Humboldt in Journal of Biogeography

250 years ago (almost) Alexander von Humboldt was born, and became the “father of biogeography”. Journal of Biogeography decided to celebrate his birthday by publishing a ‘special issue‘ on Humboldt-related research, ranging from integrating geo- and biodiversity, to studying elevational and latitudinal diversity gradients and the impact of tectonism on biodiversity.

Portrait of Alexander von Humboldt by Joseph Karl Stieler, painted in 1843, and shows Humboldt with a copy of his major work, “Kosmos”, and is owned by the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin‐Brandenburg.

I contributed to three studies that were published in this special issue:

The first one I described in more detail in the last post – on how fruit traits in tropical plant families may explain historical long-distance dispersal events. Read more in the press release (in English or Dutch) or publication: Onstein, REKissling, WDChatrou, LWCouvreur, TLPMorlon, HSauquet, HWhich frugivory‐related traits facilitated historical long‐distance dispersal in the custard apple family (Annonaceae)? J Biogeogr.2019461874– 1888https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.13552.

The second one was led by Suzette Flantua and introduces one of the ideas that emerged during her PhD at the University of Amsterdam, where we met and discussed this idea extensively over coffee: that some of the extraordinary diversity in paramós (and mountains more generally) may have resulted from a process she named ‘flickering connectivity’. It’s the balance between connectivity (of populations) and disconnection over time that may drive speciation. In this publication we quantified this connectivity through the Pleistocene in the northern Andes, by making use of a pollen-core and detailed temperature reconstructions. To illustrate these ideas, one of the authors made this amazing video. Read more in the press-release: (in English or Dutch) and publication: Flantua, SGAO’Dea, AOnstein, REGiraldo, CHooghiemstra, HThe flickering connectivity system of the north Andean páramosJ Biogeogr2019461808– 1825https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.13607.

The third publication was led by Oskar Hagen, who is currently doing his PhD at the ETH in Zurich, Switserland (supervisor: Loïc Pellissier). He tries to understand how geological and biological processes interact in the generation of biodiversity (especially in mountains) – fitting very well in the Humboldt spirit. This publication addresses the origin of the Northern hemisphere mountain and Arctic floras, which have lots of lineages in common. Where did these lineages originate, and when? Where and when did cold ‘niches’ first emerge? To address these questions, we reconstructed cold niches throughout the Cenozoic by combining paleoclimate and paleoelevations, and combined these with species distribution data for cold-adapted taxa. Read more about it in the publication: Hagen, O, Vaterlaus, L, Albouy, C, et al. Mountain building, climate cooling and the richness of cold‐adapted plants in the Northern Hemisphere. J Biogeogr. 2019; 46: 1792– 1807. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.13653.

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