What is the role of regeneration traits in seed plant ecology, evolution and responses to environmental change?

Theme: Biodiversity & Ecology
Primary Supervisor:

Sarah Wyse

Collections, KEW

Secondary Supervisor:

Allan Tucker

Computer Science, Brunel

Project Description:

This research aims to:
• Investigate and define a global spectrum of seed plant regeneration traits
• Identify potential ‘regeneration syndromes’ and their relation to the abiotic and biotic environment
• Reveal potential trait trade-offs and evolutionary constraints.

By gaining an in-depth understanding of this fundamental life stage, the research will fill a substantial gap in our knowledge of plant, and plant population, ecology and evolution. The work should also allow the development of predictions around plant resilience to environmental change, identifying potential habitats and taxa that may be facing the greatest threats.

The project will develop state-of-the-art tools to undertake data-mining, data-integration and data imputation, drawing on the computer-science expertise at Brunel.

Seed functional and germination traits have been largely overlooked in much of the plant ecology literature. However, such traits affect the ability of a seed to disperse to, survive at, and germinate at a site. They are thus critical in determining the presence or absence of a species, and its ability to tolerate environmental change

In the last two decades there has been a surge in data related to plant biodiversity through e.g. online publications, images, and metadata of specimens – much of which is housed by Kew. Many of the available datasets are semi-structured and ‘noisy’, arising from disparate sources and intentions for which the data were initially collected. This research will allow us to take full advantage of the myriad of data within Kew’s databases and additional sources, to answer novel and timely questions about seed plant regeneration traits.

Policy Impact of Research:

This work will help to inform conservation policy by identifying high risk taxa and habitats for prioritisation of conservation efforts.

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