Phylogenetic Diversity and Phylogenetic Endemism in the California Flora
Biodiversity is usually measured by examining changes in the number of species across a region to identify areas of particularly high species diversity and endemism. However, investigation of species distribution alone misses the full richness of analyses that can result from taking a phylogenetic approach. Our research team based in the University and Jepson Herbaria at the University of California, Berkeley are applying a novel suite of spatial phylogenetic tools to the exceptionally rich vascular flora of California, using the Consortium of California Herbaria database, the newly completed online Jepson eFlora for California, and the wealth of phylogenetic studies that have previously been done. A comprehensive phylogeny for California plants is being built, using existing data from Genbank as well as targeted DNA sequencing done especially for this project, in part using fresh material gathered via an innovative collaboration with citizen scientists from the California Native Plant Society. Spatial analysis of phylogenetic diversity, endemism, and turnover across the state will then be carried out.
Understanding patterns of biodiversity on the landscape is important for conservation planning, given the need to prioritize efforts in the face of rapid habitat loss and human-induced climate change. These new phylogenetic methods will allow assessment of conservation reserve coverage that is not limited by reliance on species assessment alone and can identify complementary areas of biodiversity that have unique evolutionary histories in need of conservation.