Seeking to understand the origin of the forest

Seeking to understand the origin of the forest

In a joint effort to explain the biological diversity of Amazonia and the Atlantic Forest, biologists and geologists have created the new field of geogenomics

MARIA GUIMARÃES  

© LÉO RAMOS

Dried and pressed branches are stored as records of plant species, like this Pyrostegia venusta

Dried and pressed branches are stored as records of plant species, like this Pyrostegia venusta

 

For as much as biologists explore the ground, trees and bodies of water, they still appear to be far from gauging and explaining the biological diversity of the tropical forests. And by the same token, there is no explanation for how and when mountains, rivers and everything that lies beneath the forest emerged. Projects focused on Amazonia and the Atlantic Forest are now searching for answers: biologists and geologists are joining forces to find a way to decipher that history, in a field that geologist Paul Baker of Duke University labeled geogenomics in 2014. This new field of study has been given significant impetus by the collaboration between the Biota-FAPESP program and Dimensions of Biodiversity, a program of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the principal science funding agency in the United States. “Projects of this nature require a participatory approach from the time the questions are first being hammered out,” comments botanist Lúcia Lohmann of the Biosciences Institute at the University of São Paulo (IB-USP). Lohmann and American ornithologist Joel Cracraft of the American Museum of Natural History head the first project to cement such a partnership, focused on Amazonia. Read more.