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Genetic diversity of tropical bryophytes

Genetic diversity of tropical bryophytes along altitudinal gradients in Southeast Asia

Supervisors
Michael Stech
Sylivia Mota de Oliviera
Eka Iskandar (PhD student)

Contact
michael.stech@naturalis.nl
sylvia.motadeoliviera@naturalis.nl

Period & duration
6-9 months

Study & level
Biology, MSc or BSc

Background & context
Bryophytes are important components of tropical forests, especially montane rain forests, in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Epiphytic bryophytes are particularly diverse and form the main part of bryophyte diversity in the tropics. Patterns of species richness and community composition of epiphytic bryophytes are supposed to be closely associated to environmental variation, both at small and large scale, such as along an altitudinal gradient. However, these patterns remain incompletely known. Rather few studies have investigated the relationship between elevation and bryophyte species richness, and only a part of these studies focus on epiphytic bryophytes. The importance of altitude as a possible driver of genetic diversity has been widely acknowledged, but respective studies with bryophytes are only beginning to appear. This study focuses on bryophytes collected along altitudinal transects in Gede-Pangrango National Park, a hyperdiverse tropical mountain rainforest area in West Java, Indonesia.

Objectives & goals
To investigate whether altitude has an influence on genetic diversity of species of different main lineages of liverworts and mosses along altitudinal gradients.

Methods, tasks & approach
DNA sequencing of non-coding DNA markers, analyses of genetic diversity (haplotype diversity), testing whether genetic diversity correlates with other diversity variables for different altitudinal levels. Analyzing species delimitations and comparing genetic diversity with morphological character variation can be included as well. Taking part in a field trip to Gede-Pangrango National Park to collect plant material and to study mosses in their natural environment is a possibility, depending upon the availability of funding, permits, and facilities in research stations.

Requirements
BSc degree in biology (in case of a bachelor’s project completion of the 1st and 2nd year of the biology programme).