Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Ke, Z., M. Mao, B. Steve Bamisile, Z. Li, and Y. Xu. 2024. Predicting the potential distribution of the Pheidole megacephala in light of present and future climate variations H. Puche [ed.],. Journal of Economic Entomology 117: 457–469. https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/toae013

The big-headed ant, Pheidole megacephala (Fabricius), has a widespread distribution across numerous regions globally. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has identified it as one of the 100 worst invasive alien species worldwide, given the severe ecological and economic harm it causes in invaded areas. In this study, we predicted the present and future global distribution of P. megacephala, taking into account known distribution points and bioclimatic factors. Our results indicated that temperature is the primary factor affecting the distribution of P. megacephala, with potential suitable areas currently found mainly in South America, Southern North America, Western Europe, Coastal areas of the Mediterranean and Red Seas, Southern Africa, Southern Asia, Islands in Southeast Asia, and coastal regions of Australia. The total suitable area spans 3,352.48 × 104 km2. In China, the potential suitable area for P. megacephala is 109.02 × 104 km2, representing 11.36% of China’s land area. In the future, based on different climatic conditions, the suitable area of P. megacephala generally showed a declining trend, but some newly added suitable areas showed that it had a tendency to expand to higher latitudes. Relevant agencies should implement effective measures to control P. megacephala populations to mitigate damage in invaded areas and slow down or prevent the spread of big-headed ants into noninvaded regions.

Serra‐Diaz, J. M., J. Borderieux, B. Maitner, C. C. F. Boonman, D. Park, W. Guo, A. Callebaut, et al. 2024. occTest: An integrated approach for quality control of species occurrence data. Global Ecology and Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13847

Aim Species occurrence data are valuable information that enables one to estimate geographical distributions, characterize niches and their evolution, and guide spatial conservation planning. Rapid increases in species occurrence data stem from increasing digitization and aggregation efforts, and citizen science initiatives. However, persistent quality issues in occurrence data can impact the accuracy of scientific findings, underscoring the importance of filtering erroneous occurrence records in biodiversity analyses.InnovationWe introduce an R package, occTest, that synthesizes a growing open‐source ecosystem of biodiversity cleaning workflows to prepare occurrence data for different modelling applications. It offers a structured set of algorithms to identify potential problems with species occurrence records by employing a hierarchical organization of multiple tests. The workflow has a hierarchical structure organized in testPhases (i.e. cleaning vs. testing) that encompass different testBlocks grouping different testTypes (e.g. environmental outlier detection), which may use different testMethods (e.g. Rosner test, jacknife,etc.). Four different testBlocks characterize potential problems in geographic, environmental, human influence and temporal dimensions. Filtering and plotting functions are incorporated to facilitate the interpretation of tests. We provide examples with different data sources, with default and user‐defined parameters. Compared to other available tools and workflows, occTest offers a comprehensive suite of integrated tests, and allows multiple methods associated with each test to explore consensus among data cleaning methods. It uniquely incorporates both coordinate accuracy analysis and environmental analysis of occurrence records. Furthermore, it provides a hierarchical structure to incorporate future tests yet to be developed.Main conclusionsoccTest will help users understand the quality and quantity of data available before the start of data analysis, while also enabling users to filter data using either predefined rules or custom‐built rules. As a result, occTest can better assess each record's appropriateness for its intended application.

Rojas‐Soto, O., J. S. Forero‐Rodríguez, A. Galindo‐Cruz, C. Mota‐Vargas, K. D. Parra‐Henao, A. Peña‐Peniche, J. Piña‐Torres, et al. 2024. Calibration areas in ecological niche and species distribution modelling: Unravelling approaches and concepts. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14834

