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School of Geography

Leaf morphospace–climate interactions: tracking leaf shape in space and time

Supervisor: Dr Karen Bacon (k.bacon(at)

Leaf shape can be highly variable both within and between species and variations in leaf size and shape can relate to changing environmental conditions. Flowering plants (angiosperms) have a greater variability (in general) than non-flowering plants, and woody angiosperms are known to have a strong relationship between climate and temperature, enabling reconstruction of palaeotemperature using well-preserved floras. However, the relationship between leaf morphospace (the occupation of space by leaves) and climate is understudied and there is little understanding of how morphospace occupation may change due to various environmental pressures, climate change, or changes in vegetation across biomes and through time. This project aims to address this gap in understanding by investigating leaf morphospace occupation in both modern and palaeo floras and how this variation relates to changing climates. Depending on the interests of the student, the project could involve museum work, field work and experimental studies (e.g. leaf shape response to temperature, CO2, other atmospheric gases).