Working Group

Phytogeography of the northern hemisphere

PI(s): Michael Donoghue (Yale University)
Paul Manos (Duke University)
Start Date: 1-Sep-2005
End Date: 31-Aug-2007

We propose a multi-disciplinary NESCent working group to unravel the history of plant movements and diversification around the Northern Hemisphere, and thereby the assembly of modern plant communities. Although this problem has long attracted attention, paleobotanists, plant phylogeneticists, and theoreticians have pursued it more or less separately, and a synthesis has not materialized. Our proposal insures an integrated, multi-dimensional analysis. A critical orientation and outcome will be a comprehensive database for Northern Hemisphere plant lineages, including relevant phylogenetic, fossil, character, and distribution data. These data will allow a set of standardized analyses designed to identify general patterns in the pathways of movement and timing of events. In turn, these analyses will provide the basis for a new synthetic theory of Northern Hemisphere biogeography, which will illuminate past episodes of global change and the assembly of modern regional floras and local ecological communities. We propose a series of three meetings at NESCent from 2005-2007. The working group will involve experts on the phylogenetics of relevant plant groups, on Laurasian historical geology and paleobotany, and on informatics and the development of new methods for estimating divergence times and ancestral areas.

This activity will provide evolutionary biologists and ecologists with ready access to currently disconnected datasets and new analytical tools, and hence will provide the necessary underpinning for understanding the evolution of modern plants and their interactions

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