Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 11253111
Founded in 1893, The Field Museum is dedicated to studying the Earth and its people. It is one of the world’s leading natural science research institutions and an education resource for millions worldwide. At its core are collections of nearly 25 million scientific specimens that document the history of life on Earth. Combining the fields of Anthropology, Botany, Geology, Paleontology and Zoology, the Museum uses an interdisciplinary approach to increasing knowledge about the past, present and future of the physical earth, its plants, animals, people, and their cultures. In doing so, it seeks to uncover the extent and character of biological and cultural diversity, similarities and interdependencies so that we may better understand, respect, and celebrate nature and other people. The Museum’s herbarium was established in 1894 following the World’s Columbian Exposition. Today, over 100 major botanical expeditions have established the Field’s herbarium as one of the world's preeminent repositories of plants, with almost three million specimens. In particular, the Botany Department’s bryophyte (mosses, liverworts and hornworts) collections are considered of worldwide significance chiefly due to its strong representation of from the Neotropics and the southern hemisphere, including Oceania. The project outlined here focuses on Fiji, yet will have broad ramifications for the islands of the South Pacific. Conservation International identified all the islands of Micronesia and Polynesia, including the islands of Fiji, as one of the thirty-five biodiversity hotspots in the world, and is referred to as the Polynesia-Micronesia hotspot. Alarmingly, Conservation International recognized this hotspot as the epicenter of the current global extinction crisis; Fiji alone has less than 2% of its natural forest protected. Only scant data exist for liverworts (living descendants of the earliest land plants) compared to many animal and seed plant groups of the region. Liverworts belong to the green land plant division technically referred as Marchantiophyta. Yet, these organisms are considered to be of great evolutionary and ecological significance. The framework of the project outlined here builds on the principal investigators program in Fiji, which has broad ramifications including the biodiversity, conservation and biogeography of liverworts from the region.
For more information about the project, including recent activities, please see: http://fieldmuseum.org/explore/biodiversity-studies-fiji-cryptogams-ferns-bryophytes-and-lichens
The requested funds will review the conservation status of 245 extremely poorly known liverwort species from Polynesia/Micronesia. Funds will also be used to carry out fieldwork to investigate 60 target species from Fiji and nearby Samoa. The majority of these plants grow in threatened habitats of high elevation cloud forest and lowland Agathis forest (Fijian Kauri). These early land plants play a major ecological role, forming an important and conspicuous component of the vegetation in many regions of the world, including the Pacific islands. The small size of these organisms enables them to respond rapidly to environmental and ecological change offering them great utility in conservation science. For example, liverworts play a significant role in the global carbon budget, plant succession, and nutrient cycling. As such, they have been used as indicators of past climate change, to validate climate models, and as early indicators of global warming.
Project 11253111 location - Fiji, Oceania