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Abstract Detail

The North American Coastal Plain: a Global Biodiversity Hotspot

Weakley, Alan [1], Permar, Alexandra [1], Sorrie, Bruce [2].

Location, location, location (the rich get richer): the deep phylogenetic diversity of the North American Coastal Plain just keeps on giving.

The flora of the North American Coastal Plain (NACP) is deceptively complicated and deceptively rich for a landscape often deemed "young, flat, boring, and vermin-infested". The NACP has been occupied by terrestrial organisms since the Cretaceous, and is positioned at the edge of a land mass that has been constantly available for occupation by vascular land plants (and other organisms) since before there were land plants -- facts that belie its geologic "youth" as an area of erosional deposition from the Appalachian Mountains. Moreover, it and its adjacent inland "hard rock" provinces have broadly alternated from boreal to tropical climates over the past half billion years, but have also consistently harbored refugia in limited areas of the landscape able to support subtropical lineages during cold periods, and able to support cool temperate and boreal lineages during warm periods. The Southeastern United States has thus served as a major refugium of broad phylogenetic lineages and source of evolutonary continuity of vascular plant flora second only to eastern and southeastern Asia. In North America, the NACP floristic province has been recognized by Takhtajan and other biogeographers as one of the most distinctive and most sharply bordered, but its distinctiveness remains underappreciated. High levels of endemism (with over 1500 endemic vascular plants, and high levels of endemism in other plant and animal groups) highlight the distinctiveness and biodiversity significance of the NACP. In addition to endemics, high levels of disjunction occur at a various phylogenetic levels with boreal ecoregions of North America and Eurasia, the Neotropics (especially the West Indies, but also Central America and temperate South America), and Madrean ecoregions of southwestern United States and Mexico. An analysis of the floristic diversity of the NACP shows that is supports levels of species richness as high as other areas in the temperate New World, and exceeding all other areas in North America in phylogenetic diversity at higher phylogenetic levels (generic and familial).

Broader Impacts:

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1 - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Biology, Cb 3280, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599-3280, USA
2 - North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, NC, USA

North American Coastal Plain

Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: SY08
Location: Elmwood/Riverside Hilton
Date: Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
Time: 2:15 PM
Number: SY08003
Abstract ID:848
Candidate for Awards:None

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