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The plant Tree of Life

The evolutionary relationships of species, often called the “Tree of Life”, is a fundamental aspect of biodiversity. To be able to understand why, how and when the world’s millions of species have originated, we need to know the Tree of Life. Applied research also relies on the Tree of Life for a variety of purposes, such as prospecting for new medicinal plants, identification of wild relatives for crop breeding, or prioritisation of areas or ecosystems for conservation. This is particularly relevant for plants due to their great economic and ecological importance.

Still, our current knowledge of the plant Tree of Life is inaccessible for most. Individual branches of the plant Tree of Life have been targeted by thousands of studies, and researchers have deposited their data in open online databases, as it is customary within the field. At the moment, data are available from about 100.000 species, including 30% of all seed plants, a number that is rapidly growing.However, expert knowledge is required to access and use these data.

PhyloSynth is an international network of researchers who aim at delivering a synthetic plant Tree of Life that is up-to-date, comprehensive, reliable and easy to use. We do not generate new data, but develop new approaches for using the rich data resources that are already available from public databases. Researchers from Aarhus University are contributing to PhyloSynth with support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation and VILLUM Foundation.