Many surveys confirm that the Balkan Peninsula in general is a hotspot of European biodiversity, but the extremely high level of endemism in the Balkans is probably the most striking element. In order to contribute to an explanation of this phenomenon, we use two model plant genera (Edraianthus, Heliosperma) to address the following objectives within the project: establishment of sound molecular phylogenetic hypotheses on the relationships of the study groups both to its closest relatives as well as within the respective genera; testing the Pleistocene speciation hypothesis; establishment of sound comparative phylogeographic hypotheses within species and species groups; pinpointing the putative centres of origin of the respective groups based on the phylogen etic and phylogeographic pattern; determining the migration paths from the Balkans to the Apennines; determining frequency and timing of the colonisation of the Apennines and pinpointing secondary centres of origin in the Apennines. Material of all species of the study groups will be collected in the field. Research will be carried out applying modern molecular methods [DNA-sequencing, cpDNA haplotype analysis, DNA-fingerprinting (AFLP), molecular dating], cytogenetic analyses, morphometrics, and biogeograp hic analyses. Despite its recognized importance as a diversity hot spot in Europe, the Balkans has only been marginally, if at all, included in such studies. The synthesis of our results will yield a much broader basis to address the questions going far be yond the groups investigated: biogeography of southern Europe, e.g., centres of diversification or migration routes, and delimitation of species by comparison of the genetic divergence of taxa. These results are also of high relevance for conservation effo rts, especially concerning the endangered taxa, and as can be judged from similar investigations in other parts of Europe, will be of high quality and applicability.
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