Our research covers the study of evolutionary mechanisms in plants in the broadest sense, including biosystematics, taxonomy, ecology and phytogeography. We employ a broad spectrum of methods from field investigations, through ecological and hybridization experiments, morphometrics, flow cytometry and modern cytogenetics, to diverse molecular methods, including NGS techniques. Our group collaborates with the Institute of Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Průhonice. Specific topics of our research are listed below.
Our research would of course not be possible without grant projects and collaboration with institutions abroad.
The main research topics of our group are:
Evolutionary mechanisms of polyploid complexes
Duplication of whole sets of chromosomes (polyploidization) is one of the key processes in the evolution of new species. It also plays a crucial role in the breeding of new cultivars of agricultural and ornamental plants. In our research we focus on the study of the evolutionary histories of polyploid complexes in the European flora as well as in the floras of subtropical (South Africa) and tropical (South America, Southeast Asia) regions. Moreover, we study the co-occurrence of different cytotypes under natural conditions and the reproductive, morphological and ecological consequences of polyploidization.
Evolution of rare, endangered and endemic species in the Czech flora
The study of rare plants brings interesting theoretical information (e.g. about the principles underlying the evolution of plant species) as well as specific practical results that can be utilized in nature conservation. We study the mechanisms by which species arise within the area of Czechia, i.e. the country’s sub(endemic) taxa. We also use morphometrics, cytometry and genetic techniques to study the hybridization of species, be it rare or common.
Evolutionary history in the context of Quaternary climatic changes
The alteration of glacial and interglacial periods has substantially influenced the distribution and evolution of plant species. Survival through periods of unsuitable conditions in so-called refugia and the directions of subsequent migrations are some of the key topics of evolutionary biology, especially of the discipline called phylogeography. We focus on reconstructing the evolutionary histories of selected species after the last glaciation, especially in Central and Northern Europe (the Alps, the Carpathians and Scandinavia). We take a wide range of molecular approaches allowing to study the distribution of genetic variability in detail.
Evolutionary diversification in world biodiversity centres (Southern American alpine region, Cape floristic region)
The Andes are one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. In our research we focus on the evolution of plant species in the highest elevated tropical ecosystems – the páramos. We are interested in the mechanisms generating large numbers of species and their adaption to extreme conditions at high elevations (together with other research groups within the Department of Botany).
Dynamics of plant genome size evolution
Plants exhibit stunning differences in the amount of DNA in the cell nucleus. The intrinsic causes of this variability, the mechanisms of its heritability as well as its ecological and evolutionary consequences are largely unknown. The study of genome size evolution is a rapidly evolving field of plant evolutionary biology, mainly thanks to the easy applicability of flow cytometry. Our research is focused on the genome size evolution of selected taxonomic and ecological groups. Its results are later complemented by crossing and ecological experiments as well as by the outcomes of molecular studies.
Evolution, diversity and dispersal of water and wetland plants
Water and wetland plants are interesting not only from a biosystematic point of view, but also provide model examples for the study of basic evolutionary mechanisms and processes. Some genera of aquatic and waterlogged habitats include large species complexes in dire need a new biosystematic treatment (e.g. Batrachium, Bolboschoenus or Callitriche). Aquatic and wetland plants also serve as groups for the study of basic principles in the fields of population ecology and genetics (e.g. different ways of dispersal in different types of water environments, structure of clonal populations) and microevolutionary processes such as hybridization or polyploidization.
Dynamics and evolution of reproductive strategies, especially apomixis
Apomixis (i.e. clonal reproduction through seeds) is common in many plant groups (Asteraceae, Poaceae, Rosaceae, etc.). Apomixis leads to the formation of numerous reproductively isolated lineages that are hard to distinguish morphologically. In genera where apomixis is common (e.g. Hieracium, Rubus and Taraxacum), thousands of (micro-)species have been described. Current research into apomictic plants is focused on the study of microevolutionary mechanisms and processes.
Floristic research in Central Europe
Floristic research is an integral part of botany. As part of field surveys, we determine and document the occurrence of plant species in Czechia and the rest of Central Europe. The results of these surveys are incorporated into databases and red lists, and also serve as a basis for comprehensive publications such as regional floras. Without good floristic research, modern biosystematics would be unable to identify topics to deal with. Floristic data are also commonly used for effective nature conservation.