Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Singapore, Singapore

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Singapore, Singapore
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Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: MC-ITN | Phase: FP7-PEOPLE-2013-ITN | Award Amount: 3.37M | Year: 2014

NASSTEC will train 11 Early Stage Researchers and 1 Experienced Researcher in native seed science, conservation and use, so that environmental mitigation and adaptation projects can have increased impact. Without immediate enhancement of capacity and capability in this specific area of biodiversity science, the native seed industry in Europe will fail to develop towards the multi-million dollar markets of the US and Australia. NASSTEC plans to interconnect the public and private sector through the establishment of a multidisciplinary European doctoral school with the aim of integrating knowledge in plant ecology, genetics, molecular biology, taxonomy, ecology, conservation, seed biology, environmental science, agricultural botany, crop science, breeding and horticulture. This knowledge will be transferred to industry, thereby contributing to the EU bio-economy. NASSTEC includes 7 full (FP) and 7 associated partners (AP) from 4 EU Member States. It interconnects 4 different sectors: private companies (3 FP and 2 AP), NGOs (2 AP), public land governance bodies and academic institutions (4 FP and 3 AP). The scientific and training programmes embrace 12 research topics, clustered under three sub programmes: A) In situ seed sampling; B) Seed biology characterisation; and C) Production and deployment of seed. Critically, the findings from the three sub-programmes will be interconnected, integrated and communicated rapidly and effectively to the ESRs/ER and all external stakeholders through a global e-Learning Environment (ELE). This ELE will be pivotal in delivering a balanced scheme of exchange visits and secondments, a rich programme of network events, news of network achievements and research information; including the findings of the final NASSTEC conference. NASSTEC will increase the competitiveness of ESRs/ER substantially and ensure that human capital is directed towards the development of a sustainable and dynamic European native seed industry.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-FP | Phase: KBBE.2012.1.1-01 | Award Amount: 3.83M | Year: 2013

Seed quality is of paramount importance to agriculture, food security and the conservation of wild species. Considerable economic losses result from sub-optimal seed performance, undermining food security and livelihoods. Seed quality is strongly influenced by the environmental stresses experienced by the mother plant. Climate change will further exacerbate economic losses and decrease the predictability of seed yield and quality for the farmer. The looming challenges of climate change and food security require new knowledge of how stress impacts on seed quality, as well as a re-appraisal of optimal storage conditions. EcoSeed addresses these challenges by bringing together a group of distinguished European experts in seed science and converging sciences to characterise seed quality and resilience to perturbation. EcoSeed combines state-of the-art omics, epigenetics, and post-omics approaches, such as nuclear and chromatin compaction, DNA repair, oxidative and post-translational modifications to macromolecules, to define regulatory switchboards that underpin the seed phenotype. Special emphasis is placed on the stress signalling hub that determines seed fate from development, through storage, germination and seedling development, with a particular focus on seed after-ripening, vigour, viability and storability. Translation of new knowledge gained in model to crop and wild species is an integral feature of EcoSeed project design, which will create a step-change in our understanding of the regulatory switchboards that determine seed fate. Novel markers for seed quality and new omics information generated in this project will assist plant breeders, advise the seed trade and conservationists alike. In this way, EcoSeed will not only be proactive in finding solutions to problems of ensuring seed quality and storability but also play a leading role in enabling associated industries to better capture current and emerging markets.


Grant
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.


Grant
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.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: MC-IEF | Phase: FP7-PEOPLE-2012-IEF | Award Amount: 221.61K | Year: 2014

MADCLADES will provide novel insights into the evolution of plant diversity in tropical forests, the worlds most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystems. It will also provide the first substantial insights into plant diversification on Madagascar. We will study the evolutionary assembly of the islands forests using palms (Arecaceae) as a model group. Madagascan palms (195 spp., 192 endemic) are present in all forest types of the island and play an integral role in forest ecology. We will reconstruct the phylogeny of all Madagascan palms and use it together with information on species distributions, traits, and niches to address several outstanding questions of plant evolution. First, we will address the question why some clades have diversified excessively (e.g. Dypsidinae with 165 spp.) while others have not? Second, we will study the diversification of two larger clades in detail and test hypotheses regarding the roles of traits, niches, and environmental change. Third, we will focus on a small lineage to study a biome shift between savannah and forest at a population level. Finally, we will integrate the phylogenetic information with distribution data and IUCN Red List assessments to derive new conservation priorities for species and regions. The results will add to the fundamental knowledge about biodiversity dynamics that is required to tackle the societally important biodiversity crisis. The Researcher will receive intensive training in Next-Generation Sequencing for phylogenetics and phylogeography, cutting-edge evolutionary modelling, population genetics, conservation biology and collections-based research as well as additional research and transferable skills that are central to his development as an independent scientist. The output of MADCLADES will be communicated through high-impact science journals and various outreach mechanisms, highlighting excellence of the European Research Area and increasing public awareness of biodiversity issues.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: MSCA-IF-EF-ST | Phase: MSCA-IF-2014-EF | Award Amount: 183.45K | Year: 2015

