Projects

CLIMATE CHANGE, THERMAL NICHE AND CONSERVATION OF SUBTERRANEAN BIODIVERSITY2016-2019.
Funded by: Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity (ref. CGL2016-76995-P)
Participants: University of Castilla La-Mancha and Murcia University
PI: D. Sánchez-Fernández
One of the main challenges in disciplines such as ecology, biogeography, conservation and evolutionary biology is to understand and predict how species will respond to environmental changes, specially within a climate change context. Thus, in order to make informed decisions, policymakers need accurate predictions of species responses. To minimize uncertainties in predictions, we focus on deep subterranean environment because i) it is one of the few ecosystems in nature whose environmental conditions are as homogeneous as could be obtained in a laboratory, ii) their species cannot accommodate to changing conditions by behavioural plasticity, dispersal or microhabitat use, and the only possibility to cope with climate change for these species is to persist in situ. Other than to exemplify general principles, subterranean fauna is certainly of interest and value on its own, as they represent an often neglected but substantial portion of Iberian biodiversity. On the other hand, physiological approaches are being increasingly recognized as essential tools to predict vulnerability to climate change, being specially relevant for poor dispersal species.The hypotheses established for this proposal are based on the exciting results obtained in some of our previous studies. In these studies, we did not find differences between thermal tolerances of different subterranean beetles living under different environmental conditions, suggesting a lack of evolutionary adjustment to ambient temperature for these species. This could be due to these species have lost some of the physiological mechanisms related to thermal tolerance due to their likely metabolic cost in a stable environment but with severe resource restrictions. However, the question remains is to what extent this surprising narrow and homogeneous thermal niche is common for the whole subterranean biodiversity, and how this issue could determine the fate of subterranean biodiversity to climate change. Besides, other exciting evolutionary and ecological related questions could be also resolved once physiological data for a greater number of subterranean species becomes available. In this proposal, we aim to test for the generality of these exciting previous findings by studying the thermal niche (species acclimation abilities and thermal tolerances) of different lineages of cave beetles with different degrees of specialization to subterranean environments and from different geographical areas (Pyrenees and Cantabrian Mountains). For this, we will use both long and short term physiological experiments. Finally, we aim to assess the capability to face climate change of different species and populations using the physiological information gathered for the previous objectives.The results of this project could provide important insights to improve our ability i) to understand changes in thermal niche during the process of colonization of deep subterranean environments and ii) to predict changes in biological communities that are exposed to global warming effects. Thus, contrary to the general theory that high altitude species will be at high extinction risk under future climatic conditions, we could demonstrate that subterranean species living in warmer areas will be the most vulnerable to an increase of temperature. The lack of adjustment also could mean that for those species already close to the upper limit of their fundamental niches, the possibilities of survival are severely limited.

THE EVOLUTION OF HABITAT TRANSITIONS IN AQUATIC COLEOPTERA. 2014-2017.
Funded by: Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity (ref. CGL2013-48950-C2-2-P)
Participants: Murcia University
PI: J. Velasco
Understanding the origin and evolutionary consequences of novel traits are among the main questions in evolutionary biology. Using an integrated approach, we will combine physiological and ecological data with species-level molecular phylogenies to understand the evolution of two of the most common habitat transitions in aquatic macroinvertebrates: the shift between running and standing waters, and the development of tolerance to salinity. In Subproject 1 we will test the macroevolutionary consequences of these habitat transitions in both diversification rates and the size of the geographical ranges; while in Subproject 2 we will determine the origin and mechanism of salinity tolerance, its possible interaction with tolerance to aridity, and the trade-offs with other biological traits.

Project coordinated with CGL2013-48950-C2-1-P, PI: I. Ribera  (Institute of Evolutionay Biology, Barcelona).

ATLAS OF IBERIAN WATER BEETLES. 2010-2013.
Funded by: Spanish Ministry of Environment.
Participants: Universidad de Murcia, National Museum of Science / Natural-CSIC and Institute of Evolutionary Biology, CSIC
PI: A. Millán
The project focuses on study and current distribution of Iberian water beetles. We will prepare specific sheet for each species with information on their taxonomy, biology, ecology and distribution. In a second step we will analyse the threat status of the endemic, rare and edge range distribution species. We also will incorporate molecular data from the Iberian endemic. Third step will address to the use of water beetles as a tool for conservation, and in predictive models to analyse their current distribution and possible future changes. In a later step we will study the community of aquatic Coleoptera of peninsular Ramsar wetlands and their conservation status.

INTEGRATING ECOPHYSIOLOGICAL AND EVOLUTIONARY ASPECTS TO UNDERSTAND PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE DISTRIBUTION OF IBERIAN SALINE WATER BEETLES. 2011-2013
Funded by: Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.
Participants: Murcia University and Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF).
PI: J. Velasco
The project aims to understand the present distributions of saline water beetles and to predict organism responses to global change by following the new, integrated, research approach of “Conservation Physiology” that combines the disciplines of ecological and evolutionary physiology in a single conceptual framework. Here we will integrate physiological, ecological and molecular genetic approaches to broaden our understanding of the evolution of saline water specialists in different lineages of aquatic beetles, and explore the vulnerability of populations and species to a changing environment.

