Montserrat VilÓ. Plant ecologist interested in conservation biology
  • Plant invader assembly in communities at home and abroad
    Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Europa Excelencia)
    Period: 2022-2024
    PI: Montserrat Vilà

    We are interested to understand the ecological filters and assembly rules of highly invaded plant communities by testing whether invaded recipient communities have converged to be similar to those of the putative donor communities. As a major methodological novelty, to achieve this goal, we will take advantage of a major continental unidirectional invasion of plant species from Spanish grasslands to Californian grasslands. As a first step, this proposal will compare plant traits between annual plants from native populations and from invasise populations to test wether in the introduced range the plants are more efficient in resource use and have higher fitness than plants from the native range.
  • Beyond Xylella, integrated strategies for mitigating Xylella fastidiosa impact in Europe (BeXyl)
    Call HORIZON-CL6-2021-FARM2FORK-01-04: Tackling outbreaks of plant pests
    Period: 2022-2025
    PI: Blanca Landa

    BeXyl final aim is to better tackle new Xf introductions in Europe and to develop and implement tailored Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies to mitigate the impacts of current Xf outbreaks, helping the agricultural/forestry sectors to remain productive and sustainable at long-term.
  • Invasive plant species from A to Z. National inventory, impact assessment, control and management for Armenia
    Armenian Ministry of Science and Education
    Period: 2022-2026
    PI: George Fayvush

    Alien invasive species are currently considered one of the most important threats to worldbiodiversity and ecosystem services, while they also have a very large impact on the humanstandard of living and other components of the quality of life. Despite numerous studies ofinvasive species, there are practically no countries in the world where a full comprehensive studyof these objects has been carried out, and in the CIS countries and neighboring states, includingArmenia, such studies are especially important and should be in demand. In the present project, itis proposed to carry out a comprehensive study of alien species, first of all, exhibiting invasiveproperties. Namely, to conduct a complete inventory of all specially or accidentally introducedplant and animal species with an assessment of their current distribution in Armenia and invasivepotential, to assess their current and predicted impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services,Nature’s Contributions to People and Good Quality of Life, to offer the necessary controlmeasures and management. At the same time, for the first time in Armenia, an attempt will bemade to assess the impact of invasive species from an economic (monetary) point of view, which isvery important when providing data to decision-makers.
  • Developing a macroecological understanding of invasive plant impacts based on abundance and trait data
    Powel Center for Analysis & Synthesis in USA
    Period: 2022-2024
    PI: Helen Sofaer, Ian Pearse & Bethany Bradley

    Understanding variability in invasive plant impacts can provide insight into community assemblyand inform the development of successful management strategies. The impacts of invasivespecies depend on how they alter patterns of abundance within recipient communities and on thecharacteristics of the invader and the affected species. Research has suggested that commonspecies may be more impacted by invasions, and that similarity between native and invasivespecies underlies impact. We propose the first study to bring together these two components andquantify the resulting reshaping of communities in a synthesis of invasion impact acrossecosystems. Functional traits are characteristics of an organism that influence its responses to theenvironment and its effects on ecological processes. Functional traits mediate the success of aninvasion, the impacts on other species, and the consequences for ecosystem function. Thus,understanding the influence of functional traits could lead to more targeted management ofecosystems with the greatest susceptibility to invasive species impacts. Our macroecologicalsynthesis will leverage a recent data compilation to ask: 1) do invasive species disproportionatelyreduce the abundance of common and functionally similar native species?; 2) how do invasionsshift trait distributions within communities?; and 3) how do invasions underlie biotichomogenization of species composition, functional traits, and phylogenetic diversity? Our dataare derived from approximately 50,000 plots across natural areas of the U.S., with an emphasison federally managed lands. By increasing our understanding of the roles of abundance andfunctional traits in invasions, our work will advance ecological theory and inform managementdecisions.
  • Radiography of woody ornamental plants and their pollinators in urban parcs (RADIOPOPO)
    Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
    Period: 2022-2025
    PI: Montserrat Vilà

