I am broadly interested in the evolutionary ecology of plants. Resources available are limited and plants have to split them between distinct demanding functions, like reproduction and growth; and to respond to different selective pressures, like competition and environmental stress. The study of such functional and evolutionary trade-offs and their plasticity is the underlying thread of my research. Biological invasions are planetary experiments in which to study these trade-offs, and I am using them extensively in my current projects. During my career I've been working with a number of organisms:
-Congeneric annual Centaurea species (Centaurea solstitialis, C. calcitrapa and C. sulphurea) suggest that biogeographic comparisons of these species may provide quite novel insights into invasive ecology. All of these species are native to Europe and all of them have been introduced into North America. The first species is a highly noxious invasive species but not common in its native range. The second is common in Spain, but has not become invasive in the US after 200 years. The last species is not common in either range. We are finding interesting differences in traits among species and ranges that may help to understand invasions in general. Data indicates that reproductive barriers are arising between native and non-native ranges of some of these species, which suggests that reproductive isolation can occur at fastest rates than it was previously thought, and might have broad biogeographic implications for the understanding of allopatry and speciation processes.
-Two congeneric Acacia species (Acacia dealbata and A. longifolia). Both species are native from Australia and introduced in Portugal. I am studying reproductive biology and dispersal systems of both species to understand how do they interact with the Portuguese native networks of pollinators and dispersers.
-The masting dioecious tree Juniperus thurifera has to split resources between reproduction and growth in a harsh, high mountain, dry environment. In species with separate sexes (dioecious) females usually invest more resources than males in reproduction, resulting in different trade-offs between growth and reproduction for male and female plants. During my Ph.D. I studied gender biased ecological performance of males and females, and how experimentally modified resource availability affected each sex's pattern.
-The endangered endemic Silene diclinis, accounts only with 2500 wild individuals in a few, nearby populations in Eastern Spain. This species developed a mechanism (barochory or atelechory) by which seeds are dispersed immediatly below mother plants, making sure that all seeds reach a perfect site for germinating and growing but making it impossible for the species to colonize new areas and driving the species to extinction in an evolutionary dead end.
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