My Ph.D. is focused on Facilitation Cascades (FCs), a unidirectional sequence of positive interactions among species in which a species A supports a species B which in turn facilitates a species C… and so on. Jointly with the direct interactions involved (sp. A – sp. B – sp. C) indirect interactions (sp. A – sp. C) are also involved.
When the benefit of the facilitation is specifically habitat formation or modification, we call it Habitat Cascades (HCs).
In the picture, I show a typical example of FC object of my research:
– seaweeds naturally support a very varied and plentiful community of invertebrates providing shelter, refuge from predation, stress buffering, resources, etc.
– when a seaweed supports an epiphyte, providing additional settlement space, the chain increases its level and complexity and the invertebrates are additionally facilitated by the epiphyte.
I am testing the hypothesis that HCs are key drivers in controlling and maintaining biodiversity in marine benthic ecosystems where epibiosis is prevalent.
Combining descriptive and experimental field and laboratory studies with biostatistics, this research will try to create realistic conceptual, descriptive and predictive ecological models that can be tested and adapted in other habitats, ecosystems and biogeographical regions.