    Biological invasions by exotic plants cause significant impacts on biodiversity, environmental services and quality of life. One of the main pathways of introduction of species is gardening because most ornamental plants are exotic. In the RADIOPOPO project, we will describe the characteristics of exotic ornamental woody plants in urban parks in Spain to understand the traits that make them attractive for introduction and can explain their invasive potential. Specifically, we will identify which life-history traits characterize these plants and in what taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic structure they have been assembled in urban parks. For specific cities (Seville, Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao), we will explore whether there is an association between socioeconomic and urban factors in the neighborhoods associated with these different types of plant structure, taking into account that preferences may have changed over time. Urban parks are in many cases the only stronghold of biodiversity in highly anthropized areas. Insect pollinators are an affected group of great interest whose populations are in decline. RADIOPOPO will analize to what extent the composition, abundance and diversity of pollinators, especially bees, depend on the type of ornamental flora and the local and surrounding characteristics of the parks. Finally, we will classify ornamental plant species according to their invasive potential to natural areas. RADIOPOPO will create the most complete database to date on the origin, plant traits and potential impacts of exotic woody plants in urban parks in Spain. This information will be useful to prevent conflicts between the introduction of ornamental plants to satisfy our needs and the environmental and social problems that they may generate both in urban areas and in natural areas where they can establish and invade.
  • The other side of invasibility: vulnerability of recipient ecosystems
    US National Center for Ecological Synthesis (NCEAS)
    Period: 2019-2020
    PI: Bethany Bradley & Inés Ibáñez

    This proposal will leverage extensive, consistent, community-level plant surveys collected by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) to measure how invasive plant impacts differ across a range of recipient ecosystems. By assessing variation in the impact of biological invasions across ecosystems, we will identify the landscape processes that lead to higher impact (higher ecological vulnerability). This analysis will provide a first macroscale assessment of the vulnerability of native ecosystems to invasion.

  • Research Network on Biological Invasions
    Redes de Investigación del Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades
    Period: 2020-2021 (renewed 2023-2024)
    PI: Investigador coordinador: Emili Garcia

    Invasive species represent the second most important component of global environmental change, with major ecological and socioeconomicimpacts and costs of millions of euros per year in Spain. They are also a unique opportunity for frontier research in ecology and evolution. Thecreation of the first Thematic Network on Biological Invasions in Spain is proposed, bringing together several world leaders on the question fromten Spanish research centers and combining experts from terrestrial, marine and inland water ecosystems and also from agricultural and socialsciences. Other researchers from these and other Spanish research groups will be involved later on. Through regular meetings, two workshops,the compilation of information and preparation of a website, and the dissemination of results we intend to improve the transfer of our research toenvironmental managers and society in general and consolidate the interactions among invasion research groups of all taxonomic groups,ecosystems and regions. In particular, we will perform the first horizon scanning on invasive species in Spain.
  • Determinants of the success of exotic trees across different invasion stages
    Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades
    Period: 2019-2022
    PI: Pilar Castro & Montserrat Vilà

    One of the main questions that has driven the research on biological invasions is what are the traits that confer some non-native speciestheir ability to invade new ecosystems. This question should be solved by analyzing the different stages of the invasion process:introduction, naturalization, invasion and impact. This information is useful to improve risk analyses and to avoid the introduction of newspecies able to cause ecological and socio-economic problems. For each invasion stage, we will explore the interaction between the traitsof non-native trees and the ecosystem properties at different spatial scales, using exhaustive and highly representative databases (atregional, biome and global scales).The project focuses on non-native trees because of their ecological, economic and social interest; because of the wide variability ofinvasion the success and of ecological impacts that they cause, and because the great amount of available -but dispersed- information. Inthe case of the introduction stage, we will identify which traits have promoted the selection of non-native trees for ornamental use in themain urban parks of Spain. In the case of the naturalization stage, we will rely on a database with the established non-native trees indifferent areas of the mediterranean biome. For the invasion stage, we will analyze the relative importance of different drivers of the nonnativetree expansion in Spain (species invasion risk, environmental and anthropic factors). Finally, for the impact stage, we will assess thedeterminants of the impacts at global scale relying on a previous meta-analysis on the effects of non-native trees on ecosystem services;and at local scale, we will quantify how non-native trees alter the functional structure of riparian forest of the Jarama watershed.Given the biogeographic amplitude of these databases, we will explore whether there are spatial differences in invasive species traits thatcan be explained by environmental, geographic and socio-economic factors. The scientific-technical implications of this project are that itwill provide information on: (1) which ornamental trees planted in urban parks possess the highest invasion potential; (2) which are themost frequent traits in the naturalized trees in Mediterranean areas; (3) which anthropogenic and environmental factors determine thespread of the invasive trees in Spain; (4) which non-native tree traits influence their effect on ecosystem services, and (5) how non-nativetrees alter the functional structure of riparian trees. Doubtless, EXARBIN will compile the most comprehensive database of functional traitsand impacts of introduced, naturalized and invasive non-native trees so far. This information will be useful to avoid conflicts between theintroduction of exotic trees to fulfill our needs, and the environmental and social problems that they can generate, both in urban and natural areas.

  • Implicaciones ecológicas del vertido de abejorros comerciales en espacios naturales
    (Ecological implications of commercial bumblebee spill-over to natural areas)

    Ayudas Fundación BBVA a Equipos de Investigación Científica en Ecología y Biología de Conservación
    Period: 2019-2021
    PI: Montserrat Vilà

    VIDEO (in English):

    VIDEO (in Spanish):

    En los últimos 50 años, el área de cultivos que requieren polinizadores para la producción de frutos y semillas ha aumentado exponencialmente. Esto ha conllevado un aumento de la comercialización de polinizadores como fauna auxiliar que asegure la producción y calidad óptima de las cosechas. La introducción de polinizadores se realiza no solo en los cultivos de invernadero poco accesibles a la fauna entomófila, sino también para cubrir la producción de frutos y semillas en cultivos abiertos, especialmente en periodos del año en los que los polinizadores silvestres son escasos. No obstante, parte de estos polinizadores comerciales pueden escaparse a áreas naturales adyacentes atraídos por una mayor diversidad de recursos florales. Tanto si estos polinizadores introducidos se naturalizan como si permanecen subespontáneos en el medio natural es necesario conocer la influencia de este vertido (spill-over) en las interacciones con la flora y la entomofauna locales.
    El objetivo principal de este proyecto es investigar los riesgos ecológicos del vertido de abejorros (subespecies foráneas de Bombus terrestris) desde los cultivos bajo plástico de frutos rojos en la Comarca del Condado (Huelva) y de hortalizas en el campo de Níjar (Almería) hacia los espacios naturales. Estos son los cultivos intensivos más representativos de Andalucía y ocupan superficies de las más extensas del planeta. Además, los hábitats naturales de estudio se encuentran en el Espacio Natural de Doñana donde los abejorros silvestres  (Bombus spp.) no son comunes y en el Parque Natural del Cabo de Gata-Níjar donde no hay congéneres. El proyecto investigará (1) la distancia a la que son capaces de escaparse desde los focos potenciales de introducción, (2) la competencia con otros polinizadores silvestres, (3) la prevalencia de patógenos susceptibles de ser transferidos a otros taxones, y finalmente (4) la hibridación potencial con la subespecie endémica B. t. lusitanicus en Doñana.

  • InvasiBES - Understanding and managing the impacts of Invasive alien species on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

    Period: 2019-2022
    PI: Montserrat Vilà
    Invasive Alien Species (IAS) are a direct driver of biodiversity loss and have major impacts on supporting, provisioning, regulating and cultural services. Both the numbers and distributions of IAS are increasing in many parts of the world fostered by international trade and travel, with multimillion costs arising from economic loss in the agriculture, forestry, energy and health sectors, and cost of controlling and eradicating invasions. Climate change introduces an additional challenge for IAS management because species’ ranges are shifting in response to warming. Researchers and managers are under growing pressure to evaluate the costs and benefits of plausible intervention scenarios to control invasions and maintain ecosystem services. However, past research has mainly focused on the ecological factors determining the success of IAS, and changes in biodiversity after invasion, treating ecosystem services only marginally. To support policy and management, there is an urgent need to synthesize knowledge across habitats and scales, thereby providing a comprehensive understanding of the multi-faceted impacts of IAS. Using surveys, experiments, data and models across habitats (terrestrial, freshwater and marine) and scales (continental and local), InvasiBES aims to better understand and anticipate the impacts of IAS on biodiversity and ecosystem services and to provide tools for their management.
  • Synthesis on the impacts between biological invasions and environmental change

