African & Indian Ocean Syzygium
Monography, phylogeny and conservation of African Syzygium (Myrtaceae)
Syzygium guineense (Image: James Byng)
A lack of diagnostic characters and high morphological variation makes Syzygium one of taxonomy’s most problematic genera. With an estimated 1200 species, occurring as evergreen trees, shrubs and suffrutices, Syzygium is an ecologically interesting and important Old World genus, distributed throughout the sub-tropic and tropical regions. It’s the largest genus in the Gondwana family Myrtaceae, and ranks in the top 15 of all the largest genera of flowering plants.
With c. 30 taxa, mainland Africa is relatively species poor in Syzygium; Madagascar and the Mascarenes have high numbers in comparison (15 and 18 species respectively). However some widespread mainland Africa species, particularly S. guineense s.l., have numerous subspecies based on leaf shape and ecology and many undetermined intermediates. S. guineense s.l. is thought to occur in a greater range of vegetation types and show a larger variety of growth forms than any other African plant and each regional flora has accounted for this in different ways. Little is known of the interactions of Syzygium with other organisms, but it is highly likely that the genus has high ecosystem importance. The often massed nectariferous flowers and typically fleshy fruit are food sources for a wide range of animals. Syzygium thus has considerable ecological significance and a predictive taxonomic classification will have wide utility.
This project seeks to (i) monograph the genus Syzygium for mainland Africa,(ii) publish an annotated checklist of the genus in Madagascar and the Mascarenes, (iii) use DNA sequence data to obtain a phylogenetic hypothesis of the evolutionary and biogeographical history of African Syzygium, iv) compile and disseminate IUCN conservation assessments including species niche modeling data.