South Africa Big Genera Group

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The South Africa Big Genera Group (SABiGG) is a network of scientists from South Africa, the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands actively working on phylogenetic reconstructions of large plant genera from the Cape Floristic Region. SABiGG is funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

 

Significance of the Cape Floristic Region

The vast majority of our planet’s rich but threatened biota is found in “biodiversity hotspots”. Despite increasing awareness of our reliance on biodiversity, little is known about the environmental processes that promote speciation and cause extinction in these special areas. The southern tip of Africa known as the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) is generally considered the most distinctive of all floras, and is amongst the most diverse in the world. The CFR covers less than 0.5% of the total area of Africa but includes one fifth of all the plant species on the continent. Global comparison shows that the CFR count of 100 species per 1000 square km is much higher than comparable continental areas with Mediterranean climate (e.g. California, 13.1; South western Australia, 29.6), and is as high as the most diverse equatorial areas. The remarkable diversity of the CFR is attributed in large part to a number of genera that contain very large numbers of species. Understanding speciation in these large genera will go a long way to explaining why the area is so rich floristically. The South Africa Big Genera Group aims to determine the processes that have given rise to and maintain biodiversity in these large genera. In turn, this knowledge will provide a basis for maintaining and managing the biodiversity under increasing pressure from habitat fragmentation and climate change.

 

Objectives

Bringing together results from individual studies, SABiGG members aim to synthesise phylogenetic and biogeographical data for a significant number of South African large floral genera in order to meet the following scientific objectives:

 

bulletto determine the mode and tempo of radiations in the Cape Flora
bulletto discover centres of palaeo- and neo-endemism
bulletto explain why some Cape genera are spectacularly successful
bulletto infer environmental changes which have driven high levels of speciation in the Cape Flora
bulletto predict the future of biodiversity given anthropogenic climate change and habitat fragmentation