Project 3.2 'What is at risk? Identifying rainforest refugia and hotspots of plant genetic diversity in the Wet Tropics and Cape York Peninsula'

Project 3.2 'What is at risk? Identifying rainforest refugia and hotspots of plant genetic diversity in the Wet Tropics and Cape York Peninsula'

This project will better characterise biodiversity refugia in north-east Queensland rainforests by assessing genetic diversity at landscape scale in rainforest plants and fungi.

Australia’s tropical rainforests of far north Queensland are internationally renowned for preserving one of the most complete and continuous records of Earth’s evolutionary history, and harbours much of the remaining Gondwanan flora that was once widespread across the continent. Little is known however, about the distribution of this evolutionary history within the region, particularly for plants and fungi. Where are the hotspots of evolutionary history and what correlations exist between these and hotspots of taxonomic richness and endemism? This study will investigate the distribution of plant and fungal taxonomic richness, endemism, and genetic diversity (as a measure of evolutionary history) across the Wet Tropics Bioregion at the level of genus, species, and population. This information will provide a solid foundation for conservation prioritisation efforts in the region.

The project consists of two nested subprojects. Project ‘A’ will provide a broad scale analysis of patterns of genetic diversity (as phylogenetic diversity, which measures evolutionary history/distinctiveness) across the north-east Queensland rainforests. Project ‘B’ takes a finer scale look at population-level genetic diversity in one highly restricted rainforest ecosystem – mountain-top rainforest – projected to be most threatened by climate change.

Project objectives at a glance

  • Maps of taxonomic richness and phylogenetic diversity across the study region will enable the identification of conservation priorities at a bioregional scale.
  • Assessment of genetic diversity of mountain-top floras and/or other postulated refugia to enable effective prioritisation of conservation efforts.  Identification of populations that are potentially more resilient to climate change.
  • Report on an updated assessment of conservation priorities for the Wet Tropics Bioregion as inferred from genetic data.
  • Taxonomic publications describing new and/or revised species of plants and fungi.

Specific objectives and intended outputs of this Project are detailed in the NERP TE Hub Multi-Year Research Plan.

Final Report

What is at risk? Identifying rainforest refugia and hotspots of plant genetic diversity in the Wet Tropics bio-region

Project Factsheet


Link to the Project 3.2 homepage on e-Atlas



Project Duration: 
31 Jul 2011 to 31 Dec 2014


Project People

Project Outputs