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Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Rayos, A. L., M. A. M. Renner, and S. Y. W. Ho. 2024. The Neotropical endemic liverwort subfamily Micropterygioideae had circum‐Antarctic links to the rest of the Lepidoziaceae during the early Cretaceous. Ecology and Evolution 14.

Lepidoziaceae are the third‐largest family of liverworts, with about 860 species distributed on all continents. The evolutionary history of this family has not been satisfactorily resolved, with taxa such as Micropterygioideae yet to be included in phylogenetic analyses. We inferred a dated phylogeny of Lepidoziaceae using a data set consisting of 13 genetic markers, sampled from 147 species. Based on our phylogenetic estimate, we used statistical dispersal‐vicariance analysis to reconstruct the biogeographic history of the family. We inferred a crown age of 197 Ma (95% credible interval 157–240 Ma) for the family in the Australian region, with most major lineages also originating in the same region. Micropterygioideae are placed as the sister group to Lembidioideae, with these two lineages diverging from each other about 132 Ma in the South American–Australian region. With South America and Australia being connected through Antarctica at the time, our results suggest a circum‐Antarctic link between Micropterygioideae and the rest of the family. Crown Micropterygioideae were inferred to have arisen 45 Ma in South America before the continent separated from Antarctica. Extinction from southern temperate regions might explain the present‐day restriction of Micropterygioideae to the Neotropics. Our study reveals the influence of past geological events, such as continental drift, on the evolution and distribution of a widespread and diverse family of liverworts.

COSTA, D. P., T. C. DA ROCHA, and M. F. DE SIQUEIRA. 2023. Climatic conditions may structure the distribution of Syzygiella rubricaulis (Nees) Steph., a disjunct and high elevation species. Phytotaxa 601.

Syzygiella rubricaulis is a widely distributed species in the high mountains of tropical America and in addition occurs on the Azores. In order to unravel the climatic environment of S. rubricaulis populations, we compiled georeferenced data from verified herbarium specimens, GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility – and species Link ( databases, as well as climatic data from Worldclim, to determine the climatic signals structuring the populations. We analyzed the disjunct range of Syzygiella rubricaulis from a climatic perspective. We used cluster analysis and principal components analysis (PCA) with climatic variables to clarify how climate may be structuring populations and which variables make the largest contributions to dataset variations. We recovered three major strongly supported groups of S. rubricaulis. Water vapour pressure, minimum temperature of the coldest month, annual precipitation, and precipitation of the wettest month explained variation patterns in the dataset best. We also provide a detailed dataset characterization of all records compiled in the present study. Our findings provide new insight into how climate structures the distribution of S. rubricaulis populations. Precipitation variables play an important role in determining the observed distribution patterns of the species and are suggestive of future alteration of its geographic distribution in response to climate change.

Kor, L., and M. Diazgranados. 2023. Identifying important plant areas for useful plant species in Colombia. Biological Conservation 284: 110187.

While area-based approaches continue to dominate biodiversity conservation, there is growing recognition of the importance of the human dimensions of biodiversity. We applied the Important Plant Areas (IPA) approach in Colombia to identify key sites for the conservation of plant species with reported human uses. Drawing on the Checklist of Useful Plants of Colombia, we collated 1,045,889 clean occurrence records for 5400 native species from global data repositories and digitized herbaria. Through analysis based on regionalized grid cells, we identified 980 sites meeting IPA thresholds. These are primarily located in forest habitats, with only 19.8 % within existing national natural parks or internationally designated conservation areas. Grid cells were transformed to polygons based on overlapping ecosystems and administrative boundaries to form more meaningful site boundaries. A subsequent two-stage ranking procedure based on conservation value and richness found 46 sites to be of high priority, with 10 selected as top priorities for further investigation and conservation action. These 10 sites support significant populations of 33 threatened useful plant species and represent six of the 13 bioregions of Colombia in just 0.27 % of its land area. To progress from potential to confirmed IPAs, targeted fieldwork is required alongside stakeholder engagement and consultation, crucially involving local resource users. As a megadiverse country ranked second in the world for its botanical richness, effective IPA management would not only contribute to Colombian targets for sustainable development and conservation but would also support global targets to recover biodiversity for both planet and people.

Cousins-Westerberg, R., N. Dakin, L. Schat, G. Kadereit, and A. M. Humphreys. 2023. Evolution of cold tolerance in the highly stress-tolerant samphires and relatives (Salicornieae: Amaranthaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.

