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Biodiversity drivers on islands and continents

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BIODIV ISLAND-CONT (Biodiversity drivers on islands and continents)

Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2018-09-30

The overall objective of BIODIV ISLAND-CONT is deciphering the role of different mechanisms in the generation of biodiversity at all levels, taxonomic (TD), functional (FD) and phylogenetic (PD) by comparing two contrasting biogeographical model systems: islands (Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands), and continental systems (Iberian Peninsula), using spiders as a model organism.

The biogeographical scale of this study has allowed testing basic ecological and evolutionary hypotheses about biodiversity shaping processes by comparing different systems (islands and continents) where the evolutionary dynamics have acted differently on the current biodiversity and community composition patterns.

In this project we have used an integrative approach combining different scientific fields such as taxonomy, phylogenetics, functional ecology, and community assembly under a common methodological and statistical framework, facilitating the application of the findings in relation to future research in the field of evolution and diversification of organisms.

This project has allowed the first islands-mainland system comparison of TD, FD and PD diversity of any organismal group. It will serve as a model for future studies with other taxa, particularly invertebrates, laying the foundations for similar integrative global studies.

Understanding the spatial patterns of biodiversity and their underlying processes is also a fundamental task in conservation biology. Effective conservation strategies should be focused, not only, on preserving individual species or areas, but also on the maintenance of functional and evolutionary processes at different spatial scales, and this project will help to create a bridge between the basic scientific research and conservation managers in this regard.
We have applied different methods and analyses to reach the goals of the project, briefly explained: molecular lab work for amplifying and sequencing the mitochondrial and nuclear genes for phylogenetic reconstruction, phylogenetic and lineage age estimation analyses, construction of a spider’s functional trait database, calculation of different diversity indices (TD, FD and PD), statistical analyses, manuscripts writing, outreach activities, and dissemination of results.Data gathering has been completed for all the tasks needed for the consecution of each objective. A publication about spider’s functional trait database has been submitted. The analyses of one in preparation publication are finished and the manuscript will be submitted briefly. Three other publications are on different stages of analyzing and writing, they will be submitted next year.
Several activities were organized to disseminate the results of the project: interview, talks and seminars, submission of scientific manuscripts and open access databases. Furthermore, a variety of outreach activities were organized during the development of the project: participation in the European Researchers’ Night and in the “Science week”, organization of a spider’s workshop, among others.
Overall, the goals proposed in this project allowed testing general macroevolutionary hypotheses of broad interest to the scientific community. To our knowledge, this is the largest and the only study of its kind that compares patterns of biodiversity on island vs. continental systems using a multidisciplinary approach by combining ecological and evolutionary aspects to decipher patterns of community assembly and ecosystem functionality. The results of this work will help, not only to test specific hypotheses and predictions derived from ecological and evolutionary theory of high interest to the scientific community, but also to develop future conservation management strategies available to stakeholders and policy makers, all in all, helping to the preservation of global biodiversity and ecosystem services.

This project has contributed to European Excellence and Competitiveness since it has promoted transnational co-operation, bringing together researchers from various parts of Europe, enhancing the optimal circulation of knowledge and gender equality across institutions.