Erik Koenen

Erik Koenen


Tel.: +41 (0)44 634 84 16

What determines the distribution of tropical biodiversity in deep time and across space?

As a PhD student at the Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, I work on macro-evolutionary dynamics of tropical plants. My work is supervised by Dr. Colin Hughes and is part of the SNSF-funded project entitled “Global Legume Diversity Patterns: Macroevolutionary and Ecological Processes Shaping Biodiversity”. A strong emphasis in my work is placed on phylogenetics using genome-scale data: I am involved in building a new phylogeny for the legume family (Leguminosae or Fabaceae) based on complete chloroplast encoded gene complements to attempt to robustly resolve deeper nodes and I am using hybrid-capture techniques to create a dataset of hundreds of nuclear encoded genes for phylogenetic and functional molecular evolution studies in subfamily Mimosoideae. This is part of the development of the mimosoid legumes as a model clade for studying macro-evolutionary diversification. Other activities related to this project that I am involved with are taxonomic studies on legumes (with a focus on Mimosoideae, especially the genus Albizia), and the creation of a species checklist and geographical occurrence database of mimosoids (MimoBase). I also participate in the Legume Phylogeny Working Group and have contributed to several publications of this research collective. During my MSc studies at Wageningen University I did taxonomic and phylogenetic studies on the Mahogany family (Meliaceae), and also used this clade as a model for biogeographic and macro-evolutionary studies on tropical rainforest hyperdiversity.

Selected Publications

Koenen, E.J.M., J.J. Clarkson, T.D. Pennington & L.W. Chatrou. 2015. Recently evolved diversity and convergent radiations of rainforest mahoganies (Meliaceae) shed new light on the origins of rainforest hyperdiversity. New Phytologist: Early View. [PDF] (The definitive version is available at
Koenen EJM, de Vos JM, Atchison GW, Simon MF, Schrire BD, de Souza ER, de Queiroz LP & Hughes CE. 2013. Exploring the tempo of species diversification in legumes. South African Journal of Botany 89: 19-30.
Koenen EJM, de Wilde JJFE. 2012. A taxonomic revision of the reinstated genus Leplaea and the newly recognized genus Neoguarea (Meliaceae, Sapindales): the exclusion of Guarea from Africa. Plant Ecology and Evolution 145: 209–241. [PDF]