RESEARCH LINES

I am a marine biologist interested in ecology of rocky shores. My main goal is to provide useful information to improve conservation and management of these ecosystems and, particularly, biodiversity living on them. My research interests cover a range of areas including ecology descriptive and function of marine biodiversity, conservation of coastal ecosystems, monitoring of coastal pollution and climate change. In most of my works I have used coastal marine molluscs as a model system. Analysing different subjects simultaneously on a single species or a closed group of species has allowed me to achieve a more accurate and complete approach about what is happening in the ecosystem. Communicate my ideas in science properly and in an attractive manner is one of my concerns.    

DESCRIPTIVE ECOLOGY AND FUNCTION OF MARINE BIODIVERSITY

Rocky shores are the most variable coastal habitat. Simultaneous functioning of several abiotic (physical) and biotic factors, besides of those of human-induced, generates and keeps variable patterns in marine communities. In order to understand what importance have these factors and be able to propose models which explain patterns of distribution and abundance of species, those main scales of spatial variation must be initially identified. In addition, temporal replication is required prior to establish any general conclusion, considering that spatial patterns are not necessarily constant over time. In this ongoing work, I have described the spatial patterns of variation of several key species (e.g. limpets or topshells) on the Canarian rocky shores (see figures). Moreover, understanding the role played by rocky shores and biodiversity inhabiting on them is essential to promote effective strategies of management and conservation. In this sense, I have elaborated, as first author, the first and the unique manuscript covering specifically the ecology of rocky shores in the Canary Islands.



CONSERVATION OF COASTAL ECOSYSTEMS

Accessibility to rocky shores has enabled their exploitation by human since prehistoric times. Harvesting of coastal marine invertebrates, mainly for food, is size-selective, preferentially targeting large individuals. This activity changes the abundance and size-structure of species and, even, leads to extensive local extinctions. However, there is little baseline information about the biological consequences of such exploitation. Since harvesting will run future changes in life trajectories of many species, it remains as an important question. I am mainly conducting this issue using coastal marine molluscan species as a model system (see figure). The effectiveness of marine reserves and regulation in shellfishing are also evaluated in this regard.     





MONITORING OF COASTAL POLLUTION

Monitoring methods are essential to study long-term contamination processes in coastal environments. For carrying out these methods, the use of organisms offers more advantages compared with the analysis of water and sediment samples. Particularly, molluscs are widely used as biomonitors at worldwide. Some of them have a great capacity to accumulate pollutants whereas others act as indicators of their presence. Since many molluscs are consumed as seafood, their study is also relevant to detect human health problems. In this sense, I have employed some gastropod molluscs, consumed by population, as biomonitors of heavy metals (Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn). Recently, some seafood samples from the El Hierro Island, where a marine volcanic event has occurred, have been analysed to study the accumulation of heavy metals. Moreover, I have studied for first time at the Canarian Archipelago the effect of organotin compounds causing imposex in whelks





CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS ON COASTAL MARINE BIODIVERSITY

Climate change is widely recognized as an environmental threat to the globe and detecting its impacts has become in a priority. Due to position occupied by rocky shores, just on the border between land and sea, species living on them are sensitive to environmental shifts from both environments. In this sense, the extensive past work on rocky shores may serve as a valuable baseline against which to measure, for example, the global warming effects. In this new research line, I am interested in knowing how different species respond to stress, and how the structure and function of the intertidal ecosystems are modified. In recent times, I have analysed the case of Fucus spiralis, an important habitat for many intertidal species, which is disappearing from the Canarian coasts.