Ricarda Riina Olivares, Tamara Villaverde Hidalgo and Jesús García Rodrigo, Royal Botanical Gardens/Spanish National Research Center
The Iberian Peninsula is home to 54% of all vascular plants in Europe, an extraordinary diversity that is mainly due to endemic plants that are coming under increasing threat from invasive species. This project seeks to help design more effective measures for preserving genetic diversity.
A new type of threat has particularly stood out in recent decades: invasive species. These are species that establish themselves in a certain habitat and become an agent of change, thereby threatening the native biological diversity. It is now known that invasive species are one of the main threats to global biodiversity, and this threat has climbed to alarming levels in many countries. Europe has recorded its highest rates of species introduction over the last 25 years, during what has been called the ‘third phase’ of biological invasions, coinciding with globalization.
This project proposes a new approach based on genomic data and epidemiological models to assess the genetic diversity of endangered species and their fellow invasive species. Three species from the endangered genus Euphorbia (Euphorbiaceae) have been chosen, as well as one exotic invasive species from the same family, Ricinus communis.
Comparison between the endangered species – two on the Spanish islands (Canary Islands, E. bourgaeana; Balearic Islands, E. fontqueriana) and one on the Spanish mainland (E. uliginosa) – and the invasive species R. communis (mainland and islands) will allow us to identify similarities and differences in their genomic diversity that could be related to their ability to adapt. Finally, the potential climatic niche of each species will be correlated with its genomic diversity and projected onto various timeline scenarios.