The two great datasets in biology are the tree of life and the global biogeographic distributions. The first describes the phylogenetic relationships among organisms. The second describes their distributions on our planet. In a rich and well-nuanced paper, Edwards and Smith have brought the two together to shed light on one of the most fundamental questions regarding the evolutionary ecology of plants, namely the origin of C4 photosynthesis. The authors first use an expanded grass phylogeny to describe the origins of C4 photosynthesis in more detail than has done before. They then determine the current distribution of the grass species to determine the climates they occupy.
Edwards, E. J. and S. A. Smith. 2010. Phylogenetic analyses reveal the shady history of C4 grasses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107:2532-2537.