Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Edinburgh, United Kingdom
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Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: CSA | Phase: ISSI-1-2015 | Award Amount: 3.44M | Year: 2016

Ensuring the availability of and access to sufficient safe and nutritious food is a key priority that impacts all EU citizens and Horizon 2020 has therefore identified food security as one of the major challenges to be addressed. BGCI, an international network organisation will work with botanic gardens, experienced informal science centres with research expertise in food and food plants, alongside other key organisations to implement the BigPicnic project. This project builds, through the co-creation approach and public debate, public understanding of food security issues and enables adults and young people across Europe and in Africa to debate and articulate their views on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in this field to their peers, scientists and policy makers. The project involves the delivery of low-cost, co-created outreach exhibitions on food security, using the metaphor of a picnic basket; the exhibition will include information, activities and participatory events that engage a broad range of target audiences (adults, schoolchildren and families). Building on audience engagement and data captured from these initial, locally held, exhibitions, the project will run science cafs in publicly accessible and informal engagement areas as well as in botanic gardens, again capturing public views on RRI and food security. The final phase of the project will consolidate the findings of the public engagement to produce two key publications, a report articulating public opinion and recommendations for RRI on food security and a co-creation toolkit that will build capacity for engagement in further science institutions across the EU. A number of case studies on RRI will be provided to support the EU RRI toolkit currently under construction. It is expected that the project evaluation will show organisational learning and change amongst partner institutions. Partners will go on to disseminate training and promotion of RRI for future public engagement.

Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CPCSA | Phase: INFRA-2008-1.2.2 | Award Amount: 3.70M | Year: 2009

A coherent classification and species checklist of the worlds plants, animals, fungi and microbes is fundamental for accessing information about biodiversity. The Catalogue of Life provides the world with a unique service: a dynamically updated global index of validated scientific names, synonyms and common names integrated within a single taxonomic hierarchy.The Catalogue of Life was initiated as a European Scientific Infrastructure under FP5 and has a distributed knowledge architecture. Its federated e-compendium of the worlds organisms grows rapidly (now covering well over one million species), and has established a formidable user base, including major global biodiversity portals as well as national biodiversity resources and individual users worldwide.Joint Research Activities in this 4D4Life Project will establish the Catalogue of Life as a state of the art e-science facility based on an enhanced service-based distributed architecture. This will make it available for integration into analytical and synthetic distributed networks such as those developing in conservation, climate change, invasive species, molecular biodiversity and regulatory domains. User-driven enhancements in the presentation of distribution data and bio-data will be made.In its Networking Activities 4D4Life will strengthen the development of Global Species Databases that provide the core of the service, and extend the geographical reach of the programme beyond Europe by realizing a Multi-Hub Network integrating data from China, New Zealand, Australia, N. America and Brazil.Service Activities, the largest part of 4D4Life, will create new electronic taxonomy services, including synonymy server, taxon name-change, and download services, plus new educational and popular services, for instance for hand-held devices.

Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-CSA-Infra | Phase: INFRA-2012-1.1.16. | Award Amount: 10.15M | Year: 2013

SYNTHESYS3 will create an accessible, integrated European resource for researchers in the natural sciences in Europe and globally. Building on the success of the previous SYNTHESYS IA, the NA will focus on improving collections management of new physical and virtual collections. By focusing the JRA on extracting and enhancing data from digitised collections, SYNTHESYS3 will increase the accessibility of these 390 million strong collections. A wide range of services and access both physical and digital will be provided to a broad range of scientific Users (from biological and geological related disciplines) in a consistent and accessible way. The natural history collections, held within the museums and herbaria, of Europe are World-class in terms of their magnitude and taxonomic coverage. They represent a resource unique in Europe as a model of the diversity of life on earth and are a physical dataset enabling Users to research how the human activity (including climate change) is having an increasingly negative impact on the diversity and distribution of biodiversity, which is threatening the continued provision of ecosystem services essential to human well-being.

Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-CSA-Infra | Phase: INFRA-2008-1.1.1 | Award Amount: 9.65M | Year: 2009

SYNTHESYS IA will aid in the evolution of a European resource through the creation an accessible, integrated infrastructure for researchers in the natural sciences in Europe and globally. By focusing the JRA on DNA extraction, SYNTHESYS IA will increase the opportunities for Users to exploit a largely untapped facet of the 337 million strong collections. Users will be able to play an active role in generating new knowledge based on molecular and morphological studies. A range of new services and improved access both physical and digital will be provided to a broad range of scientific Users (from biological and geological related disciplines) in a consistent and more easily accessible way. The new tools to be developed and disseminated will give Users the chance to pursue new avenues for independent studies at the leading edge of biodiversity and environmental research.

