the ibiogen project
iBioGen is an EU-funded (Horizon 2020) project, focused on island biodiversity genomics. This international initiative aims to unify protocols and applied methodologies across island systems, to improve coordination and collaboration among empirical and theoretical biologists, to bridge ecological and evolutionary perspectives to island biodiversity and to establish an EU island network of Genomic Observatories. Furthermore, the iBioGen consortium aims to stimulate research excellence in an island country (Cyprus), and promote it as a model system for integrating biodiversity genomics with conservation practice.
soil biodiversity dynamics of cyprus montane forests
The forests of the Troodos mountain range in Cyprus harbour unique habitats with a high proportion of endemic species and offer invaluable ecosystem services. However, they have been heavily impacted by human activities since ancient times, with some of the endemic forest types being currently reduced to small and fragmented habitat patches. In addition, climate change is now threatening the forests of Troodos and could potentially drive highland species to extinction. Current monitoring efforts have focused on certain prominent groups but have overlooked the “hidden” biodiversity of below-ground organisms which is essential for sustainable ecosystem function. We are now applying a metagenetic approach to gain a comprehensive understanding of the functionally important and vulnerable component of soil biodiversity. We aim to provide insights into current and past dynamics of soil communities across the main forest ecotypes of Troodos (Pinus brutia, Pinus nigra pallasiana, Quercus alnifolia, Cedrus brevifolia and Juniperus spp.) and we will use this information to evaluate risks due to habitat fragmentation.
the role of habitat persistence in the evolutionary dynamics of insular lineages
In the era of rapid environmental change, understanding the role of habitat persistence in the evolutionary dynamics and endemicity of insular lineages, can be crucial for preserving island biodiversity. The potential effects of habitat stability on demographic history and species diversification is a long-standing question at the interface between ecology and evolutionary biology. Previous studies suggested that habitat instability selects for higher dispersal propensity, resulting in larger species ranges and lower speciation rates, in contrast to long-term habitat persistence, which promotes lower dispersal, smaller species ranges and higher speciation rates. However, support for these hypotheses remains limited due to scarcity of suitable study systems and analytical limitations. We aim to integrate population genomics (based on genome-wide SNP data) with phylogenomics to evaluate the effect of habitat stability on demographic history and diversification rates, focusing on the soil-dwelling beetle genus Eutagenia (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae), distributed in compact-soil (stable) vs. sandy (disturbed) habitats across Cyprus and the Aegean islands.
LICOMED: understanding The interactions between BEetles and LICHENS in MEDITERRANEAN forest Ecosystems of cyprus
LICOMED is a bilateral collaboration project between Cyprus and Russia, funded by the Research & Innovation Foundation (RIF) of Cyprus and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research. Through this project our team has developed a collaboration with Dr. Maxim Nabozhenko (Caspian Institute of Biological Resources), Dr. Lyudmila Gagarina (Botanical institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences) and Ivan Chigray (Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences). LICOMED combines field observations, morphological identification and molecular analyses to elucidate the interactions between lichenophagous beetles and lichens in Mediterranean forest ecosystems of Cyprus. Specifically, we are studying the composition, trophic specialization and structure of lichenophagous beetle communities, as well as the potential role of beetles in the asexual reproduction of lichens. We are also planning to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships of both the lichenophagous beetles and their host lichens and assess phylogenetic community structure (i.e., phylogenetic clustering vs. overdispersion) of the lichenophagous beetle communities, in order to distinguish between hypotheses of environmental filtering vs. competitive exclusion and identify phylogenetic constraints in host choice.