2019 Harper Prize Winner: Maria Leunda

The John L Harper Early Career Researcher Award is given each year to the best paper in the journal by an early career author at the start of their career. We’re delighted to announce that the 2019 winner is Maria Leunda her article ‘Ice cave reveals environmental forcing of long‐term Pyrenean tree line dynamics.

The Journal of Ecology editors are pleased to award the 2019 Harper Prize to Maria Leunda. Maria’s paper is a timely study examining changes in treeline ecotone sensitivity using ice cave deposits from a high-altitude site in the Pyrenees. This study demonstrates changes in treeline and forest community composition over relatively short palaeoecological time scales (millennium). These strong and convincing results could be informative about future climate changes that might occur in the region and perhaps more broadly in the future. The editors appreciated the multiple approach from different proxies and the collaborative nature of the researchers from institutions in both Spain and Switzerland. This paper also features the impressive use of ice caves as natural ecological repositories of information frozen in time and space. Maria and her colleagues have highlighted the importance of trying to conserve these ecological treasures in a warming world.

Maria Leunda grew up in the Basque Country (Spain) and thanks to her parents she discovered her fascination for mountains. Maria´s research focuses on understanding long-term vegetation dynamics in mountain environments to assess the impact of future global change on these fragile ecosystems. Her work involves studying palaeoecological proxies, such as fossil pollen or plant macrofossils deposited in lakes and ice archives, in order to understand the effect of past climatic changes and human activities on mountain vegetation. She developed her PhD at the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (Spain), under the supervision of Dr. Penélope González-Sampériz and Dr. Graciela Gil-Romera, where she studied local to regional vegetation changes in the Pyrenees. Maria is very grateful to Dr. Carlos Sancho, who inspired her to start working in the amazing world of ice caves. Currently, she is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Plant Sciences of the University of Bern and the Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (Switzerland) where, together with Dr. Christoph Schwörer, Dr. Christoph Sperisen and Prof. Willy Tinner she is analyzing ancient DNA from subfossil needles to study the impacts of past climate changes on conifer populations and their genetic diversity in the Alps.

Find the winning paper as well as the shortlisted papers in this special virtual issue here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s