Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Thongsangtum, N., J. Huang, S.-F. Li, Y. Thasod, and T. Su. 2023. Calophyllum (Calophyllaceae) from late Oligocene–Early Miocene of Li Basin, northern Thailand and its biogeographic and paleoclimatic implications. Palaeoworld. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palwor.2023.09.002

Fossils from tropical Asia, which are far from fully investigated, are important for understanding the evolution of plant diversity and the associated surrounding environment there. In this study, we report, as the first record in Thailand, the well-preserved leaf fossils of Calophyllum Linnaeus (Calophyllaceae) from the upper Oligocene–Lower Miocene lacustrine deposits in Li Basin, northern Thailand. The fossils were identified through detailed comparison with leaves of extant and fossil species. These leaf fossils are assigned to Calophyllum based on several key leaf characteristics such as oblanceolate or oblong in shape and parallel secondary veins, nearly perpendicular to the midvein, as well as secondary veins alternate, closely placed, craspedodromous, parallel, dense, and distinct on surface, forming marginal veins. Based on detailed morphological comparison, these fossil leaves are assigned to C. suraikholaensis Awasthi and Prasad, 1990 and Calophyllum sp. The discovery of Calophyllum indicates a montane subtropical to tropical climate in northern Thailand during the Oligocene–Miocene. Together with previous fossil records, these results suggest that this genus probably originated in India during the Paleogene, and spread from India to Indochina during the Neogene, leading to its modern distribution, which currently prefers tropical climates.

Hill, A., M. F. T. Jiménez, N. Chazot, C. Cássia‐Silva, S. Faurby, L. Herrera‐Alsina, and C. D. Bacon. 2023. Apparent effect of range size and fruit colour on palm diversification may be spurious. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14683

Aim Fruit selection by animal dispersers with different mobility directly impacts plant geographical range size, which, in turn, may impact plant diversification. Here, we examine the interaction between fruit colour, range size and diversification rate in palms by testing two hypotheses: (1) species with fruit colours attractive to birds have larger range sizes due to high dispersal ability and (2) disperser mobility affects whether small or large range size has higher diversification, and intermediate range size is expected to lead to the highest diversification rate regardless of disperser. Location Global. Time Period Contemporary (or present). Major Taxa Studied Palms (Arecaceae). Methods Palm species were grouped based on likely animal disperser group for given fruit colours. Range sizes were estimated by constructing alpha convex hull polygons from distribution data. We examined disperser group, range size or an interaction of both as possible drivers of change in diversification rate over time in a likelihood dynamic model (Several Examined State-dependent Speciation and Extinction [SecSSE]). Models were fitted, rate estimates were retrieved and likelihoods were compared to those of appropriate null models. Results Species with fruit colours associated with mammal dispersal had larger ranges than those with colours associated with bird dispersal. The best fitting SecSSE models indicated that the examined traits were not the primary driver of the heterogeneity in diversification rates in the model. Extinction rate complexity had a marked impact on model performance and on diversification rates. Main Conclusions Two traits related to dispersal mobility, range size and fruit colour, were not identified as the main drivers of diversification in palms. Increased model extinction rate complexity led to better performing models, which indicates that net diversification should be estimated rather than speciation alone. However, increased complexity may lead to incorrect SecSSE model conclusions without careful consideration. Finally, we find palms with more mobile dispersers do not have larger range sizes, meaning other factors are more important determinants of range size.

Pang, S. E. H., J. W. F. Slik, D. Zurell, and E. L. Webb. 2023. The clustering of spatially associated species unravels patterns in tropical tree species distributions. Ecosphere 14. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.4589

Complex distribution data can be summarized by grouping species with similar or overlapping distributions to unravel spatial patterns and separate trends (e.g., of habitat loss) among spatially unique groups. However, such classifications are often heuristic, lacking the transparency, objectivity, and data‐driven rigor of quantitative methods, which limits their interpretability and utility. Here, we develop and illustrate the clustering of spatially associated species, a methodological framework aimed at statistically classifying species using explicit measures of interspecific spatial association. We investigate several association indices and clustering algorithms and show how these methodological choices drive substantial variations in clustering outcomes and performance. To facilitate robust decision‐making, we provide guidance on choosing methods appropriate to one's study objective(s). As a case study, we apply our framework to modeled tree distributions in Borneo and subsequently evaluate the impact of land‐cover change on separate species groupings. Based on the modeled distribution of 390 tree species prior to anthropogenic land‐cover changes, we identified 11 distinct clusters that unraveled ecologically meaningful patterns in Bornean tree distributions. These clusters then enabled us to quantify trends of habitat loss tied to each of those specific clusters, allowing us to discern particularly vulnerable species clusters and their distributions. This study demonstrates the advantages of adopting quantitatively derived clusters of spatially associated species and elucidates the potential of resultant clusters as a spatially explicit framework for investigating distribution‐related questions in ecology, biogeography, and conservation. By adopting our methodological framework and publicly available codes, practitioners can leverage the ever‐growing abundance of distribution data to better understand complex spatial patterns among species distributions and the disparate effects of global changes on biodiversity.

Rahman, W., J. Magos Brehm, and N. Maxted. 2023. The impact of climate change on the future distribution of priority crop wild relatives in Indonesia and implications for conservation planning. Journal for Nature Conservation 73: 126368. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnc.2023.126368

The analysis of climate change impact is essential to include in conservation planning of crop wild relatives (CWR) to provide the guideline for adequate long-term protection under unpredictable future environmental conditions. These resources play an important role in sustaining the future of food security, but the evidence shows that they are threatened by climate change. The current analyses show that five taxa were predicted to have contraction of more than 30 % of their current ranges: Artocarpus sepicanus (based on RCP 4.5 in both no dispersal and unlimited dispersal scenario and RCP 8.5 in no dispersal scenario by 2050), Ficus oleifolia (RCP 4.5 5 in both no dispersal and unlimited dispersal scenario by 2080), Cocos nucifera and Dioscorea alata (RCP 8.5 in both no dispersal and unlimited dispersal scenario by 2050), and Ficus chartacea (RCP 8.5 in both no dispersal and unlimited dispersal scenario by 2050 and 2080). It shows that the climate change impact is species-specific. Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and dispersal scenarios influence the prediction models, and the actual future distribution range of species falls in between those scenarios. Climate refugia, holdout populations, and non-analogue community assemblages were identified based on the Protected Areas (PAs) network. PAs capacity is considered an important element in implementing a conservation strategy for the priority CWR. In areas where PAs are isolated and have less possibility to build corridors to connect each other, such as in Java, unlimited dispersal scenarios are unlikely to be achieved and assisted dispersal is suggested. The holdout populations should be the priority target for the ex situ collection. Therefore, by considering the climate refugia, PAs capacity and holdout populations, the goal of keeping high genetic variations for the long-term conservation of CWR in Indonesia can be achieved.

Hatt, S., Y. W. Low, D. F. R. P. Burslem, D. J. Middleton, E. D. Biffin, O. Maurin, and E. J. Lucas. 2023. A morphological analysis of Syzygium, with a focus on fibre bundles and description of a new subgenus. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/botlinnean/boac065

Abstract Syzygium is a large genus (1200–1500 species) of Old World tropical trees, currently divided into five subgenera containing widely different numbers of species. Syzygium subgenus Perikion was defined by the presence of fibre bundles in the hypanthium wall, although until now this feature has not been investigated or images published. Furthermore, discovery of fibre bundles in certain species outside Syzygium subgenus Perikion calls for reassessment of the subgenus. In this paper, a morphological analysis is presented for all species previously associated with Syzygium subgenus Perikion or known to have fibre bundles. Results indicate the need for description of a new subgenus, Syzygium subgenus Oborapi, characterized by a distinctly goblet-shaped calyx, presence of fibre bundles in the hypanthium/mesocarp, prominent black lenticels on the abaxial leaf surface, ascending ovule orientation and species diversity centred on the Sunda Shelf. Fibre bundles are photographed and documented for the first time from a range of species and at different magnifications. A preliminary list of species is presented for Syzygium subgenus Perikion and Syzygium subgenus Oborapi, with recommendations for further investigation.

