Ahmed Gawhari – PhD 2016

The flora of Libya

The flora of Libya includes key elements of the southern mediterranean vegetation in the north, through to desert in the south.  The major published Flora of Libya was published between 1976 and 1989 but is now out of date due both to new discoveries and to changes in higher level plant classification.  While the entire flora can’t be rewritten during a PhD I am developing a toolkit of techniques and approaches that will contribute to the updating of the flora in the long term.

Aims

The aims of my research are to update exemplar groups from the Libyan flora using modern taxonomic methods including DNA barcodes and will also assess the conservation status of the endemic taxa. There will also be an assessment for rarity and what possible effects the proposed climate change models may have on the status of the rare and endemic species.

Ahmed Gawhari

Fieldwork in Libya is arduous but satisfying.

The Libyan flora is recorded to comprise 1825 native and naturalized species, with 137 endemic (Boulos, 1977, 1979a & 1979b), (compared with 3675 and 625 for Morocco and 2076 and 70 endemic for Egypt, Boulos, 1975).    It has hardly been updated since its completion in 1989. Over the past 30 years, plant taxonomy has advanced substantially, both in the understanding of taxon delimitation and in the demands put on the use of Floras. Updating the Libyan Flora based on current taxonomic opinion will allow it to have more value for conservation assessment and in allowing Libya to fulfil its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity CBD.

This project will:

  • Prepare a new updated checklist of some families from the Libyan flora.
  • Test the helpfulness of DNA barcode in recognition and distinguish the native Malva species in Libya; using PCR and sequencing of cpDNA (rbcL, psbA-trnH) and rDNA (ITS).
  • Using DNA barcoding to provide phylogenetic placement of the Arbutus species of Libya (Ericaceae) with discriminate the endemic Arbutus pavarii from its closely related Mediterranean species.
  • Update the Red List Categories and Criteria in Libya in accordance with IUCN and the taxonomic assessment of the status of endemic taxa with an assessment for rarity and what possible effects the proposed climate change models may have on the status of the rare and endemic species.

Work completed:

The first chapter has been conducted an updated checklist covering 34 families starting with the Primulaceae, ending with Illecebraceae belongs to 118 genera and 284 species. Moreover, I updated the taxonomy of the Malvaceae family as an exemplar plant family in Libya in the light of modern taxonomic research regarding recognized names in the Checklist that have occurred according to (APGIII), Mediterranean check list (Med-checklist), Euro+Med and the Flora of Libya.

Work in progress:

The second chapter has been conducted to use DNA barcode to identify and recognition of Malva species (Malvaceae) native to Libya as an example of the application of barcodes to local floras. Specimens were collected from three Libyan herbaria. Amplified by PCR and sequenced the DNA fragments of regions (rbcL, psbA-trnH, and internal transcribed spacer ITS) to produce a datasets of sequences which can be used in the species discrimination and identification.                                                                                                  This chapter is aiming to answer the questions:                                                                       Do conventional DNA barcodes succeed in resolving morphologically distinct Malva species in Libya?                                                                                                                                    Can DNA Barcoding reliably and consistently distinguish the native Malva species in Libya?

OPTIMA XIV, Summer 2013.

OPTIMA XIV, Summer 2013.

The third chapter has been conducted to use DNA barcoding to provide phylogenetic placement of the Arbutus species of Libya with discriminate the endemic Arbutus pavarii from its closely related Mediterranean species.

This chapter aims to answer the questions:

  1. Is there an endemic Arbutus species in Libya?
  2. Can it be distinguished using DNA barcoding

Bayesian Inference will be used for phylogenetic placement of putative Arbutus pavarii and the presence, or absence, of a barcoding gap for the species relative to other mediterranean and north Atlantic island congeners.

Further Work:

Update the Red List Categories and Criteria in Libya in accordance with IUCN, and the taxonomic assessment of the status of endemic taxa. Four endemic plant species will be selected based on importance and rarity and update them in accordance with APGs and apply tool kits of Red-check list. It will be used as an example for the future work on updating the flora of Libya

Poster to the YSF Systematises Forum. NHM, London

Publications

Gawhari, A., Culham, A. (2012) A new checklist and analysis of thirty plant families from the Libyan flora. (Poster to the 14th Young Systematists Forum, NHM, London) http://www.systass.org/ysf/14th%282012%29_YSF_Abstract_Booklet-v5.pdf

Gawhari, A., Jury, S.L. & Culham, A. (2013) Using DNA barcoding techniques to identify the Malva species in Libya, using nr DNA and cpDNA genetic markers. p. 121 Abstracts, XIV OPTIMA Meeting, Palermo (Italy), 9-15 September 2013

Gawhari, A., Jury, S.L. & Culham, A. (2013) An updated checklist and analysis of thirty four families from the Libyan flora. p. 168 Abstracts, XIV OPTIMA Meeting, Palermo (Italy), 9-15 September 2013

Gawhari, A., Jury, S.L. & Culham, A. (2013) Using DNA sequences to investigate the phylogenetic relationships between Arbutus pavarii endemic in Libya and the closely related Canary Islands and Mediterranean species. Botany 2013, New Orleans, U.S.A.