Since plants cannot run away, they have developed a wide array of functional adaptations throughout evolution to survive changing conditions. Our research group focuses on wood formation, one of the most fundamental evolutionary innovations that gave rise to countless woody species. Woodiness has developed hundreds of times independently during evolutionary history, presumably driven by drought for most lineages. We combine anatomy, evolutionary biology, ecophysiology and genetics to identify environmental and generic drivers of woodiness based on collections in Naturalis and living plants in the field.
Our projectsand activities
Our projects are centered around wood, with particular attention to the following research lines:
- Investigating wood evolution in flowering plants, with focus on identification of evolutionary transitions, assessment of potential drivers and impact on diversification,
- Disentangling the role of stem woodiness/lignification on drought tolerance in plants,
- Performing comparative wood anatomy and developing a wood identification pipeline.
Examples of current activities:
- testing drought and other potential drivers of woodiness for multiple lineages
- establishing Brassicaceae as new model group to understand woodiness
- developing a new trait-dependent diversification model for island clades
- comparing key drought tolerance traits between related taxa
- building a timber identification tool for combating illegal logging
- understand how Arabidopsis, cabbage and tomato plants cope with drought stress
- exploring evolutionary and ecological signals in wood anatomy
The group leader is involved in the Biology curriculum at Leiden University, where he teaches plant anatomy for ca. 200 1st year BSc students, and evolution of woodiness across major plant lineages for ca 50 MSc students.