About the grant


USA National Science Foundation logo

This grant was funded by the US National Science Foundation under award number #1442280: 
Dimensions US-China: Collaborative Research: 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. Understanding the sources and patterns of Earth’s biodiversity will lead to a better understanding of our planet’s ecosystems and new strategies on how to conserve them. Within forests, plants grow in association with soil bacteria and fungi, but little is known about how these associations vary within and among forests, or how these interactions maintain or generate biodiversity. The forests of eastern Asia and eastern North America were anciently connected and have a shared evolutionary and ecological history; they therefore offer a unique opportunity to study the drivers of biodiversity across geographical space and through evolutionary time. This collaborative project among researchers at the University of Florida, North Carolina State University, Chicago University and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Zhejiang University investigates how the associations among plant, fungal and soil bacteria shape biodiversity through space and time. The research team has developed an extensive education and training program for undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers comprising both field and lab components. Training will also include a cyber-enabled course for Chinese and US participants that will promote international scientific collaborations. This research will also contribute valuable information to improve global climate change models that inform national and international climate and energy policies.

This multidisciplinary project integrates phylogenomics, biogeography, and plant and microbial evolution and ecology to address novel questions on the origins and maintenance of biodiversity. The research team will reconstruct phylogenies using next-generation DNA sequencing methods to provide a robust framework for improved dating and biogeographic analyses. Comparative community phylogenetic analyses at six forest sites in eastern North America and four sites in China will evaluate spatial patterns of phylogenetic diversity within and between continents. Exploration of fungal and soil bacteria taxic and functional diversity will yield new understanding of their biodiversity and interactions with plants. Ecosystem function, inferred from analysis of plant functional traits and remotely sensed canopy properties, will be computed at all sites and linked to analyses of fungal and soil bacteria function. Innovative applications of phylogenetic and comparative methodologies will lead to new discoveries in phylogenetic and functional diversity of plants, soil bacteria and fungi at community and regional scales. Integration of historical connections, current patterns, and future species distribution models will lead to more holistic views of the drivers of biodiversity and will enable future hypothesis-driven research.


Chinese Abstract:














For a full list of researchers, please see the people page. Researchers from the following institutions are part of this project.

University of Florida

Northern Arizona University

The University of Chicago

North Carolina State University

Zhejiang University

Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences