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School of Geography

Long term ecological stability and evolution in African plants

Supervisors: Prof Jon Lovett

Distribution of biological diversity is far from random. Many species are clustered together in about 20 ‘hotspots’ of diversity and endemism. The biodiversity hotspot in eastern Tanzania is centred around a range of ancient crystalline mountains and is remarkable in that patterns of species richness do not follow trends expected by established biological theory. For example alpha diversity of woody plants in forests remains constant over a 2-kilometre change in elevation. A possible explanation for the observed patterns is that the area has been under an exceptionally long period of ecological stability, which has lead to both the high level of endemism and equilibration of diversity over environmental gradients. This project will explore these patterns and test the environmental stability hypothesis.