About the Project

The loss of genetic and species diversity, and the introduction of invasive species - often associated to human actions - are currently regarded as one of the most important threats to global terrestrial ecosystems.

This project proposes a novel approach based on the use of genomic data and epidemiological models to evaluate the genetic diversity of endangered species and their invasive relatives. The final aim is to infer the genomic basis of the capacity of resilience of a species when facing climatic or anthropic disturbances.
To test our approach, we chose three Iberian species belonging to the spurge genus Euphorbia (Euphorbiaceae) classified as endangered or vulnerable to extinction (IUCN), and another species from the same family, Ricinus communis, considered as an exotic invasive species in Spain. We will use a novel genomic technique - target sequencing with genome skimming (HybSeq) - to sequence hundreds of low-copy nuclear genes and partial chloroplast DNA that will allow us to obtain accurate estimates of population-level genomic diversity within the species of interest.

Additionally, we will evaluate the power of statistical epidemiological models - here applied for the first time in species phylodynamics - to detect genetic bottlenecks and demographic expansions using genome-scale data.

We will also correlate the potential climatic niche of each species with its genomic diversity and project this across a variety of temporal scenarios. By comparing the endangered species - two endemic to insular systems (Canary Islands, E. bourgaeana; Balearic Islands, E. fontqueriana) and one continental (E. uliginosa) with the invasive species R. communis (Iberian Peninsula and the two archipelagos), we will be able to identify the similarities and differences in genomic diversity which could in turn be linked to differences in their ability to adapt to the changing environment.

Our aim is to advance a new methodology in conservation biology that enables the design of more efficient policies to preserve the genetic diversity of species, and hence their capacity of resilience.