Phylogenetic distance can be used as an approximation of ecological similarity of species, with closer related species behaving in a comparable way. How the success of alien plants in a new range can be linked to its phylogenetic relatedness to the native community has been addressed in several studies, but no clear pattern is emerged yet. I am interested in how phylogenetic distance could influence the success of an alien plant, by affecting different aspects, like competition, interactions at different trophic levels and pollination.
Darwin expressed the hypothesis that exotic species more closely related to the native community would be more likely to naturalize, since they would share preadaptations to the local environment. However, he observed the opposite pattern, reasoning this was due to a strong competition imposed by the resident species, because of high niche similarity.
Alien plants closer related to the native community could attract more herbivores, but on the other hand, they could also draw more predators and mutualists. The success of the alien plant in the new range would thus depend on the strength of each interaction.
Another aspect related to phylogenetic distance is heterospecific pollination: the fruit set of a plant pollinated by a mix of homospecific and heterospecific pollen can be negatively influenced depending on the relatedness of the other species. Thus, both the alien plant could affect negatively the native community or be hampered by the native community, depending on the strengths of the effects.
addressing those hypotheses focusing on grassland communities, by both
analyzing existing datasets and performing common garden experiments.
- October 2014 – expected October 2017: PhD Student, University of Konstanz, Germany
- October 2011 -July 2014: M.Sc. in Biological Sciences, “Effectiveness of clearing operations in Ndumo Game Reserve”, University of Konstanz, Germany (in collaboration with University of KwaZulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa)
- October 2008 - June 2011: B. Sc. in Biological Sciences, “Confocal microscopy and image analysis”, University of Konstanz, Germany