1 gen – 31 dic 2021

Il socio fondatore e onorario Franco Pedrotti ci invia (cliccacre su  pdf) una breve sintesi della figura del Prof. Salvador RIVAS-MARTÍNEZ,  uno dei grandi maestri della Fitoociologia e non solo, amico di molti di noi

e anche il Prof. Carlo Blasi Past President ci comunica (sotto riportato)  il necrologio pubblicato nel  2020 su Plant Biosystems

R. Venanzoni

EDITORIAL di Plant Biosystems  2020

On August 27, 2020 Prof. Salvador Rivas Martinez passed away.

I wish to thank the Spanish colleagues, who prepared the obituary published on this issue. Salvador Rivas Martinez was not only a good friend of mine, but also a great scientist and master. He dedicated his life to vegetation studies and published several and varied scientific papers – on plant taxonomy, syntaxonomy, bioclimatology and biogeography – that will support new generations of botanists for a very long time. His death leaves a void: we will all miss his outstanding ability to promote vegetation research worldwide.

Professor Carlo Blasi

Plant Biosystems Editor-in-Chief

Salvador Rivas Martínez


It is very difficult to express in a few lines what Salvador Rivas Martínez has meant for each one of us. It is even more difficult when the nearness of his sudden loss makes our feelings come out with such force that we are still stunned and shocked at his unexpected death.

And it is so, because each of us, for the same or different reasons, find ourselves mourning the brother, the friend, the researcher, the teacher who has left us. A difficult void to fill.

None of us could imagine this loss, because Salvador himself made plans for the future and encouraged us to continue working, with him at the head, since he was young at heart. Barely two months ago, at a meeting with three of us, he told us: “it is my intention to continue working until I am 95, then we will see”. The following week, he enthusiastically proposed that we take a trip to Los Ancares to take up a study that we had started some time ago in that area.

Indeed, his idea was the same as ever, to learn to teach. Which is what he did throughout his life, with the joy and impetus of someone who enjoys the work he does and which he transmitted with great generosity.

That was the force that pushed him to continue creating with amazing genius, to be useful and to serve others. As a true teacher and professional of teaching that he was, he made the Phytosociological Research Center (CIF), which he founded with such enthusiasm in 1993, available to all researchers, both from Spain and abroad. Many of us have passed through the CIF, always treated with amazing kindness and guided by a tireless Salvador, who never found the time to go to rest. Many are the experiences and teachings that will remain forever in our memories.

By relying on that strength, impetus and inordinate enthusiasm, his life was shaped with manifest success.

Hundreds of scientific papers published in journals of very diverse origin, scope and projection are reliable proof of this. Many have served as the basis for the development and advancement of science.

There were also numerous projects he directed, some of which contributed to the global development of Geobotanical science in Spain, such as the “Inventory and mapping of natural and semi-natural habitats in Spain”, which has been the basis for the configuration of the Natura 2000 Network, as far as Spain is concerned.

He always had a very broad vision on the development of Botany, which he carried out accurately and safely. Apart from his involvement in the sciences of vegetation, from the beginning he enthusiastically supported other fields of botanical science and here we should remember those conferences on cryptogamy that would awaken so many vocations. Thus, he contributed to the development of specialties such as Bryology, Lichenology, Palynology, Pteridology, etc., without abandoning Taxonomy, which he practised until the end of his life.

His greatest scientific contribution focused on the development of three branches of the science of vegetation: Phytosociology, Bioclimatology and Biogeography, which, based on a common scientific trunk, would give a new and powerful vision of vegetation in the world for the interpretation of the landscape, since the global model he created is applicable to any part of the world. There are still unpublished works that will see the light in the near future.

He wanted to know and understand what nature is like, in order to be able to explain himself and then teach us the rules that determine how it works. His deep knowledge of numerous scientific fields, since his early youth, and expanded on throughout his life through continuous study, together with his intellectual capacity, undoubtedly made him achieve his goal.

Indeed we say, from his early youth, because at only the age of 19, accompanied by his close friend Wolfredo Wildpret de la Torre, he made a stay in Stolzenau at the Zentralstelle für Vegetationskartierung to expand the methodologies on vegetation mapping, as well as the techniques of landscape interpretation of plant life in an area, under the tutelage of Professor Reinhold Tüxen.

This led him to travel and to get to know practically the entire globe, from Siberia to Patagonia, from Japan to New Zealand or from the Baltic countries to South Africa. On many of these trips, in addition to the botanical side, he enjoyed another of his great hobbies: mountaineering, since Salvador was also an accomplished climber of worldwide renown, which allowed him to see what no other botanist could ever observe under his own feet.

Salvador exceeded 8000 metels peaks in the Himalayas and also walked on continental territories such as the Valley of Death at altitudes below sea level. There is documentary evidence of this.

One of the parts of the World that he explored with special intensity was the Americas, which he visited frequently and studied, from Alaska to the ends of Tierra del Fuego in a long series of trips. Mountainous regions had a special attraction for him and, therefore, he began studying the central Andes in Peru, to which he dedicated a series of campaigns in the 1980s, making numerous transects from the desert coast to the high puna and the Atlantic slope.

These campaigns were the basis of South American biogeography and bioclimatology, which he later developed extensively, although the field data on vegetation typology remain in his field notebooks, his intention being to make them public for possible use by researchers interested in the vegetation of those territories.

