5 Questions with Our New Editor-in-Chief

Get to know the founding Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Joaquín Hortal, as he answers 5 questions about his research and experience and shares his thoughts about becoming involved with the journal.

Joaquin Hortal EICWhat is your research background?
I am a biogeographer and community ecologist. I study the effects of historical and ecological processes and environmental conditions on the geographic patterns of biodiversity; the role of species niche and ecological interactions in the organization of biological communities in time and space; and the use and misuse of biodiversity big data. I started working with dung beetles, but I now work with many animal and plant groups.

What is your current research focused on?
My main research aim is to understand why biodiversity is distributed the way it is in space and time, with particular interest in community structure. This requires identifying the processes that drive the spatial and temporal dynamics of ecological assemblages.
My current work is aimed at unifying into a single framework the different hypotheses about the origin of geographic gradients of biodiversity and community dynamics. In particular, I focus on the interplay between niche and coexistence as determinants of species co-occurrence, and the effects of the evolutionary history of species, glaciations and current climate.
I also work on more applied aspects of the measurement of biological diversity and the biases and limitations of biodiversity data.

What has been your biggest challenge and your greatest achievement in your career so far?    
Perhaps my biggest research challenge was realizing that too often biodiversity data may fail to adequately represent species and community responses to environmental and historical factors. Understanding this at the beginning of my career led me to challenge the application of species distribution models, and to develop strategies to describe biodiversity patterns based on the largely incomplete and biased data that are typically available. These strategies include methods and protocols for identifying data gaps, assessing the effects of these gaps on our ability to describe biodiversity patterns, designing surveys, and estimating comparable metrics of assemblage diversity and structure.
I’ve made significant contributions to our understanding of the scaling of the processes that have led to current biodiversity gradients, but perhaps my main achievement has been to develop a consistent framework for the description of the shortfalls in biodiversity knowledge. Recently I participated in the creation of maps of biogeographical ignorance that can be used to describe the data-driven uncertainty associated with species distribution models and other data on the geographic distribution of biodiversity.

What are you most looking forward to in your role as Editor-in-Chief?
I am looking forward to creating a truly diverse editorial structure based on constructive criticism, which helps improve both manuscripts and the ideas behind them along the editorial process. I believe the editorial process is a key component of scientific discussion, which can enhance the dissemination of results and ideas when editors and reviewers are motivated to guide authors towards reaching the highest standards with their research.

Why should researchers submit their work to npj Biodiversity?
We apply good practice in the editorial process. This means curating manuscripts and helping authors to take them to their higher standard rather than simply seeking to publish high-profile research. Such quality work requires time for editors and reviewers, which we’ll aim to compensate with minimum delays in other steps of article processing.
Importantly, we intend to promote constructive debate and discussion within biodiversity disciplines by allowing the publication of well-grounded opinions and speculation, when they are backed up by data and are not in contradiction with evidence.