Understanding the origins and preservation of biodiversity is essential as human impact continues to threaten many forms of life on our planet. Often overlooked, narrow-range and evolutionarily rare species play an important role in shaping biodiversity. Their concentrated presence, estimated as phylogenetic endemism, reveals important centers of biogeographic and evolutionary history.
A new study led by a group of international researchers at the University of Göttingen has now discovered global patterns and factors influencing the phylogenetic endemism of seed plants, providing important insights for conservation efforts worldwide. The findings are published in PNAS.
Analyzing a comprehensive dataset of regional plant inventories covering 912 geographic regions around the world and containing approximately 320,000 species, the researchers revealed the geographic distribution of phylogenetic endemism.
Distinguishing between “recent” species and older evolutionary lines, they were able to identify centers of neo- and paleoendemism. Neoendemism is the limited geographic distribution of evolutionary young species that have not yet spread widely. In contrast, paleoendemism describes the limited distribution of many older species that now occur only in remnant areas of their once larger ranges.
The study uncovered isolated tropical and subtropical islands, along with mountainous tropical areas, as global hotspots for phylogenetic endemism in seed plants. In addition, research highlights that most tropical rainforest regions are centers of paleoendemism, while many islands and Mediterranean climate regions show high levels of neoendemism or both.
By exploring the interplay between environmental factors and endemism, the research team discovered that the combination of past and present environmental conditions shaped global changes in phylogenetic endemism. The study shows that climate and geological history influence neo- and paleoendemism, with long-term climate stability supporting the persistence of paleoendemics and the isolated nature of oceanic islands and their unique geological histories promoting neoendemism.
Professor Holger Kreft, from the Biodiversity, Macroecology, and Biogeography Group at the University of Göttingen, emphasized the importance of the study, saying, “The revealed relationships between past and present environments and phylogenetic endemism provide unparalleled insights into the evolutionary foundations of biogeographical patterns in secular plants.”
Dr. Patrick Weigelt, from the same group, added, “Our discoveries not only improve our understanding of the evolutionary origins of plant diversity, but also highlight the urgent need to protect habitats of narrow-air species that represent unique evolutionary histories.”
Lirong Cai et al, Climatic stability and geological history shaped global centers of neo- and paleoendemism of seed plants, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2023). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2300981120
Provided by the Georg-August University of Goettingen
Citation: Global patterns of seed plant biodiversity unveiled (2023, July 24) retrieved 24 July 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-global-patterns-biodiversity-seed-unveiled.html
This document is subject to copyright. Except for any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. Content is provided for informational purposes only.