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An Evolutionary Approach to Biodiversity Conservation: Riverine Floodplains of the European Alps as a Model System


The importance of evolutionary relatedness of species is increasingly recognized in both ecology and conservation. What remains is a need for quantitative predictions on the role of evolution and a synthesis of methods. This project uses DNA surveys of aquatic insect communities to measure species diversity and genetic relatedness in riverine floodplains. Riverine floodplains are one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth and create a very high spatio-temporal heterogeneity. Unfortunately, the most diverse and abundant aquatic insects are poorly known at the species level, therefore research that has been carried out to link biodiversity and the spatio-temporal heterogeneity relies on estimates of diversity and has lacked an evolutionary perspective. The project examines the role of habitat heterogeneity in the evolutionary processes of structuring biodiversity by sampling communities from 4 habitat types at each of 6 study reaches along 3 natural riverine corridors in the Alps. It will construct a ‘DNA profile’ of macroinvertebrate communities using DNA sequences and coalescent-based modeling to delineate species, determine the extent of local and regional endemism of species, reconstruct a phylogeny of all samples and calculate phylogenetic diversity of individual habitats, individual reaches, and whole river corridors, and use the resulting tree topology to examine the degree of phylogenetic clustering and overdispersion as a means to quantify the role of evolution in community assembly. The project explores 3 timely research topics: the linkage of ecology and phylogeny, the integration of evolutionary criteria in conservation management, and DNA-based biodiversity surveys. The applicant has high potential for knowledge transfer to the European freshwater science and the implementation of the project. His expertise in river ecology and population genetics, problem-oriented approach as an engineer by training, and international experience will ensure success.

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Rudower Chaussee 17
12489 Berlin

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Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Carla Pinho (Ms.)
EU contribution
€ 170 418,35