News Article | February 15, 2017

The rich diversity of trees in the Amazon could be the result of widespread dispersal over geological time, a study has suggested. Although the vast tropical area is now divided into regions, scientists suggest these areas did not evolve in isolation from one another. Modern fragmentation could be damaging the process that made the Amazon so important for plant biodiversity. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Writing in their paper, the authors said that while some of the estimated 16,000 tree species were spread throughout the Amazon, others were confined to particular areas. They said that this had provided the basis for the vast seven million square-kilometre habitat to be divided into "floristic regions". However, they observed: "The pattern of diverse local Amazonian tree communities assembled from a species pool composed of mostly regionally restricted species raises the question of how the regional communities are assembled over time." In an attempt to answer this puzzle, the team studied the evolutionary history of four dominant groups of trees by analysing DNA, focusing their efforts of the genus Inga - a member of the legume (pea and bean) family. They found that a reason for the high levels of diversity was that the dispersal of the trees could have originated in any part of the whole Amazon basin. "The history of the rainforest of the Amazon Basin has long intrigued scientists," explained co-author Kyle Dexter from the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). "Our study used a phylogenetic, evolutionary approach to show the basin has essentially acted as a sloshing bowl of green soup, with tree lineages dispersing back and forth across the basin repeatedly, throughout the last Glacial Maximum and deeper into time." Although the paper was an academic study on how one of world's most important biodiversity hotspots was created, it's findings could have an impact on the way people considered conserving the rainforest for future generations. "We could be concerned about the implication of a recommendation that we did not have to worry about cutting down a corner of the Amazon basin because we have got a high phylogenetic diversity of trees elsewhere," said fellow co-author Toby Pennington, also from RBGE and the University of Edinburgh. "But we need to repeat the study, for example, for plants that have less dispersal capabilities." Dr Pennington added that the dispersal patterns displayed by the trees in the Amazon were not repeated by other organisms. "For example, birds seem to show much more geographically restricted patterns," he told BBC News. "It's a complicated picture with different organisms with different biology doing different things."

Mann D.G.,Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Plant Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2010

Background - Now and in the past, species discovery in diatoms begins, and often ends, with a survey of morphological variation to find breaks in the variation pattern that allow diagnosable entities to be defined and named. For this process to be effective, it needs to be informed by an understanding of the mechanisms that generate variation and many mistakes were made in the early 19 th century because of poor knowledge of the diatom life cycle and phenotypic plasticity; some taxonomically important life-cycle characteristics were not properly documented until 1932. Acceptance of the Darwinian view of species as taxa arbitrarily set along a continuum of divergence was accompanied in the late 19 th and early 20 th century by description of many varieties and forms; most recently described taxa, on the other hand, have been species. The neo-Darwinian emphasis on reproductive isolation as an important factor in speciation, introduced during the 'New Synthesis' of the 1940s, did not become influential in diatom taxonomy until the 1970s. It has since been a source of controversy, some seeing it as having no place in taxonomy, others regarding it as a useful aid to the detection of species boundaries, alongside character-based approaches, both morphological and molecular. Review - This paper discusses changes in how species have been discovered and circumscribed in diatoms, and seeks to establish whether there is a basis for consensus in future work in this field. Conclusion - Whereas morphology is currently still the primary tool for discovering diatom species diversity, molecular methods may be more cost-effective in future and are the only practical means of exploring cryptic (including pseudocryptic) diversity, which appears to be widespread. By treating species as separately evolving metapopulation lineages, as recommended by de Queiroz, different approaches can be accommodated (including tests of reproductive compatibility), providing a framework within which conflicting results can be analysed and reconciled.

