Biodiversity research aims to discover, document and explain patterns of biological diversity. Within biodiversity research, taxonomy is the sub-discipline that deals with the discovery, circumscription and classification of taxa and provides the basal units, species (or species concepts rather), for the next sub-discipline, systematics, to work with. Systematics seeks to resolve historical relationships between taxa. Historical biogeography then takes the results of taxonomy and systematics and tries to find patterns in organismal geographic distribution and to come up with historical scenarios to explain these.
The three sub-disciplines mentioned above can not be clearly separated, and one can not exist without the others. For instance, taxonomy, while providing the basal units for systematics and biogeography to work with, in turn needs the hypotheses of patterns systematics and biogeography come up with in order to circumscribe higher taxa. With the ongoing evolution in analytical techniques, the boundaries are only becoming fuzzier, as systematic methods and concepts are, rightly or wrongly, increasingly used below the species level. The availability of an increasing array of easily available and easily scorable molecular characters has also given rise to an entirely new sub-discipline, phylogeography. Phylogeography combines methods and concepts from both historical and ecological biogeography, as well as population genetics, to explain patterns of organismal distribution within individual species. Phylogeography is where biodiversity research comes most closely into contact with conservation research, although results from all areas of biodiversity research are vital to inform conservation decisions.
Biodiversity research at the National Herbarium of Victoria focuses on documenting the diversity of plants, algae and fungi of Victoria and on finding and explaining patterns of historical relationships among Australian plant species and between plant species and the areas they occur. Our botanists have expertise in flowering plants, including some of the largest and most iconic Australian families, e.g. Fabaceae, Mimosaceae, Myrtaceae and Proteaceae, as well as bryophytes, fungi and stoneworts (Charophyceae).
Last updated 12 Oct 2011