Monocots I: General, Alismatids & Lilioids : key achievements 2006 - 2011
Development of RBG Kew’s systematic and phylogenetic research on monocots so that we remain a world leader in monocot systematics. We also aim to develop expertise, information and products that are useful in conservation and sustainable development of monocots in their natural habitats.
Over the past five years, the Monocots I team has been highly successful at all levels. Notable achievements include organising symposia and conferences (see below), publishing many research papers per year in international journals (including many in journals of impact factor >2), online taxonomy and fundraising, including two NERC-funded grants.
The definitive World Checklist of Monocotyledons published in November 2006 and has since been regularly updated. This searchable electronic database represents a significant resource for monocot research and development. Together with other existing RBG Kew monocot resources such as CATE-Araceaeit provides the baseline biodiversity information for the eMonocota consortium grant to RBG, Kew, the Natural History Museum (NHM) and Oxford University. eMonocot commenced on 15 November 2010 and is developing a sustainable, integrated, web-based biodiversity information resource on monocots. The eMonocot team will build comprehensive species pages for European monocots, “Sampled Red List Index” monocots and slipper orchids (Cypripedioideae). The project will provide biodiversity information such as nomenclature, taxonomic descriptions, images, identification guides, geographical, ecological and DNA sequence and conservation data at generic and family level for many monocot families via an innovative web portal geared to the needs of biodiversity scientists. project, funded by , Palmweb and Grass Base.
At the whole genome level, in-depth studies on genome size and chromosome diversity are currently focused on Melanthiaceae and Liliaceae (Liliales) because these two families contain species with probably the largest diploid genome (a rare Japanese endemic species, Fritillaria shikokiana) and largest genome of any eukaryote (Paris japonica). As part of these genomic studies, a three-year NERC-funded project entitled ‘Evolutionary dynamics of genome obesity’ (2010–2013) is focused specifically on the genus Fritillaria(Liliaceae). The aim of the research is to combine next-generation sequencing strategies with molecular cytogenetic tools to probe dynamics and evolution of their obese genomes.
Collaborative work continues on phylogenetic systematics and character evolution in monocots. A series of higher-level monocot studies, most recently multigene analyses published in 2006, have clarified relationships of the major groups of monocots, making them now one of the best-studied of the major clades of angiosperms. Ongoing and future Kew-based phylogenetic studies are focusing on studies at the levels of genus (e.g. Pandanus) subfamily (e.g. Scilloideae) and order (e.g. Pandanales). These phylogenetic studies utilise both molecular data and morphological data. RBG Kew researchers are contributing to the US NSF-funded Assembling the Monocot Tree of Life and the UK Leverhulme-funded project Global Patterns of Monocot Diversity. The past five years has also produced many in-depth monocot-wide studies on monocot pollen evolution and monocot flower evolution, with a recent focus on Alismatales.
Many monocots produce secondary metabolites that have pharmaceutical and agrochemical properties. Ongoing research on the chemistry of monocots brings together RBG Kew’s interests in chemosystematics and plant-insect interactions, focusing on chemistry and biological activity in Amaryllidaceae, Liliales and Araceae.
On the conservation side, conservation status assessments have been published for many monocot taxa. RBG Kew has also been working with CITES on several projects. For example, co-ordinated by the Conventions and Policies Team, RBG Kew has worked with the CITES authorities of Georgia to survey populations of wild snowdrops (Galanthus woronowii), which are currently exploited for the horticultural market. The project aims to model potential sustainable harvest, recommend annual quota levels and develop management and monitoring systems to allow a long-term sustainable trade in the species.
Work of the Monocot I Team contributes most significantly to Breathing Planet Programme strategy 1 with some activity in 2 and 3.
Conferences and workshops
- Most members of the Monocots I team attended the Monocots IV conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in August 2008, many of them organising symposia and presenting talks or posters. This was the fourth in the regular international monocot conference series that was initially established at RBG Kew in 1993. Monocots I symposia at this meeting included Monocot Genomes and Genomics,Monocot Mycoheterotrophs: Systematics and Evolution, E-taxonomy, Recent Advances in Araceae Research, and Evolution, Systematics and Diversity of Asparagales.
- Members of the team organised a conference entitled Early events in Monocot evolution at the Linnean Society, UK in 2010. Despite initial postponement caused by the Icelandic volcanic dust cloud, the reconvened conference was well attended and highly successful. A proceedings volume will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2012 (editors Paul Wilkin and Simon Mayo, with contributions from other team members).
- In addition to these two monocot-focused conferences, Monocots I Team members have presented their research at many international conferences over the past five years, including the 2011 International Botanical Congress in Melbourne.
- The eMonocot project team regularly presents to evetns in the UK (e.g. the Lyme Regis fossil festival, April 2011, Nature Live at the NHM) and will run international workshops in 2012.
The World Checklist of Monocotyledons was published in November 2006 and has since been regularly updated. This searchable electronic database represents a significant contribution towards meeting target 1 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation for a global checklist for the entire plant kingdom by 2010.
Science Team Leader: Paula Rudall
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