Pollination and seed dispersal networks in different types of communities
Within this research line we are interested in assessing properties emerging from mutualistic networks in different types of ecosystems and in the spatio-temporal changes occurring within them. We are currently working on the pollination and dispersal networks in different archipelagos, including the Balearic Islands (Western Mediterranean Sea) (click here to see an example), the Canary Islands (Atlantic Ocean) and the Galápagos Islands (Pacific Ocean) (here). We are interested in identifying the mechanisms underlying the structure of mutualistic networks in different communities (here). These mechanisms appear to be diverse, including morphological and phenological traits of both plants and animals (here). Moreover, in ongoing research we are deeping into the functionality of such networks, assessing species' roles in them and predicting consequences of their possible disappearance. Finally, we also aim at unravealing the variation in interaction patterns existing within a species, and evaluate if such variation reflects that observed at the species level. We thus study individual-based networks in different types of systems (e.g. pollen-transport networks; here); ongoing research examines the lizards' diet on Balearic islets also at the individual level.
The study of mutualisms at the community level in insular ecosystems is very necessary given the alarming scenario of disturbances in them. The loss of mutualistic interactions can result in lower recruitment rates of plants that depend upon them as well as on population density decreases of animals relying on their mutualistic plants. In extreme situations, even local or total extinctions are possible. We are thus interested in assessing the impact of different types of disturbance (habitat loss, introduction of alien species, etc.) on network structure, examining the consequences both at the community and species level. The knowledge of how these mutualistic networks are buildup and how they are structured allow us determining: (1) their degree of robustness and resilience to disturbances, (2) the impact of the loss of interactions or species, as well as (3) the role of rare species in a community with multiple interactions.