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Singapore, Singapore

Dexter K.G.,CNRS Biological Evolution and Diversity Laboratory | Pennington T.D.,Duke University | Cunningham C.W.,Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Ecological Monographs

Ecological surveys of tropical tree communities have provided an important source of data to study the forces that generate and maintain tropical diversity. Accurate species identification is central to these studies. Incorrect lumping or splitting of species will distort results, which may in turn affect conclusions. Although ecologists often work with taxonomists, they likely make some identification errors. This is because most trees encountered in the field are not reproductive and must be identified using vegetative characters, while most species descriptions rely on fruit and flower characters. Because every tree has DNA, ecological surveys can incorporate molecular approaches to enhance accuracy. This study reports an extensive ecological and molecular survey of nearly 4000 trees belonging to 55 species in the tree genus Inga (Fabaceae). These trees were sampled in 25 community surveys in the southwestern Amazon. In a process of reciprocal illumination, trees were first identified to species using vegetative characters, and these identifications were revised using phylogenies derived from nuclear and chloroplast DNA sequences. We next evaluated the effects of these revised species counts upon analyses often used to assess ecological neutral theory. The most common morphological identification errors involved incorrectly splitting rare morphological variants of common species and incorrectly lumping geographically segregated, morphologically similar species. Total error rates were significant (6.8-7.6% of all individuals) and had a measurable impact on ecological analyses. The revised identifications increased support for spatially autocorrelated, potentially neutral factors in determining community composition. Nevertheless, the general conclusions of community-level ecological analyses were robust to misidentifications. Ecological factors, such as soil composition, and potentially neutral factors, such as dispersal limitation, both play important roles in the assembly of Inga communities. In contrast, species-level analyses of neutrality with respect to habitat were strongly impacted by identification errors. Although this study found errors in morphological identifications, there was also strong evidence that a purely molecular approach to species identification, such as DNA barcoding, would be prone to substantial errors. The greatest accuracy in ecological surveys will be obtained through a synthesis of traditional, morphological and modern, molecular approaches. © 2010 by the Ecological Society of America. Source

Richard Henry Beddome (1830-1911) is best known to botanists for his research on the ferns of India. However his contribution to angiosperm taxonomy was also significant, particularly through his Flora Sylvatica for Southern India and Icones Plantarum Indiae Orientalis. These works were published serially. The composition and publication dates of the parts of these works are reviewed here. A listing is presented of all angiosperm taxa described by Beddome and all new names and combinations he published. This includes some names not currently included in IPNI, or included in IPNI but with different authors or places of publication and later publication dates. An immediate nomenclatural repercussion of the research is confirmation that the recently published avowed substitute Eugenia neogracilis Mazine & Sobral for the Brazilian Eugenia gracilis O. Berg is superfluous as Berg's original publication predated that of Eugenia gracilis Bedd. © Finnish Zoological and Botanical Publishing Board 2012. Source

Agency: Cordis | Branch: H2020 | Program: MSCA-IF-EF-ST | Phase: MSCA-IF-2015-EF | Award Amount: 195.45K | Year: 2016

How do biodiversity and ecosystem functioning respond to climate change? Currently, fundamental knowledge gaps prevent us from answering this most pressing question. Global climate is largely dependent on tropical forest functioning due to the scale of plant-driven ecosystem services that they provide (water and carbon cycling). Thus, research on tropical plants is essential to address the question. However, critical plant groups such as palms, which are hyperdominant in tropical forests, remain almost entirely neglected. The intricate relationship between plants and the environment is mediated by functional traits, but current models do not yet account for the dynamics of species and functional composition and thus fail to predict plant/climate responses accurately. This critical knowledge gap is the primary focus of PALMHYDRAULICS. The project will use palms as a model group to explore hydraulic traits, which are pivotal in plant/climate responses, but unstudied in palms, despite their importance. PALMHYDRAULICS will focus on the structure, ecology and evolution of palm hydraulic functioning. Through a novel, integrated research programme, PALMHYDRAULICS will use cutting-edge analyses to disentangle the role of trade-offs in plant hydraulic structure relating to species diversification, intraspecific variation, structural development and individual survival that underpin feedback mechanisms between plant effect on and responses to climate change. This comprehensive, ambitious approach builds on the world leadership of the host institution in integrated studies of the palm family, plant morphology and evolution, its unrivalled collections, and the complementary expertise of the host scientists and experienced researcher. Novel and extensive datasets will be produced and made openly accessible, and findings will be disseminated through the most prestigious scientific journals and a comprehensive public communication plan.

Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 249.74K | Year: 2015

There is an increasing trend recently to allocate land in Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) for the production of crops that are ultimately used for non-food purposes such as bioenergy, fibre and other industrial processes. Such land conversions are often financed through direct foreign investment and are justified as an engine of economic growth. However this often happens in countries that are barely food self-sufficient raising concerns about impacts on food security. While it is well accepted that industrial crops (ICs) compete directly and indirectly for land with food production, it is not always straightforward to assess the overall impacts of this competition on food security. Superficially food security should decrease as agricultural land is converted to ICs. Yet a number of less obvious mechanisms may lead to improvements in food security, e.g. higher household incomes can improve access to food, while access to fertilizers/pesticides/irrigation/knowledge can improve agricultural yields. In fact there are many complex feedbacks between land use change due to IC production and local/national food security in SSA. However, we have a fragmented and incomplete knowledge of these interrelations in African contexts, with few comprehensive studies conducted so far. This interdisciplinary project aims to provide clear empirical evidence of how ICs compete for land with food crops in SSA, and the mechanisms through which this competition can affect food security, whether in a positive or a negative manner. We will undertake a combination of studies at multiple spatial scales using a variety of analytical tools to study past dynamics and explore future scenarios. Case countries include Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Swaziland. Our consortium consists of partners with complementary strengths in academic (UT), applied (RBGK, CSIR) and policy-driven research (UNU, ODI). This will allow the effective communication of our findings to different end-users involved in (or affected by) IC expansion including policy-makers, local communities, NGOs and the private sector.

Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 81.84K | Year: 2013

By directly producing data to support assessments using Red List Categories and Criteria, GeoCAT specifically responds to the challenge of identifying thresholds beyond which a change in biodiversity will lead to extinctions, as stated under the Biodiversity theme of NERCs strategy (Next Generation Science for Planet Earth 2007-2012). No other product at present is delivering this essential service, thus contributing to UK leadership in this field. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, which contains a high-volume of recent and historical data on plants (over 7 million specimens), has become a hub for plant Red List assessment activity and innovation. Furthermore, as a result of advanced data capture techniques e.g. digitisation of specimen collections (Global Plants Initiative), a deluge of species occurrence data now exists - see also the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). However very few tools have been built to harness this primary data for secondary outputs such as extinction risk assessments. These assessments lead to conservation action and will safeguard species for the future, leading to the long term persistence of ecosystems that are vital for human health, wellbeing and economic growth. To ensure that the community can address growing challenges such as predicting the impact of climate change on species distributions, it is necessary to make further enhancements to GeoCAT and fully release it. In relation to the remit of our institution, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kews mission is: To inspire and deliver science-based plant conservation worldwide, enhancing the quality of life. Specifically, Kew is committed to identifying species of plants at greatest threat of extinction in order to guide conservation policy (Convention on Biological Diversity 2020 - Target 12, Global Strategy for Plant Conservation - Target 2) and action (in situ conservation, seed banking and propagation). GeoCAT is a user friendly product that makes light demands from the user, unlike statistical or GIS software that demand a high technical overhead. GeoCAT works in areas where internet connectivity is poor and requires very little experience and has therefore proven to be a valuable tool as part of capacity building projects for our global conservation partners. GeoCAT offers a consistent, transparent and data driven analytical method that can be used to provide baselines in threat status of species from which changes and trends can be monitored.

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