2016). Mediterranean fire regime effects on pine-oak forest landscape mosaics under global change in NE Spain. European Journal of Forest Research 135(2):403-416. (European Journal of Forest Research )
  4. Regos, A., Aquilué, N., López, I., Codina, M., Retana J., Brotons, L. (2016). Synergies between forest biomass extraction for bioenergy and fire suppression in Mediterranean ecosystems: insights from a storyline-and-simulation approach. Ecosystems 19:786–802. (Ecosystems )
  5. Wallace, J., Aquilué, N., Archambault, C., Carpentier, S., Francoeur, X., Greffard, M., Laforest, I., Galicia, L., Messier. C. (2015). Present forest management structures and policies in temperate forests of Mexico : Challenges and prospects for unique tree species assemblages. The Forestry Chronicle 91(3):306-317. (The Forestry Chronicle )
  6. Cardador, L., De Cáceres, M., Giralt, D., Bota, G., Aquilué N., Arroyo, B., Mougeot, F., Cantero-Martínez, C., Viladomiu, L., Rosell, J., Casas, F., Estrada, A., Álvaro-Fuentes, J., Brotons, L. (2015). Tools for exploring habitat suitability for steppe birds under land use change scenarios. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 200:119-125. (Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment )
  7. Regos, A., Aquilué, N., Retana J., De Cáceres, M., Brotons, L. (2014). Using Unplanned Fires to Help Suppressing Future Large Fires in Mediterranean Forests. PLoS ONE 9(4):e94906. (PLoS ONE )
  8. Brotons, L., Aquilué, N., de Cáceres, M., Fortin, M.-J., Fall, A. (2013). How Fire History, Fire Suppression Practices and Climate Change Affect Wildfire Regimes in Mediterranean Landscapes. PLoS ONE 8:1-12. (PLoS ONE )
  9. De Cáceres, M., Brotons, L., Aquilué, N., Fortin, M.-J. (2013). The combined effects of land-use legacies and novel fire regimes on bird distributions in the Mediterranean. Journal of Biogeography 40:1535-1547. (Journal of Biogeography )

Master's Thesis

Aquilué, N. (2010). Calibració d'un model espacio-temporal de paisatge: l'impacte del règim d'incendis a Catalunya. Master's Thesis, UAB - CREAF.

  1. Gil-Tena, A., Canelles, Q., Duane, A., Aquilué, N., Morán-Ordóñez, A., Comas, L., Beltrán, M., Vericat, P., Retana J., Vayreda, J., Piqué, M., Brotons, L. (2017). Estimación y proyección de la idoneidad climática y del crecimiento potencial de las principales especies arbóreas forestales de Cataluña. 7º Congreso Forestal Español, Plasencia, Cáceres, Spain, 26 - 30 June 2017.
  2. Canelles, Q., Gil-Tena, A., Duane, A., Aquilué, N., Vayreda, J., Brotons, L. (2017). Parametrización de modelos dinámicos de vegetación a escala de paisaje mediante el uso del Inventario Forestal Nacional. 7º Congreso Forestal Español, Plasencia, Cáceres, Spain, 26 - 30 June 2017
  3. Aquilué, N., Fortin, M.-J., Messier, C., Brotons, L. (2017). Using land-use changes to influence the fire regime in fire-prone landscapes. World Conference on Natural Resource Modeling, Universitat Politècnica de Barcelona, Barclona, Spain, 5 - 9 June 2017
  4. Duane, A., Aquilué, N., Brotons, L. (2017). The challenge of emergence in fire regimes in landscape succession models. World Conference on Natural Resource Modeling, Universitat Politècnica de Barcelona, Barclona, Spain, 5 - 9 June 2017.
  5. Aquilué, N., Duane, A., Gil-Tena, A., Fortin, M.J., Messier, C., Brotons, L. (2016). Evaluating forest and fire management effects on landscape dynamics: a modeling approach in Mediterranean ecosystems. The International Society for Ecological Modelling Global Conference, Towson University, MD, USA, 8-12 May 2016.
  6. Aquilué, N., Gil-Tena, A., Fortin, M.-J., Brotons, L. (2016). Reversing rural abandonment trends to mitigate large fire impacts on Mediterranean forest ecosystems. 10e Colloque annuel du CEF, UQAM, Montréal, Canada, 2-3 May 2016.
  7. Aquilué, N., Fortin, M.J, Messier, C., Brotons, L. (2015). Transforming a EU Mediterranean landscape matrix: reversing rural abandonment to reinforce large scale resistance to wildfires. 9th International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress, Portland, Oregon, USA, 5-10 July 2015.
  8. Gil-Tena, A., Aquilué, N., De Cáceres, M., Brotons, L. (2014). Effects of fire regime changes on the extent and seral statge structure of Mediterranean pines: a landscape dynamics modelling approach. 5th International Conference on Mediterranean Pines (Medpine5), Solsona, Spain, 22-26 September 2014.
  9. Regos, A., Aquilué, N., Gil-Tena, A., Duane, A., De Cáceres, M., Brotons, L. (2014). MEDFIRE model: A spatially-explicit tool aimed at supporting fire and forest management decisions in Mediterranean regions. FIREeffiecient Workshop, Solsona, Spain, 25 June 2014.
  10. Regos, A., Brotons, L., Aquilué, N., De Cáceres, M. (2013). Uso de estrategias oportunistas de extinción para reducir el impacto de los incendios en condiciones climáticas extremas. 6º Congreso Forestal Español, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, 10-14 June 2013.
  11. Gil-Tena, A., De Cáceres, M., Aquilué, N., Regos, A., Villero, D., Saura, S., Brotons, L. (2013). Modelización del hábitat de Pino laricio (Pinus nigra spp salzmannii) y de los cambios en su conectividad dentro de la Red Natura 2000 en futuros escenarios de cambio climático. 6º Congreso Forestal Español, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, 10-14 June 2013.

Work experience

  • Research technician at the Biodiversity and Landscape Ecology Lab (Forest Sciences Center of Catalonia, Catalonia, Spain. Jul 2010 – Aug 2013)
- Desing, implementation, calibration, and validation of landscape dynamic models (LDMs) using the modeling platform SELES® (Spatially Explicit Landscape Event Simulator) and R for the statistical analysis.
  • GIS programmer with the GRUMETS (Methods and Applications in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems) research group (UAB, Catalonia, Spain. Oct 2009 – Jun 2010)
- Program Remote Sensing and GIS applications in language C for the GIS software MiraMon®.
  • Programmer and Database manager at SegurCaixa Holding, S.A. (Barcelona, Spain. May 2006 – Set 2009)
- Database design and management for controlling financial investments protocols and optimizing investment & cost-effectiveness reports generation.

Teaching experience

  • M.Sc. student co-supervision:
García, C. (2012) Modelització del Creixement de les espècies Pinus nigra i Quercus ilex a Catalunya. Master's Thesis, UAB - CREAF.
  • Auxiliary teaching staff:
Statistics II. Faculty of Informatics, UPC. 2001 – 2002 and 2002 – 2003 academic courses

Scholarships & Awards

  • Scholarship for finishing graduate students by the Forest Complexity Modelling program (2016-2017, NSERC)
  • Excellence scholarship for graduate students of the Faculty of Sciences (2015-2016, Fondation de l'UQAM)
  • Excellence scholarship for graduate students of the Faculty of Sciences (2014-2015, Fondation de l'UQAM)
  • Excellence scholarship for graduate students of the Faculty of Sciences (2013-2014, Fondation de l'UQAM)
  • Ph.D. partial fellowship by the Forest Complexity Modelling program (2013-2016, NSERC)
  • Supplemental tuition fee exemption scholarship (2013-2016, AGAUR, Generalitat de Catalunya)
  • Grant to the highest global grade on the M.Sc. in Remote Sensing and GIS (2010, UAB and CREAF).
  • European mobility scholarship for one academic semester at Universidade do Porto, Portugal (2004, UPC)
  • ERASMUS fellowship for one academic course at Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”, Italy (2003, European Community and UPC)


  • Programming languages: C, R - Rtools - Rmarkdown, MATLAB, and Visual Basic
  • Landscape dynamics modeling: SELES
  • Geographic Information Systems: ArcGis, MiraMon, and ENVI
  • Database: Access, SQL, and SQL Server
  • Web map service: MapServer, GeoServer, and MiraMon Map Server
  • Version control system: Git and GitHub

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