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Research Abstracts Online
January 2009 - March 2010

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
College of Biological Sciences
College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences
Department of Plant Biology

PI: George D. Weiblen

Phylogenetic Diversity and Functional Traits in Community Assembly Across a New Guinea Lowland Rainforest Light Gradient

The objective of this project is to combine estimates of community phylogeny with data on spatial distribution and plant functional traits. The study investigates a chronosequence of New Guinea lowland rainforest across a light gradient from high light, early successional forests to low light, late successional forests and vertical stratification within each successional stage from the seedling layer to the canopy layer. This community phylogenetics approach uses the evolutionary history of organisms to investigate non-random patterns in the phylogenetic structure of plant communities. When combined with data on plant functional traits, community phylogenetics can be used to investigate ecological processes, such as environmental filtering or competitive exclusion, acting on community assembly. Results from this project will increase understanding of plant diversity in this under-studied part of the world and the methods developed here can be applied to large-scale floristic and ecological research in the future. The results will also be applicable in local restoration efforts by increasing understanding of forest regeneration in an area where proposed logging will introduce disturbance and early successional forest units to the landscape. The foundation of the community phylogeny will be a large phylogenetic tree that includes around 450 species of woody plants. This phylogenetic analysis requires the use of the BladeCenter and the CGL.   

Other research performed by this group during this period included phylogenetic analyses of angiosperms and figs and their relatives.

Group Members

Annika Moe, Graduate Student
Mike Nelson, Graduate Student
Timothy J. S. Whitfeld, Graduate Student