My Research

My research agenda centres on evaluating the association between environmental conditions, plant life history attributes (functional traits, distribution ranges, climatic niche), evolutionary patterns/dynamics, and community emerging properties (richness, diversity, and evenness). By doing so, I look for the consistency and recurrence of such relations across space (from local to global) and over time (in the next century and over the last 21.000 years). My published work on the subject focuses on measuring the lasting effects of global change phenomena (climate change, land use intensification, and biological invasions) on different levels of ecological organization (composition, function, services), using land plants as a case study.

An advantage of my research agenda is that the necessary information to carry out my work comes in a vast majority from existing sources. These include remote sensing spatial information (satellite images, simulations, remote sensing sensors), and my current collaborations with large biological databases (GBIF, TRY, BIEN, NEATOMA, North American and European Pollen Databases).

My current research  can be summarized under two main questions:

What drives the emergence of ecological novelty?

An important question for ecologists and conservationists is to what extent novel species associations will emerge in response to global environmental change (e.g., climate and land use change, and the introduction of exotic species). This is a pressing matter, with multiple impactions for how to best manage and study the ecological systems emerging in the Anthropocene. This research line will focus on uncovering the mechanism by which ecological rearrangements of plant communities have (past), are (present), and will (future) lead to the emergence of novel ecosystems. Such focus provides a revolutionary perspective for evaluating the conservation, ecosystem, and humanity implications of such novelty. The perspective I will use for such work builds from my published work on the subject in which I have provided methods(1-4) to determine spatially explicit hypotheses of where ecological reordering can emerge as a result of environmental change. I have also assessed the legacies of such changes on diversity(5-11). During the first three years as an assistant professor, my work on this question will focus on determining the regional and local mechanisms by which novelty emerges in response to environmental and biotic drivers of change. For this, I will focus on evaluating changes in species composition, functions, and services provided by plant communities at local, continental, and global scales. By mapping the synergies between novelties in different ecological dimensions, this research line would reshape the way conservation strategies are defined, and ecosystems are managed in the face of future change. Additionally, with this work I hope to determine the degree to which changes at one level (e.g., environmental changes) “trickle up” one or more ecological levels of organization (e.g., community assembly, functional composition, or ecosystem services). By assessing this, we will gain valuable knowledge of the “ecological resilience” of particular ecosystems to change, and how much forcing is required to induce ecological changes that will push a system away from the historical norm. I have already applied for an ERC-StR for this project with Aarhus University and the host institution. A decision on the grant is expected by June 2017. I also plan to propose an sDiv working group on the subject. For this working group, I will invite some of the lead scientists from North America, Europe, and Asia to generate a synthesis of the evidence of how environmental changes have resulted in the emergence of novel ecosystems, and the implication of such a change for ecosystem functions.

Which are the effects of contemporary environmental forcing on plant diversity?

My work has also focused on describing spatiotemporal patterns of global-scale phenomena. I started by evaluating what determined the success of intentional and unintentional plant introductions using a macroecological approach centred on describing patterns of similarity in functional attributes(12-15). Then I developed a novel ecosystem-focused multidimensional toolbox to quantify the exposure (specific and combined) to changes in different variables (i.e., climatic(1, 3, 4) and land use(3)). Using this toolbox, I will focus on answering three timely, and novel research questions: (1) Which are the best multidimensional exposure indices for predicting plant communities and ecosystem responses to future climatic and land use change?, (2) How can the information derived from the proposed spatiotemporal metrics be used to provide spatially explicit management and adaptation planning guidelines? and (3) Does the distribution of high-vulnerability areas (high rates of land-use and climate change) match current conservation areas, and nature management strategies? By answering these questions, I will provide the first spatially explicit characterizations of the observed (current) and expected (future) exposure to human-induced environmental changes, using newly developed quantitative metrics that incorporate both climate and land use change, and account for their interactions. The results of this research agenda will also assess the implication of climatic and land use changes for natural resource management, environmental governance, and understanding how environmental changes affect ecosystem functioning and services. I plan to obtain funding for this project via as Sapere-Aude DFF-Starting Grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research, for which I plan to submit an application by April 5th, 2017.

References

  1. Ordonez A & Williams J (2013) Climatic Change 119(3-4):659-675.
  2. Williams JW, et al. (2013) Ann Ny Acad Sci 1297:29-43.
  3. Ordonez A, Martinuzzi S, Radeloff VC, & Williams JW (2014) Nature Clim. Change 4(9):811-816.
  4. Ordonez A, Williams J, & Svenning J-C (2016) Nature Climate Change.
  5. Ordonez A (2013) American Journal of Botany 100(7):1255-1265.
  6. Ordonez A & Williams JW (2013) Ecology Letters 16(6):773-781.
  7. Eiserhardt WL, Borchsenius F, Plum CM, Ordonez A, & Svenning JC (2015) Ecol Lett 18(3):263-272.
  8. Lankau RA, Zhu K, & Ordonez A (2015) Ecology 96(6):1451-1458.
  9. Ordonez A & Svenning J-C (2015) Global Ecology and Biogeography 24(7):826-837.
  10. Ordonez A & Svenning JC (2016) Ecosphere 7(2).
  11. Ordonez A & Svenning JC (2016) Ecol Evol 6(10):3405-3416.
  12. van der Plas F, et al. (2014) Ecology 96(6):1502-1515.
  13. Ordonez A (2014) Global Ecology and Biogeography 23(3):264-273.
  14. Ordonez A, Wright IJ, & Olff H (2010) Functional Ecology 24(6):1353-1361.
  15. Ordonez A & Olff H (2013) Global Ecology and Biogeography 11(6):648-658.