Plants are pivotal organisms for monitoring and measuring global biodiversity because they comprise a species-rich component of almost all habitats on earth. Due to their unique history, British living plant collections and herbaria harbour most of the global plant diversity as well as data on plant distribution. Surprisingly, these collections are heavily underutilized by a scientific community outside of the field of taxonomy despite increased political and scientific calls to make a better use of them.
The proposed project will use the wealth of public and private collections containing historic samples and living plants (museum herbaria, botanical gardens, and national plant collections) to test the link between carbon and oxygen isotope discrimination signatures and plant physiology, ecology and distribution, as well as past and present climate. The state of the art isotope facilities at Northumbria University will be used for the high throughput analysis of historic samples and living plants available across leading UK institutions (Natural History Museum, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Edinburgh, National plant colections, herbaria at Oxford and Newcastle Universities). Carbon and oxygen isotope discrimination could give information on the photosynthetic type and climate experienced by a plant when grown. Putting this information in the phylogenetic context and combining with bio- and environmental informatics would help to explain current distribution of plant species and physiotypes, and predict how it is going to be affected by climate change.
We will create a publicly available searchable database of carbon and oxygen isotopes in plants, which would be a valuable tool for scientific community similar to the Plant DNA C-values Database hosted by Kew https://cvalues.science.kew.org/.
enthusiasm, initiative and an ability to undertake independent research; at least a 2:1 honours degree in biology, ecology, or geosciences is expected.
This project is part of the ONE Planet DTP. Find out more here: View Website