EUNOPS 2008 Abstracts - The Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle in Merano (Italy), May 24 - 25.


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The EU-PALMS project
Henrik Balslev

Tropical forests harbour thousands of useful plants that are harvested and used in subsistence economies or traded in local, regional or international markets. Effects on the ecosystem are little known, and the forests' resilience is badly understood. Palms are the most useful group of plants in tropical American forests and the PALMS project studies effects of extraction and trade of palms on forest in northwestern South America, i.e., the western Amazon, the Andes and the Pacific lowlands. PALMS will determine the size of the resource by making palm community studies in different forest formations and determine numbers of species and individuals of all palm species. The genetic structure of useful palm species will be studied to determine how much harvesting of palms contributes to genetic erosion of their populations, and whether extraction can be made without harm. We then determine how much palms are used for subsistence purposes by carrying out quantitative, ethnobotanical research in different forest types and then we study trade patterns for palm products from local markets to markets which involve export to other countries and continents. Palm populations are managed in various ways from sustainable ones to destructive harvesting; we will study different ways in which palms are managed and propose sustainable methods to local farmers, local governments, NGOs and other interested parties. Finally we will study national level mechanisms that govern extraction, trade and commercialization of palm products, to identify positive and negative policies in relation to resilience of ecosystems and use this to propose sustainable policies to the governments. The results will be communicated in a variety of ways, depending on need and stake holders, from popular leaflets and videos for farmers, reports for policy makers, press packets to the press to scientific publication for the research community. The team behind the proposal represents 10 universities and research institutions in Europe and northwestern South America.

The EUNOPS website and some EDIT gadgets for e-taxonomy: an update

Soraya Villalba and Bill Baker

In this meeting I will give you an update of EDIT's activities and products, focusing on those most relevant for the palm scientific community.

The palm exemplar group has continued its main task of gathering taxonomic content for Palmweb, while the development of the portal has moved from the prototype to the production phase. In addition, and as a consequences of the 2007 meeting, we have launched the EUNOPS website ( It has been created as a scratchpad, an open source content management system set up and adapted by EDIT developers for use by scientific research communities. It went live in October 2007 diplaying information about EUNOPS meetings. The system, however, is very flexible and allows users to create and manage content, image galleries, forums and files. I will describe the functionality the website offers to EUNOPS members.

One of the main EDIT products is the platform for e-Taxonomy, which consists of a set of desktop and web applications to aid taxonomists in doing their research and disseminate their work. I will introduce the platform components, paying special attention to the Taxonomic Editor, an application for managing the taxonomic content that will become the tool to access and update the palm taxonomy displayed in Palmweb.

Investigating sex determination in the palm family
James Tregear, Frédérique Aberlenc, Hélène Adam, Nathalie Chabrillange, Abdourahman Daher, Myriam Collin

Sex determination is of key importance in the Arecaceae, influencing both the productivity of cultivated species and the population dynamics of palms growing in natural ecosystems. Palms show numerous different modes of sex determination, including hermaphroditism, monoecy, dioecy and various intermediate states. The Palm Group in Montpellier has been working for a number of years on the differentiation of the palm flower and the genes which regulate this process. Our initial studies were focused on the monoecious species Elaeis guineensis (the African oil palm) and in particular on the role of homeotic genes in determining flower structure. In 2007 we initiated new studies on sex determination, using the dioecious species Phoenix dactylifera (date palm) as our main experimental model. Our objective is to gain an insight into the molecular basis of sex determination in this species, with the longer term aim of extending this knowledge to include other members of the family. Ultimately, we hope that this work will provide a means to unravel the evolutionary events which have led to the wide variety of reproductive modes seen within the palm family.

Floral structure and systematics in the palm (Arecaceae) complex: Chelyocarpus-Cryosophila-Itaya
Castaño A. F. and Stauffer F. W.

