The relevance of phylogeny to studies of global change

TitleThe relevance of phylogeny to studies of global change
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsEdwards EJ, Still CJ, Donoghue MJ
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Date Published2007 May
KeywordsCarbon, Carbon Dioxide, Carbonic Anhydrases, Echinochloa, Ecosystem, GEOGRAPHY, Greenhouse Effect, Photosynthesis, phylogeny, Plants, Poaceae

Phylogenetic thinking has infiltrated many areas of biological research, but has had little impact on studies of global ecology or climate change. Here, we illustrate how phylogenetic information can be relevant to understanding vegetation-atmosphere dynamics at ecosystem or global scales by re-analyzing a data set of carbonic anhydrase (CA) activity in leaves that was used to estimate terrestrial gross primary productivity. The original calculations relied on what appeared to be low CA activity exclusively in C4 grasses, but our analyses indicate that such activity might instead characterize the PACCAD grass lineage, which includes many widespread C3 species. We outline how phylogenetics can guide better taxon sampling of key physiological traits, and discuss how the emerging field of phyloinformatics presents a promising new framework for scaling from organism physiology to global processes.

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