EQ 4.1: Ecological Restoration of Ecosystems and Cultural Heritage

Team leader: Catherine Vieillescazes (Avignon University)

Ecosystems :

Ecologists’ researches on ecosystems are focused on assembly rules in plant communities and their associated entomofauna (orthoptera, coleoptera). One of our main goals is the identification of coexisting processes that explain the high level of biodiversity in herbaceous Mediterranean ecosystems (steppes, dry grasslands, wet marshes, temporary ponds, etc.).
We especially focus on the factors causing the very low resiliency of those communities under stress (drought) and recurrent disturbance regimes (grazing, wildfire) faced with land use changes that have appeared since the 20s. (abandonment or intensification of agricultural activities).
The results of our researches are applied in restoration ecology. Indeed ecological restoration experimentations are undertaken giving an operational test for new sustainable restoration techniques of ecosystems identified as ecological engineering techniques.

Cultural Heritage :
The other main axis of the team is the study of artistic and archaeological materials. Since several years those studies have contributed to the chemical and analytical knowledge of natural plant products by microchemical, chromatographic (HPLC with UV-vis/fluorimetry detector, GC-MS(/MS) ) and spectroscopic (FTIR, fluorimetry, UV-vis spectrometry, colorimetry) techniques.

For this purpose we develop analytical methods that enable the identification of chemical markers, characteristic of the natural materials used in cultural heritage (resins, dyes, pigments, binding media, etc.). This approach includes the comprehension of the mechanisms of thermal and photochemical degradation suffered by the identified markers.

Such studies concern the sectors of artwork restoration and cultural heritage conservation. The metabolomic approach of ancient and fresh plant compounds involves collaborations with botanists and specialists in natural substances. Our cooperation with different national and international groups of scientists (European projects mostly) put us in the center of the thematic and keep us aware of the new advances in this field.