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Deep Green - Green Plant Phylogeny Research Coordination Group

The green plants provide food, shelter, and medicines and represent one of evolution's great success stories. Their morphological and chemical diversity, and ecological dominance, are paramount among life's lineages. An improved understanding of their phylogeny will not only allow the intellectual satisfaction of discovering the "roots" of this major component of the world's biotic diversity, but will have important practical benefits as well. A well-supported and detailed phylogenetic framework is critical to the solution of major open questions such as the evolutionary origin of multicellularity, diversification of life-history strategies, the conquest of land, the nature of the relationship between ontogeny and phylogeny, and modes of evolution at the molecular level. Addressing a phylogenetic study of this enormous scale has also necessitated improvements in data handling and analysis that have broad applicability to phylogenetic studies of other organisms.
Considerable preliminary data were available, and we were clearly poised back in 1994 for rapid progress in this area due to recent technological, theoretical, and computational improvements. However, several obstacles remained. No mechanism existed for attacking this major effort in a cooperative, coordinated manner. Certain groups were over-studied, other groups nearly unknown. Data sets derived from different molecules and different morphological character systems rarely included the same basic taxa, thus they couldn't be compared. Current analytical software, and the concepts behind it, needed improvements to handle analyses of this size and complexity, as did data storage and retrieval software. Standards for maintaining and adding to phylogenetic data bases, both morphological and molecular, needed to be discussed and then implemented.

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