Ellis C.J.,Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics | Year: 2012

The forest canopy is fundamentally important in biodiversity conservation and ecosystem function. Cryptogamic epiphytes are dominant tree bole and canopy elements in temperate and boreal forests, though remain neglected by mainstream forest ecology. This review makes ecological information on cryptogamic epiphytes available to a non-specialist audience, to facilitate their integration in forest biodiversity and ecosystem studies more generally. The review focuses specifically on lichen epiphytes, highlighting their diversity and ecosystem role. A principal task is to explore pattern and process in lichen epiphyte diversity - species composition and richness - therefore demonstrating the utility of lichens as an ecological model system. The review examines key themes in previous research. First, the extensive literature used to resolve species response to, and community turnover along environmental/resource gradients, consistent with the habitat niche. Second, the evidence for dispersal-limitation, which may constrain community composition and richness in isolated habitats. Third, these two processes - the habitat niche and dispersal-limitation - are used to explain stand-scale diversity, in addition to the role of neutral effects (habitat area). Fourth, the review moves from a taxonomic (pattern) to a functional (process) perspective, considering evidence for autogenic succession evidenced by competition and/or facilitation, and non-random trends in life-history traits. This functional approach provides a counter-point to an assumption that lichen epiphyte communities are unsaturated and non-competitive, a situation which would allow the long-term accumulation of species richness with temporal continuity. Finally, the review explores landscape-scale impacts on lichen epiphytes, with recommendations for conservation. © 2011 Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics.

Xiao L.-Q.,CAS Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden | Moller M.,Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

Cycas is the most widespread and diverse genus among the ancient cycads, but the extant species could be the product of late Miocene rapid radiations. Taxonomic treatments to date for this genus are quite controversial, which makes it difficult to elucidate its evolutionary history. We cloned 161 genomic ITS sequences from 31 species representing all sections of Cycas. The divergent ITS paralogs were examined within each species and identified as putative pseudogenes, recombinants and functional paralogs. Functional paralogs were used to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships with pseudogene sequences as molecular outgroups, since an unambiguous ITS sequence alignment with their closest relatives, the Zamiaceae, is unachievable. A fully resolved and highly supported tree topology was obtained at the section level, with two major clades including six minor clades. The results fully supported the classification scheme proposed by Hill (2004) at the section level, with the minor clades representing his six sections. The two major clades could be recognised as two subgenera. The obtained pattern of phylogenetic relationships, combined with the different seed dispersal capabilities and paleogeography, allowed us to propose a late Miocene rapid radiation of Cycas that might have been promoted by vicariant events associated with the complex topography and orogeny of South China and adjacent regions. In contrast, transoceanic dispersals might have played an important role in the rapid diversification of sect. Cycas, whose members have evolved a spongy layer in their seeds aiding water dispersals. © 2015 Xiao, Möller.

Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: MC-IEF | Phase: FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IEF | Award Amount: 200.37K | Year: 2012

Climate change is a major threat to biodiversity: this project provides knowledge in the ecological response to climate change which is necessary to achieve Europes conservation commitments. Criticism emerging from the conservation sector demonstrates that academic climate impacts analysis is not engaging with the practicalities of conservation, especially the requirement for local habitat management to mitigate the threat posed by global climate change. This project shifts the evidence base from the widely researched area of bioclimatic modelling (which quantifies a species exposure to climate change) towards the investigation of ecological sensitivity consistent with local habitat management. It focuses on a European habitat of global significance cool temperate rainforest with symbiotic organisms (lichen epiphytes) providing an appropriate model system. It examines two ecologically-similar lichen species, though with contrasting dispersal modes, in order to understand how climatic sensitivity might be determined by the interaction between life-history traits and a hierarchical range of environmental factors. This hierarchy spans the symbiotic interaction, micro-habitat factors, stand structure and macroclimate. With an emphasis on training and career development, the project includes complimentary field sampling, molecular analysis, experimental design and advanced statistics. The project will provide information that is directly relevant to forestry policy and habitat management, and therefore includes a strong knowledge exchange component.

Helfer S.,Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
New Phytologist | Year: 2014

Rust fungi are important components of ecological communities and in ecosystem function. Their unique life strategies as biotrophic pathogens with complicated life cycles could make them vulnerable to global environmental change. While there are gaps in our knowledge, especially in natural plant-rust systems, this review of the exposure of rust fungi to global change parameters revealed that some host-rust relationships would decline under predicted environmental change scenarios, whereas others would either remain unchanged or become more prevalent. Notably, some graminicolous rusts are negatively affected by higher temperatures and increased concentrations of atmospheric CO2. An increase of atmospheric O3 appears to favour rust diseases on trees but not those on grasses. Combined effects of CO2 and O3 are intermediary. The most important global drivers for the geographical and host plant range expansion and prevalence of rusts, however, are global plant trade, host plant genetic homogenization and the regular occurrence of conducive environmental conditions, especially the availability of moisture. However, while rusts thrive in high-humidity environments, they can also survive in desert habitats, and as a group their environmental tolerance is large, with no conclusive change in their overall prevalence predictable to date. © 2013 New Phytologist Trust.

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