Project Title: Evolution of Asteraceae in the European Alps
Summary: The project is aimed at better understanding the role of polyploidy and chromosomal rearrangements as evolutionary drivers in alpine ecosystems. We seek delivering critical knowledge on plant speciation in high mountain ecosystems, bringing robust evidence and new insights on the pivotal role that genomic mechanisms play in enabling adaptation to environmental stress. Taking the Asteraceae as a model system, the project research is summarised in three main work packages: (WP1) Assembly of a new phylogenetic backbone of alpine Asteraceae flora using NGS and complemented with loci-based phylogenies through a supertree approach.
Chromosome and cytogenetic data, ecological variables and phenotypic traits will be gathered and integrated with the phylogenomic approach to enable detection of key factors and interactions involved in diversification processes in the Alps. (WP2)
The spacial distribution of different ploidies will be assessed in selected genera through a population-based approach. Those populations were multiple cytotypes coexist will be invaluable as they will provide the opportunity to model and predict how climate change will affect community community assemblages, identifying which cytotypes will be favoured and those that will be at higher risk in the face of global warming. (WP3) Pollinator communities and flower visit frequency will be assessed in relation to variation in ploidy levels and accounting for altitude. Pollinator monitoring will be carried out using motion detection devices. This will provide insights into whether different cytotypes are characterized by different pollinators and its potential link to shifts nectar chemistry.