Research project: Phylogenetic diversity and conservation


Start date:

Museum investigators

  • Dr Dan Faith , Senior Principal Research Scientist email:danfaith8[at]

Funded by

  • DIVERSITAS, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (USA); Plus travel grants from European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy (EDIT), Brazil government; Ecological Society of Japan; Advanced Study Institute of Berlin; others


PD (phylogenetic diversity) measures may provide better ways to prioritize species for conservation, assess the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, and understand ecosystem processes such as competition.

Examples of current investigations:

  1. Threatened species and the preservation of phylogenetic diversity (PD): assessments based on extinction probabilities and risk analysis. Case studies include corals and other groups threatened by climate change
  2. co-development of an international program, "bioGENESIS: Providing an Evolutionary Framework for Biodiversity Science"
  3. Novel uses of large-scale DNA barcoding programs, using phylogenetic estimates as inputs to conservation decision-making
  4. Review and synthesis work, for example in "Phylogenetic diversity and conservation". Conservation Biology: Evolution in Action. Oxford University Press
  5. Phylogenetic ecology: The "phylogenetic beta diversity" framework developed by microbial ecologists calculates phylogenetic dissimilarities between samples or localities. The dissimilarities are based on a broader PD calculus that uses phylogenetic branch lengths as indicators of feature diversity. Ordinations of these PD dissimilarities have revealed underlying environmental gradients. We find support for the more general application of the microbial phylogenetic beta diversity approach by considering a model which assumes a general unimodal response of features to underlying environmental gradients. PD-dissimilarities and ordination methods based on unimodal response models therefore can be recommended for applications, such as predictions of changes in phylogenetic diversity under climate change, and the exploration of variation to discover new commercial products.



Dr Dan Faith , Senior Principal Research Scientist email:danfaith8[at]
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