Flora projects

Flora projects contribute towards RBGE's commitment to biodiversity research and education, and a number of our projects have adapted this role to provide data relevant to climate change research.

Socotra: Research on the flora of Socotra has included student projects to examine the effect of climate change on areas of relict woodland (including sites on the Yemen mainland). However, the climate of Socotra is strongly controlled by small-scale topographic variation (e.g. effect of altitude), which combined with a lack of high resolution climatic data make this type of research especially challenging. The team are pursuing opportunities aimed at improving the predictive potential of climate-response models, and continue to work with local communities on issues relating to climate change and sustainable land-use.

Nepal: The flora of Nepal project has expanded its data collection from taxonomically relevant morphological characters to include additional functional traits. These data are potentially relevant to monitoring and predicting the response of the vegetation structure and ecosystem function to climate change, and have strong potential for an integrated study with the phenology project. The team have established strong links in Nepal and they provide botanical expertise to organisations working to investigate and mitigate the effect of climate change on plants (e.g. IUCN Nepal and WWF Nepal). The team are working with the British Council in Nepal to facilitate educational events that promote climate change awareness, and with support from Darwin Initiative funding for 2007/2008 will supervise a Nepalese MSc student undertaking climate change study.

Tropics: The tropical group use phylogenetics and population genetics to understand how tropical species have responded to past environmental change. Results from this work are interpreted in a palaeoecological context, to examine the response of vegetation to past human socio-economic and climate change, as well as comparing speciation rates to past periods of environmental change. Their projects examine the evolutionary potential of species to adapt and respond to climate change in the long-term.

China: Professor Yang Yong-ping, Deputy Director of Kunmimg Institute of Botany, is developing a long-term monitoring project to examine environmental change in the Hengduan Mountains of China. The foundation for this work is the capture of information on all the plant records from the region, through digitisation and databasing of herbarium records. With its rich collections of plants from Yunnan, dating back over 100 years, RBGE will be a partner in this project to provide information from our collections. This work will be underpinned by current research on palaeoecology, vegetation history and climate change from the Quaternary to the present day, in collaboration with Professor Li Cheng Sen and his students at the Institute of Botany, Beijing. The RBGE archive collections of photographs of Yunnan by George Forrest that illustrate past vegetation distributions and extent of glaciers will also contribute to the project.

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Dracaena cinnabari in Soqotra

Dracaena cinnabari in Soqotra.

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