The taxonomic relationships among the palm genera Chelyocarpus, Cryosophila and Itaya are studied on the basis of their floral structure. Floral morphology and anatomy were analyzed using the 2-hidroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA) resin and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The three genera have hermaphrodite flowers and apocarpic gynoecia. Chelyocarpus has 2, 3 or 4 free or congenitally united sepals and 2-3 distinct petals. The 5-8 stamens are free. Anthers are dorsifixed. The 1-3 carpels are ascidiate, being plicate only in the papillate stigma. The ovule is hemianatropous. The funicle is papillate, forming a secretory aril. The pollen tube transmitting tract is weakly secretory; it reaches the ovule by surrounding the funiculus. In Cryosophila, the three sepals are basally connate. Petals are free. The filaments are congenitally united forming a membranaceous tube. Anthers are basifixed, dehiscence latrorse. The 3 carpels are ascidiate until mid-length, and then plicate towards the papillate stigma. Itaya has 2-3 connate sepals and 2 petals adnate to the androecium. The 12-17 stamens are congenitally united. Anthers are versatile and dorsifixed. The gynoecium is unicarpellate. The carpel is recovered throughout with papillae. Our preliminary results show that the three genera can be differentiated on the base of their floral structure.

Geometric morphometry of leaf apices as a taxonomic and phenotyping tool in Phoenix
Pintaud J.-C., Caro-Riano H., Castellana R. and Littardi C.

Geometric morphometry, i.e. quantification of shape variation, is a widely used class of statistics in animal, and to a lesser extant, plant biology. Few studies of that kind have been performed or are going on in palms. Acquisition of two-dimensional geometric information on leaf apices of Phoenix is extremely easy and versatile, using numeric photography directly in the field or better in the lab, with a minimum of material. This can be performed only on apices in Phoenix leaves as pinnae insertion become often three-dimentional at a short distance from the apex; For this reason, the shape of the apex is determined on the basis of landmarks positioned on the five distal pairs of pinnae more the terminal one. Multivariate analysis and distance-based phylograms allow to separate species, provide hypotheses of relationships, and also allow varietal recognition in Phoenix dactylifera.

Towards a revision of Heterospathe in New Guinea
Melinda Trudgen and William Baker

As part of the Palms of New Guinea project we are undertaking a revision of Papuasian Heterospathe species, a widespread genus that occurs from the Philippines to New Guinea and the islands of the west Pacific. Initial work has focused on the H. elegans species complex, which also includes H. humilis and H. versteegiana. The group was once recognised as a separate genus, Barkerwebbia, and is differentiated from other species by its elongate inflorescences which are strongly exserted from the crown. This species group is the most commonly encountered of all Heterospathe species in New Guinea and is relatively well represented in Herbaria. It is highly variable and at first glance appears to comprise many taxa. However, thanks in part to the high quality of some collections made by palm specialists, we have been able to interpret the variation with some confidence and have reached a robust taxonomic conclusion. In this talk we present an overview of the genus Heterospathe, as well as the results of our study of the H. elegans complex and our future plans.

Systematics of the Tribe Caryoteae

Marc Jeanson

Tribe Caryoteae includes three genera - Arenga DC ex Labill. (about 25 species), Caryota L.(12 species), and Wallichia Roxb. (8 species). The goals of this work consist of a revision of the tribe. This revision will be carried out using extant and newly-collected herbarium specimens. The relationships of the species will be investigated using molecular data, in order to better understand the phylogeny of the group - especially concerning the position of two newly-described and unusual species of Caryota. Species delimitations and in some cases biogeography will be more fully investigated, as well as the diversity of sexual systems (especially in Arenga). The results of the work will be a modern revision and phylogeny of this interesting tribe of palms.

