Polish-Swiss Research Programme, grant PSPB-161/10




Dr Michał Ronikier (with Dr Nadir Alvarez as co-leader in Switzerland)


Biogeography, Arctic-alpine, Next-generation sequencing, European Alpine System, Biotic interactions

Key facts

Understanding consequences of climate change on species distribution and assemblages as well as  evolution of ecological interactions is one of fundamental issues in biology. Our project addresses this problematics in the context of cold-adapted communities representing a well-defined ecologically and geographically model system. Using several case studies we infer the evolutionary history, dispersal and reciprocal relationships of community elements (including intra-specific lineages) in time and space. We address such issues as: (i) impact of disjunct distribution of high-mountain species on their historical range dynamics and evolution and distribution of genetic lineages; (ii) evolutionary dynamics of interlinked species in space and time; (iii) influence of dispersal mode of species on their phylogeographical structure.

Our main and emblematic study system is a simple but well-defined arctic-alpine community involving a plant – Dryas octopetala, one of key plants of arctic ecosystems, and two species obligatorily linked with it: a saprobiontic fungus Rhizomarasmius epidryas and an obligate phytophagous microlepidopteran Stigmella dryadella. The second study system of ecological interactions involves Trollius europaeus and the fly genus Chiastocheta. We also conduct several case studies focused on species inhabiting Central European alpine system as a model of island-like, isolate system of high-mountain habitats (Campanula alpina, Ranunculus glacialis).

The geographical scale of our research encompasses various levels from regional landscapes (e.g., fine-scale genetic structure of the high-mountain species in the Tatra Mts., Western Carpathians) through entire mountain systems in Central Europe to large-scale (circumpolar) surveys.

Our analyses are based on population genetic analyses of the species using such approaches as AFLP fingerprinting, sequencing of selected DNA regions and "next-generation" DNA sequencing methods, to unravel based on genetic data evolutionary histories of single species and address, in a comparative framework, the fate of the whole community or species assemblages.

Apart from the main research aims, the project also raises important aspects concerning consolidation of research framework and capacity building. A next-generation sequencing platform, including laboratory and a data analysis pipelines, has been organized at the Institute of Botany, Polish Academy of Sciences in Kraków, in close collaboration with partners at the University of Lausanne.

In terms of research consolidation, we identified an important focus in the biogeography of the Carpathians as one of key regions for high-mountain biodiversity of Europe. As contribution to consolidation of research focused on this subject we launched in 2013 in Kraków an interdisciplinary meeting Biogeography of the Carpathians.

Institutions involved

Project related news


Mráz P, Ronikier M, 2016. Biogeography of the Carpathians: evolutionary and spatial facets of biodiversity. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 119: 528-559 DOI

Suchan T, Pitteloud C, Gerasimova NS, Kostikova A, Schmid S, Arrigo N, Pajkovic M, Ronikier M, Alvarez N, 2016. Hybridization capture using RAD probes (hyRAD), a new tool for performing genomic analyses on museum collection specimens. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0151651 DOI

Suchan T, Alvarez N, 2015. Fifty years after Ehrlich and Raven: is there a support for plant-insect coevolution as major driver of species diversification? Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 157: 98–112 DOI

Suchan T, Beauverd M, Trim N, Alvarez N, 2015. Asymmetrical nature of the Trollius–Chiastocheta interaction: insights into the evolution of nursery pollination systems. Ecology and Evolution 5(21): 4766–4777 DOI

Ronikier M, Zalewska-Gałosz J, 2014. Independent evolutionary history between the Balkan ranges and more northerly mountains in Campanula alpina s.l. (Campanulaceae): genetic divergence and morphological segregation of taxa. Taxon 63: 116–131 DOI

Ronikier M, Alvarez N, Arrigo N, Intrabiodiv Consortium, 2013. High-mountain flora of the Carpathians: a multispecies comparative phylogeography. Acta Biologica Cracoviensia ser. Botanica 55, suppl. 1: 31

Suchan T, Ronikier M, Alvarez N, 2013. Identifying landscape factors influencing spatial genetic structure of a mountain plant – a comparative approach across four European mountain massifs. Acta Biologica Cracoviensia ser. Botanica 55, suppl. 1: 66

Funding bodies

Institutions involved