As a quantitative ecologist, I am interested in quantifying large-scale patterns of plant biodiversity. Broad-scale synthesis of biodiversity information is a critical step toward the discovery of general ecological patterns. Under the supervision of Prof. Milan Chytrý, we explored the spatial variation in the diversity and structure of European forests and grasslands. We tested different hypotheses regarding the ecological and evolutionary drivers of plant diversity, including the role of phylogenetic niche conservatism, and non-random extinctions of particular clades. We also aimed to quantify the effect of niche filtering in driving species abundances within grassland communities.
Spatial patterns in the (a) leaf economic spectrum (LES) and (b) plant size spectrum (PSS) of European forest understory vegetation. From: Padullés Cubino et al., (2021). The leaf economic and plant size spectra of European forest understory vegetation. Ecography, 44, 1311-1324.
I have extensively worked on understanding what factors determine plant species diversity and composition in urban environments, and more particularly in residential gardens or yards. During my Ph.D. thesis, I inventoried the flora of more than 250 in the Costa Brava region in Catalonia. I also contributed to sampling residential yards in Minneapolis-Saint Paul during my postdoc at the University of Minnesota with Profs. Jeannine Cavender-Bares and Sarah Hobbie. I combined techniques both from natural and social sciences, including the identification of plant species or the collection of ecological data, and the use of social surveys and interviews to collect data from urban residents.
A conceptual framework for studying community assembly in urban areas at multiple spatial scales. From: Cavender-Bares, Padullés Cubino et al. (2021). Horticultural availability and homeowner preferences drive diversity and composition in urban yards. Ecological Applications, 30, e02082.
Phylogenetics and functional ecology
During my postdocs, I have developed notorious skills in the study of plant communities from a phylogenetic and functional perspective. Studying phylogenetic relationships between species in the same communities is important because the ability of a species to persist within a particular range of ecological conditions is constrained by its evolutionary history. Examining trait variation of plant species is crucial to understanding key functional aspects of ecosystems such as energy flow, food chains, biogeochemical cycling, ecosystem development, and ecosystem regulation and stability.
Schematic representation of the four scenarios of phylogenetic structure. From: Padullés et al., (2021). Phylogenetic structure of European forest vegetation. Journal of Biogeography, 48, 903-916.
Invasive alien species can have severe negative effects on natural ecosystems across spatial scales. I am interested in revealing how alien naturalized species assemble into plant communities and how they impact native diversity. My research has implications for the expansion of invasive ornamental species and their associated effects on urban biodiversity. I have also studied with Profs. Tim Curran and Hannah Buckley the effect of invasive species on the flammability of alpine grasslands in New Zealand.
Example of transect where exotic species most increased in abundance over the time period (January 1986 (a) and January 2007 (b)) in New Zealand. From: Padullés Cubino et al., (2018). Community-level flammability declines over 25 years of plant invasion in grasslands. Journal of Ecology, 106, 1582-1594.