Biotic interactions and species diversification in southern Africa
Schnitzler supervised by Dr Vincent Savolainen and Dr Timothy Barraclough
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Jodrell Laboratory
The plant diversity of South Africa's Cape Floristic Region is comparable to that of tropical regions and is substantially richer than other regions with Mediterranean climate. It comprises approximately 9,000 plant species in an area of only 90,000 km 2 , with almost 70 % of the species being restricted to this area. Bordering the Cape Floristic Region in the north and the east, the Succulent Karoo and the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany region respectively, both also harbour very high numbers of plant species. Due to substantial loss of natural habitat all regions have been classified as hotspots of biodiversity.
Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the radiation of the comparatively few extremely species rich plant families that account for a large proportion of the diversity in that region. Here, we will focus on interactions between plants and pollinators within selected genera as one possible cause of diversification of southern African plant species. In addition to that, we will compare spatial patterns of plant and pollinator diversity to assess the degree of spatial congruence between both groups.
Co-operations with other projects of this programme will enable us to compare our findings to regions with similar climatic conditions to place the results into a broader context and thus provide important information to support the long-term preservation of biological diversity.