The fluviageny, a method for analyzing temporal river fragmentation using phylogenetics

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2015-05

Authors

Gordon, Andrew Lloyd

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Abstract

Phylogenetic trees have historically been used to determine evolutionary relatedness between organisms. In the past few decades, as we've developed increasingly powerful computational algorithms and toolsets for performing analyses using phylogenetic methods, the use of these trees has expanded into other areas, including biodiversity informatics and geoinformatics. This report proposes using phylogenetic methods to create "fluviagenies" - trees that represent the effects of river fragmentation over time caused by damming. Faculty at the Center for Research in Water Resources at the University of Texas worked to develop tools and documentation for automating the creation of river segment codes (a.k.a., "fluvcodes") based on spatiotemporal data. Python was used to generate fluviageny trees from lists of these codes. The resulting trees can be exported into the appropriate data format for use with various phylogenetics programs. The Fishes of Texas Database (fshesoftexas.org), a comprehensive geospatial database of Texas fish occurrences aggregated and normalized from 42 museum collections around the world, was employed to create an example of how this tool might be used to analyze and hypothesize changes in fish populations as a consequence of river fragmentation. Additionally, this paper serves to theorize and analyze past and future potential uses for phylogenetic trees in various other fields of informatics.

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