The IslandLife research

We develop novel research aiming to contribute to the understanding of nature complexity by investigating the ecology and evolution of species interactions, a crucial component of biodiversity that is essential for community stability and ecosystem functioning.

An important characteristic of our research fits within the framework of island ecology. Islands are indeed ideal systems to better understand complexity, mostly due to their simplicity -in terms of species richness and number of interactions- compared to mainland areas. We do research in a variety of island ecosystems, ranging from Mediterranean to tropical islands. Specifically, we work in the Balearics, the Canary Islands (Spain), Galápagos (Ecuador), in Berlengas (Portugal), Seychelles (R. Seychelles) and Ogasawara (Japan). The main goals of our research in these archipelagos are: 1) to understand how (small) island communities are assembled by focusing on different types of ecological interactions (i.e., both mutualistic and antagonistic,) and 2) to assess how vulnerable they are to global change, mainly to biological invasions -the main threat to these unique ecosystems-. We use an approach based on multi-layer networks to reach such goals. Click here to see the results of a study we carried out in the Galapagos using such approach.

Within the framework of community ecology, we combine observational data we gather in the field with simulation models to assess how species interactions contribute to maintain biodiversity and how different drivers of global change can disrupt derived ecosystem functions. We strongly believe that interdisciplinarity is what moves science forwards. Hence, we collaborate with theoreticians (specifically, physicists) to reveal hidden patterns in ecological networks and to develop new models of species coextinctions that will provide more realistic outcomes in our simulations of potential ecological collapses. In this link you can learn about a new framework we propose to quantify both species and function keystoneness in multilayer weighted networks.

Since the last two decades, we have dedicated much efforts to describe the pollination communities in many island systems, comparing islands within archipelagos, habitats, elevations, and assessing the effects of different global drivers (particularly, habitat loss, and invasive species) on the structure of plant-pollinator networks. We are also participating in a LIFE Project (Life 4 Pollinators) aimed at involving people to protect wild bees and other pollinators in the Mediterranean region; the main goal is to create a virtuous circle leading to a progressive change in the anthropogenic practices that are currently threatening wild pollinators across this region. We perform a high number of bioblitz in the field, workshops and conferences to increase awareness in different types of audiences about the importance of pollinators and the current pollinator crisis. Together with our colleague Luis Navarro (U. of Vigo), we are also for the first time studying the pollinators in two Spanish National Parks that embrace island systems (Cabrera NP and Atlantic Islands' NP); the ultimate goal here is to help managers develop plans that mitigate the impacts that can lead to loss of functions, such as pollination, and eventually to ecosystem collapse. We plan to develop tools to facilitate the knowledge of pollinators in the NP network through a citizen science project that will promote learning through the scientific method, awareness and respect for nature conservation.

More recently, we are working in developing a neural network-based on deep-learning as a new and effective technique to automatically detect and identify different pollinator functional groups from videos and images taken in the field. In this research line we are currently collaborating with computer scientists from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

Still, another research line in which we work and collaborate with other laboratories at IMEDEA is the study of the coastal systems and their management. We aim at proposing sustainable alternatives to act against coastal erosion. We began this research line participating in a multidisciplinary research project (System Playa de Palma) in which we assessed the biodiversity of three natural zones within the Bay of Palma (south of Mallorca) to advise on future management practices. In Alcúdia Bay (northern Mallorca), we assessed how erosion influences recruitment and growth of the primary dune vegetation, evaluating the role that the threatened shrub Juniperus oxycedrus subsp. macrocarpa has on dune establishment (read more about it here).We further investigated how the seagrass Posidonia oceanica influences the germination and seedling growth of different dune plants in the Balearic Islands (read more on this here). Most recently, we studied the dynamics of the P. oceanica beach-casts and their macrofaunal community (here you can see the results). Nowadays, we participate in the project LIFE AdaptCalaMillor funded with European funds and which aims to promote the long-term adaptation to climate change of the Mallorcan beach of Cala Millor (Balearic Islands) and increase the resilience of infrastructure, ecosystem-services and socio-economy.