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12 Posts tagged with the botany tag
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Wednesday 17 of April 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

Studying the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on calcified macroalgae: why, how and what we have we found

 

Chris Williamson

Genomics & Microbes, Dept of Life Sciences, NHM and School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University

 

 

Climate change and ocean acidification (OA) are causing increased sea surface temperatures and decreased pH / carbonate saturation, respectively, in the marine environment. Almost all marine species are likely to be impacted in some respect by these changes, with calcifying species predicted to be the most vulnerable. Calcifying macroalgae of the red algal genusCorallina are widely distributed and important autogenic ecosystem engineers, providing habitat for numerous small invertebrate species, shelter from the stresses of intertidal life, and surfaces for the settlement of microphytobenthos. Given the particular skeletal mineralogy of these species, i.e. high Mg-calcite CaCO3, they are predicted to be among the first responders to OA. A research project is therefore being undertaken to examine the potential impacts of climate change and OA on Corallina species in the northeastern Atlantic. An approach has been adopted to allow examination of potential impacts in the context of present day and very recent past conditions. This seminar will present information on the approach employed (use of herbarium collections, seasonal northeastern Atlantic sampling), methodologies used (X-Ray Diffraction, PAM-fluorescence, SEM, molecular techniques), and results gained thus far (seasonal skeletal mineralogy cycles, carbonate chemistry experienced in situ, photophysiology). Plans for the next stage of the project (future scenario incubations) will also be presented, highlighting how lessons learnt thus far will inform this future work.

 

 

 

Friday 19 of April 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

 

 

Forest understorey plant dynamics in the face of global environmental change

 

Pieter De Frenne

Forest & Nature Lab, Department of Forest and Water Management, Ghent University

 

 

Habitat change, eutrophication and climate change, among other global-change factors, have elevated the rate of species’ extinction to a level on par with historical mass extinction events. In temperate forests specifically, biodiversity is mainly a function of the herbaceous understorey community. Many forest understorey plants, however, are not able to track habitat change and the shifting climate due to their limited colonisation capacity. Their acclimation potential within their occupied habitats will likely determine their short- and long-term persistence. The response of plants to N deposition, however, diverges between forests and other ecosystems, probably due to the greater structural complexity and pivotal role of light availability in forests. A potential new pressure on forest biodiversity is the increasing demand for woody biomass due to the transitions to more biobased economies. Elevated wood extraction could result in increased canopy opening and understorey species shifts. To date, the outcome of climate warming and changing forest management (resulting in altered light availability) in forests experiencing decades of elevated N inputs remains uncertain. I will present our research on the (interactive) effects of climate warming, enhanced N inputs, and management-driven forest floor light availability on the growth and reproduction of a selection of understorey forest plant species, and (ii) the composition and diversity of understorey plant communities in European and eastern North American temperate forests.

 

 

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.html

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Life Sciences Seminar


Inferring the diversification of land plants at and in the shadow of the Roof of the World

 

Harald Schneider

Plants, Dept. of Life Sciences, NHM

 

Wednesday 12 of December 11:00
Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


Orogenic events in earth history, e.g. mountain formation, have made a profound impact on the assembly of biological diversity. For example, recent studies of the biodiversity of South America recovered strong evidence that the Cenozoic rise of the Andeans triggered the rapid diversification of many lineages of vascular plants.

 

However, relatively little attention has been given to the effect of the rise of the Himalaya on plant diversity. The rise of this mountain chains were triggered by the collision of the Indian tectonic plate with the Eurasian continent 70 million years ago but major uplifts date back to more recent times. Especially the rather recent formation of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, around 3-4 million years ago, had a considerable impact on the monsoon climates in South East Asia. Thus the rise of this plateau affected not only the evolution of plants adapted to the alpine conditions at the high altitudes of the Himalaya but also the expansion of xeric habitats in central Asia and the enhanced monsoons affecting South East Asia and South Asia.

 

The hypothesis of the impact of the rise of the Himalaya on plant diversity in South East Asia is studied employing mainly phylogenetic approaches that incorporate divergence time estimates, ancestral area reconstruction, inference of niche evolution, and estimates of diversification rates. The analyses also incorporate evidence from micro-paleontological research.

