Northwestern University

Thu 4:30 PM

Plant Biology and Conservation Seminar

When: Thursday, January 17, 2013
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM  

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public

Contact: Susan Black   847.491.4031

Group: Graduate Program in Plant Biology and Conservation

Category: Academic


Dr. Jeannine Cavender-Bares
Associate Professor
Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
Institute on Environment Fellow
University of Minnesota

Integrating Ecology and Phylogenetics: The Footprint of History in Modern-Day Communities

ABSTRACT:  As human domination of our planet accelerates, understanding both the ecological and evolutionary processes that drive patterns of species diversity and coexistence in ecosystems across the globe is increasingly critical to restoring and sustaining the ‘environmental services' of the biological world. I present several case studies to illustrate the importance of considering both ecological and evolutionary processes in community assembly that range from plants in urban yards to endangered oak savanna ecosystems in the Midwest. In the first study, my collaborators and I find that urban areas support greater numbers of plant species than natural environments, but yard flora have relatively low phylogenetic diversity. Urban plants harbor traits distinct from those in natural areas and are more limited in the ecosystem services they provide. In a second study, we find an ancient footprint of evolutionary history in the assembly of the oak savanna plant communities in a 40-year fire frequency experiment. Ancient adaptations to fire have not been erased throughout the course of millions of years of evolution. Finally, in a third study we find that the process of diversification is critical in understanding the assembly of the oaks – the dominant genus in our hemisphere – in the temperate zone. These studies collectively illustrate insights gained from integrating ecological and evolutionary perspectives to understand the origins, assembly and persistence of species across multiple contexts and spatial scales.


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