The Third Network for Neotropical Biogeography meeting took place at the University of the Andes in Bogotá last week. The meeting was attended by 150 delegates from a multitude of countries from the region, Europe and North America. The organization was seamless thanks largely to the efforts of Professor Santiago Madriñán who is RBGE’s main collaborator in Colombia. The meeting began with workshops on Marine Biogeography and an introduction to spatial analysis using R by another RBGE collaborator, Ivan Jimenez from Missouri Botanical Garden. This was followed by workshops on Conservation planning organized by representatives from the Von Humboldt Institute and R methods by Luke Harmon from the University of Idaho. The final workshop outlined processes for applying for collection permits in a number of Latin America countries and also highlighted some examples of international collaborations .
The organizers aimed to mix talks with early and advanced stage researchers working on a diverse range of organisms. Thus, undergraduates spoke before experienced researchers in an informal setting. Us botanists were able to learn about the biology and biogeography of caecilians to pseudoscorpions. A key message was the apparent lack of adaptability of organisms to climatic changes over geological time scales. Animals seem to be under a similarly severe risk as plants to anthropogenic climatic changes that are occurring over much shorter time periods.
The rbgeColombia team was well represented at the meeting….
From left to right: Dayana Sanchez (working on her Masters project on DNA barcoding of Micropholis at La Universidad Distrital), Javier Luna, Eugenio Valderrama, James Richardson, Tiina Sarkinen, Julieth Serrano, Santiago Madriñán, Ivan Jimenez (who collaborates on projects with Julieth Serrano on Sapotaceae distributions) and Karina Banda. Thanks to all of them for putting on a great show and demonstrating the tremendous advances RBGE is making in furthering our knowledge of Colombian biodiversity.
The NNB, initiated by Alex Antonelli of the University of Gothenburg, continues to grow at an extraordinarily rapid rate. The next meeting will be in Panamá this time next year.
Our paper on Páramo diversification has been featured in the Colombian magazine Semana….
The 7th of November issue of the New York Times included an article by Carl Zimmer that focused on our recent paper on Páramo diversification. You can read the article at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/science/high-above-sea-level-evolutionary-hot-spots.html?hpw&rref=science&_r=0.
The Neotropics is the most species-rich region on Earth. The Network for Neotropical Biogeography was established to encourage interaction amongst scientists from multiple disciplines to help us to try to understand the mechanisms underlying the historical assembly and evolution of this extreme biodiversity. The third meeting of the Network will take place at the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia on the 9th and 10th of January 2014. Information about the meeting including confirmed speakers and field expeditions can be found at nnb3.uniandes.edu.co/.
We hope to welcome a diverse array of scientists to Bogotá.
We have had an article published in The Scotsman newspaper highlighting the importance of our reseach in Colombia. The online version of the article is here…
The high altitude Páramo ecosystems of Northwest South and Central America cover very small areas geographically but are packed with species, 3500 in a total area that is half that of Scotland that only has 1000 species. This region has been the subject of studies by rbgeColombia collaborator Santiago Madriñán of the University of the Andes. Together with Andrés Cortés, now studying for a PhD at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, we have recently published a paper that determines that this ecosystem is the fastest evolving biodiversity hotspot on earth. Species evolve over shorter periods in Páramo than in other hotspots. Despite it being located in the tropics the fact that it is found in the high Andes means that it experiences extremely cold night time temperatures that also make it the coolest hotspot on earth. We hope that our work will demonstrate the importance of Páramo, not only from the point of view of evolutionary studies, but also because this ecosystem provides valuable services as it harbours many of the reservoirs that provide water for cities throughout the Andean region. The ecosystem is threatened by climate change, mining activity and agricultural expansion. In the face of increasing temperatures plants have three options, to adapt to the changes, to migrate or to go extinct. Our work demonstrates that their capacity to adapt is low. Whether they can migrate fast enough to survive seems unlikely and, being high alpine plants, they have only a limited area into which they can migrate.
The paper can be found in the journal Frontiers in Genetics at http://www.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fgene.2013.00192/abstract
Laguna de San Rafael, Parque Nacional Natural Puracé, Cauca, Colombia. Photo: María Camila Gómez-Gutiérrez.
rbgeColombia team member María Camila Gómez-Gutiérrez continues to study this region by determining in more detail how populations of species in the sedge genus Oreobolus and a genus in the Melastomataceae family, Castratella, may have been affected by climate changes over the course of the last two million years.
Through our work we aim to highlight the plight of the Páramo and other unique and valuable ecosystems.
Parque Nacional Natural Sumapaz, Cundinamarca, Colombia. Photo: María Camila Gómez-Gutiérrez.
In June we flew to the Colombian Pacific Coastal department of Chocó to search for representatives of RBGE focus families Sapotaceae, Gesneriaceae, Zingiberaceae and Begoniaceae. The team comprised students from Universidad Distrital: Dayana Sanchez, Alejandra Chaparro and Miriam Reina and we were hosted by the Pacific Botanic Garden (jardinbotanicodelpacifico.org) that is located a short boat ride from the town of Bahia Solano. The short trip allowed us to assess the vegetation and collect in the Nature Reserve that has been created by the Botanic Garden. Gesneriaceae were particularly rich with close to 20 species collected aided by our Embera guide Antonio whose phenomenal knowledge of the local flora made our job much easier.
Drymonia sp. (Gesneriaceae)
The bay is famous as a breeding site for whales although we arrived just before they did so were unable to see them. The Chocó is the second wettest place on earth and during our stay we experienced some extremely violent and spectacular thunderstorms one of which kept us awake for pretty much an entire night!
Collecting along the river.
Miriam with technical assistant.
A mangrove resident.
RBGE continues to explore poorly studied regions in Colombia to enhance our knowledge of the most biodiverse places on earth.
Some photos from this years installment of Colombian delights. This year Maca and Eugenio got roped in to talk about their research. Eugenio described the cloud forests that can contain as many as 2000 species in a five kilometre radius around certain points of the Andes mountains. He also described the grasslands of the llanos.
Maca talked of the sky islands of the Páramo where 3000 species have diversified in small areas of the high Andes with unparalleled rates of evolution.
Ann talked of the indigenous culture. Eighty different tribes are found within Colombia’s borders.
Khantara provided the music. Songs from different regions of Colombia.
Photo: Hon W Yau.
The crowd participated in our human chagra recreation. The creation of the Amazonian indigenous garden involves forest clearing, planting, harvesting and eventually replacement of cultivated plants by those from the original forest so that the area returns to its original state.
Maca and Maria looked after the Páramo mural
Lorna (http://www.tagua-designs.com) was busy helping to make jewellery…
…and later 120 people enjoyed the European premier of Apaporis in RBGE’s new lecture theatre introduced by Director Antonio Dorado and Maca.
All photos Suzanne Harris except otherwise indicated.