 

Comparative assessment of the existing and newly generated phylogenetic hypotheses for a wide range of angiosperms and ferns recovered evidence supporting the hypothesis of a substantial impact of the rise of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau on the assembly of lineage diversity. This result is consistent with palaeoclimate reconstructions that are based on pollen and spore record. In comparison, the recovered patterns indicate the involvement of different processes in response to the Cenozoic mountain formations in South America and South East Asia.

 

The presentation summarises research that was carried out during my time as a senior visiting professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Besides the presentation of the results of the research, I will also touch on issues related to the current research conditions in China.

 

Harald Schneider

 

 

 

For additional details on attending this or other seminars see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/seminars-events/index.html

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Dr Kanako Ishikawa from Lake Biwa Environmental Research Institute, Otsu, Japan, visited Dr Anne D Jungblut (NHM Life Sciences Department) in April 2012 as part of a project supported by a Daiwa Foundation Small Grant that aims to establish a Lake Biwa periphyton species list and carry out public engagement events on biodiversity, management and conservation of Lake Biwa, Japan.

 

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Proliferation of macrophytes and periphyton in Lake Biwa

 

Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan and one of the twenty oldest lakes in the world. It has many endemic species, and supplies 14 million people with drinking water including the megalopolises Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe Cities. It is a breeding ground for freshwater fish and supports commercial fishing.

 

Microalgae such as cyanobacteria and green algae growing on leaves and stems of submerged water plants (macrophytes) or rock surface are defined as periphyton. These microalgae are not only an important food source for fish and other animals, but can also become nuisance for fishing equipment, water supply system and leisure activities.

 

Periphyton.jpgPeriphyton collected from Lake Biwa

 

In recent years macrophytes have become highly abundant in Lake Biwa and as a consequence periphyton growth has dramatically increased. However, little is still known about the species diversity of Lake Biwa periphyton, in particular the presence of non-native and potentially harmful species. During the visit, Kanako Ishikawa and Anne Jungblut carried out DNA-based analyses on periphyton samples collected from Lake Biwa using culture-independent methods.

 

Lab.jpgKanaka Ishikawa and Anne Jungblut preparing DNA samples for PCR

 

Anne Jungblut will visit the research laboratory of Dr. Kanako Ishikawa (Lake Biwa Environmental Research Institute) and Dr Taisuke Ohtsuka (Lake Biwa Museum) in Shiga prefecture, Japan, in July.

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Anne Jungblut, a botany research scientist at the NHM, has been awarded the US Antarctica Service Medal. The medal was established by US Congress in 1960 to honour service personnel and civilians who contribute to US Antarctic expeditions.

 

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Anne has been taking part in Antarctic expeditions since 2005 with the New Zealand and US Antarctic Program, and has represented The Natural History Museum on these expeditions since 2009.  Her blog gives details of expeditions to look  at cyanobacteria in Antarctica, which form thick mats in meltwater pools.  We are always intrigued by the sampling equipment that appears in some of the photographs!

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Dr Anne Jungblut works in the Antarctic on cyanobacteria - a summary of her recent work is taken from the Botany annual report

 

The Antarctic is characterized by extreme cold and aquatic ecosystems that are dominated by microbes. Cyanobacteria can be found in polar lakes, ponds and streams, and often dominate total ecosystem biomass and productivity by forming benthic mats and films. These organisms are highly tolerant of the harsh polar conditions and overcome nutrient limitation by recycling and scavenging inorganic and organic nutrients.

 

In the ice-covered lakes of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, cyanobacteria-dominated microbial mats form pinnacle structures that are potential analogues to microbialites found in fossil records. However, despite the importance of cyanobacteria to Antarctic ecosystems, ecology and geo-biology, their diversity, community structure and ecology have been little studied.

 

Two field events took place during the austral summer 2010-2011. The first project aims to evaluate the diversity of Antarctic cyanobacteria along spatial and temporal scales. During the field trip to Antarctica in collaboration with Dr Ian Hawes, Dr Jenny Webster-Brown and Hannah Christenson, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand), collection sites were targeted on Ross Island and McMurdo Ice Shelf that were visited by the British National Antarctic Expedition (Discovery Expedition 1901–04), the British Antarctic Expedition (Terra Nova Expedition 1910-13) led by R.F. Scott and the British Antarctic Expedition (Nimrod Expedition 1907-09) led by E. H. Shackleton in order to test how present-day diversity compares with cyanobacterial mat specimens from 100 years ago. The fieldwork was supported by Antarctica, New Zealand and the project “Antarctic Aquatic Inland Ecosystems: Icebased ecosystems” (Project Leader: Dr Ian Hawes).

