RBGE's biogeographic research can be divided into three broad, inter-related themes:
- The shaping of plant distributions: tectonics vs. dispersal
- The timing and mode of plant diversification
- The historical assembly of plant communities
Plant biodiversity is being impacted on an unprecedented scale by humans. Over geological timescales, plants have faced significant environmental changes such as ice age climates, fluctuations in sea level, the building of mountain chains and the movement of continents. Our research deciphers the effects of these historical changes on plant species evolution, extinction and distribution. This helps predict the effects of future environmental changes, and provides a fascinating historical understanding of some of the world's richest tropical ecosystems.
Key tools for this new research are phylogenetic trees derived from DNA sequence data calibrated with a dimension of time. Our taxonomic focus on species-rich, widely distributed tropical genera, and inventory programmes in diverse ecosystems provides us with ideal study materials.
Toby Pennington recently co-organised a symposium at the International Botanical Congress in Melbourne, Australia, in 2011. For details of the proceedings volume click here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/boj.2013.171.issue-1/issuetoc