Couvreur, T. L. P., X. Cornejo, J. N. Zapata, and A. Loor. 2022. Two new magnoliid (Annonaceae, Lauraceae) tree species from Manabí, western Ecuador. Blumea - Biodiversity, Evolution and Biogeography of Plants. https://doi.org/10.3767/blumea.2022.67.02.02

Western Ecuador harbours high plant diversity and endemism. The region of Manabí has known intense deforestation over the last decades, but lowland rain forests persist in a network of small forest fragment patches. Here, we describe two new magnoliid tree species from a small privately owned forest fragment known as La Esperanza reserve, in the El Carmen canton (Manabí): Aniba ecuadorica (Lauraceae) and Guatteria esperanzae (Annonaceae). For both species a detailed morphological description, a preliminary conservation status following IUCN criteria, distribution maps and high quality photographs are provided. This represents the second species of Aniba known to occur in western Ecuador, while there are 14 species of Guatteria documented for Ecuador west of the Andes. Aniba ecuadorica is only known from two localities and has a preliminary IUCN conservation status of Critically Endangered, while Guatteria esperanzae is known from six localities and is suggested to be Endangered. Finally, we provide a quick overview of Guatteria species in western Ecuador with a key to the species in the region. The description of these two new tree species underlines the important need of prospection and conservation of the remnant forests in the Manabí region of western Ecuador. We also stress the importance of privately owned forest fragments for biodiversity conservation.

Pang, S. E. H., Y. Zeng, J. D. T. Alban, and E. L. Webb. 2022. Occurrence–habitat mismatching and niche truncation when modelling distributions affected by anthropogenic range contractions B. Leroy [ed.],. Diversity and Distributions 28: 1327–1343. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.13544

Aims Human-induced pressures such as deforestation cause anthropogenic range contractions (ARCs). Such contractions present dynamic distributions that may engender data misrepresentations within species distribution models. The temporal bias of occurrence data—where occurrences represent distributions before (past bias) or after (recent bias) ARCs—underpins these data misrepresentations. Occurrence–habitat mismatching results when occurrences sampled before contractions are modelled with contemporary anthropogenic variables; niche truncation results when occurrences sampled after contractions are modelled without anthropogenic variables. Our understanding of their independent and interactive effects on model performance remains incomplete but is vital for developing good modelling protocols. Through a virtual ecologist approach, we demonstrate how these data misrepresentations manifest and investigate their effects on model performance. Location Virtual Southeast Asia. Methods Using 100 virtual species, we simulated ARCs with 100-year land-use data and generated temporally biased (past and recent) occurrence datasets. We modelled datasets with and without a contemporary land-use variable (conventional modelling protocols) and with a temporally dynamic land-use variable. We evaluated each model's ability to predict historical and contemporary distributions. Results Greater ARC resulted in greater occurrence–habitat mismatching for datasets with past bias and greater niche truncation for datasets with recent bias. Occurrence–habitat mismatching prevented models with the contemporary land-use variable from predicting anthropogenic-related absences, causing overpredictions of contemporary distributions. Although niche truncation caused underpredictions of historical distributions (environmentally suitable habitats), incorporating the contemporary land-use variable resolved these underpredictions, even when mismatching occurred. Models with the temporally dynamic land-use variable consistently outperformed models without. Main conclusions We showed how these data misrepresentations can degrade model performance, undermining their use for empirical research and conservation science. Given the ubiquity of ARCs, these data misrepresentations are likely inherent to most datasets. Therefore, we present a three-step strategy for handling data misrepresentations: maximize the temporal range of anthropogenic predictors, exclude mismatched occurrences and test for residual data misrepresentations.

Williams, C. J. R., D. J. Lunt, U. Salzmann, T. Reichgelt, G. N. Inglis, D. R. Greenwood, W. Chan, et al. 2022. African Hydroclimate During the Early Eocene From the DeepMIP Simulations. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology 37. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022pa004419

The early Eocene (∼56‐48 million years ago) is characterised by high CO2 estimates (1200‐2500 ppmv) and elevated global temperatures (∼10 to 16°C higher than modern). However, the response of the hydrological cycle during the early Eocene is poorly constrained, especially in regions with sparse data coverage (e.g. Africa). Here we present a study of African hydroclimate during the early Eocene, as simulated by an ensemble of state‐of‐the‐art climate models in the Deep‐time Model Intercomparison Project (DeepMIP). A comparison between the DeepMIP pre‐industrial simulations and modern observations suggests that model biases are model‐ and geographically dependent, however these biases are reduced in the model ensemble mean. A comparison between the Eocene simulations and the pre‐industrial suggests that there is no obvious wetting or drying trend as the CO2 increases. The results suggest that changes to the land sea mask (relative to modern) in the models may be responsible for the simulated increases in precipitation to the north of Eocene Africa. There is an increase in precipitation over equatorial and West Africa and associated drying over northern Africa as CO2 rises. There are also important dynamical changes, with evidence that anticyclonic low‐level circulation is replaced by increased south‐westerly flow at high CO2 levels. Lastly, a model‐data comparison using newly‐compiled quantitative climate estimates from palaeobotanical proxy data suggests a marginally better fit with the reconstructions at lower levels of CO2.

