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Biffin E.,University of Adelaide | Brodribb T.J.,University of Tasmania | Hill R.S.,University of Adelaide | Thomas P.,Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh | Lowe A.J.,University of Adelaide
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2012

The angiosperm radiation has been linked to sharp declines in gymnosperm diversity and the virtual elimination of conifers from the tropics. The conifer family Podocarpaceae stands as an exception with highest species diversity in wet equatorial forests. It has been hypothesized that efficient light harvesting by the highly flattened leaves of several podocarp genera facilitates persistence with canopy-forming angiosperms, and the angiosperm ecological radiation may have preferentially favoured the diversification of these lineages. To test these ideas, we develop a molecular phylogeny for Podocarpaceae using Bayesianrelaxed clock methods incorporating fossil time constraints.We find several independent origins of flattened foliage types, and that these lineages have diversified predominantly through the Cenozoic and therefore among canopy-forming angiosperms. The onset of sustained foliage flattening podocarp diversification is coincident with a declining diversification rate of scale/needle-leaved lineages and also with ecological and climatic transformations linked to angiosperm foliar evolution. We demonstrate that climatic range evolution is contingent on the underlying state for leaf morphology. Taken together, our findings imply that as angiosperms came to dominate most terrestrial ecosystems, competitive interactions at the foliar level have profoundly shaped podocarp geography and as a consequence, rates of lineage diversification. © 2011 The Royal Society.

Kettle C.J.,ETH Zurich | Hollingsworth P.M.,Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh | Burslem D.F.R.P.,University of Aberdeen | Maycock C.R.,University of Aberdeen | And 2 more authors.
Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics | Year: 2011

Fine-scale spatial genetic structure (FSGS) within plant populations is an emergent property of the recruited adult trees, influenced by pollen and seed mediated gene flow, selection and demographic processes. This study aims to increase our understanding of the individual species traits that contribute to the generation of FSGS in the Dipteropcarpaceae, which is an ecologically and economically important family of tropical trees that dominate lowland forests in Southeast Asia. We examined FSGS in three co-occurring dipterocarp species at a single site in Borneo. Shorea xanthophylla, Parashorea tomentella and Dipterocarpus grandiflorus share limited seed dispersal but differ markedly in flower size, pollinator body size and pollen dispersal. Here we explore the role of pollen dispersal limitation in shaping FSGS in these three species. Using six microsatellite loci, we explore patterns of FSGS and landscape genetic structure and compare these across species. Significant FSGS was observed in S. xanthophylla and P. tomentella, both of which are known to have relatively limited pollen dispersal, but no clear signal of FSGS was observed in D. grandiflorus. Significantly greater FSGS was observed in P. tomentella (Sp= 0.012) than S. xanthophylla (Sp= 0.007) despite greater pollen dispersal in P. tomentella. Bayesian clustering analysis revealed significant structure in P. tomentella at the scale of the forest reserve (4000. ha). We discuss the alternative explanations for the observed patterns of FSGS emphasising the complexity of the mechanisms that can generate FSGS in long-lived trees. The extent of species-specific pollen dispersal is one factor that can contribute to differences in FSGS across species, but is not the only determinant. The observed patterns of FSGS and landscape scale genetic structure in S. xanthophylla and P. tomentella illustrate the potential of gap regeneration to counter act pollen dispersal and contribute to increased aggregation of related individuals (FSGS). © 2010 Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics.

Kettle C.J.,ETH Zurich | Finger A.,Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh
Conservation Genetics Resources | Year: 2013

On the 23rd of February, some 50 Conservation Geneticists from around the global gathered for a half day symposium entitled 'Fragmentation Genetics in the Tropics' held at the Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany as part of the German Tropical Ecology Society annual meeting 2012. The overall aim of this symposium was to showcase the latest novel research applying molecular methods (landscape genetics, conservation genetics and phylogeography) to advance our understanding of genetic consequences of fragmentation in the tropics, particularly in the context of how population size and isolation influences population and species extinction. I provide a brief overview of the symposium and finish with a call for papers for a special issue of the sister journal Conservation Genetics, for which submission is now open. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

