Navigation Links
A new measure of biodiversity

A new approach to measuring biodiversity has uncovered some biologically important but currently unprotected areas in Western Australia, while confirming the significance of the world heritage listed Wet Tropics rainforests in the country's north-east.

In a paper published yesterday (Friday 18 July) in Nature Communications, scientists from CSIRO, University of California, University of Canberra, the Australian Tropical Herbarium at James Cook University and University of New South Wales applied the new method to Australia's iconic Acacia.

The genus Acacia includes Australia's floral emblem the golden wattle, Acacia pycnantha.

"In this study we've taken our newfound knowledge of the genetics of Acacia and its extended family tree and combined it with Australia's comprehensive botanical and environmental databases," explained co-author Dr Andrew Thornhill.

"It's 21st Century botany, using genetics to tell us about Acacia's evolutionary history its family pedigree."

Lead author Professor Brent Mishler from the University of California, Berkeley, said the approach taken phylogenetic analysis gave a much more complex and complete picture of diversity.

"It takes into account not just the number of plant species in an area, but also their rarity in the landscape and the rarity of their close relatives. We're looking at whole branches of the tree of life, rather than just a species out at the end of a branch," he said.

Professor Darren Crayn, Director of the Australian Tropical Herbarium at James Cook University in Cairns, said the research would not have been possible without the decades of groundwork involved in digitising the specimen information held by Australia's herbaria.

"The results of that world-leading collaboration are now shared through public resources like the Atlas of Living Australia and the Australia's Virtual Herbarium," Professor Crayn said.

"It puts us at the forefront, globally, in identifying important areas of biodiversity by combining cutting-edge genetic analysis with the information contained in scientific collections compiled over centuries."

The study involved complex analysis of mountains of data.

"We introduced randomisation to test the accuracy of our calculations, and that made this a massive statistical exercise," Dr Thornhill said. "We used CSIRO's supercomputer to do calculations on the genetics and distribution of around 120,000 recorded plants."

The researchers created a new model to pinpoint areas that are the cradles of new species (neo-endemics) and those where the remaining members of ancient lineages (paleo-endemics) have taken refuge.

The model is called CANAPE, or Categorical Analysis of Neo- and Paleo-Endemism.

"With CANAPE we're looking beyond whether or not a species is rare," Dr Thornhill said.

"We're using the plant's DNA to investigate its evolutionary tree and establish whether it's restricted to a particular area because it's a relatively new species that developed there, or whether this is a previously wide-spread plant that has retreated to the area as its suitable habitat has shrunk.

"That's valuable information for conservation, particularly in light of the pressures of climate change and development."

The study confirms Queensland's Wet Tropics in north-eastern Australia as having high values for paleo-endemism, providing refuge for plants that were probably once more widely distributed across the continent.

"Using CANAPE we've also identified places of Acacia 'super-endemism', where the old and new co-exist places that are both cradles for new species and refuges for older plants," Dr Thornhill said.

"Some of these extremely significant sites in the north-west of Western Australia are currently unprotected.

"We hope this study, and investigation of other significant plant groups using this new method, will help focus attention on these sites and lead to the conservation of more of the diversity of life on Earth."

Dr Thornhill and his colleagues are now focussing similar studies on Australian eucalypts, conifers and ferns.


Contact: Linden Woodward
James Cook University

Related biology news :

1. Magnetic fields to measure positions of ferromagnetic objects accurately
2. New mobile app provides faster, more accurate measurement of respiratory rate
3. Termite genome lays roadmap for greener control measures
4. Airborne measurements confirm leaks from oil and gas operations
5. Scripps Florida scientists offer best practices nutrition measurement for researchers
6. Microfluidic device with artificial arteries measures drugs influence on blood clotting
7. Heat-based technique offers new way to measure microscopic particles
8. NPL scientists blend synthetic air to measure climate change
9. Capillaries will measure diffusion and help in more efficient medical treatment
10. Study measures how well Asian carp prevention effort will work
11. Updating air pollution measurement methods with air quality, health effects research
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/9/2015)... Nov. 09, 2015 ... of the "Global Law Enforcement Biometrics ... --> ) has announced ... Enforcement Biometrics Market 2015-2019" report to ... Markets ( ) has announced the ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... Minn. , Oct. 29, 2015   MedNet ... supports the entire spectrum of clinical research, is pleased ... Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) as one of only ... in the "Software – Small and Growing" category. The Tekne ... individuals who have shown superior technology innovation and leadership. ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 29, 2015  Connected health pioneer, Joseph C. ... of technology-enabled health and wellness, and the business opportunities ... The Internet of Healthy Things . Long ... even existed, Dr. Kvedar, vice president, Connected Health, Partners ... delivery, moving care from the hospital or doctor,s office ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... CA (PRWEB) , ... November 25, 2015 , ... ... genomics company uBiome, were featured on AngelList early in their initial angel funding ... an AngelList syndicate for individuals looking to make early stage investments in the ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... SUNNYVALE, Calif. , Nov. 24, 2015 ... executives will be speaking at the following conference, and ... New York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, ... New York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, ...      Piper Jaffray Healthcare Conference, New York, NY ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... But unless it is bound to proteins, copper is also toxic to cells. ... at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic study of copper in ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Global, Inc., a worldwide provider of clinical research services headquartered in ... company has set a new quarterly earnings record in Q3 of ... for Q3 of 2014 to Q3 of 2015.   ... with the establishment of an Asia-Pacific office ... Kingdom and Mexico , with the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: