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Project B1


Biogeographic history of plant communities

Research areas: Botany, Biodiversity, Historical Biogeography

Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Dietmar Quandt, Prof. Dr. Maximillian Weigend, Dr. Federico Luebert, Dr. Alexandra Stoll


Project Info

The flora of the Atacama Desert is surprisingly diverse - with ~ 550 species. Vegetation is largely restricted to the coastal range and the Andean foothills, which are separated by a virtually plant-free zone or absolute desert. So far remarkably young ages for the diversification of the Atacama clades were demonstrated, which is at odds with the high age that is generally proposed for the desert ecosystem as such. Overall, only few dated phylogenies are available, precluding any generalizations. Also, the spatial patterns of phytodiversity, biogeographic history and evolution of the Atacama Desert flora are largely unknown, leading us to our central question: how have plants and vegetation evolved in this environment of extreme aridity and unpredictability (driving and limiting factors).

Therefore, we propose a combination of field and laboratory approaches, including floristic inventories, exsitu cultivation (B04, B05), and molecular phylogenies of three selected Atacama plant groups (Atriplex, Cristaria, Cryptantha) displaying a high diversity (including dating; implications of the timing of climatic (A02) and geological events (C05)). Cross-taxonomic comparison of several dated phylogenies will reveal whether similar patterns of diversification and colonization are present across plant lineages.

At the species level, the patchy distribution observed suggests that between-populations gene exchange might be limited by the spatial structure of these populations, which will be addressed with genotyping methods on four species/species groups (Tillandsia landbeckii, Huidobria fruticosa, Eulychnia, Ophryosporus) that are widely distributed within the core Atacama Desert both at coastal and Andean ranges. These analyses will define populations/clusters/ clades with similar single nucleotide polymorphism patterns (SNP) and also reveal how these populations are related and how much genetic diversity is present in each population and geographic region. Population genetic data will allow us to calculate geneflow among populations (migrants per generation) and demographic parameters for the populations and species.

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Prof. Dr. Tibor J. Dunai
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne
Zülpicher Str. 49b | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-3229 | tdunai@uni-koeln.de
  Managing Director:
Christian Tiede
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne

Zülpicher Str. 49b | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-89833 | christian.tiede@uni-koeln.de
  Deputy Speaker:
Prof. Dr. Martin Melles
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne

Zülpicher Str. 49a | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-2262 | mmelles@uni-koeln.de
Tim Schlüter
Institute of Geography | University of Cologne

Otto-Fischer-Str. 4 | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-3735 | webmaster@sfb1211.de
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