News Article | February 1, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

Do you dare get a whiff of this flower famed for its stink? For the first time within seven years, the University of Minnesota’s "corpse flower" or titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) will make a malodorous appearance – and the public is invited to visit this week, Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., to smell the furious stench. The corpse flower, native to the rainforests of Sumatra and reaching up to 6 feet in height, is infamous for its scent, which is similar to rotting meat. Curator Lisa Aston Philander of the College of Biological Sciences Conservatory said botanical gardens worldwide devote entire festivals to the noxious plant. “Tens of thousands of visitors show up just to inhale this awful ‘carrion’ smell,” Philander said. The corpse flower produces a sole leaf that lasts year-long and dies back when the underground corm has managed to amass enough energy. By this time the flower emerges. It is also a thermogenic plant that warms itself to a temperature approximating humans’ in order for the odor to volatilize. So the hotter it is, the stinkier the flower gets, added Philander. The scent also changes over about two days that the plant is in bloom. The off-putting smell, however, appears to have a good natural purpose. In its natural environment, the plant uses it to stand out in the wealth of scents that compete for the attention of its pollinator, the sweat bee, which can smell it from miles. The corpse flower at the the University of Minnesota has not bloomed in years, so the university invites the public to the rare occurrence before the plant retreats into dormancy again. Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, another school in Minnesota, also had its own corpse flower bloom in late 2013. In 2008, another one at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory of Como Park in St. Paul raised quite a stink. Last year, two corpse flowers made the headlines when they bloomed in all their stinky glory. The first, in June, was the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh's 10-foot-tall titan arum, and the other was Alice, one of the Chicago Botanic Garden's corpse flowers, which bloomed in September.

MacLachlan I.R.,Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh | MacLachlan I.R.,Jodrell Laboratory | Gasson P.,Jodrell Laboratory
IAWA Journal | Year: 2010

Pterocarpus santalinus L. f. is endemic to south eastern India where it is known as 'red sandal wood' or 'red sanders wood'. A highly valued timber for its structural and medicinal properties P. santalinus is listed under CITES Appendix II, reflecting the possibility of extinction should unregulated trade continue. Currently timber identification uses comparative wood anatomy. Some P. santalinus specimens are very distinct from closely related species, but this is not always the case. PCA was applied to data on 17 wood anatomical characters and one physical character of several Pterocarpus species including P. santalinus. A comparative description of P. santalinus is presented using the same data as PCA.The primary quantitative outcome was discrete clustering of P. santalinus in PCA axes scores plots, distinguishing it from the other included species. PCA eigenvector data indicated which characters were responsible for the greatest amount of variance in the data set. With simple modifications PCA has considerable potential in quantitative wood anatomy as a complementary technique to comparative wood anatomy for the identification of cryptic wood specimens.

Brockington S.,University of Cambridge | Dos Santos P.,Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh | Glover B.,University of Cambridge | De Craene L.R.,Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh
American Journal of Botany | Year: 2013

Premise of the study: Caryophyllales are highly diverse in the structure of the perianth and androecium and show a mode of floral development unique in eudicots, reflecting the continuous interplay of gynoecium and perianth and their influence on position, number, and identity of the androecial whorls. The floral development of five species from four genera of a paraphyletic Molluginaceae (Limeum, Hypertelis, Glinus, Corbichonia), representing three distinct evolutionary lineages, was investigated to interpret the evolution of the androecium across Caryophyllales. Methods: Floral buds were dissected, critical-point dried and imaged with SEM. The genera studied are good representatives of the diversity of development of stamens and staminodial petaloids in Caryophyllales. Key results: Sepals show evidence of petaloid differentiation via marginal hyaline expansion. Corbichonia, Glinus, and Limeum also show perianth differentiation via sterilization of outer stamen tiers. In all four genera, stamens initiate with the carpels and develop centrifugally, but subsequently variation is significant. With the exception of Limeum, the upper whorl is complete and alternisepalous, while a second antesepalous whorl arises more or less sequentially, starting opposite the inner sepals. Loss or sterilization of antesepalous stamens occurs in Glinus and Limeum and is caused by altered carpel merism and inhibition by sepal pressures. Conclusions: Outer stamens of Hypertelis correspond with petaloids of Caryophyllaceae and suggest that staminodial petaloids and outer alternisepalous stamens are interchangeable in the Caryophyllales. We emphasize a switch in the position of first formed stamens from antesepalous to alternisepalous following the divergence of Limeum; thus stamen position is an important synapomorphy for the globular inclusion clade. © 2013 Botanical Society of America.