Genetic and habitat differentiation of Geonoma macrostachys (Arecaceae) Western Amazonian varieties
Julissa Roncal, Javier Francisco-Ortega, and Carl E. Lewis

The latest taxonomic account for the palms of the Amazon recognizes two common and widespread varieties of Geonoma macrostachys (Arecaceae) in Western Amazonia: acaulis and macrostachys. These varieties are joined by intermediates, which obscure their taxonomic boundaries. An evaluation of the genetic distinctness between G. macrostachys varieties at a regional scale, and the habitat preference of sympatric varieties is presented. Twenty-seven ISSR primers were used, and of the 99 ISSR bands produced, 51.52% were polymorphic. Clustering, ordination and AMOVA suggested a lack of genetic distinctness between varieties at the regional level. A hierarchical AMOVA revealed that the genetic diversity in G. macrostachys mainly lies among localities (76.58%). We studied habitat differentiation with respect to edaphic, topographic, and light conditions in three Peruvian forests. Results showed that the two varieties were mostly encountered in different physiographically defined habitats. Principal component analysis of a plot by environmental variables matrix segregated plots and varieties by habitat in each forest. Edaphic factors, primarily soil texture and K content, contributed more than light conditions to this differentiation. Our results suggest a local phenotypic diversification resulting in unrelated morphological forms, and habitat differentiation might play a role in the local coexistence of these closely related taxa.

Palm diversity patterns in the New World - assessing the roles of climate, ecology, and evolution using ecoinformatics
J.-C. Svenning, S. Bjorholm, H. Balslev

The palm family is highly diverse in the New World and its members often constitute an important component of the vegetation in the tropical and subtropical parts of the region. However, palm species richness and taxonomic composition exhibits strong geographic patterns across the palm-inhabited parts of the Americas. Here, we use sophisticated geospatial ecoinformatics to elucidate the underlying ecological and evolutionary-historical drivers. As a key result, we find that although currrent climate is strong determinant of palm species richness, this relationship has a strong evolutionary component: the geographic richness patterns appear to predominantly be the result of elevated net diversification rates towards the equator and in warm, wet climates, sustained throughout most of Tertiary. Supplementary ecological experiments shed light on the success of palms in warm, wet environments. However, there are also additional historical constraints on the diversity patterns, notably as related to the biogeographic history of the palm lineages. When considering taxonomic composition, the evolutionary-historical constraints are even more pronounced than for species richness.

Geographic distribution and diversity pattern of the African palm flora
Anne Overgaard, Jens-Christian Svenning and Henrik Balslev

A geographic database for all African palms is being developed and forms the basis for predicting distributions of African palm species by combining known occurrence records with digital layers of environmental variables through the use of Ecological Niche Modeling methods. Distributions of selected species will be presented to demonstrate possibilities for examining factors, such as contemporary climate or historical/evolutionary processes that control distributions of African palm species and the derived diversity pattern.

Distance decay in Amazonian floodplain palm communities
Dennis Pedersen, Thea Kristiansen, Cesar Grandez, Jens-Christian Svenning, Henrik Balslev

We investigate the role of dispersal limitation in palm communities on the floodplains relative to terra firma forests in the north Peruvian Amazonian rainforest. Dispersal limitation predicts a higher degree of similarity in community composition between sites closer to each other, and it is our hypothesis that floodplains will have a reduced distance decay of similarity compared to terra firma, due to the effective dispersal provided by rivers and the stressful environment for the species on floodplains which would create a community of few and similarly adapted species.

Is local palm use by rural Amazonian communities constrained by the diversity and abundance of palms locally and regionally?
Sandie Lykke Hansen, Cesar Grandez, Jens-Christian Svenning, Henrik Balslev

From an ethnobotanical perspective we attempt to clarify to which degree knowledge and use of palms is correlated with diversity and abundance of the palm species in an area. We made 128 structured interviews with mostly mestizo residents in 23 villages near Iquitos, Peru. By means of photographs of 82 palm species people were asked about their knowledge and use of the palms. These data are compared to abundance data for the same palm species collected in 66 transects (5x500m) located on terra firma and floodplains near the same villages where we conducted ethno-botanical interviews.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith