Michael Knapp

Doctor of Philosophy, (Plant Biology)
Study Completed: 2007
College of Sciences


Thesis Title
Discontinuous distributions of iconic New Zealand plant taxa and their implications for Southern Hemisphere biogeography

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

Mr Knapp studied the history of New Zealand Beeches and Kauri and their closest overseas relatives using genetic and fossil data. He found that modern beeches, a group long considered as an icon of New Zealand’s Gondwanan heritage, did arrive on the archipelago only 20 - 30 million years ago, 50 million years after it separated from the ancient super continent. However, Kauri was identified as a potential Gondwanan relict, rejecting the hypothesis of a temporary, complete submergence of New Zealand. Using similar data, Mr Knapp reconstructed the population history of the four New Zealand beech species, and identified tectonic processes and climate change of the last 5 million years as the main factors shaping present day distribution. His results have increased our understanding of the biogeographic history and diversity of New Zealand forests and contributed to describing the effects of Pleistocene climate change on New Zealand flora.

Professor Peter Lockhart