AbstractAimThe calibration area (CA) corresponds to the geographic region used by different algorithms that estimate the species' environmental preferences and delimit its geographic distribution. This study intended to identify, test and compare current literature's most commonly employed approaches and methods for CA creation, highlighting the differences with the accessible area (M), a frequently misapplied concept.LocationGlobal.TaxonArthropods, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.MethodsWe conducted a literature review and analysed 129 recent articles on species distribution that use correlative models to identify the methods used to establish the CA and their frequency. We also evaluated seven of the most widely used methods for 31 species from different taxa.ResultsWe found that the most frequently used methods in literature corresponded to biogeographic entities (BE). Moreover, according to our evaluation, those methods that seek to establish the CA through the accessible area approach (including BE and ‘grinnell’) were the best evaluated. Finally, we highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the analysed methods in selecting CA.Main ConclusionsAlthough we cannot fail to recognize the usefulness and validity of the different methods to establish CAs, we suggest calibrating ecological niche and species distribution models in light of explicit a priori hypotheses regarding the extent of accessible areas (M) as a delimitation of the CA, which theoretically includes the species' dispersal ability and its barriers. We recommend using the BE method, which is simple to establish and highly operational.

Belotti López de Medina, C. R. 2024. Diet breadth and biodiversity in the pre-hispanic South-Central Andes (Western South America) during the Holocene: An exploratory analysis and review. The Holocene. https://doi.org/10.1177/09596836241231446

This paper presents an exploratory study on the taxonomic diversity of pre-Hispanic archaeofaunas in the South-Central Andes (SCA; western South America) from the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary to the Late-Holocene. The SCA is a complex of diverse environments and has undergone distinct climate events for the last 13,000 years, such as the occurrence of warmer and drier conditions in the Middle-Holocene. The South-Central Andean area was part of the larger Andes interaction area, which was a primary center for animal and plant domestication and the emergence of agro-pastoralist economies. Since subsistence was key to these processes, the SCA provides a relevant case study on the interactions among environment, foodways and sociocultural evolution. Taxonomic diversity was used here as a proxy for diet breadth. A total of 268 archaeofaunal assemblages were sampled from the zooarchaeological literature. Reviewed variables included the cultural chronology and spatial coordinates of the assemblages, as well as the presence and abundance of taxa at the family rank. Taxonomic diversity covered two dimensions: composition (families present in each assemblage) and structure (quantitative relationships among taxa), which was measured through richness (NTAXA), ubiquity and relative abundance (NISP based rank-order). Despite the uneven distribution of samples, the analyses revealed the following trends: (1) a moderate relationship between NTAXA and distance from coastline for most of the Holocene; (2) a potential decrease in assemblage richness for coastal ecoregions during the Late-Holocene; and (3) a generalized increase in the relative abundance of Camelidae.

Luza, A. L., A. V. Rodrigues, L. Mamalis, and V. Zulian. 2023. Spatial distribution of the greater rhea, Rhea americana (Linnaeus, 1758), in Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil: citizen-science data, probabilistic mapping, and comparison with expert knowledge. Ornithology Research. https://doi.org/10.1007/s43388-023-00143-3

The popularization of citizen-science platforms has increased the amount of data available in a fine spatial and temporal resolution, which can be used to fill distribution knowledge gaps through probabilistic maps. In this study, we gathered expert-based information and used species distribution models to produce two independent maps of the greater rhea ( Rhea americana , Rheiformes, Rheidae) distribution in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. We integrated municipality level detection/non-detection data from five citizen-science datasets into a Bayesian site occupancy model, accounting for false negatives, sampling effort, habitat covariates, and spatial autocorrelation. We addressed whether habitat (grassland and crop field cover, number of rural properties) and spatial autocorrelation explains the realized occurrence of the species and compared model-based and expert-based occurrence maps. The mean estimated percentage of occupied municipalities was 48% (239 out of 497 municipalities), whereas experts declared 21% of the municipalities (103) as occupied by the species. While both mapping approaches showed greater rhea presence in most municipalities of the Pampa biome, they disagreed in the majority of the municipalities in the Atlantic Forest, where more fieldwork must be undertaken. The greater rhea distribution was exclusively explained by the spatial autocorrelation component, suggesting that the species expanded its distribution towards the north of the state, reaching the Atlantic Forest, following deforestation and agriculture expansion.

