BALKBIODIV - Insights into the plant diversity of the Balkan Peninsula
Project leader: Peter Schönswetter
Project members: Božo Frajman (University of Innsbruck, Institute of Botany), Antun Alegro, Sandro Bogdanović, Ivana Rešetnik (University of Zagreb), Dmitar Lakušić, Marjan Niketić, Gordana Tomović, Maja Lazarević, Nevena Kuzmanović (University of Beograd)
Funding: SEE-ERA.NET Plus
The Balkan flora is not only the richest in Europe but comprises also many endemics. Preservation of indigenous species and their habitats is therefore not only of national, but also of international importance. While species richness is still the most widely used measure for biodiversity assessments, recent molecular studies have shown that much of the “hidden”, intraspecific diversity is neither adequately reflected in taxonomy nor used in nature conservation. Another source of biodiversity is polyploidy (multiplication of chromosome sets), which was not only involved in the origin of most crop plants but is also considered one important mechanism allowing sympatric speciation. Ploidy level differences are not restricted to the species level, but also occur frequently within species. Polyploids have been shown to originate recurrently and to be successfully maintained, emphasising their evolutionary significance.
Applying a wide array of molecular techniques in combination with flow-cytometry, we aim to unravel the spatiotemporal evolution of three polyploid plant groups, which have their centres of diversity on the Balkan Peninsula, in order to uncover general mechanisms that contributed to the high levels of biodiversity of the Western Balkan countries. Several species included are important forage or ornamental plants, and some are of high nature-conservation priority in Balkan countries or are among top-listed in EU legislation.
Our team comprises scientists from the Universities of Innsbruck (Austria), Beograd (Serbia) and Zagreb (Croatia).