I am broadly interested in biodiversity, plant communication and ecological networks. Exploring how life's complexity is maintained in changing environments and the role of networks in ecological systems have been a recurrent aim of my studies.
In particular, my core research is centred around cause-and-effect of networks of species interactions including plants, their neighbours and their mutualistic and antagonistic partners in real-world ecosystems. To answer to these questions, whenever possible, I integrate observations, models and experiments.
My current research focuses on the impact of global change drivers on biotic interactions and species coexistence.
I hope my research output helps society to better manage ecosystems and to design novel solutions for sustainable schemes.
Honors & Awards
Early Postdoc Mobility, Swiss National Science Foundation (2019)
Scientific Exchange fellowship, Swiss National Science Foundation (2018)
Best poster prize, International Plant Science Conference (2014)
Flora award, University of Milan (2012)
FP7 Erasmus, European Union (2010-2011)
Fellowship for talented students, Italian Social Service Foundation (2009-2014)
Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations
Board committee, Life Science Zurich Graduate School, PhD Program in Ecology (2015 - 2015)
Member, Ecological Society of America (2016 - Present)
Member, British Ecological Society (2015 - Present)
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Zurich (2017)
Bachelor of Science, Universita Degli Studi Di Milano (2012)
Master of Science, Universita Degli Studi Di Milano (2019)
PhD, University of Zurich, Ecology (2017)
MSc, University of Milan, Natural Science (2014)
BSc, University of Milan, Natural Science (2011)
Rodolfo Dirzo, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Current Research and Scholarly Interests
Disentangling the consequences of deforestation and biodiversity loss for species coexistence, and the role of coexistence mechanisms in mediating ecosystem functioning of forest communities in the tropics.
Combined effects of deforestation and biodiversity loss on species coexistence and ecosystem functioning, Stanford University (1/1/2020 - 6/30/2021)
Human activities are profoundly impacting life on Earth and increasingly threatening the functioning of ecosystems, with severe consequences for human well-being. In particular, recent experimental studies have shown that deforestation and biodiversity loss are disrupting key ecosystem functions on which we rely. Yet, we have a limited understanding of the mechanisms underlying the impact of these major anthropogenic perturbations on the functioning of ecosystems.A possible solution to this problem is to examine how interactions between species in ecological communities which are subject to perturbations influence ecosystem functioning. Modern coexistence theory highlights mechanisms of species interactions responsible for biodiversity maintenance, including niche differences and fitness differences. Nevertheless, we still do not know the consequences of deforestation and biodiversity loss for species coexistence mechanisms nor how these mechanisms influence ecosystem functioning. Understanding the synergistic effects of deforestation and biodiversity loss on species coexistence will provide a mechanistic link between anthropogenic perturbations and ecosystem functioning.Here, I propose a project aimed at disentangling the consequences of deforestation and biodiversity loss for species coexistence, and the role of coexistence mechanisms in mediating ecosystem functioning of forest communities. I plan to establish a new deforestation x biodiversity experiment using the herb layer of Mediterranean and tropical forests as a model system. The experimental design includes plant communities with different levels of species richness in the herb layer. I will manipulate plant species richness by sowing seeds from a pool of four herbaceous species. This will ensure that I capture the majority of biodiversity effects on biomass productivity that are expressed by just moving from monoculture to few-species mixture. Plant communities will be assembled using native herbs in forested and deforested ecosystems in Mediterranean (California) and tropical (Mexico) climates in two field stations owned by the host and collaborating institutions. This design will allow me to assess the direct and combined effects of deforestation and biodiversity loss on the herb layer of forest communities in contrasting climates. I will carry out two sets of independent but complementary studies within this experimental framework.First, I will test the consequences of deforestation and biodiversity loss of herbs for species coexistence using state-of-the-art ecological models.Second, I will examine the role of coexistence mechanisms in mediating the effects of deforestation and biodiversity loss on ecosystem functioning, such as biomass productivity and reproductive potential of herbs.Evidence of these hypothesised synergistic effects of deforestation and biodiversity loss on species coexistence and of the role of coexistence mechanisms in mediating ecosystem functioning would be the first in ecological literature. Addressing these questions will fill a key knowledge gap in understanding the impact of human activities on ecosystem functioning via their effects on species coexistence.
