A substantial fraction of the world's biodiversity is made up of species that are morphologically indistinguishable from other species (i.e. "cryptic species"). Efforts to preserve and protect global diversity rely on an understanding of how and why these cryptic species evolve and coexist. In this project, the moss genus Scleropodium will be used to examine how cryptic species coexist along a terrestrial/aquatic environmental gradient in California. Specimens will be collected and two of their genes will be sequenced to determine their identity. Ecological data collected for each specimen will be analyzed to determine how the species in question are distributed relative to each other and to the environment.

Mosses perform important roles in carbon cycling in the northern latitudes, in water cycling in the tropics, and as constituents of biotic soil crusts in deserts. Despite their diversity and importance, mosses remain a poorly understood group of organisms. In California where this study will take place, new taxa continue to be discovered even as land development continues to reduce the amount of habitat necessary for current and future diversity. The fine scale ecological data captured in this study will prove useful in understanding the evolutionary processes and requirements necessary for maintenance of current and future species diversity.

Project Report

A substantial fraction of the world’s biodiversity is made up of species that are morphologically indistinguishable from other species. Efforts to preserve and protect global diversity rely on an understanding of how and why these cryptic species evolve and coexist. In this project, the moss genus Scleropodium was used to examine how cryptic species coexist along a terrestrial/aquatic environmental gradient in California. Plant specimens were collected and their DNA sequenced to determine their identity, correct classification, and geographic extent. Ecological data collected for each specimen were analyzed to determine how the species in question are distributed relative to each other and to the physical environment. Mosses perform important ecological roles in carbon cycling, nutrient cycling, water cycling, and as constituents of biotic soil crusts. Despite their diversity and importance, mosses remain a poorly understood group of organisms. In California, where this study took place, new species continue to be discovered even as land development continues to reduce the amount of habitat necessary for current and future diversity. The fine scale ecological data captured in this study will prove useful in understanding the evolutionary processes and requirements necessary for maintenance of current and future species diversity. The new species recognized as a result of this study has added another element to our understanding of biodiversity in California.

Agency
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Institute
Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)
Type
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
1110849
Program Officer
Robb Brumfield
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-06-01
Budget End
2012-11-30
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$12,560
Indirect Cost
Name
University of California Berkeley
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
Berkeley
State
CA
Country
United States
Zip Code
94704