PhD - Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (2012)
Current research project
PERS-RELICT-CLIM ‒ Understanding the structure, function and persistence of relict populations under climate change
Participants: Alistair S. Jump (project coordinator) and Albert Vilà-Cabrera (Research Fellow)
Funded by: European Union ‒ Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual (IF-EF) Fellowship (H2020-MSCA-2014; Project 656300-PERS‒RELICT‒CLIM)
Biogeographical theory suggests that population decline and range retractions should occur at the rear range-edge of tree species with increased climate change-type drought. Such prediction assumes marginality at rear edge populations and it is well supported by study-cases in the literature. However, evidence on population persistence (e.g. relict populations) is also accumulating, potentially since the dynamics of rear edge populations are determined by a variety of ecological and evolutionary constraints. In this project we aim to refine theory on marginality, and explore the structure and dynamics of species’ rear range-edges to test predictions that some populations might, in some cases, show higher persistence than expected according to biogeographical theory.
We combine different approaches to explore the potential for persistence of the European beech tree (Fagus sylvatica L.) at the rear edge of its range. Different sources of existing data help us to analyse and to better understand the structure of the species’ rear range-edge. In a second step, we incorporate this information into field-based, and population genetic studies. The field-based research focuses on the structure, demography and habitat characteristics of populations, as well as the individual traits determining population performance. The genetic approach focuses on the rate of gene flow mediated by population fragmentation and isolation in marginal habitats, and the potential implications of this process for population persistence. Overall, this project is designed to refine our predictive understanding of species rear range-edges in order to advance our ability to monitor, predict and plan for the impacts of environmental change on the function and fate of range-edge populations.