Alberto Pascual-García

Postdoc | ETH Zurich |


I am a physicist, interested in deciphering principles in ecology and evolution. I am particularly interested in connecting broad questions, such as those arising from the analysis of large-scale patterns, with the underlying physico-chemical mechanisms. A question I am focusing on in this collaboration is the role of ecological interactions in the stability of microbial communities.

Selected Publications:

Pascual-García, A.. A constructive approach to the epistemological problem of emergence in complex systems. (2018) PloS one, 13(10).

Pascual-García, A. and Arenas, M. and Bastolla, U. The molecular clock in the evolution of protein structures. (2019) Systematic Biology, 68(6),987-1002 .

Enke, TN., Datta, MS., Schwartzman, J., Cermak, N, Schmitz, D., Barrere, J., Pascual-García A., Cordero, O., Modular assembly of polysaccharide-degrading marine microbial communities (2019) Current Biology, 29(9), 1528-1535.

Pascual-García, A., Bonhoeffer, S. and Bell, T. Microbial metabolically cohesive consortia and ecosystem functioning. (2020) Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B,

Significance: The article reviews existing literature and proposes that an intermediate level of organization between the species and the community level may be pervasive, where tightly knit metabolic interactions create discrete consortia that are stably maintained. The authors call these units Metabolically Cohesive Consortia (MeCoCos) and they discuss the environmental context in which they expect their formation, and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of their existence.

Pascual-García, A. and Bell, T. functionInk: An efficient method to detect functional groups in multidimensional networks reveals the hidden structure of ecological communities. (2020) Methods in Ecology and Evolution.,

Significance: Networks have played an important role in the development of ideas in ecology, particularly in understanding food webs and flows of energy and matter in ecosystems. Modern ecological datasets are becoming increasingly complex, notably within microbial ecology and evolution, where multiple types of information (taxonomy, behaviour, metabolic capacity, traits) on thousands of taxa can be gathered. In this work, the authors developed a novel framework to detect communies in multidimensional networks, proposing an operative definition of ‘function’ for the nodes. Since the method was developed following a tangible definition of function, it provides the means for a natural interpretation of the communities, opening new avenues to investigate modern ecological concepts such as functional groups or ecotypes.

Pascual-García, A. and Bell, T. Community level signatures of ecological succession in natural bacterial communinties. (2020) Nature Commun., 11(1), 1-11.

Significance: A major challenge in Microbial Ecology is to decipher and control community-level functioning in natural environments. In this article, the authors combined the classification of a large set of communities into species classes, with a statistical model that integrates all functions, showing that signatures for each class arise from the relations between functions. Furthermore, they predicted the genes of these communities observing that classes also depict distinct genetic repertoires. These findings allowed the authors to interpret these classes in terms of classic r/K trophic strategies, and to propose a mechanistic picture for their formation invoking an ecological succession process.

Research Interests

Ecology, Complex networks, Stability, Interactions, Syntrophy

Back to People

Alberto Pascual-García