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
Current rapid changes to global climate are forcing species to decline from local to global scales. According to biogeographical theory, substantial retractions of species’ rear-range edges should be seen in response to increased drought conditions. However, biogeographical predictions assume that rear-edge populations are “marginal” yet conflicts between population-level observations and broad-scale predictions are growing. In this project we aim to refine theory on marginality at rear-range edges, and explore the structure and dynamics of rear-edge populations to test predictions that such 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 widespread common beech tree (Fagus sylvatica L.) at the rear-edge of its range. Different sources of existing ecological data help us to explore and analyse the species’ distribution at the rear-range edge. This first analytical approach allows us to better understand the rear-range edge structure and marginality, and we then incorporate this information into empirical study design for field-based, experimental and population genetics studies. The field-based research is focusing on the size structure and demography of populations (i.e. survival, growth, recruitment), as well as on ecological and physiological traits supporting better performance of trees and increased potential for persistence. The experimental and population genetics research will focus on the genetic composition of populations and local adaptation to stressful environmental conditions. Overall, this project is designed to gain a better understanding of rear-range edge structure and marginality, as well as the potential of populations for persistence under global climate change.