A second phase began with a one-year stay by Salvador at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States, on the occasion of his sabbatical year in 1991. During this time, he toured a large part of the United States and it laid the foundations for works of synthesis that saw the light at a later date.

In short, Salvador’s Pan-American adventure was formidable. Over the course of three decades, in addition to his personal explorations, he encouraged and supported a large group of Spanish researchers to work on that continent, from Antonio Galán de Mera (Peru), Gonzalo Navarro (Bolivia), Manuel Costa (Venezuela), Javier Amigo (Chile), Jesús Izco (Ecuador), Ángel Penas (Brazil), Joaquín Giménez de Azcárate (Mexico), Daniel Sánchez Mata (California, USA) to Eusebio Cano (Dominican Republic), who have all maintained projects and activity in those countries on a regular basis.

Almost all of these regions and countries have been visited by Salvador one or several times to provide support and advice and to promote their projects, which have almost always been carried out in collaboration with local colleagues, representing an effective scientific investment for the future.

A sort of “American dream” has been achieved in the projection of Salvadorian-inspired geobotany. The fruits are still partly to be harvested, but they will surely be valuable.

As we have mentioned, Salvador’s intellectual and physical activity did not decrease one iota after his official retirement. Quite the contrary. His life continued without any alterations to his usual routine. Proof of this was his return, in 2014, among other projects, to the territory that we knew as Spanish Sahara, revisiting places such as El Aaiún, expanding knowledge and studies, where he had carried out work in the Botanical Mission of Morocco for many years, between the late seventies and well into the nineties of the last century.

He was the last to leave us of the team formed together with P. Quézel, M. Barbero and A. Benabib. It was precisely Benabib together with A. Merzouki who helped him to return repeatedly to the Kingdom of Morocco until the autumn of 2019.

Salvador was a teacher who knew what he was saying well, something rare. But, in addition, he said everything he knew, something even stranger. And always with the illusion of disseminating the knowledge he accumulated, not only among colleagues and students, since his research has transcended other scientific and technical disciplines, forming part of the essential baggage for the understanding of Nature.

Salvador Rivas transmitted his thought and knowledge with force, in a vehement way, because science was for him much more than a task that he had to fulfil for administrative commitment, it was not a job but a passion. For Salvador, the transmission of his knowledge or the creative process required a testable theoretical preparation on the ground, so he exercised his teaching from the beginning of each field every day until after dinner, to such an extent that Professor Luigi Mossa described him as “l’uomo chi parla”, because as a good follower of the Aristotelian Peripatetic School, he considered that the best method of transferring scientific knowledge was orally on the ground, with nature itself as a classroom.

Due to this, for decades he organized different types of events, where direct human relationships and speech were essential elements in its development.

Suffice it to cite as examples three occasions where the aforementioned conditions were met: the “Jornadas de Fitosociología”, “Itineras Geobotánicas” and the “Campamentos de Geobotanica”, which attracted numerous interested parties from all over Europe.

In these activities, Salvador, as “alma mater” and promoter, fostered an atmosphere of deep camaraderie, friendship and understanding among the attendees, which still persists.

Perhaps among these three types of events, we must highlight the Phytosociology Conference and what it has meant for the revitalization of the Science of Vegetation or Phytosociology, especially in Spain and Portugal. As a common forum for exchange of knowledge and experiences, Salvador served as a teacher, especially in the search for a common language in this science, and became the backbone of groups of researchers, which he created around him, to promote the advancement in biogeographic knowledge, bioclimatic, taxonomic and phytosociological studies of specific territories. Thus, different working groups were formed such as Grupo Orocantábrico, Grupo Bético, Grupo Lusitano, Grupo Canario, Grupo Rifeño, Grupo Azórico-Madeirense, etc.

These Conferences began in Madrid in 1981, and every year (in recent times they became biennial) they toured practically all of Spain, being organized by the Universities of Santiago de Compostela, Valencia, León, La Laguna, Barcelona, Salamanca, Malaga, Alcalá de Henares, Granada, Murcia, Oviedo, Lisbon, Bilbao, Palma de Mallorca, Almería, Jaén, Toledo and others, where the number of participants was always large.

In the early years they were organized under the auspices of Amicale International de Phytosociologie, an association founded by Professor Jean Marie Gehu –with such a repercussion in the science of vegetation- and of which Salvador was a part.

With the creation of the Spanish Association of Phytosociology (AEFA), the Conference began to be organized under its tutelage and, since the creation of the Associação Portuguesa de Fitossociologia (today called Phytos), they are held every two years with the Phytosociology meetings that our Portuguese colleagues organize.

These scientific meetings have crossed the Spanish-Portuguese border, the last being held in Mexico City, organized by the UNAM and already supervised by the Spanish Geobotanical Society (SGE)

As part of his scientific commitment, founder of these associations, both the Spanish and Portuguese one, Salvador Rivas Martínez never missed any of their meetings, always contributing with the maturity and depth of his knowledge and his desire to participate, striving for an adequate development of Botanical science in general and Geobotanical science in particular.

For this reason, he is known and recognized throughout the scientific world and for these titanic efforts he received many awards and deserved recognitions both in his country, Spain, and in others. He was a full member of the Royal Academies of Pharmacy and of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences of the Kingdom of Spain, as well as Doctor Honoris Causa of the Universities of the Basque Country, Granada and León (Spain), Politecnica de Lisboa (Portugal) and Ancona (Italy).

Rest in peace

His Spanish friends and colleagues