Legumes in West Central Africa
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GLDAFRICA - Global biodiversity legume assessments in Africa: West Central Africa as a case study

Investigating biodiversity patterns in West African legumes and integrating phylogenetic and extinction risk information for conservation planning.

Project details

Project Leader: 
Funded By: 
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions grant awarded to Manuel de la Estrella (GLDAFRICA - grant agreement n°659152)

Objectives and outputs

Tropical rain forests are one of the most biologically diverse habitats on the planet. Yet their description and the understanding of their evolutionary history are far from complete. Because of their role as global biodiversity repositories, there is an increasing and pressing need to assess global biodiversity changes in tropical rainforests. West Central Africa represents the area of greatest biodiversity richness in tropical Africa and has the highest percentage of untouched pristine forest in all of Africa and Madagascar. West Central African biodiversity not only faces the challenges linked to climate change but also human pressure, with the highest population growth rates in the world.

This project will contribute to the ongoing Global Legume Diversity Assessment programme aimed at improving our understanding of biodiversity loss using legumes, the third largest family of angiosperms, as a proxy. The project focuses on subfamily Detarioideae, which are the dominant tree components of West Central African forests, and thus an ideal exemplar clade for this study. We aim at producing a phylogenetic framework that will serve as basis for studying the diversification and the evolutionary history of subfamily Detarioideae. Phylogenetic diversity patterns will be investigated using this framework to identify hotspots of recent speciation and evolutionary diversity and to evaluate potential correlation with land use changes, biodiversity loss, and extinction risks. The project includes a full IUCN conservation assessment for all studied species, thus providing an indication of survivability for subfamily Detarioideae in West Central Africa under climate change while considering different emission scenarios proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Because the legume family has been shown to be a good proxy for botanical diversity in general, the results obtained here will be invaluable for the preservation of biodiversity in this megadiverse region of the world.


  • Produce a comprehensive phylogenetic framework for West Central African Detarioideae.
  • Investigate geographic patterns of species richness, endemism and phylogenetic diversity.
  • Estimate extinction risks for each species and integrate this information with phylogenetic data to determine conservation priorities.


  • Conservation assessments for species of subfamily Detarioideae.
  • A phylogenetic analysis using genomic data for subfamily Detarioideae.

Partners and collaborators

Funded by:

Partners and collaborators:


  • Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium


  • University of Montréal, Canada
  • Institut de Recherche en Biologie Végétale, Canada


  • Oulu University, Finland


  • Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, Netherlands


  • University of Zurich, Switzerland


  • Imperial College, London, UK


  • Boise State University, Idaho, USA


Estrella, M., Wieringa, J.J., Mackinder, B., van der Burgt, X., Devesa, J. & Bruneau, A. (2014). Phylogenetic analysis of the African genus Gilbertiodendron J. Léonard and related genera (Leguminosae-Caesalpinioideae-Detarieae). International Journal of Plant Sciences 175: 975-985.

Estrella, M., Forest, F., Wieringa, J., Fougère-Danezan, M., Bruneau A. (2017). Insights on the evolutionary origin of Detarioideae, a clade of ecologically dominant tropical African trees. New Phytologist 214: 1722-1735. DOI:10.1111/nph.14523.

Murphy, B., Estrella, M., Schley, R., Forest, F., Klitgård, B. (In press). On the monophyly of Macrolobium Schreb., an ecologically diverse neotropical tree genus (Fabaceae-Detarioideae). International Journal of Plant Sciences.