    Entidad financiadora: i-link CSIC network
    Period: 2018-2019
    PI: Montserrat Vilà
    Climate change and invasive species are, individually, drivers of biodiversity and economic loss and prominent threats to human wellbeing. These threats are not, however, independent, because climate change can favor invasive species over native species, altering the ecological balance of entire ecosystems. This suggests the potential for a “double whammy” to natural systems if they are simultaneously impacted both directly by climate change and indirectly by climate-driven increases in invasive species. Yet, the scope and magnitude of these potential interactive impacts, both spatially and temporally, remains largely unexplored. We propose to joint  broad-thinking ecologists who approach global change impacts from a diversity of perspectives, Our objective will be to address the question: How will global environmental change alter the impacts of invasive species? Specifically, we will conduct two methanalysis (1) on the interaction between the impact of invasions and components of environmental change, and (2) on the relationship between invader abundance and magnitude of the impact across climates. This will allow for the first time to set up a framework on the potential synergistic effect between components of global change on native communities and ecosystem processes across the globe.
  • Pollinator responses to global change and its implications for ecosystem function (BeeFun)

    Marie Curie CIG action PCIG14-GA-2013-631653
    Period: 2016-2018
    Researcher: Ignasi Bartomeus
    Host: Montserrat Vilà

    BeeFun aims to use existing data to advance our basic understanding on how pollintors respond to global change and its implications for ecosystem functioning. BeeFun has allowed us to start an ambitious long-term monitoring program to follow plant-pollinator networks across an environmental gradient and along a temporal sequence.
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  • Basic and applied aspects of impacts of invasive plants
    Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
    Period: 2016-2018
    PI: Montserrat Vilà

    Habitat invasion by exotic plants constitutes a key component of global change widely recognized as having strong ecological and economic impacts. From a basic point-of-view, this project will focus on the impact of plant invasions on less studied attributes of biodiversity (i.e., diversity of functional traits, climatic niche diversity and phylogenetic diversity of invaded plant communities). To do that, we will take advantage of an exhaustive dataset already available along 381 km of the coastline in Southeast Andalusia in which we have surveyed more than 400 paired invaded and control plots and have identified more than 50 exotic plant species. This project will (1) identify which exotic plant species have the strongest impacts on invaded plant communities, (2) determine the vulnerability of native plant species to plant invasions in relation to their functional traits and climatic niche position. Therefore, it will (3) inform about changes in the co-evolutionary trajectories of plant species assemblages, and their vulnerability to climate change after invasion. Finally, (4) it will investigate if there is a relationship between the above-mentioned biodiversity indexes and impacts on ecosystem functioning.
    From an applied point-of-view, the project will compare the robustness of the most widely used methods in Europe for assessing the ecological and socioeconomic risk of biotic invasions. In relation to the current European Regulation for Invasive Exotic Species (Regulation 1143/2014), the project will also evaluate the potential risk of invasion of exotic plant species in Spain. In addition, it will assess the impact of invasive exotic tree-like plants on ecosystem services in Europe using both literature surveys and expert knowledge. The basic and applied perspective of the current project are in line with the scientific and management challenges that human society demands for overcoming the impact of biological invasions on biodiversity and on all those ecosystem services which human well-being depends on.

  • Managing stability of biodiversity-based eCOsystem services in crops through enhanced DEnsity of green infrastructure in Agricultural Landscapes
    Period: 2015-2018
    Coordinator: Yann Clough. PI in Spain: Montserrat Vilà

    Ecological intensification relies on ecosystem services to substitute external inputs in agriculture and has been proposed as a way to achieve high yielding, stable and sustainable crop production, while allowing us to reach other self-set targets such as nature conservation. Pollination and natural pest control are key ecosystem services that can lower pesticide use and increase crop yield quantity and quality. Organisms delivering these services depend to a large extent on non-crop habitats, or "green infrastructure" in the landscape, as crops are not well suited as a habitat all year round.  How much green infrastructure do we need to maintain stable communities of ecosystem-providers, and a high flow and stability of the services to the crop? Can  enhanced green infrastructure contribute to increased yield stability over time? Since establishing non-crop habitat comes at a cost, which densities of green infrastructure will enhance crop yield and populations of conservation relevant species while providing net increases in crop productivity as well as net economic benefits to the farmer? ECODEAL is a European research project addressing these questions.
    ECODEAL will (1) quantify pollination and natural pest control-mediated increases in crop productivity under different densities of agricultural non-crop habitats at different scales, as an essential step towards assessing costs and benefits of enhancing the density of green infrastructure (2) disentangle the linkages between density of green infrastructure and the structure and stability of the interaction networks linking the crop and the non-crop habitats  communities over multiple years, and (3) quantify the trade-offs between enhancing green infrastructure for ecological intensification of agriculture as opposed to supporting conservation-relevant species.
  • 50 Aniversario Doñana: Jornadas Investigación en la conservación en Doñana
    FECYT (FCT-13-7335)
    Period: 2014
    PI: M. Vilà
  • Pollinator responses to global change and its implications for ecosystem functioning (BeeFun)
    FP7-People 2013CIG, Marie-Curie Actions
    Period: 2014-2017
    PI: M. Vilà (holder I. Bartomeus)

