Evolutionary origin of biodiversity hotspots with a Mediterranean climate (HOTMED)
Understanding the origin of species richness in Earth’s biodiversity hotspots is vital to develop effective conservation strategies. Information from past biodiversity (i.e. fossil evidence) sheds light on how it has responded to climate change in the past and is essential to predict how modern biodiversity might evolve in the future. HOTMED will create a multidisciplinary network of partners with complementary backgrounds to study and compare the origins of biodiversity in Southwest Australia, the Cape Floristic Region, and Central Chile. This will be achieved by appropriate integration of fossil evidence into molecular dating analyses and tests of biogeographic hypotheses using a particularly well-suited plant group (Proteaceae) as a model. HOTMED will also involve analyses and comparisons of biodiversification rates and phylogenetic and environmental diversity indices in the three Mediterranean hotspots under focus.
HOTMED is the research project underlying a two-year Marie Curie Outgoing International Fellowship (OIF) funded by the European Commission, running from 2006 to 2008. During this time, Hervé Sauquet will spend one year working with Peter Weston at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney (May 2006-April 2007: outgoing phase), then one year with Vincent Savolainen at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew (May 2007-April 2008: return phase).
LIST OF PARTNERS
Principal investigators to whom the funding was granted:
- Hervé Sauquet, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney (Australia) and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (United Kingdom), Marie Curie Outgoing International Fellow
- Peter H. Weston, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney (Australia), principal partner in the outgoing institution
- Vincent Savolainen, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (United Kingdom), principal partner in the return (European host) institution, and coordinator
An updated list of partners collaborating on this project will be posted
Understanding the origin of species richness in Earth’s biodiversity hotspots is vital to develop effective conservation strategies. For a long time, conservation research has focused largely on processes at the population or species level. The importance of deeper time history of modern biota is now accepted and phylogenies are being recognized as valuable tools for prioritization decisions in conservation planning. Incorporating information from past biodiversity (i.e. fossil evidence) to understand how it has responded to climate change in the past is essential to predict how modern biodiversity might evolve in the future.
Among the 34 recognized hotspots of biodiversity on Earth (www.biodiversityhotspots.org), all five main regions with a Mediterranean climate are included:
- The California Floristic Province
- Central Chile
- The Mediterranean Basin
- The Cape Floristic Region
- Southwest Australia
Although different in organismal composition, promising lessons are
expected from comparative studies of those regions.
This project focuses on and compares the evolutionary history of the three Mediterranean hotspots located in the Southern Hemisphere (Southwest Australia, the Cape Floristic Region, Central Chile) using a particularly well-suited plant group that is shared by the three regions and has diversified remarkably in two of them.
It is generally believed that the modern composition of the floras of Southwest Australia and the Cape Floristic Region is fairly recent and originated following the onset and persistence of aridity starting from the Miocene. However, most attempts to provide an accurate timescale on key radiations from these hotspots have suffered from the lack of reliable fossil evidence. This is due both to the organismal groups selected and limited cooperation and understanding between molecular phylogeneticists and palaeontologists.
HOTMED will create a multidisciplinary network of partners with complementary backgrounds to study and compare the origins of biodiversity in Southwest Australia, the Cape Floristic Region, and Central Chile. It will involve a comprehensive integration of fossil evidence into molecular dating analyses and tests of biogeographic hypotheses and consequences of past climate changes.
Proteaceae, a large angiosperm family with 1700 species, are an ideal model for this project because they:
- represent 15% of total plant diversity of Southwest Australia and 5% of the Cape Floristic Region, and exhibit a 99% level of endemicity in both areas; in contrast they are much less diversified in Central Chile
- have evolved remarkable adaptations to the Mediterranean arid climates, including specializations for fire-prone habitats
- are conspicuous and highly valued by human populations in these countries, and thus have major impact on those nations’ consciousness of their biodiversity heritage (e.g. Giant King Protea is South Africa’s national flower)
- have been selected as primary targets for conservation plans currently implemented in both Southwest Australia and the Cape Floristic Region
- are documented with a particularly rich fossil history throughout southern Gondwana (incl. Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America) extending back to the mid-Cretaceous, about 100 million years ago
Last updated 5 October 2006.