The goals of the Tropical Diversity section (head: Toby Pennington) are to describe biodiversity in the tropics and to elucidate the evolutionary processes giving rise to this biodiversity. We are concentrating on widely distributed and species-rich genera and geographic areas of high global conservation priority. We have four priority research areas:
Inventory research in threatened areas
Tropical ecosystems are the world's most species-rich but are also some of the most threatened. In order to manage and conserve them, we first need to know what species they contain, and where these species are distributed.
Monographic and phylogenetic research
Use and conservation of tropical plant species is impossible if they cannot be named, but fundamental taxonomic information is often lacking. Such information is provided in our taxonomic monographs. A primary goal for biodiversity research in the 21st century is to complete the evolutionary "tree of life" so we can refine classifications and understand evolutionary patterns.
Environmental change and biogeography
A challenge for biodiversity science is explaining why the tropics are so species-rich. We use molecular phylogenetic approaches to investigate how the evolution of tropical floras was influenced by past climatic and geological changes.
Rapid advances in knowledge of genes and genomics offer the possibility of understanding plant evolution at the nucleotide level. Our priority is to move beyond model organisms to understand evolution throughout the plant kingdom.
Tropical Diversity Staff
Tropical Diversity PhD Students
Maria Fernanda Torres