Hamer, M., M. Kgatla, and B. Petersen. 2023. An assessment of collection specimen data for South African mountain plants and invertebrates. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa: 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/0035919x.2023.2200742

South Africa is considered a megadiverse country, with exceptionally high plant and relatively high animal species richness and endemism. The country’s species have been surveyed and studied for over 200 years, resulting in extensive natural science collections and a vast number of scientific papers and books. This study assessed whether existing data portals provide access to occurrence data and investigated the extent of the data in Global Biodiversity Information Facility and its completeness for plants and selected invertebrate taxa. The main focus was preserved specimen data, but some observation data from iNaturalist were also considered for selected analyses. Records that include species-level identification and co-ordinates were mapped in QGIS to show the coverage of collection localities across the country. The records that fall within the mountain range spatial layer were then extracted and counted to identify density of records per mountain range for various taxa. Forty percent of plant records are from mountain localities, and the Atlantic Cape Fold Mountains had the highest density of records. Table Mountain has been extensively collected for plants and invertebrates. A large proportion of the records for invertebrates lacked species-level identification and co-ordinates, resulting in a low number of records for analyses. The accessible data are only a relatively small subset of existing collections, and digitisation and data upgrading is considered a high priority before collecting gaps can be addressed by targeted surveys.

Koju, L., N. Shrestha, B. B. Raskoti, R. Ale, N. P. Ghimire, and S. Shrestha. 2023. Spatial patterns, underlying drivers and conservation priorities of orchids in the central Himalaya. Biological Conservation 283: 110121. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2023.110121

Understanding the primary drivers of species diversity patterns and identifying critical places for biodiversity protection are the two major concerns confronting the global conservation community. The Orchidaceae, which is one of the most diverse angiosperm families with over 30,000 species, is currently facing grave threats from habitat degradation, climate change, and a range of human-induced issues. However, the spatial patterns of orchid distribution and the factors influencing these patterns, both of which are crucial for developing successful orchid conservation plans, remain poorly understood. Here, using one of the most extensive distribution datasets of >500 orchid species in Nepal, we mapped the distribution of all, common, rare, epiphyte, and terrestrial species and identified important factors driving their patterns. We also assessed their protection gaps and identified key conservation regions. We discovered low spatial congruence between the diversity patterns of different groups, and the fundamental drivers underlying the richness pattern differed considerably. The key orchid conservation areas were primarily found in the mid-hills and highlands of central Nepal, with 62 % of these areas outside the protected area (PA) network. Our findings emphasize the importance of considering pollinator diversity and other climate factors when developing effective management plans to conserve orchids, as well as employing different strategies to conserve different life forms. A huge conservation gap in protecting orchids despite large PA coverage in Nepal indicates insufficiency of existing PA network in conserving plants. Therefore, our findings reiterates the need to consider plant conservation goals alongside animal conservation priorities in future conservation planning.

Huber, B. A., G. Meng, J. Král, I. M. Ávila Herrera, M. A. Izquierdo, and L. S. Carvalho. 2023. High and dry: integrative taxonomy of the Andean spider genus Nerudia (Araneae: Pholcidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlac100

Abstract Ninetinae are a group of poorly known spiders that do not fit the image of ‘daddy long-legs spiders’ (Pholcidae), the family to which they belong. They are mostly short-legged, tiny and live in arid environments. The previously monotypic Andean genus Nerudia exemplifies our poor knowledge of Ninetinae: only seven adult specimens from two localities in Chile and Argentina have been reported in the literature. We found representatives of Nerudia at 24 of 52 localities visited in 2019, mostly under rocks in arid habitats, up to 4450 m a.s.l., the highest known record for Pholcidae. With now more than 400 adult specimens, we revise the genus, describing ten new species based on morphology (including SEM) and COI barcodes. We present the first karyotype data for Nerudia and for its putative sister-genus Gertschiola. These two southern South American genera share a X1X2X3Y sex chromosome system. We model the distribution of Nerudia, showing that the genus is expected to occur in the Atacama biogeographic province (no record so far) and that its environmental niche is phylogenetically conserved. This is the first comprehensive revision of any Ninetinae genus. It suggests that focused collecting may uncover a considerable diversity of these enigmatic spiders.

