Myrtaceae: key achievements 2006 - 2011
The Myrtaceae Team uses Kew’s rich and unique collections, skills and knowledge in a multi-disciplinary approach to improve conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in Myrtaceae and its major habitats.
Team successes and deliveries 2006-2011 include:
- Coordination of international experts responsible for the World Checklist of Myrtaceae, culminating in the database going live online in 2006 and published in hard-copy in 2008.
- Contribution to extensive inter-institutional collaborative compilation of Myrtaceae checklists for the ‘Lista do Brasil’ and for the ‘Plantas da Floresta Atlântica’.
- Publication and detailed interpretation of phylogenetic analyses of tribe Myrteae (including a survey of wood anatomy) and the large genus Myrcia s.l., studies that enabled new classifications now in preparation for these groups.
- Myrcia s.l. scratchpad available online.
- Annotated checklist of Calyptranthes (c. 270 species).
- Demonstration that Myrcia s.l. is an indicator of biodiversity in the Brazilian Atlantic forest and prediction of hotspots of biodiversity in the biome based on a comprehensive database of herbarium specimens; allowing areas to be prioritized for conservation.
- External grants allowing international collaborators to be hosted to receive training in DNA sequencing and molecular systematics while consulting the Kew Herbarium, developing inspirational collaborations and building capacity to return skills and consolidating Kew’s role in the international Myrtaceae community.
- Research on tribe Syzygieae gathering momentum with BBSRC student funding and post-graduate studies monographing African Syzygium and investigating parallel hyper-speciation in Syzygium vs. Eugenia.
- Integrating into regional science team activities, supporting projects through specimen identification, participating in collecting trips and developing projects of mutual interest.
- Myrtaceae for Flora of Sabah and Sarawak in press.
- The new genus Algrizea published, as well as c. 20 new species. c. 300 species conservation assessments have been generated.
- 1100 herbarium specimens collected, including c. 400 targeted Myrtaceae with corresponding samples added to Kew’s DNA bank.
Kew’s work complements that of other groups who have approached the tribe with emphasis on the other large genera in the family such as Eugenia (with the University of São Paulo, University of São Carlos, University of Minas Gerais), African Syzygium (with the University of Aberdeen and CSIRO) and the cytologically interesting Psidium (University of Arizona, University of Ceará, University of Brasilia). The role of Myrtaceae in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest is explored with collaboration at the University of Minas Gerais and Myrtaceae-specific data repatriation with the University of Feira da Santana. Networking with RBG Sydney, the University of Adelaide, Arizona State University, the Marie Selby Botanic Gardens and RBG Edinburgh supports Kew-based molecular systematic and wood anatomical research. Two long-term visits by Brazilian collaborators have supported capacity building and further repatriated baseline taxonomic data. Four post-graduate students are in place producing baseline information or increasing understanding of evolution of ecologically important, often large, taxa.
Species diversity of fleshy fruited tribes Myrteae and Syzygieae is highest in Conservation International priority biodiversity areas. Myrteae diversity peaks in Amazonia, Cerrado and Atlantic forest biomes and Syzygieae in Sundaland. These ecosystems support exceptional levels of biodiversity and are home to indigenous and other traditional communities; they provide ecosystem services and resources worth millions of US$ per year. They are substantial carbon sinks; the Amazon alone sequesters 1.5 million tonnes of carbon annually. Taxonomic and evolutionary understanding of the most diverse families such as Myrtaceae is critical to any effort to protect these areas. National biodiversity strategies of the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) and the Indonesian state ministry of the environment underline the importance of gathering biodiversity information as outlined.
The Myrtaceae team has contributed detailed published phylogenies that are precursors for systematic taxonomic treatment now underway. New classifications are in preparation for South Americn Myrtaceae at different ranks. 1 new genus and c. 20 new species have been published. Annotated checklists of basic information are in advanced stages for some traditional groups of Myrcia s.l. such as Gomidesia for Flora Neotropica. The Myrtaceae team has conducted field work in Brazil and the Caribbean, adding herbarium and DNA samples to Kew’s collections. The team has produced the final Myrtaceae volume for the Darwin funded Northeast Brazil Repatriation Project. Long term visits by Brazilian collaborators has supported capacity building and further repatriated baseline taxonomic data. Four post-graduate student are in place producing baseline information or increasing understanding of evolution of ecologically important, often very large, taxa.The Myrtaceae Team has used extensive georeferenced specimen databases to undertake phenetic comparison of regional species composition within the distribution of Myrcia s.l. to identify areas of endemism. Niche modelling based on the same data has identified priority areas for conservation within the Atlantic forest and is being used in a study linking phenological, phylogenetic and distributional data to predict the response of American species and biomes to climate change.
Myrtaceae Team research is particularly well aligned to Breathing Planet Programme strategies 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Selected Conferences and workshops
- Association for Tropical Botany and Conservation, Paramaribo, Suriname, 2008: Lucas et al., Plant diversity hotspots in the Atlantic coastal forests of Brazil.
- Brazilian Botanical Congress, Manaus, Brazil, 2010: 1) Araujo & Lucas: Diversidade de Calyptranthes sw.(Myrtaceae) na America do Sul Setentrional. 2) Lucas et al., Towards an infrageneric classification of Myrcia s.l. based on evolutionary relationships.
- International Botanical Congress, Melbourne, Australia, 2011: Lucas & Mazine chaired symposium: Myrtaceae; Past Processes, Current Systematics And Biodiversity Informatics For The Future. Also presented: Costa, Lucas et al., Psidium phylogeny and evolution.
The Myrtaceae Team has contributed and continues to contribute to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) objectives 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
• Robust new taxonomy and classification of complex groups and consolidation of baseline data via checklists such as the Myrtaceae World checklist are the systematic bedrocks underpinning UK held capacity and resources to monitor biodiversity and its loss – supporting UK commitment to UN Millennium Development Goal 7.B.
• Myrtaceae is an established environmental indicator and a potential climate change model. Further development of carefully selected species niche models under varying climatic scenarios contributes to understanding the changing nature of the world’s biomes and supports Defra's strategic priority Energy and Climate Change.
• Research into the presence of anti-HIV polyhydroxyalkaloids in Myrtaceae supports Kew’s program into anti-HIV leads from plants; contributing to UK commitment to Millennium Development goal 6 – combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
Science Team Leader: Eve Lucas
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