African savannas represent iconic ecosystems comprising diverse plants and animals. Despite their importance to nature and people, the species that live in these ecosystems are relatively underrepresented in global biodiversity databases. To facilitate studies on the ecology and evolution biodiversity in East Africa, this international team of researchers developed a plant DNA-barcode library. We collected and identified 460 plant species from habitats across the ~200-km2 Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia, Kenya. These voucher specimens are archived at the National Museums of Kenya and the Smithsonian Institution. Based on these collections, we constructed a DNA-barcode library by sequencing 5 molecular markers from 1,781 vouchered plant specimens and generated 4,696 DNA sequences. This library increased the representation of plant DNA sequences from Africa within the Barcode of Life Database by nearly 10%. We demonstrated that these DNA barcodes are capable of discriminating between the vast majority of plant species present in this semi-arid savanna community and we used these sequences to infer a robust community phylogeny. We believe that this collection of plant voucher specimens, DNA barcodes, and the community phylogeny will support further research occurring both within this savanna ecosystem and across global biodiversity databases.
For the full article, see:
Gill, BA, Musili PM, Kurukura S, et al. Plant DNA-barcode library and community phylogeny for a semi-arid East African savanna. Mol Eco Resour. 2019;19:838-846. https://doi.org/10.1111/1755-0998.13001.