Spatial and temporal diversity of the Arctic flora and associated cyanobacterial and fungal biota (Funded by NSERC, CRSNG, 2016-2021)
Inhabitable to most of the higher plants, the arctic environment is dominated by cryptogams, including those of mosses, liverworts (collectively, bryophytes) and lichenized fungi. Initial studies on the Arctic suggests the origin of the present bryophyte flora as a result of frequent long-distance dispersal events and local, pre-glaciation diversification.
As a means to uncover the origin of the Canadian arctic flora, I propose to use genomic resources to study the diversity, timing of origin and dispersal patterns of subarctic and arctic bryophytes. The high dispersal capacity of most bryophytes brings on the question of whether their associated epiphyte flora (bacteria and fungi) is equally dispersed with bryophyte fragments or spores or is it native to the Arctic. Some arctic cyanobacteria and fungi display broad ranges (even bipolar distributions) whereas others have more localized distributions in subarctic and arctic regions. Despite the dramatic contribution of cyanobacteria, and probably fungi, to boreal and arctic ecosystems, we know little about the genetic diversity of the epiphytic and endophytic flora of subarctic and arctic Canadian bryophytes. As such, we propose to take a concerted approach to study the bryophyte hosts and the associated epiphytes. This will provide a more complete picture of current Canadian Arctic diversity as well as uncover past diversity, revealing the ecosystem assemblage through time. Our project focuses on several moss species such as Racomitrium lanuginosum, Pleurozium schreberii, and Hylocomium splendens. We also target lichens such as Stereocaulon (cyanolichen), Cladonia stellaris, Cladonia mitis and the charismatic reindeer lichen, Cladonia rangiferina. Our studies go from phylogenetic studies of each symbiont to novel field of Arctic Cryptogamic virology (in collaboration with Alexander Culley ).
Genetic structure of Cladonia stellaris (Opiz) Pouzar & Vězda and its associated microbial and viral community in the Canadian arctic and subarctic (Marta Alonso Garcia)
Functional diversity of cyanobacteria associated to the lichen genus Stereocaulon across eastern Canada biomes (Camille Lavoie)
Photobiont diversity within the genus Stereocaulon in Eastern Canada (Pierre-Alain Picard)