- Rodolfo Dirzo, Bing Prof in Environmental Science and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University
- Pollination interactions reveal direct costs and indirect benefits of plant-plant facilitation for ecosystem engineers JOURNAL OF PLANT ECOLOGY 2020; 13 (1): 107–13
- Perspectives for ecological networks in plant ecology PLANT ECOLOGY & DIVERSITY 2019; 12 (2): 87–102
- Facilitation mediates species presence beyond their environmental optimum PERSPECTIVES IN PLANT ECOLOGY EVOLUTION AND SYSTEMATICS 2019; 38: 24–30
Plant interactions shape pollination networks via nonadditive effects
2019; 100 (3): e02619
Plants grow in communities where they interact with other plants and with other living organisms such as pollinators. On the one hand, studies of plant-plant interactions rarely consider how plants interact with other trophic levels such as pollinators. On the other, studies of plant-animal interactions rarely deal with interactions within trophic levels such as plant-plant competition and facilitation. Thus, to what degree plant interactions affect biodiversity and ecological networks across trophic levels is poorly understood. We manipulated plant communities driven by foundation species facilitation and sampled plant-pollinator networks at fine spatial scale in a field experiment in Sierra Nevada, Spain. We found that plant-plant facilitation shaped pollinator diversity and structured pollination networks. Nonadditive effects of plant interactions on pollinator diversity and interaction diversity were synergistic in one foundation species networks while they were additive in another foundation species. Nonadditive effects of plant interactions were due to rewiring of pollination interactions. In addition, plant facilitation had negative effects on the structure of pollination networks likely due to increase in plant competition for pollination. Our results empirically demonstrate how different network types are coupled, revealing pervasive consequences of interaction chains in diverse communities.
View details for DOI 10.1002/ecy.2619
View details for Web of Science ID 000460163500012
View details for PubMedID 30636292
- Flower-power: Flower diversity is a stronger predictor of network structure than insect diversity in an Arctic plant-pollinator network ECOLOGICAL COMPLEXITY 2018; 36: 1–6
- The assembly of a plant network in alpine vegetation JOURNAL OF VEGETATION SCIENCE 2018; 29 (6): 999–1006
- Plant life history stage and nurse age change the development of ecological networks in an arid ecosystem OIKOS 2018; 127 (9): 1390–97
Effects of nitrogen deposition on soil microbial communities in temperate and subtropical forests in China
SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT
2017; 607: 1367–75
Increasing nitrogen (N) deposition has aroused large concerns because of its potential negative effects on forest ecosystems. Although microorganisms play a vital role in ecosystem carbon (C) and nutrient cycling, the effect of N deposition on soil microbiota still remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the responses of microbial biomass C (MBC) and N (MBN) and microbial community composition to 4-5years of experimentally simulated N deposition in temperate needle-leaf forests and subtropical evergreen broadleaf forests in eastern China, using chloroform fumigation extraction and phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) methods. We found idiosyncratic effects of N addition on microbial biomass in these two types of forest ecosystems. In the subtropical forests, N addition showed a significant negative effect on microbial biomass and community composition, while the effect of N addition was not significant in the temperate forests. The N addition decreased MBC, MBN, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, and the F/B ratio (ratio of fungi to bacteria biomass) in the subtropical forests, likely due to a decreased soil pH and changes in the plant community composition. These results showed that microbial biomass and community composition in subtropical forests, compared with the temperate forests, were sensitive to N deposition. Our findings suggest that N deposition may have negative influence on soil microorganisms and potentially alter carbon and nutrient cycling in subtropical forests, rather than in temperate forests.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.06.057
View details for Web of Science ID 000408755300136
View details for PubMedID 28738512
- Life in harsh environments: carabid and spider trait types and functional diversity on a debris-covered glacier and along its foreland ECOLOGICAL ENTOMOLOGY 2017; 42 (6): 838–48
- Resistance of plant-plant networks to biodiversity loss and secondary extinctions following simulated environmental changes FUNCTIONAL ECOLOGY 2017; 31 (5): 1145–52
- Feedback effects between plant and flower-visiting insect communities along a primary succession gradient ARTHROPOD-PLANT INTERACTIONS 2016; 10 (6): 485–95
- Structure-dynamic relationship of plant-insect networks along a primary succession gradient on a glacier foreland ECOLOGICAL MODELLING 2015; 314: 73–79