 

The second project is in collaboration with Dr Dale Anderson (Principal Investigator, SETI Institute, CA, USA), Dr Dawn Sumner and Tyler Mackey (US Davis, CA, USA) and Dr Ian Hawes (University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand). The objective is to gain a better understanding of pinnacle formations in cyanobacteria-dominated microbial mats in the perennial ice-covered Lakes Joyce, Vanda and Hoare in the Antarctic Dry
Valley, which will help to interpret ancient microbialite morphology in fossil records. A field event was carried out as part of the US Antarctic Program and supported by research grant from NASA. As part of the fieldwork in the Dry Valleys, pinnacle morphologies were characterized, photosynthesis capabilities examined and cyanobacterial diversity assessed by way of microscopic analysis. Ongoing research in the NHM Botany Department will determine community structure of cyanobacteria within microbialite structures to evaluate the role of cyanobacteria in the formation of microbialite structures, and to study the phylogenetics of cyanobacteria from these unique Antarctic cryo-ecosystems.

 

Anne wrote a blog on her experiences in the Antarctic - a day-by-day account from the early part of 2011.

 


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This international conference will be held from the 6th-7th December, 2011, on the general theme of South Asian natural history collections with a special emphasis on the collections of the Danish botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), a major figure in the history and development of botany in the nineteenth century.

 

As superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden (1817-1846), he undertook botanical expeditions, described new plant species, amassed a large herbarium, collected thousands of plant specimens and commissioned local artists to draw beautiful botanical watercolours. His work has thus been influential in South Asian Natural History research.

 

This conference will explore the challenges associated with exploiting such collections and the interesting opportunities they provide for interdisciplinary research. In particular, the conference will consider the experience of the recent “Wallich and Indian Natural History” project as an interesting exemplar (a collaboration with the British Library and The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew). An earlier blog post outlined some of the work of this project.

 

Major South Asian natural history collections from the 18th and 19th century are now dispersed across institutions in South Asia, Europe and beyond. Thus, the conference will be hosted by the Natural History Museum, London and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in partnership with the British Library. This conference plays an integral part in the World Collections Programme funded project “Wallich and Indian Natural History”.

 

More information is available on the NHM Centre for Arts and Humanities website. A full programme and travel information will be available on that site by the 30th September, 2011. Abstract Submission Deadline: 30th August, 2011

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In February 2011, two botanists from the department, Dr Harald Schneider and Dr Cécile Gueidan, participated in a collecting trip in Northern Vietnam. The trip  aimed at enhancing NHM and Vietnamese collections in ferns, lichens and liverworts from this very species rich area of South-East Asia. It was organized by collaborating partners from the Vietnam National Museum of Nature in Hanoi by the botanists Mr Do Van Truong and Mrs Ngan Lu Thi. The team was also joined by Dr Hongmei Liu, who is a botanist from the Fairylake Botanical Garden in Shenzhen, China.

 

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After arrival, the team visited the Vietnam National Museum of Nature in Hanoi and studied fern specimens kept in the museum’s collection. They also met Prof. Pham Van Luc, the director of the Vietnam National Museum of Nature, and Harald Schneider and Cécile Gueidan presented their research to the Museum staff and students. Most of the three weeks were spent in different protected areas in the North of Vietnam: the Pa Co-Hang Kia Nature Reserve in the extreme West of the Hoa Binh province, the Bac Me Nature Reserve in the South-Eastern part of the Ha Giang province, the Na Hang Nature Reserve in the North of the Tuyen Quang province and the Ba Be National Park in the North- West of the Bac Kan province. Most of the sites visited included tropical forests at different stages of land use, which ranged from almost entirely deforested areas to few relatively untouched patches of primary forest.