Kagnew, B., A. Assefa, and A. Degu. 2022. Modeling the Impact of Climate Change on Sustainable Production of Two Legumes Important Economically and for Food Security: Mungbeans and Cowpeas in Ethiopia. Sustainability 15: 600. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15010600

Climate change is one of the most serious threats to global crops production at present and it will continue to be the largest threat in the future worldwide. Knowing how climate change affects crop productivity might help sustainability and crop improvement efforts. Under existing and projected climate change scenarios (2050s and 2070s in Ethiopia), the effect of global warming on the distribution of V. radiata and V. unguiculata was investigated. MaxEnt models were used to predict the current and future distribution pattern changes of these crops in Ethiopia using different climate change scenarios (i.e., lowest (RCP 2.6), moderate (RCP 4.5), and extreme (RCP 8.5)) for the years 2050s and 2070s. The study includes 81 and 68 occurrence points for V. radiata and V. unguiculata, respectively, along with 22 environmental variables. The suitability maps indicate that the Beneshangul Gumuz, Oromia, Amhara, SNNPR, and Tigray regions are the major Ethiopian regions with the potential to produce V. radiata, while Amhara, Gambella, Oromia, SNNPR, and Tigray are suitable for producing V. unguiculata. The model prediction for V. radiata habitat ranges distribution in Ethiopia indicated that 1.69%, 4.27%, 11.25% and 82.79% are estimated to be highly suitable, moderately suitable, less suitable, and unsuitable, respectively. On the other hand, the distribution of V. unguiculata is predicted to have 1.27%, 3.07%, 5.22%, and 90.44% habitat ranges that are highly suitable, moderately suitable, less suitable, and unsuitable, respectively, under the current climate change scenario by the year (2050s and 2070s) in Ethiopia. Among the environmental variables, precipitation of the wettest quarter (Bio16), solar radiation index (SRI), temperature seasonality (Bio4), and precipitation seasonality (Bio15) are discovered to be the most effective factors for defining habitat suitability for V. radiata, while precipitation of the wettest quarter (Bio16), temperature annual range (Bio7) and precipitation of the driest quarter (Bio17) found to be better habitat suitability indicator for V. unguiculata in Ethiopia. The result indicates that these variables were more relevant in predicting suitable habitat for these crops in Ethiopia. A future projection predicts that the suitable distribution region will become increasingly fragmented. In general, the study provides a scientific basis of suitable agro-ecological habitat for V. radiata and V. unguiculata for long-term crop management and production improvement in Ethiopia. Therefore, projections of current and future climate change impacts on such crops are vital to reduce the risk of crop failure and to identify the potential productive areas in the country.

Bento, M., H. Niza, A. Cartaxana, S. Bandeira, J. Paula, and A. M. Correia. 2023. Mind the Gaps: Taxonomic, Geographic and Temporal Data of Marine Invertebrate Databases from Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe. Diversity 15: 70. https://doi.org/10.3390/d15010070

One of the best ways to share and disseminate biodiversity information is through the digitization of data and making it available via online databases. The rapid growth of publicly available biodiversity data is not without problems which may decrease the utility of online databases. In this study we analyze taxonomic, geographic and temporal data gaps, and bias related to existing data on selected marine invertebrate occurrences along the coastline of two African countries, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe. The final marine invertebrate dataset comprises of 19.910 occurrences, but 32% of the original dataset occurrences were excluded due to data gaps. Most marine invertebrates in Mozambique were collected in seagrasses, whereas in São Tomé and Príncipe they were mostly collected offshore. The dataset has a temporal coverage from 1816 to 2019, with most occurrences collected in the last two decades. This study provides baseline information relevant to a better understanding of marine invertebrate biodiversity data gaps and bias in these habitats along the coasts of these countries. The information can be further applied to complete marine invertebrate data gaps contributing to design informed sampling strategies and advancing refined datasets that can be used in management and conservation plans in both countries.