Agency: GTR | Branch: BBSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 199.27K | Year: 2014

It has been made clear by examples such as Ash Dieback, that our trees face a serious threat from new diseases and pests. As trees are everywhere and are well-loved parts of our landscape, an important part of our economy and an essential part of our biodiversity, their loss has serious consequences. However, dealing with each new threat as it comes along is difficult, expensive and potentially futile as threats can evolve so much faster than their tree hosts. Also, tree health is not just about a single pest or disease, but about growing trees in the right place, about keeping population sizes up, about ensuring seedlings get a chance to grow and about allowing forests to change as the environment changes. So, in order to find a sustainable long-term strategy for keeping our trees healthy, we need to consider the range of real and potential threats that trees face and try to deal with these together. At the same time, we need to ask what is possible for changing the way we grow trees: how do we use trees now, what do we want from our trees in the future, and how much change are we willing to accept? By finding a middle ground, that brings together the best biological knowledge with a clear understanding of the possible ways to adapt, we can give our trees the best possible chance of withstanding new threats. The most important part of finding a way to do this is bringing together many different groups of people, and different types of knowledge. A lot is known about many of our trees already, but usually this knowledge comes from unlinked, independent studies and rarely do results from one study tell us something about another, even for the same tree species. Much better coordination is needed. To show how this can be done, we aim to use the example of Scots pine, an important native tree species. For Scots pine, we know of several serious threats that are either here or are likely to reach the UK soon. The remaining native Scots pine forests are small and fragmented, but we know that they are adapted to their local environments: so pine trees from one part of the country grow differently than those from another. There are large plantations of Scots pine in many parts of the UK - there is ten times as much planted as remains in the native forests - and these are often at much higher densities than are found in nature, and often alongside plantations of pines from other parts of the world. There is also a strong cultural attachment to the species; in many places pinewoods are being replanted and it is often used as a garden or amenity tree. Our project aims to measure how variable and adaptable are the threats to Scots pine, to test how much variation there is in the tree species in resistance to these threats, and to find ways to get people involved in making healthier pine forests. By doing this we also aim to show how the same thing can be done for any other tree species, and to put in place the tools for getting it done. We will focus on three important threats to Scots pine - Dothistroma needle blight, the pinetree Lappet moth and pine pitch canker. We will bring together a group of scientists - specialists in ecology, tree genetics, forest pathology, plant biochemistry, fungal ecology and evolution and social science - who will work together on the same, carefully chosen pine trees. This work will tell us how much the UK Scots pine population varies and how much it can change from generation to generation; how populations of the threats grow and change; and what can be done to make the pine forests we have more resilient. We will bring in lessons from crop agriculture, where similar problems have been faced for generations, and adapt these for trees and forests, that have much longer lifespans. Finally, by talking to people who work with and use trees, and the general public, we will find ways to use this information to make things change on the ground.

Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 457.04K | Year: 2016

The northeast region of Brazil is relatively dry compared to the rest of the country, with unusually irregular rainfall patterns and associated frequent droughts. The soils there tend to be relatively fertile and so, despite crop failures sometimes occurring in drier years, the area is reasonably densely populated with about 15% of Brazils population living there; but under what are generally impoverished conditions. This has led to extreme land-use pressures on the natural vegetation and widespread degradation of remaining lands. As in other parts of the world with similar soils and climate, the natural vegetation of the area is a form of deciduous scrub, known locally as Caatinga. Probably because Caatinga typically lacks the complexity and grandeur of moist tropical forests, this vegetation type has been to a large extent neglected to date both in terms of conservation programmes and scientific enquiry. This neglect has serious consequences given the enormous destruction of the Caatinga, which exceeds that of the neighbouring biomes of Amazonia and the Cerrado. Because of their potential importance in future warmer and drier climates in Brazil, conservation of the plant species of the Caatinga, which are adapted to high temperatures and seasonally erratic rainfall, is vital. Designed as an integrated research program involving both Brazilian and UK researchers Nordeste will attempt to redress this neglect: 1. Through the establishment of a permanent plot network similar to that existing in moist tropical forests, allowing measurements of Caatinga canopy structure and dynamics and both their short- and long-term responses to climate change to be evaluated for the first time. 2. With the aid of new DNA barcoding measurements designed to better quantify the biodiversity of the region. 3. Through a comprehensive analysis of the biogeochemistry of natural and disturbed ecosystems to develop an understanding of how nutrient cycling processes vary in response to variations in soils and climate and human activity 4. Via a series of detailed structural, physiological measurements across the wide range of different Caatinga sub-types found in the region. These will be made both above- and below-ground and in natural and degraded ecosystems of the region. A special emphasis will be placed on measurements designed to help us understand why it is that under certain circumstances it is that very high biomass stands of Caatinga occur despite the very low rainfall. 5. Glasshouse experiments comparing water stress responses of seedlings native to moist forest, savanna and caatinga will also be undertaken in order to try and understand what specific metabolic adaptions are involved in plant adaptions to frequent and/or erratic conditions of extreme soil water deficit. 6. Via an integrated modelling program to provide new parameterisations of surface fluxes for semi-aid ecosystems in general and to provide new insights into variations in woody plant shoot: root allocation patterns in response to variation in precipitation regime. To achieve these aims, the project has been designed as a series of six inter-related field-based workpackages, with a seventh workpackage focussed on modelling of species distributions, ecosystem fluxes and developing a mechanistic understanding of caatinga vegetation functional responses to both variations in climate and soil properties. Designed with a view to also producing a series of well-defined products to assist both policy makers and local communities to better manage this unique resource - for example, online guides to ecologically dominant and economically useful plants, the study will serve to provide a valuable first step towards a better understanding of Caatinga vegetation and its responses to anthropogenic and land-use change pressures.

Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 60.99K | Year: 2015

This proposal aims to meet the urgent need to extend monitoring of biodiversity, carbon stock, carbon balance, tree growth, and tree mortality in Latin America beyond rain forests and into dry biomes. Most concerns about biodiversity and ecosystem function in the tropics focus on rain forests, but this neglects the fact that 50% of the lowland tropics globally is climatically seasonal, with a natural vegetation of dry forest or savanna. In South America in particular, the rain forests of Amazonia monopolise research and conservation, but dry forests and woody savannas can house equal numbers of plant species, many of which are endemic. We need to understand far better how these dry biomes contribute to global biogeochemical cycles and how their unique species react to environmental changes. In particular, little is known about how dry forests will respond to climate change. Initiatives such as RAINFOR have been highly successful in connecting a large network of scientists who have established permanent inventory plots in Neotropical rain forests. Collectively, hundreds of plots distributed across Amazonia have been central to describing patterns of biodiversity across the basin, and how the forest participates in global biogeochemical cycles. No corresponding network connecting a large number of plots over broad geographic scales exists in Brazil or more widely in the Neotropics for dry biomes. This project aims to start a process of connecting researchers who have established dozens of inventory plots in these biomes. We propose to: 1. Re-census, using methodologies agreed by the RAINFOR network, 10 permanent 0.2Ha plots in tropical dry forest in Rio de Janeiro state for carbon stock, above ground biomass (C) gain, tree growth, tree mortality, and biodiversity. 2. Contribute data for five existing 1 Ha plots in dry forests and neighbouring forest biomes in Rio de Janeiro state and c. 100 dry forest plots from elsewhere in Brazil to the ForestPlots.net database, thereby making it available to the global research community. We will prioritise dry forests, but we also have plot-based data from the Mata Atlântica rain forests (not covered by RAINFOR), and from the tree-savanna biome of the cerrado in Central Brazil, and we hope additionally to start a process of adding this information to ForestPlots.net. 3. Convene a workshop to bring together key workers from RJ and across Brazil who have established inventory plots in dry biomes to encourage them to join a new network that can take forward dry forest monitoring at a continental scale. This workshop will be held in the Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense (UENF), Campos dos Goytacazes, RJ, Brazil. This workshop will be preceded by a two day training course in phylogenetics and phylogenetic diversity delivered by Dexter and Pennington at the Escola de Botânica in Rio, and will be followed a course for the same student pool on ecological niche modelling taught by Antje Ahrends (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh). In addition, training will be provided to Brazilian co-Is in the UK to build capacity to make some simple growth, leaf area and respiration measurements, led by Meir and Grace, with plot curation and analysis training using the ForestPlots.net facility, led by Gabriela Lopez in Leeds. 4. Compare phylogenetic diversity between dry forests and neighbouring rain forests in RJ to determine if these dry forests house unique lineage diversity, thereby adding a further argument for their conservation (7). Additionally, we will examine the impact of landscape history and fragmentation on phylogenetic diversity and phylogenetic community structure in these dry forests. 5. We will develop a database of key functional traits, environmental parameters and principal carbon stocks and fluxes, and of the structure, floristics and phylogeny of Atlantic tropical semi-deciduous seasonal forest.

Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 316.94K | Year: 2012

Summary (for general audience, 4000 characters) Tropical plant communities are famed for their high diversity but we still have little knowledge about the evolutionary processes that have created wide differences in the composition and species richness of different kinds of tropical ecosystem. Understanding these processes is of fundamental and practical importance - for example, planning conservation strategies increasingly uses information on evolutionary relationships as part of prioritising decisions about individual species. However, for tropical plants communities, sufficiently large datasets based on DNA sequences are only just beginning to reveal the evolutionary relationships between species. As a result, the implications of threats, either through land-use or climate change, for the conservation of the evolutionary history of these communities remains almost entirely unknown. Our research will take advantage of impressive existing data of tree inventories, covering more than 1000 sites in three major biomes in tropical South America: rain forests, dry forests and savannas. We will link these data with new information on the evolutionary relationships of all genera, and all species of the legume family, which is dominant in all three biomes, using DNA sequence data. A genus-level evolutionary tree will allow us to make analyses deep into evolutionary time, whereas a species-level legume tree will give a view of recent evolution. We will investigate how many times lineages of trees have switched between the different biomes, which will deliver important knowledge for conservation and future studies of evolutionary diversification. If lineages have rarely switched between biomes, then each biome will contain a distinct subset of evolutionary diversity, and destruction of a single biome could wipe out an entire part of evolutionary history. Such scenarios of the destruction of an entire biome are not unlikely. One important aspect of this proposal is that it will not focus solely on the rain forests of the Amazon Basin, but will also consider the forgotten biomes of tree-dominated savannas and tropical dry forests. These formations deserve greater attention from scientists and conservationists because they are species-rich, and have suffered greater destruction - more than 70% of the original two million km2 of the Brazilian savannas have been destroyed, whereas c. 70% of Amazonia is intact. Tropical dry forests, of which less than 5% remain in many areas, are the most threatened tropical forest type in the world. We believe our research will highlight the importance and plight of tropical dry forests and savannas, characterised by many decision makers and commentators as worthless - fair game for destruction if this might save rain forest areas - exemplified by a recent leader in the Economist magazine (28.08.2010; Brazils agricultural miracle: Plant the plains, save the forests; http://www.economist.com/node/16889019). In addition to biome switching, we will also investigate how adaptations to specific climatic and soil conditions have changed during evolution in these groups. This work will enable us to understand the processes driving the biome shifts we observe. In addition, these analyses may help to understand how climate change will affect communities: for example, if changes in climatic preferences of species have occurred infrequently related species will tend to have similar climatic niches, and whole groups of related species might be vulnerable to extinction from particular trajectories of climate change. The final stage of our study will examine the implications for loss of evolutionary diversity in different biomes under projected scenarios of climate and land-use change. Our results will be of relevance to conservation planning by national government agencies in South America and international organisations, such as the WWF, involved in setting priorities for tropical conservation.

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