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Plant Biology

Melinda Denton Endowed Lecture: Rediscovering the organism in phylogenetic biology

Phylogenetics has found its way into many different subdisciplines of biology, and has made lasting impacts in fields as disparate as community ecology and medicine. In evolutionary biology, the recent trend of phylogeny-oriented studies has been toward “scaling up”, and looking for very broad patterns in character evolution and diversification in attempts to make generalizations about the tempo and mode of evolution. This scaling up does come with a cost, in that we spend less time trying to understand how evolutionary processes work at the whole-organism level.

A Thirsty future: will tropical forests survive with more droughts and fires?

Tropical woody plants store ∼230 petagrams of carbon in their above-ground living biomass. These stocks are currently growing in primary forests at rates that have decreased in recent decades. Droughts are an important mechanism in reducing forest carbon uptake and stocks by elevating tree mortality, increasing autotrophic respiration, and promoting wildfires. With continued climate change, the intensity and frequency of droughts will likely increase, with land-use change intensifying their effects.


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