Reichgelt, T., D. R. Greenwood, S. Steinig, J. G. Conran, D. K. Hutchinson, D. J. Lunt, L. J. Scriven, and J. Zhu. 2022. Plant Proxy Evidence for High Rainfall and Productivity in the Eocene of Australia. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology 37. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022pa004418

During the early to middle Eocene, a mid‐to‐high latitudinal position and enhanced hydrological cycle in Australia would have contributed to a wetter and “greener” Australian continent where today arid to semi‐arid climates dominate. Here, we revisit 12 southern Australian plant megafossil sites from the early to middle Eocene to generate temperature, precipitation and seasonality paleoclimate estimates, net primary productivity (NPP) and vegetation type, based on paleobotanical proxies and compare to early Eocene global climate models. Temperature reconstructions are uniformly subtropical (mean annual, summer, and winter mean temperatures 19–21 °C, 25–27 °C and 14–16 °C, respectively), indicating that southern Australia was ∼5 °C warmer than today, despite a >20° poleward shift from its modern geographic location. Precipitation was less homogeneous than temperature, with mean annual precipitation of ∼60 cm over inland sites and >100 cm over coastal sites. Precipitation may have been seasonal with the driest month receiving 2–7× less than mean monthly precipitation. Proxy‐model comparison is favorable with an 1680 ppm CO2 concentration. However, individual proxy reconstructions can disagree with models as well as with each other. In particular, seasonality reconstructions have systemic offsets. NPP estimates were higher than modern, implying a more homogenously “green” southern Australia in the early to middle Eocene, when this part of Australia was at 48–64 °S, and larger carbon fluxes to and from the Australian biosphere. The most similar modern vegetation type is modern‐day eastern Australian subtropical forest, although distance from coast and latitude may have led to vegetation heterogeneity.

Sluiter, I. R. K., G. R. Holdgate, T. Reichgelt, D. R. Greenwood, A. P. Kershaw, and N. L. Schultz. 2022. A new perspective on Late Eocene and Oligocene vegetation and paleoclimates of South-eastern Australia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 596: 110985. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2022.110985

We present a composite terrestrial pollen record of latest Eocene through Oligocene (35.5–23 Ma) vegetation and climate change from the Gippsland Basin of south-eastern Australia. Climates were overwhelmingly mesothermic through this time period, with mean annual temperature (MAT) varying between 13 and 18 °C, with an average of 16 °C. We provide evidence to support a cooling trend through the Eocene–Oligocene Transition (EOT), but also identify three subsequent warming cycles through the Oligocene, leading to more seasonal climates at the termination of the Epoch. One of the warming episodes in the Early Oligocene appears to have also occurred at two other southern hemisphere sites at the Drake Passage as well as off eastern Tasmania, based on recent research. Similarities with sea surface temperature records from modern high southern latitudes which also record similar cycles of warming and cooling, are presented and discussed. Annual precipitation varied between 1200 and 1700 mm/yr, with an average of 1470 mm/yr through the sequence. Notwithstanding the extinction of Nothofagus sg. Brassospora from Australia and some now microthermic humid restricted Podocarpaceae conifer taxa, the rainforest vegetation of lowland south-eastern Australia is reconstructed to have been similar to present day Australian Evergreen Notophyll Vine Forests existing under the sub-tropical Köppen-Geiger climate class Cfa (humid subtropical) for most of the sequence. Short periods of cooler climates, such as occurred through the EOT when MAT was ~ 13 °C, may have supported vegetation similar to modern day Evergreen Microphyll Fern Forest. Of potentially greater significance, however, was a warm period in the Early to early Late Oligocene (32–26 Ma) when MAT was 17–18 °C, accompanied by small but important increases in Araucariaceae pollen. At this time, Araucarian Notophyll/Microphyll Vine Forest likely occurred regionally.