Wood provides mechanical support and long-distance transport of water and minerals in plants. Over evolutionary time, various cell types and an overwhelming diversity of cell patterns have evolved in the wood of flowering plants. In my PhD project I investigate evolutionary patterns in the microscopic wood anatomy of the Apocynaceae and Sapotaceae families. These results will not only be relevant to understanding species relationships, but also to complementary wood biology disciplines such as the study of structure-function relationships and wood identification to combat illegal logging.
Ancestral state reconstruction, Apocynaceae, Ebenaceae, evolution, light and scanning electron microscopy, Sapotaceae, wood anatomy
Comparative wood anatomy is a traditional discipline with far-reaching interdisciplinary applications. Studying evolutionary patterns in microscopic wood features will link standardized wood descriptions with modern molecular plant systematics.
I will use the latest molecular phylogenies of the Apocynaceae and Sapotaceae families to study evolutionary patterns in wood anatomical characters. The Apocynaceae, or dogbane, family is of wide economic importance and unique in its wide variety of woody and herbaceous growth forms. Previous research already indicates parallel evolutionary shifts towards herbaceousness and derived woodiness in this family. The Sapotaceae, or sapodilla, family is known for its latex, oil producing seeds (Argan oil) and exceptionally durable timber. At family level its wood anatomy is poorly known, making it difficult for customs officers to identify these woods.
A selection of the topics I am currently working on.
- Jahanbanifard F., Beckers V.M.H., Koch G., Beeckman H., Gravendeel B., Verbeek F.J., Baas P., Priester C. & Lens F.P. (2020). Description and evolution of wood anatomical characters in the ebony wood genus Diospyros and its close relatives (Ebenaceae): a first step towards combatting illegal logging, IAWA Journal 41(4): 577-619. DOI