How Historical Constraints, Local Adaptation, and Species Interactions Shape Biodiversity Across an Ancient Floristic Disjunction
Biodiversity is multidimensional, composed of genetic, phenotypic, ecological, and geographic variation within and among species. Less frequently considered is the role of evolutionary history in shaping current patterns of biodiversity. That is, how does history constrain or enhance biodiversity? The forests of eastern Asia and eastern North America were anciently connected and have a shared evolutionary and ecological history; they therefore offer an excellent opportunity to study the drivers of biodiversity across geographic space and through evolutionary time. Within forests, plants grow in association with soil bacteria and fungi (collectively referred to as microbes), but little is known about how these associations vary within and among forests and how they generate biodiversity. Do forests in the eastern US and eastern China share evolutionary and ecological features that trace to their common ancestry, or have they followed separate paths since they diverged million of years ago? Do plants and microbes reveal the same patterns, suggesting their histories remain tightly linked, or do these patterns vary geographically? This project is a collaboration between US and Chinese scientists who are conducting novel analyses of plant and microbial diversity in forests in the US and China to discover those factors that shape biodiversity through space and time.