Gabriel Khattar, PhD student
Research Interests and Motivation
Mountain ranges cover more than 25% of the land surface of the Earth and encompass several gradients in environmental factors within relatively small areas. Consequently, when it comes to understanding the underpinning forces shaping global patterns of biodiversity “… no other experimental system ‘designed’ by nature beats the power of elevational gradients” (Körner 2001). Indeed, much of the main theories regarding the origins and diversification of life were pioneered by early naturalists inspired by the ecological uniqueness sheltered by mountain systems.
Resembling these seminal naturalists, I have dedicated my academic carrier to push back the limits of our comprehension regarding the mechanisms behind the ecological patterns observed in mountain systems. More specifically, I seek to understand: 1) How the relative importance of biotic interactions and environmental filters in community assembly changes over elevational gradients; 2) What are the forces behind the decay of community similarity with altitude; 3) Which structures and paradigms better describe mountain metacommunities; 4) How species-level traits (e.g., body size) and sexual dimorphism vary over elevational gradients, and; 5) Whether the answers of each one of the questions above are contingent on the evolutionary and historical background in which mountain ranges are embedded.