The uneven distribution of biodiversity on the globe's surface is a consequence of longlasting interactions between the environment and the evolutionary history of the organisms. These relationships result in regions where species richness per area are much higher than expected. This is the case of the Espinhaço Mountain Range Flora (EMRF), a region in Central Eastern Brazil where plant species richness is way above the Brazilian average and where increasing environment disturbance and climatic changes may reduce that mega-diversity before it can be fully understood. This research project aims to understand patterns of diversification involved in the formation of the EMRF, by analysing macroevolutionary histories of the most emblematic plant lineages in that region. Nine angiosperm lineages with particular diversity in the EMRF, including monocots and eudicots, are preliminarly suggested as model groups to address the questions proposed here. The first part of the project aims to: understand when and how the typical EMRF as we know originally diversified, indicate which biogeographical processes better explain its establishment, describe the macroevolutionary dynamics involved in the local hyper-diversification of these groups, and elucidate how morphological characters specialized at the harsh habitats that prevail on that region. The second part of the project aims to use data from the evolutionary history of the model groups to map evolutionary diversity attributes (EDAs) over the EMRF area. EDAs include: species richness, phylogenetic diversity, functional diversity and evolutionary potential. EDAs per area will be contrasted against each other to verify correlation between pairs of EDAs. These will be mapped in comparison to current conservation units to discuss how such areas could be expanded to include most EDAs with the lowest cost. It is expected that the results of this research can be extrapolated to other mega-diverse areas, addressing broader questions in evolutionary biology. The inclusion of EDAs as criteria in the delimitation of conservation units can make conservation policies more attractive to the scientific community and the government agencies.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: