MADCLADES will provide novel insights into the evolution of plant diversity in tropical forests, the world’s most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystems. It will also provide the first substantial insights into plant diversification on Madagascar. We will study the evolutionary assembly of the island’s forests using palms (Arecaceae) as a model group. Madagascan palms (195 spp., 192 endemic) are present in all forest types of the island and play an integral role in forest ecology. We will reconstruct the phylogeny of all Madagascan palms and use it together with information on species distributions, traits, and niches to address several outstanding questions of plant evolution. First, we will address the question why some clades have diversified excessively (e.g. Dypsidinae with 165 spp.) while others have not? Second, we will study the diversification of two larger clades in detail and test hypotheses regarding the roles of traits, niches, and environmental change. Third, we will focus on a small lineage to study a biome shift between savannah and forest at a population level. Finally, we will integrate the phylogenetic information with distribution data and IUCN Red List assessments to derive new conservation priorities for species and regions. The results will add to the fundamental knowledge about biodiversity dynamics that is required to tackle the societally important biodiversity crisis. The Researcher will receive intensive training in Next-Generation Sequencing for phylogenetics and phylogeography, cutting-edge evolutionary modelling, population genetics, conservation biology and collections-based research as well as additional research and transferable skills that are central to his development as an independent scientist. The output of MADCLADES will be communicated through high-impact science journals and various outreach mechanisms, highlighting excellence of the European Research Area and increasing public awareness of biodiversity issues.
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