Evolution and Spatial Phylogenetics of the Texas Biota
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Understanding the history of forests and the species that comprise them is critical for developing effective policies for their management and protection from destructive agents. In this regard, the field of phylogenetics provides key insights into the evolution of species niches and the interactions among organisms and between organisms and their environments. These insights are fundamental to understanding the assembly, function, and conservation of forests. Because the traits of species, which determine their ability to colonize and compete across landscapes, are determined by their evolutionary history, phylogenetic lineages are increasingly recognized as a more important and meaningful operational unit for measuring and comparing ecosystem diversity than species. Spatial phylogenetics - the pattern of distribution and co-occurrence of lineages - is one example of how incorporating evolutionary history into assessments of diversity can improve our understanding of ecosystem history, function, and stability.Metrics of biodiversity that use phylogenetic information capture the evolutionary, and by extension, functional breadth of community composition and potential for ecosystem services better than those that rely on species alone. Thus, documenting how lineages have diversified through time and space and subsequently assembled into forests is a foundational and often overlooked component of sound land management and conservation strategy: we must know what is where, and why it is there, in order to identify diverse communities and predict how they will respond to ongoing environmental changes and other potentially destructive agents. Thus, there is an urgent need to understand the history of lineages and the spatial structure of phylogenetic diversity in forests as they stand today. Not meeting this need would hinder our ability to maximally preserve ecosystem services and biological resources in the near future.This research will develop and apply phylogenetic hypothesis to understand how lineages have evolved and assembled across heterogeneous landscapes..........