Type of event:
How organisms are constructed is thought to have evolved based on ecological selective pressures. The water transport system in flowering plants (angiosperms) is one such trait. It is made of conduits (tracheids and vessels) that need to safely and efficiently move water from the roots to the leaves for photosynthesis. Larger diameter conduits can move water more quickly but are believed to be at greater risk of embolisms (air bubbles) due to drought and freezing than smaller diameter conduits. Here I present two global studies in which we examined 1. the traits angiosperms evolved (changes in woody/herbaceous growth form, evergreen/deciduous leaf phenology and conduit size) to live in novel environments, 2. how conduit size evolved with shifts in free standing/climbing growth habit along environmental gradients. These studies were made possible due to global databases in plant names, phylogenies, locations, and traits. I show results of a third study in which we evaluated the current status and challenges of these databases.
Amy Zanne is an Associate Professor in Biological Sciences at George Washington University (GWU). She joined GWU in 2012 after 4 years at University of Missouri – St. Louis. She spent time at Duke University, the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, University of California – Berkeley, Macquarie University, University of Minnesota and Tufts University as a postdoctoral scholar. Her undergraduate was at Dartmouth College. Research in the Zanne lab examines why and how community composition changes across ecological settings and evolutionary time scales as well as what the ecosystem-level consequences are of these changes. There are two main themes in the lab: 1. Macroevolution and macroecology of plant and fungal function using global databases and 2. The afterlife consequences of plant construction on rates and forms of carbon turnover as mediated by different decay agents.