Currenty I am working 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.
Root foraging behaviour and competition for water: In semi-arid systems the vegetation transition from closed canopies to deserts, going through different open canopy vegetation states. The root foraging behaviour of plants may be critical for undestanding population densities and vegetation spatial patterns in these transition systems, as competition for light does not seem to be the limiting factor. I am developping models to understand plant strategies in foraging soil resources using evolutionary game theory and pareto optimality. To test these models, I am collecting field data on the root allocation of rosemary plants in semi-arid and a in mediterranean humid locations. Root fragments extracted from (80 cm depth) cores will be analyzed by microsatellite markers (12 loci, 4 multiplex reactions) in order to relate each root fragment to an individual. I am also working in greenhouse experiments using cultivars and the wild-type of peppers (Capsicum annuum var. luesia and var. glabriusculum respectively) to test the tragedy of the commons hypothesis in spatially explicit models. We use method for multicolor staining of root systems in order to differenciate roots from competing neighbors, and analyze their competing strategies.
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 interested in develop spatially explicit models of root foraging behavior that generate predictions of vegetation spatial patterns in open canopy systems.