Plant reproduction relies on flowers and their arrangement into inflorescence two interrelated traits that exhibit impressive variation between plant lineages and constrain crop yields and horticultural forms. A key aim in evolutionary biology is to unravel how the modification of genetic networks has led to the diversification of reproductive plant architecture and floral form. This project addresses this aim by seeking to understand how two fundamental biological processes, floral architecture and symmetry, have evolved in the daisy family Asteraceae, with unique combinations of these traits. Much of the research on Asteraceae has concentrated on model plant systems with simple heterogamous capitula (e.g. gerbera, sunflower). We propose an original and novel evolutionary-developmental (evo-devo) approach to floral evolution, by bringing to this field the species of Asteraceae with secondary heads (=syncephalia). This unique capitulum architecture has arisen from two rounds of capitulescence (i.e. inflorescence condensation followed by simplification) during their evolution. Syncephalous species which comprise ca. 70 genera from 11 tribes provide an invaluable source of material for deciphering the genetic basis of capitulum evolution since their genomes bear the signature of two inflorescence shifts toward capitulescence. Our approach, integrating the most recent experimental and theoretical developments in evo-devo and genomics fields, provides a unique opportunity to ask fundamental questions relating to coordinated trait evolution, and to increase our understanding of how genetic pathways have been altered or co-opted during the evolutionary diversification of flowers. The knowledge gained has the potential to open up novel molecular breeding strategies for developing improved varieties of horticultural and crop plants in this family of great economical importance (e.g. artichoke, chrysanthemum, gerbera, knapweeds, lettuce, sunflower).


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: MSCA-IF-EF-ST | Phase: MSCA-IF-2014-EF | Award Amount: 195.45K | Year: 2015

Despite being one of the most biologically diverse habitats on the planet, the description of tropical rain forests and the understanding of their evolutionary history are far from complete. Furthermore, there is an increasing need for assessing global biodiversity changes especially in tropical rainforests, due to their role as global biodiversity repositories. West Central Africa represents the area of greatest biodiversity richness within tropical Africa and with the highest percentage of untouched pristine forest for the whole of Africa and Madagascar. West Central African biodiversity not only faces the challenges of climate change, but also human pressure with the highest population growth rates in the world. This project will contribute to the ongoing Global Legume Diversity Assessment programme, that is being developed to improve our understanding of biodiversity loss using legumes, the third largest family of angiosperms, as a proxy. The project will focus on tribe Detarieae, which are the dominant component of West Central African forests, and thus an ideal exemplar clade for the proposed study. The project aims at reconstructing phylogenetic relationships within Detarieae and produce a temporal framework for the diversification of the group. The phylogenetic diversity patterns will be investigated to identify hotspots of recent speciation and evolutionary diversity and their correlation with land use changes, biodiversity loss, and extinction risks. The project also includes a full IUCN conservation assessment for all studied species, thus obtaining an indication of survivability for Detarieae in West Central Africa under climate change while considering different emission scenarios proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Given that the legume family has been shown to be a good proxy for botanical diversity in general, the results obtained here will be invaluable for the preservation of biodiversity in this region of the world.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: MSCA-IF-EF-ST | Phase: MSCA-IF-2015-EF | Award Amount: 183.45K | Year: 2017

Biodiversity conservation has become a priority concern for both science and society. Human population growth and resource exploitation have impacted on worldwide species richness, and affecting evolutionary trajectories of species and the stability of ecosystems. The increased focus on understanding biodiversity and its sustainable use have evolved concurrently with the new genomic (next-generation sequencing, NGS) and bioinformatic techniques that have revolutionized the availability of DNA sequence data for comparative biodiversity studies and lead to the emergence of Phylogenomics, in which evolutionary relationships are recovered based on comparative analyses of genome-scale data. The overarching goal of the proposed project, YAMNOMICS, is to elucidate the evolutionary relationships within the highly diverse genus Dioscorea (Dioscoreaceae). The genomic-scale methods proposed in this project constitute the key for this goal and open up opportunities for the researcher and YAMNOMICS participants to generate substantial and long-term career outputs in biodiversity science. Dioscorea contains 600 species distributed in the tropics and with a low representation in temperate regions, and includes crops that feed tens of millions worldwide. Its economic importance is complemented by other species which accumulate secondary steroidal compounds of pharmacological interest. Molecular studies in yams have focused on studying species of agricultural interest.Additionally, Dioscorea constitutes a focus of interest in evolutionary studies due to its high diversity and the enormous distribution range of its lineages. Several studies focused on the phylogeographic patterns at low taxonomic levels for endangered species. Broader molecular approaches have dealt with phylogenetic relationships des, establishing a Cretaceous Laurasian origin. However traditional molecular methods remain insufficient to determine evolutionary relationships among recently derived species.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | 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.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 37.87K | Year: 2015

Seeds are the natural means of species regeneration, the product of pollinator activity, the basis of agriculture, a type of non-woody product and a source of essential protein and vegetable fat (seed oil) with many potential uses (industrial oils, biofuels, cosmetics). Consequently they are one of the mainstays of continuing ecosystem services. The Amazon is one of the most biodiverse regions of the world and the forests near Manaus are considered priority conservation areas. Therefore, ecological research in the region is fundamentally important to the sustainable and innovative use of species and yet the scientific capacity in seed biology in the Amazon region is extremely limited. BESANS will train 20 members of the Amazon Seed Network or students, 9 staff and up to 60 seed/seedling producers in Amazonian species seed biology, and upskilling in conservation biology. The partnership is sector specific, linking plant science institutes and aiming to understanding the seed supply chain (seed development, yield, processing and storage) associated with the nascent seed trade in the Amazonas. Research on seed biology is critical to accessing species for various development activities (food/energy security, ability to mitigate/adapt to climate change) and the collection and conservation of germplasm, the sustainable exploitation of biodiversity and restoration of degraded land are key objectives of the Ministry of the Environment (MMA) and INCRA (National Institute for Agrarian Reform). We will ensure the development outcome of a much more functional Amazon Native Seed Centre in Manaus, better able to provide high quality seeds of more species for various industries.

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