An award is made to the University of Hawai'i at Manoa to study the evolution and diversity of grammitid ferns, with a focus on tropical Asia and islands of the Pacific. Grammitid ferns comprise a significant component of the vascular epiphyte flora in forested ecosystems in the Paleotropics, especially at higher elevations; however, further research is hindered by the lack of clearly defined generic boundaries. The proposed research will conduct new molecular and morphological analyses of the Paleotropical grammitid ferns to elucidate their evolutionary history. Resulting hypotheses of relationships will be used to elucidate generic boundaries, defining genera by discrete morphological characters. This work will also undertake appropriate taxonomic revisions. Hypotheses of relationships will be used to explore the evolution of morphological characters and to test for correlations between changes in growth habit and changes in morphology across species, as well as to test biogeographical hypotheses that relate to possible mechanisms of speciation.
The proposed research will be broadly beneficial to society because it will resolve classification problems that are an impediment to other research efforts and conservation management. The proposed research will advance the discovery and understanding of diversity of grammitid ferns and, thus, add to our knowledge of the evolution of vascular plants. The project will involve international collaboration among scientists, provide critical postdoctoral training to a recent PhD graduate, as well as doctoral training to a graduate student and research experience for undergraduate students.