 

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Left to right: Hongmei Liu, Harald Schneider, Don Van Truong, Ngan Lu Thi and two guides from the Ba Be National Park

 

 

This collecting trip followed a first visit to Vietnam by Harald Schneider in 2010 and had allowed completing previous collections of ferns from this area. For lichens, only few studies had been carried out in this country and rock substrates had almost not been explored. The lichen specimens collected during this fieldtrip will therefore contribute to the knowledge of the poorly studied lichen flora of Vietnam. In total, we collected 283 specimens of ferns (including at least two new records for Vietnam), 26 specimens of leafy liverworts, and about 400 specimens of lichens.

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Lichens combine both fungal and algal organisms in a symbiotic relationship.  They are hugely diverse - there are hundreds of UK species living in a wide range of environments with quite specific needs for particular living conditions.  Some species are particularly sensitive to air pollution and have been used as indicators of air quality and the recovery of impacted ecosystems.

 

Xanthoria NaturalHistoryMuseum_030476_IA.jpg

Xanthoria parietina

 

The Museum has particularly good collections of lichens and is involved in a number of collaborations in the UK to develop skills and public involvement in lichen monitoring.  Holger Thus is the lichen curator for the NHM, working with Pat Wolseley, one of the Museum's expert Scientific Associates.

 

The Museum's Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity (AMC) hosted the first part of a two-part course “Introducing Lichens” run by the British Lichen Society and supported by OPAL, the Lottery Fund and the NHM. Seventeen participants filled the AMC to capacity and a survey-element in the Museum's Wildlife garden resulted in the surprise of a new record for the sensitive lichen species Parmotrema perlatum from the tiny patch of green space surrounding the museum. The second part of this course, which will also be hosted by the AMC, will focus on identification training and will be held on the April 2nd (it is also fully booked, with a waiting list of potential further participants).

 

Pat and Holger have also begin a joint project, with partners from La Sainte Union Catholic Secondary School and the London Borough of Camden, for pupils to assess air quality in the vicinity of their school using lichens as bio-indicators and comparing their results with those collected from measurements using the technology infrastructure of Camden Council.

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St Valentine's day is better known for sentiment, but in addition to the death of the eponymous saint, Captain James Cook died in Hawai'i in on the morning of 14 January 1779 during the voyage of the Resolution.  The Museum has strong connections with Cook and his collaborators, with a tremendous legacy of collections, drawings, art and other records.

 

In particular, Sir Joseph Banks, Daniel Solander and Sidney Parkinson all travelled with Cook on his earlier voyage on the EndeavourPlant collections from this voyage and others originating from Banks are held in the Museum's Botany department collections. Illustrations from the Library are described on the Endeavour botanical illustrations pages.  More of the Museum's resources are available on ArtStor, but this is currently only available via some academic institutions. Further images can be found on the NHM picture library by searching for "Endeavour" or "Resolution".

 

B000973X.jpg

Barringtonia calyptrata

 

Cook is particularly well known for his supreme skill in navigation and naval mapping. In the words of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography "In his three voyages to the Pacific, Cook disproved the existence of a  great southern continent, completed the outlines of Australia and New  Zealand, charted the Society Islands, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia,  and the Hawaiian Islands, and depicted accurately for the first time the  north-west coast of America, leaving no major discoveries for his  successors. In addition the scientific discoveries in the fields of  natural history and ethnology were considerable and the drawings made by  the artists were of great significance."

 

In other words, he transformed the 18th Century European view of the Pacific.  He was also recognised for his acheivements in practical health care, developing new ways of preventing the disease scurvy, caused by a deficiency of vitamin C.


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Ranee Tiwari, Polly Parry and Julie Harvey from the Museum are currently visiting the Acharya Jagadish  Chandra Bose  Botanical Garden in Kolkata, India (formerly Calcutta) to collaborate on a project that combines science and history.  They are working on the plant collections and correspondence of Nathaniel Wallich who held the post of Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden in the early 19th Century, part of a project involving the National Archives of India, the Acharya  Jagadish Chandra  Bose Botanical   Garden, the NHM, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the British Library.

 

The NHM collections have developed over the past three centuries as a resource and reference for current scientific research, but always as part of a wider network of collaboration between museums, universities and botanical gardens in many different countries.  Information and specimens are constantly added to ensure that the collections reflect the best modern understanding of diversity and evolution.  However, they have a wider value: the gradual development of the collection reflects and captures all sorts of information and evidence of historical, social and economic interest.


