My main research aim is to understand why is biodiversity distributed the way it is in space and time, with particular interest on community structure. This requires identifying the processes that drive the spatial and temporal dynamics of ecological assemblages. My current work aims at unifying into a single framework the different hypotheses about the origin of geographic gradients of biodiversity and community dynamics; in particular, the interplay of niche and coexistence as determinants of species co-occurrence, and the effects of the evolutionary history of species, glaciations and current climate.
Here I study the imprint of historical factors that operate at regional scales on current diversity gradients, and how their influence and that of current environmental factors vary across spatial and temporal scales. Thus, I investigate the effects of past climate changes and evolutionary processes such as extinction or geographic isolation, as well as of current climate and global change drivers such as land use change.
Here I have the long-term aim of developing a general framework for community ecology and biogeography, which would integrate all the processes that generate geographic patterns of biodiversity. To do this I work on two main areas: the geographical and local determinants of the ecological structure of communities; and the origin and evolution of island biotas.
Albeit less theoretical, this line of research is quite important to study biodiversity in the real world. In this area I study how to identify bias in historical information about the distribution of biodiversity, determine the reliability of the picture of diversity and species’ ecology provided by such information, and design surveys to cover these deficiencies. I am currently working with other researchers in the development of maps of ignorance that account for the uncertainty in the data on the distribution of biodiversity.
As biodiversity research is currently a ‘science of crisis’, I also work on practical applications for biodiversity conservation and management, seeking the best way to overcome the limitations in biodiversity data and take advantage of such information for both research and conservation assessment. In the past I worked on Systematic Conservation Planning and selection of areas for conservation, and now I collaborate with other researchers on the use of geographical approaches to conservation issues, such as assessing the risk of spread of invasive species, the eventual shifts in species distributions that global change may cause, or the ‘extinction debt’ caused by the historical reduction of native habitats.
I work at global, continental and regional scales, using recent and paleontological data on species distributions, functional traits, phylogenies, and ecological interactions, as well as theoretical models. Also, I work on the development and exploitation of biodiversity databases –including assessing the quality of their data, as well as on using biodiversity estimators and surrogates, and on the theoretical needs and limitations of species distribution models.
Although I am specialized in dung beetles, I work with many different taxa – including other insects and arthropods, bryophytes, vertebrates, seed plants, or even microorganisms. Many of my works refer to the Iberian Peninsula, continental Europe, the Neotropics, and the Macaronesian archipelagos (including the Azores and the Canary Islands).