My PhD thesis aimed at understanding features that make plant communities more invasible, using coastal dunes as model systems.
I am particularly interested in the external determinants of plant invasions as well as in the characteristics of invaded communities across spatial scales. Recognizing the importance of the sampling resolution and spatial scale considered can help reconcile many contradictory patterns reported in plant invasions.
Biological invasions provide an exciting large-scaled experiment, but the interactions between exotic and native species often reflect the mechanisms driving community assembly and species co-existence in general. In this field, questions I am addressing include: how do species co-occurrence patterns vary along natural gradients?
How is co-occurrence related to functional similarity and phylogenetic relatedness of species? Can we disentangle the processes driving the patterns we observe (environmental vs. biotic filtering)?
Conservation biology of Mediterranean coastal dunes
Coastal dune habitats are perfect model systems to study natural gradients, but they are also threatened conservation targets at the European level.
In the workgroup of Alicia Acosta, we deal with many aspects of the conservation of these habitats including: the assessment of ecosystem integrity, the recovery of the vegetation following simple management measures, the impact of plant invasions on native biodiversity and, more recently, the effects of climate change on the distribution of dune habitats in Italy.