    As of the year 2000, 40% of Earth’s ice-free land area is being directly used by humans, and an additional 37% is surrounded by human-modified areas. Land-use change, along with other human-induced global change drivers, are accelerating the rates of extinction of most taxa. Researchers are beginning to experimentally investigate how these changes in biodiversity affect ecosystem services, such as water purification, climate regulation, and food production, but do not yet understand the effects of species loss in real ecosystems. Pollination is a critical ecosystem service and relies upon multiple species of pollinators. My proposal aims to understand the threats to the pollinator species that provide this critical ecosystem function and assess the consequences of their decline in real ecosystems. Research about the functional consequences of biodiversity is dominated by small-scale experimental studies. These experiments have manipulated diversity by assembling random subsets of species drawn from a common pool of taxa. This approach is useful for understanding the theoretical consequences of diversity loss but is unrealistic in the sense that it assumes species can go extinct in any sequence over time. Extinction, however, is generally a nonrandom process with risk determined by life-history traits such as rarity, body size, and sensitivity to environmental stressors. The importance of biodiversity loss on the production and stability of ecosystem services will depend, then, on which bee species are lost, and which species are well-adapted to anthropogenic habitats. I will investigate this relationship by developing a framework that goes beyond aggregate biodiversity measures and takes into account trait functional diversity, species specific responses, and community structure. I will use new synthetic analysis of existing datasets form Europe and US, and long-term monitoring of experimentally manipulated natural communities in southern Spain.
  • SUstainable Pollination in Europe: joint Research on Bees and other pollinators
    EU (COST Action FA1307)
    Period: 2014-2018
    PI: Koos Beismeijer (M. Vilà Managing Committee in Spain)
  • European Information System for Alien Species
    EU (COST Action)
    Period: 2013-2017
    PI: Helen Roy (M. Vilà Managing Committee in Spain)
  • Influence of mass flowering crops on pollinator biodiversity
    Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
    Period: 2012-2015
    PI: Montserrat Vilà
  • Global Invasions Network (NSF RCN DEB-0541673)
    National Science Foundation (USA).
    Period: 2006-2013
    PI: Ruth Hufbauer
  • Riesgo de Invasión de los hábitats por plantas Exóticas: análisis a nivel de paisaje y escenarios FUTUROS (RIXFUTUR)
    Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
    Period: 2010-2012
    PI: Montserrat Vilà
  • Análisis del riesgo de invasión por plantas exóticas a escala continental, regional y de paisaje.
    Junta de Andalucía.
    Period: 2009-2012
    PI: Montserrat Vilà
  • Spanish woodlands and global change: threats and opportunities (MONTES)
    Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación-Proyecto CONSOLIDER
    Period: 2008-2013
    PI: Javier Retana
  • Estructura de redes mutualistas en ecosistemas insulares: variación a diferentes escalas y mecanismos determinantes (REDESIN)
    Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología
    Period: 2007-2010
    PI: Anna Traveset
  • Delivering alien invasive species inventories for Europe (DAISIE)
    European Union project of the FP6.
    Period: 2005-2008
    PI: David Roy
  • Assessing large-scale environmental risks with tested methods (ALARM)
    European Union Integrated project of the FP6 (Contract: GOCE-CT-2003-506675).
    Period: 2004-2009
    PI: Josef Settele
Estaciˇn Biolˇgica de Do˝ana
Montserrat Vilà Tel: 954 466700 ext. 1450
Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC) Fax: 954 621125
Avda. Américo Vespucio s/n. Isla de la Cartuja
41092 Sevilla. España