This project will map the genetic and phylogenetic diversity of northeast Queensland rainforest plants and fungi with a focus
on the mountaintop species, which are regarded as among the most at risk from climate warming. The project consists of
two nested subprojects.
Project ‘a’ (PD analysis) will provide a broad scale analysis of patterns of genetic diversity across the NE Qld rainforests.
This study will investigate the relative performance of taxonomic richness and phylogenetic diversity measures for conservation
priority setting in the Wet Tropics and Cape York rainforest contexts. We will use the results to identify and map areas
of high biodiversity significance and investigate correlations with environmental and ecological variables. Preliminary results
to date show that areas with higher PD than expected contain a higher proportion of immigrant plant lineages dispersed mostly
from Southeast Asia within the past few million years. Our results demonstrate how the integration of historical data and
PD can more effectively inform conservation priority setting particularly in biomes with complex evolutionary histories.
Project ‘b’ (mountain-top diversity) takes a finer scale look at population-level genetic diversity in one highly restricted
rainforest ecosystem – mountain-top rainforest – projected to be most threatened by climate change. We will combine emerging
genetic technologies with environmental, ecological and morphological information to: 1) elucidate the location and relative
importance of high altitude refugia for plants in the Wet Tropics and Cape York Peninsula Bioregions and the mechanisms that
influence the survival of populations and species; and 2) document the fungal biodiversity of the mountain tops.