Canopy tree population genomics and foliar chemistry

BCI2011RGBCanopy trees are long-lived organisms that produce a staggering number of offspring (seeds) in their lifetimes, very few of which will survive through juvenile life stages to eventually become adults themselves. What sets apart these proven winners in the competition for a position in the canopy? This project addresses this question in two ways. By generating time series of high-resolution satellite data over a Tropical Moist Forest in Panama we have mapped proven winners – reproductive adults – for three tree species. The species are Dipteryx panamensis, Handroanthus (formerly Tabebuia) guayacan, and Jacaranda copaia. These species can be identified using broad-band satellite data because they produce conspicuous floral displays for a few days each year. By timing satellite data acquisition with flowering phenology, we can accumulate samples of individuals through time.

With support from the National Science Foundation, we are sequencing the genomes of two of these species and relating differences in DNA to foliar chemical properties of leaves that can be detected from airborne imaging spectroscopy (the Carnegie AToMS sensor). Combining information from population genomics with foliar chemistry will help to disentangle population-level genealogies and the determinants of chemical phenotypes.

Collaborators: Gregory P. Asner (Carnegie Institution for Science), Brant Faircloth (Louisiana State University), Stephen P. Hubbell (UCLA), Jim Kellner (Brown University)