Erika J. Edwards

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Grasslands cover more than 20% of the Earth's terrestrial surface, and their rise to dominance is one of the most dramatic events of biome evolution in Earth history. Grasses possess two main photosynthetic pathways: the C(3) pathway that is typical of most plants and a specialized C(4) pathway that minimizes photorespiration and thus increases(More)
The evolution of grasses using C4 photosynthesis and their sudden rise to ecological dominance 3 to 8 million years ago is among the most dramatic examples of biome assembly in the geological record. A growing body of work suggests that the patterns and drivers of C4 grassland expansion were considerably more complex than originally assumed. Previous(More)
Using isotopic screens, phylogenetic assessments, and 45 years of physiological data, it is now possible to identify most of the evolutionary lineages expressing the C(4) photosynthetic pathway. Here, 62 recognizable lineages of C(4) photosynthesis are listed. Thirty-six lineages (60%) occur in the eudicots. Monocots account for 26 lineages, with a minimum(More)
The cacti are one of the most celebrated radiations of succulent plants. There has been much speculation about their age, but progress in dating cactus origins has been hindered by the lack of fossil data for cacti or their close relatives. Using a hybrid phylogenomic approach, we estimated that the cactus lineage diverged from its closest relatives ≈35(More)
• Grasses rank among the world's most ecologically and economically important plants. Repeated evolution of the C(4) syndrome has made photosynthesis highly efficient in many grasses, inspiring intensive efforts to engineer the pathway into C(3) crops. However, comparative biology has been of limited use to this endeavor because of uncertainty in the number(More)
The cacti are well-known desert plants, widely recognized by their specialized growth form and essentially leafless condition. Pereskia, a group of 17 species with regular leaf development and function, is generally viewed as representing the "ancestral cactus," although its placement within Cactaceae has remained uncertain. Here we present a new hypothesis(More)
Many questions in evolutionary biology require an estimate of divergence times but, for groups with a sparse fossil record, such estimates rely heavily on molecular dating methods. The accuracy of these methods depends on both an adequate underlying model and the appropriate implementation of fossil evidence as calibration points. We explore the effect of(More)
'C4 photosynthesis' refers to a suite of traits that increase photosynthesis in high light and high temperature environments. Most C4 plants are grasses, which dominate tropical and subtropical grasslands and savannas but are conspicuously absent from cold growing season climates. Physiological attributes of C4 photosynthesis have been invoked to explain C4(More)
Phylogenetic thinking has infiltrated many areas of biological research, but has had little impact on studies of global ecology or climate change. Here, we illustrate how phylogenetic information can be relevant to understanding vegetation-atmosphere dynamics at ecosystem or global scales by re-analyzing a data set of carbonic anhydrase (CA) activity in(More)
C(4) photosynthesis is a series of anatomical and biochemical modifications to the typical C(3) pathway that increases the productivity of plants in warm, sunny, and dry conditions. Despite its complexity, it evolved more than 62 times independently in flowering plants. However, C(4) origins are absent from most plant lineages and clustered in others,(More)