Rubiaceae: key achievements 2006 - 2011
The main activities of the Rubiaceae Team are baseline plant diversity research (checklists and inventories, taxonomy, and molecular systematics), the provision and analysis of conservation and environmental data, and multidisciplinary comparative research.
Maintenance and improvement of Kew’s Rubiaceae collections has been our main achievement during the review period. The collections have been substantially improved due to the incorporation of backlogs and re-curation of genera following recent taxonomic or nomenclatural revision. It is essential that this resource is maintained so that our users can quickly and reliably gain access to data for cataloguing, understanding and conserving plant diversity. This has been particularly important for supporting Kew’s rapid biodiversity assessment work in Africa and Madagascar. Collections provide the main resource for our research activities and enable Kew to deliver products that cannot be easily generated elsewhere. Examples include compilation and upkeep of the on-line World Checklist of Rubiaceae and associated bibliography, the Lista do Brasil [http://floradobrasil.jbrj.gov.br/2010/], and the production of taxonomic and systematic treatments for Rubiaceae. Specimen data also provide the basis for our work on conservation, ecological niche modelling and climate change.
Fieldwork has been a key activity, with expeditions undertaken to remote parts of Brazil (Mato Grosso 2008, 2009, 2011; Roraima 2010; Minas Gerais 2008–2011), Madagascar (2006, 2009, and 2011), and Africa (2006–2011). Our study areas were carefully targeted to maximize outcomes, which have included discovery of numerous new species and at least one new genus. Collections made during these trips have provided important data and resources for taxonomy, molecular systematics, mapping and conservation and comparative research. Fieldwork has also provided the perfect opportunity to work with colleagues and provide training and support for trainees and students.
Realizing the urgent need to more satisfactorily understand delimitation of the genus Coffea and its species, we have focused on fundamental taxonomic research and molecular systematics of coffee and its close relatives (Coffeeae), resulting in several key publications in peer-reviewed journals. The data provided in these publications have been of fundamental value to the coffee research community and coffee industry, as evidenced by the high number of citations per year per article and discussions with industry representatives, respectively.
Taxonomic challenges posed by large genera of Old World and Neotropical Rubiaceae have lead to supervision of PhD theses, including studies of Psychotria, Faramea and Rudgea. The Rubiaceae Team has long-standing experience of working on and resolving problematic large genera.
Our strength in the production of base-line diversity resources, in combination with mapping expertise, has enabled us to maximize the value and impact of these activities via provision and analysis of data for conservation outputs. In particular, production and upkeep of four key databases (World Checklist of Rubiaceae, Rubiaceae Tribes and Genera, Rubiaceae of Madagascar, and Coffee Species Database) have provided large amounts of useful and relevant data for a range of projects and activities. These include publication of over 300 conservation assessments (using the IUCN system), a prioritization assessment for the conservation of all wild coffee species and identification of a novel vegetation type in Madagascar. In 2010, we provided support for a successful bid to designate the Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere Reserve as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve.
We have been investigating the medium- to long-term sustainability of wild and commercial coffee species. This work includes climate change studies and investigation of the coffee berry borer (CBB), the most economically damaging pest of commercial coffee. Outputs include the publication of mitigation recommendations for coffee growers and advising industry on coffee conservation, sustainable use and climate change.
The Rubiaceae Team’s work falls easily in line with Breathing Planet Programme strategies 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Conferences and workshops
Third International Rubiaceae Conference– Leuven, Belgium, September 2006.
Presenters [A. Davis, S. Dawson]
Two presentations. A World Rubiaceae Checklist presented Kew’s work on its global synthesis of the family and the day-to-day features and functions of the on-line version of the checklist. This was complimented by a global overview of the family in terms of diversity (numbers of genera and species, hotspots, endemism and conservation) and taxonomic effort. This was the only presentation of its kind and clearly demonstrated Kew’s dominance in this area of research. A Phylogeny for Coffea reported the work of our cross-departmental Coffee Phylogenetics Project.
Nineteenth AETFAT Congress– Antananarivo, Madagascar, April 2010.
Organizer and convener for Rubiaceae session [A. Davis]
Two presentations. Rubiaceae of Madagascar: progress and prospects provided details on progress on the Rubiaceae Flora of Madagascar, including contributions made by the Rubiaceae Team. Searching for areas of endemism in Madagascar using Rubiaceae specimen data profiled the use of our high-quality specimen data for identifying areas for priority conservation and conceptualization of areas of endemism in Madagascar.
Fifth International Rubiaceae and Gentianales Conference – Stockholm, Sweden, September 2010.
Organizer and convener for Diversity session. [A. Davis]
One presentation. Predictive mapping for Coffea species using herbarium specimen data. An opportunity to profile the team’s work on state-of-the-art mapping, ecological niche modeling, conservation assessment and climate change.
Sixty-first Brazilian Botanical Conference – Manaus, Brazil, September 2010
Course organiser and lecturer [D. Zappi]
Conference course on Systematics and Identification of Brazilian Rubiaceae
Delivery and upkeep of World Checklist of Rubiaceae for GSPC target 1. Rubiaceae are the fourth largest flowering plant family, with c. 13,200 species.
Science Team Leader: Aaron Davis
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