Vegetal diversity, genome evolution and ethnobotany

The research interests of the group are divided into two main lines. On the one hand, we focus on the study of changes taking place in plant genomes, under an evolutionary perspective. On the other hand, we investigate the traditional knowledge of plants and compile potential uses and applications.

The IBB-CSIC group consist of two Tenured Scientists, two Ramón y Cajal researchers, two post-doctoral researchers, two pre-doctoral researchers and a Garantía Juvenil lab technician. Members of the group work in close collaboration with researchers at the Laboratory of Botany (CSIC-Associated Unit) of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the Universitat de Barcelona, as well as with other national and international research groups (www.etnobiofic.cat).

 
General objective:

Within the first research line our approaches aim at reconstructing extant plant diversity, mainly wild non-model species, but also in crops. By characterising plant genomes, we progress in our understanding on how genomes are organised and the evolutionary processes taking place in them. The second research line is focused on the study of agroecosystems, ethnoflora and traditional knowledge. By collecting popular knowledge on plant uses we preserve the cultural heritage, which will serve as the basis for future research programmes focusing on the development of new medicines and alternative food sources. The knowledge arising from both lines is integrated in multidisciplinary studies on species with biocultural and medical or alimentary relevance.

Specific objectives:

In the field of plant diversity and genome evolution our main goals are:

  • to investigate plant diversity through the integration of data from phenotypic (including geometric morphometrics), karyologic, cytogenetic, genomic and phylogenomic approaches.
  • to reconstruct the phylogenetic history in certain plant groups, analysing key factors contributing to species evolution.
  • to analyse the underlying genetic basis of morphologic novelties in plants and their diversification (evo-devo studies).
  • to study population dynamics from a multidisciplinary point of view (genetic, morphologic and phytochemical), with the purpose of conserving and exploiting this diversity in a sustainable way.
  • to explore the models of molecular evolution and organisation of ribosomal DNA.
  • to explore the processes and mechanisms that promote genomic obesity in plants through the analysis of repetitive DNA.
  • to study genome size variation in relationship with ecologic, karyologic, morphologic and evolutionary parameters of species.
  • to evaluate the impact of dysploidy, polyploidy, activity of transposable elements and other repetitive DNAs in the organisation and evolution of genomes.
  • to analyse the genomic basis of plant invasiveness.
  • to curate and analyse databases with karyologic and cytogenetic data created by our group (asteraceaegenomesize.com; www.plantrdnadatabase.com; www.bchrom.csic.es; www.sexchrom.csic.es), embracing a large number of species, as a tool for a global understanding of evolutionary processes at the genome level.

In the field of ethnobotany we aim:

  • to develop ethnofloristic studies in Catalan-speaking areas, including all plant uses (medicinal, food, other) and to perform phytonymic studies.
  • to conduct meta-analyses based on the above-mentioned ethnofloristic areas, focusing on either a discreet number of territories or all of them, through comparative approaches
  • to study the diversity of agroecosystems and urban markets, with its associated traditional knowledge.
  • to study landraces of certain crops aiming at conserving them and their associated traditional knowledge.
  • to continue implementing the contents of the database etnobotanica.cat, hosted by our research group and to convert it in an open-access online resource.
  • to study the traditional uses of Cannabis across its geographical distribution area, focusing particularly on ancestral varieties. To build a database of ethnobotanic information on Cannabis, including our own research outputs and available data.
  • to investigate correlations between ethnobotanic knowledge and traits of interest (e.g. morphologic, biochemical, phytochemical and genetic data) from an evolutionary perspective as a way of predicting potential new medicines and other useful products.