DARWIN 200: Evolution and Biodiversity

2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of his work The Origin of Species. The "DARWIN 200: Evolution and Biodiversity" conference will be held in Darwin, from 25-28 September, 2009.

The conference combines the Australian Entomological Society’s 40th AGM & Scientific Conference, the meeting of the Society of Australian Systematic Biologists, and the 9th Invertebrate Biodiversity & Conservation Conference.

I am one of the Keynote speakers at the conference. My abstract for that talk is copied below:

New applications of the PD (phylogenetic diversity) measure, inspired by microbial ecology and DNA barcoding

Faith, Daniel P.
The Australian Museum, 6 College St., Sydney, NSW, 2010, Australia.


The well-known phylogenetic diversity measure, PD, uses phylogenetic branches as a proxy for evolutionary features – so providing estimates of the relative feature diversity of sets of taxa. A family of measures based on PD extends conventional species-level indices to the features level (e.g., “PD-endemism” indicates the extent to which evolutionary features are restricted to a given location). The “phylogenetic beta diversity” framework pioneered by microbial ecologists calculates PD-dissimilarities between community localities and successfully derives ordinations that reveal key environmental gradients. The microbial PD-dissimilarities are based on branch lengths from molecular trees. Interpretation of these PD-dissimilarities at the level of features helps explain why the resulting ordinations can so successfully reveal environmental gradients. An example microbial gradients space based on PD-dissimilarities illustrates how evolutionary features, including those corresponding to deeper phylogenetic branches, form unimodal response patterns to gradients. This model opens the door to many new applications. The unimodal response of features in gradients space provides a natural way to explore evidence for competition, after taking into account environmental filtering. The unimodal response model for features also means that the gradients space is appropriately analyzed using the ED (environmental diversity) methods. We can evaluate gains and losses in phylogenetic diversity, produce summary endemism measures for localities, and estimate changes in phylogenetic community composition as a result of climate change. One of the approaches proposed as part of a new global biodiversity observation network (GEO BON) would use gradients-space models, and methods such as ED, to create a biodiversity “lens” for assessing the biodiversity loss due to (remotely-sensed) changes in land/water condition. The unimodal model for phylogenetic beta diversity enables these lens strategies to estimate losses in phylogenetic diversity. Such applications also will take advantage of the phylogenetic estimates, and geographic distribution data, produced by emerging large-scale DNA barcoding programs.

Dr Dan Faith , Senior Principal Research Scientist email:danfaith8[at]yahoo.com.au
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