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Scientists enlist big data to guide conservation efforts
Date:7/18/2014

the country's comprehensive plant database. Australia is ahead of the United States in terms of digitizing its museum collections and geographically coding, or georeferencing, them, he said.

Identifying California's Preservation Needs

The model can be used, however, with any good georeferenced database of species abundance and relatedness, Mishler said. He, Bruce Baldwin and David Ackerly, UC Berkeley professors of integrative biology, earlier this year received a $391,000, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to apply CANAPE to the state's plant databases, primarily that of the Consortium of California Herbaria.

"These new methods will allow assessment of conservation reserve coverage and identify complementary areas of biodiversity that have unique evolutionary histories in need of conservation," Mishler said.

Early results from California already have pinpointed regions such as the upper Sacramento Valley near Lake Shasta, the coastal redwood belt and the San Francisco Bay Area's unique serpentine soil areas as hotbeds of endemic biodiversity worthy of preservation.

Use the Entire Tree of Life

Mishler's model basically takes a yardstick to the limbs, branches and twigs of the tree of life, the branching diagram that illustrates the relationship of one species to another. The terminal "buds" of each twig are today's living species, and the nearness of twigs represents how closely species are related.

The tree was initially a metaphor for the relatedness of all species. Charles Darwin referred to the tree of life in his seminal 1859 book, "On the Origin of Species." But genetic comparisons and molecular dating have in the past several decades provided exact lengths, in years, for most of these branches, indicating how long ago a species had a common ancestor. That wealth of phylogenetic information has not yet been fully taken into account in assessments of biodivers
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Contact: Robert Sanders
rlsanders@berkeley.edu
510-643-6998
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert  

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