Title: Plant diversification in the tropics: why are there so many species in rainforests?
Tropical rainforests are famous for their biological “hyperdiversity”: they are estimated to harbor around half of the world’s species on less than 10 percent of the world’s land surface. Despite decades, if not centuries, of scientific interest, this exceptional concentration of biodiversity remains enigmatic. Evolutionary processes of speciation, extinction and migration are almost certainly implicated, but the data to measure them remain scarce. Phylogenetic methods, drawing on new genomic data, can help getting new insights into the evolutionary engine of rainforest hyperdiversity (https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.14516). This PhD project is part of TropiToL, a five-year project funded by the VILLUM foundation aiming to use the Tree of Life to understand the biological hyperdiversity of tropical rainforests. We will build and apply phylogenetic trees of plants at different scales, and use a combination of macroevolutionary and ecoinformatics methods to statistically test different candidate drivers of rainforest plant diversity. Plants are the structural and trophic foundation of terrestrial ecosystems, including rainforests, and can serve as a model to understand the biological richness of rainforests more broadly. This, in turn, can help us understand the processes that generate and maintain high biodiversity in general.