Currenty I am developing models in three different research areas:
- Reproduction allocation and size in shrubs: Dynamic energy budget models of reproduction allocation have been successful at explaining the size of several groups of organisms including several animals and some groups of plants, such as annual or monocarpic plants. However, the drivers of size in perennial woody plants, and particularly the importance of reproduction allocation, are largely understudied and misunderstood. In order to contribute understanding the transition from forests to shrublands by means of explaining the life history strategy adopted by small woody plants, I am working on models to predict maximum size of woody plant individuals, predicting that adaptations to both disturbance regimes (fire) and stress conditions (water limitation) may lead to optimization strategies that intensify the allocation of biomass into reproductive tissues. I am designing experiments to measure the reproductive allocation schedule of diverse shrub species (from semiarid, alpine tundra and Mediterranean biomes). The data that I plan to collect during this project will allow me to test and parameterize the models. This model allows to mechanistically understand some fundamental features of different types of habitats at the scales of the landscape and the biome, and therefore may be useful to make predictions on the fate of these systems threatened by climate change.
- Belowground allometries in a competitive context: The crown allometries have been often studied in forests, where crown area or width is considered an indicator of compettion. When we move from light limiting environments to water limited environments, like the sub-desertic shrublans, the vegetation transition from closed canopies to more open canopy equilibria in which plant crowns are separated by areas of bare soil. In the latter, the root area may be the critical allometry for undestanding population densities driven by competition. I am working on ESS models to understand how plants would optimize the leaves : structural : fine roots somatic biomass. I am designing field work campaingns in order to measure shrub belowground allometries.
- Net interactions between plants and spatial patterns of vegetation: Net interactions are the outcome of several proceses and antagonistic forces, mechanistically complex to disentagle. However spatial patterns are a proxi of net interactions between plants and of the potential scale dependent feedbacks (net interactions may not only change in internsity but only in sing with plant-plant distance). I am designing a spatially explicit model incorporating hydraulics to try to assess mechanistically the kind of net interactions that emerge.