EFFECTIVENESS OF THE PENINSULAR NATIONAL PARK NETWORK ON AQUATIC BIODIVERSTIY CONSERVATION. 2008-2011
Funded by: Spanish Ministry of Environment.
Participants: Murcia University, National Museum of Natural Sciences (CSIC) and Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF).
PI: A. Millán
The main goals of this project are: i) to assess the effectiveness of the peninsular Spanish Network of National Parks in preserving the current aquatic diversity of Spain. For that purpose, we will identify the areas with the highest conservation value (both for taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity), using a well-known group as bioindicators (aquatic Coleoptera). This evaluation will be based on the spatial modelling of the species distributions; ii) to update and complete the inventories of the aquatic Coleoptera in the Spanish Natural Parks, assessing the conservation status of all species; iii) to develop predictive models for the medium- and long-term effect of different global change scenarios in the populations within the Natural Parks.This project aims to integrate tools from different disciplines, such as taxonomy, phylogeny, ecology and conservation biology, in the search for integrative and objective strategies.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE SIZE OF THE GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AS A KEY FACTOR IN THE GENERATION OF BIODIVERSITY. 2007-2010
Funded by: Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (ref. CGL2007-61665).
Participants: National Museum of Natural Sciences (CSIC), Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF), Universidad de Vigo, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Universidad de León, University of Plymouth, Zoologische Staatssammlung München.
PI: I. Ribera
Why some species have wide geographical distributions while others are apparently restricted to very small areas is a major question in biogeography, ecology and evolutionary biology, with deep implications in the more applied field of conservation biology. In this project we test several hypotheses on the origin of the differences in the size of the geographical range among groups of closely related species . For that purpose we will use phylogenetically independent lineages of water beetles of at least three families (Dytiscidae, Hydraenidae, Elmidae). We will use two different approaches to test these hypotheses: first, molecular phylogenies and phylogeographies of the selected species groups (i.e. we will go beyond the species boundary to the population level), to test hypotheses concerning the relative age, phylogenetic position and geographical origin of the species; and second, a proteomic analyses using two-dimensional electrophoresis of different sister species pairs, one with restricted and the other with widespread distribution, to try to detect possible differences in the global expression of some protein families in specimens living in different environmental conditions.

TAXONOMIC AND GENETIC DIVERSITY OF MACROINVERTEBRATES FROM IBERIAN SALINE STREAM: BASIS AND TOOLS FOR THEIR CONSERVATION. 2007-2010
Funded by: Ministry of Education and Science.
Participats: University of Murcia, National Museum of Natural Sciences y University of Abdelmalek Essaâdi, Tetouan, Morocco.
PI: A. Millán
The saline aquatic ecosystems (salinity ≥ 3 g L-1) are broadly distributed around the world, mainly in arid and semiarid areas. These habitats are globally threatened by the human activities that modificate their natural features, specially discharge, salinity and biodiversity. The most important aims of this project are: (i) to identify the diversity patterns in the macroinvertebrate community in relation to salinity gradient; (ii) to determine the genetic diversity and the philogeographic structure of the most threatened species in order to obtain useful information to improve conservation decisions; and (iii) to develop a macroinvertebrate based index for the assessment of the ecological status of the iberian saline streams. The results of taxonomic and genetic diversity can contribute to the conservation of the macroinvertebrate populations and their potential habitats in order to ensure the preservation of the processes that support the biodiversity in the saline streams. This basic information, together with the biotic index can be useful tools to make-decisors managers.

AQUATIC BIODIVERSITY OF THE BIOSPHERE RESERVE INTERCONTINENTAL MEDITERRANEAN SPAIN / MOROCCO (RBIM): EVALUATION, CONSERVATION STATUS AND MANAGEMENT TOOLS. 2007–2008
Funded by: Spanish Agency of International Cooperation.
Participants: Murcia University and Université Abdelmalek Essaadi, Tetuán (Morocco).
PI: A. Millán and N. Bennas

MACROECOLOGY AND MACROEVOLUTION OF AQUATIC COLEOPTERA. 2004-2007
Funded by: Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology (ref. CGL2004-00028).
Participants: National Museum of Natural Sciences (CSIC), Universidad de Vigo, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, The Scottish Agricultural College.
PI: I. Ribera

CONSERVATION OF QUATIC ECOSYSTEMS WITH SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE TWO SIDES OF THE WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN: THE RIF AND SEGURA BASIN. 2006–2007
Funded by: Spanish Agency of International Cooperation.
Participants: Murcia University and Université Abdelmalek Essaadi, Tetuán (Morocco).
PI: A. Millán and N. Bennas.

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