Nathaniel Wallich's work, including botanical collections, watercolour drawings and correspondence is an invaluable scientific and historical resource for researchers and botanists around the world. He was central to the development of Indian botanical collections for a period, and exchanged specimens and letters with collaborators in different parts of the world: a quick search of the NHM botany collection database online shows Wallich as the named collector for more than 2,200 specimens.  This collaborative project will trace Wallich materials in different organisations and develop a website resource for public and research use.

 

Wallich was Danish, born in Copenhagen, but moved to the Danish settlement at Serampore in Bengal.  This was captured by the British East India Company shortly afterwards, Wallich and other Danes were employed by the Company: Wallich in the botanical garden from 1809, where he eventually became Superintendent at a period of prolific collection of plants from across Indian and neighbouring territories.

 

The long history of museum collections means that there is huge potential for research in the Arts and Humanities. In addition to their modern value, specimens and archives reflect past views of the world and are often associated with particular social or political developments, or with particular figures of both scientific and broader interest.  This resource is used by historians, anthropologists, artists and others for particular projects and the Museum has set up a specialist NHM Centre for Arts and Humanities Research to focus, support and develop these activities.

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At the core of the Museum's scientific work lies taxonomy: the description, classification and naming of species.  This science is the foundation for all the biological sciences - if we cannot accurately describe the organism, the biological research that we do will not be reliable.  Species are essential concepts in describing diversity and exploring evolution - the Museum's collections and research centre on taxonomy, but integrate it with all sorts of other scientific approaches.

 

Taxonomy is published in the scientific literature in a number of ways - individual species results are published increasingly in short papers, sometimes online.  However, there is great value in ambitious works that cover whole groups of organisms - it allows all members of the group to be compared in a systematic way and new ideas and conclusions on diversity and evolution explored.

 

The final part of Dr Norman Robson’s Hypericum monograph was published in Phytotaxa. This an important monograph of a species-rich flowering plant genus; Hypericum (approximately 480 species) is one of 100 plant genera which together represent 22% of angiosperm (flowering plant) diversity. 

 

A genus is a classification group for a number of individual closely related species. Hypericum is a genus of flowering plant species that is worldwide in distribution and familar as a garden plant in the UK and some species have been used in the past in herbal treatments. (The name St   John’s Wort is commonly used for these plants.) A New Zealand species, Hypericum gramineum, is shown below.

 

Hypericum gramineum.jpg

 

 

The entire work comprises 1,247 pages in 11 parts, the culmination of 27 years of work and more than 50 years of research by Dr Robson on this genus. The editorial in Phytotaxa states that “The size of such genera means that complete monographic treatments to account for species diversity are time-consuming, costly and labour-intensive. Consequently, the species-level taxonomy of most such groups is poorly known [and this] presents a substantial barrier both to the goal of completing the global inventory and to understanding the evolution of the diversity they contain. Hypericum is now a notable exception to this problem”

 

 

Phytotaxa 4: 1258

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A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science explores the way in which new species of plants are described from specimens that may already have been in herbarium collections for many years, and underlines the importance of collections for discovering diversity..

 

NHM scientist Dr Mark Carine and scientific associate Dr Norman Robson undertook the research with colleagues from the Earthwatch Institute; University of Oxford; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh; Royal Botanic Gardens Kew; and the Missouri Botanical Garden, looking at the time between the acquistion of the specimens and publication of the plant's description in the Kew Bulletin.

 

A small number of specimens are recognised as being new species when they are first collected.  However, the scientists found that many others are identified as a result of comparisons and revisions of major groups of plants that take place more gradually within the large collections, sometimes taking several years.  In this process, many specimens from different herbaria will be compared: the comparison and analysis gives rise to new understanding of diversity and the identification and description of new species.

 

This work emphasises the importance of collections, such as those of the NHM and its partners, in improving understanding of plant diversity. These collections exchange many specimens each year, and make thousands of loans to enable scientists to work on plant diversity around the world.  They are increasingly developing digital resources that should give wider and more rapid access to images of plant specimens, supporting this area of science.

 

 

Bebber, DP, Carine, MA, Wood, JRI, Wortley, AH, Harris, DJ, Prance, GT, Davids, G, Paige, J, Pennington, TD, Robson, NKB and Scotland, RW (2010) Herbaria are a major frontier for species discovery.  PNAS.  December 6, 2010