First family tree for tropical forests

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First family tree for tropical forests

Context:

A new discovery published in the international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, necessitates a new classification system for plant communities

About the Study:

  • To classify tropical forests based on their genetic relationships, scientists contributed almost one million tree samples of 15,000 species from tree plots across 400 locations in the world.
  • Indian scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Pondicherry University, Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Bharathiar University, International Institute of Information Technology, Sigur Nature Trust (SNT) and the Kerala Forest Research Institute also contributed to this data.
  • Incorporating genetic information of these species, a family tree was built in order to see how these trees are related to each other through millions of years of evolution.
  • Finally, five major forest regions were identified in the tropics

Highlights of the Study:

  • Five major forest regions have been identified in the tropics: the Indo-Pacific, Subtropical, African, American and Dry forests.
  • Tropical forests in Africa and South America are closely related, with most of the differences between them occurring within the last 100 million years.
  • This likely reflects patterns of plate tectonics, as South America and Africa broke apart resulting in the formation of the Atlantic Ocean that started approximately 140 million years ago.
  • Dry forests found in India, America, Africa and Madagascar are also closely related to each other.

Significance of the Study:

  • The results of the study are important in botanical research
  • This study could help researchers predict the resilience or susceptibility of different forests to global environmental changes more accurately.
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