Low temperature constitutes one of the main barriers to plant distributions, confining many clades to their ancestrally tropical biome. However, recent evidence suggests that transitions from tropical to temperate biomes may be more frequent than previously thought. Here, we study the evolution of cold and frost tolerance in the globally distributed and highly stress-tolerant Salicornieae (Salicornioideae, Amaranthaceae s.l.). We first generate a phylogenetic tree comprising almost all known species (85-90%), using newly generated (n = 106) and published nuclear-ribosomal and plastid sequences. Next, we use geographical occurrence data to document in which clades and geographical regions cold-tolerant species occur and reconstruct how cold tolerance evolved. Finally, we test for correlated evolution between frost tolerance and the annual life form. We find that frost tolerance has evolved independently in up to four Northern Hemisphere lineages but that annuals are no more likely to evolve frost tolerance than perennials, indicating the presence of different strategies for adapting to cold environments. Our findings add to mounting evidence for multiple independent out-of-the-tropics transitions among close relatives of flowering plants and raise new questions about the ecological and physiological mechanism(s) of adaptation to low temperatures in Salicornieae.

Ivey, C. T., N. M. Habecker, J. P. Bergmann, J. Ewald, M. E. Frayer, and J. M. Coughlan. 2023. Weak reproductive isolation and extensive gene flow between Mimulus glaucescens and M. guttatus in northern California. Evolution.

Abstract Barriers to reproduction are often how progress in speciation is measured. Nonetheless, an unresolved question concerns the extent to which reproductive barriers diminish gene flow between incipient species. The Sierra Nevada foothill endemic Mimulus glaucescens and the widespread M. guttatus are considered distinct species based on striking differences in vegetative morphology, but barriers to reproduction have not been previously identified, nor has gene flow between species been characterized. Here, we examined 15 potential reproductive barriers within a Northern California area of broad sympatry. Most barriers, with the exception of ecogeographic isolation, were weak or absent, and total isolation for each species was incomplete. Population genomic analyses of range-wide and broadly sympatric accessions revealed extensive gene flow between these taxa, particularly in sympatry. Despite widespread introgression, Mimulus glaucescens, emerged as monophyletic and largely comprised a single ancestry that was found at intermediate frequency within M. guttatus. This result, along with observed ecological and phenotypic differentiation, suggests that natural selection may contribute to the maintenance of distinct phenotypic forms in the earliest stages of speciation. Integrating estimates of barrier strength with direct estimates of gene flow can strengthen a more nuanced interpretation of the process of speciation in natural communities.

Reichgelt, T., A. Baumgartner, R. Feng, and D. A. Willard. 2023. Poleward amplification, seasonal rainfall and forest heterogeneity in the Miocene of the eastern USA. Global and Planetary Change 222: 104073.

Paleoclimate reconstructions can provide a window into the environmental conditions in Earth history when atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were higher than today. In the eastern USA, paleoclimate reconstructions are sparse, because terrestrial sedimentary deposits are rare. Despite this, the eastern USA has the largest population and population density in North America, and understanding the effects of current and future climate change is of vital importance. Here, we provide terrestrial paleoclimate reconstructions of the eastern USA from Miocene fossil floras. Additionally, we compare proxy paleoclimate reconstructions from the warmest period in the Miocene, the Miocene Climatic Optimum (MCO), to those of an MCO Earth System Model. Reconstructed Miocene temperatures and precipitation north of 35°N are higher than modern. In contrast, south of 35°N, temperatures and precipitation are similar to today, suggesting a poleward amplification effect in eastern North America. Reconstructed Miocene rainfall seasonality was predominantly higher than modern, regardless of latitude, indicating greater variability in intra-annual moisture transport. Reconstructed climates are almost uniformly in the temperate seasonal forest biome, but heterogeneity of specific forest types is evident. Reconstructed Miocene terrestrial temperatures from the eastern USA are lower than modeled temperatures and coeval Atlantic sea surface temperatures. However, reconstructed rainfall is consistent with modeled rainfall. Our results show that during the Miocene, climate was most different from modern in the northeastern states, and may suggest a drastic reduction in the meridional temperature gradient along the North American east coast compared to today.

Gómez Díaz, J. A., A. Lira-Noriega, and F. Villalobos. 2023. Expanding protected areas in a Neotropical hotspot. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology: 1–15.

The region of central Veracruz is considered a biodiversity hotspot due to its high species richness and environmental heterogeneity, but only 2% of this region is currently protected. This study aimed to assess the current protected area system’s effectiveness and to identify priority conservation areas for expanding the existing protected area system. We used the distribution models of 1186 species from three kingdoms (Animalia, Plantae, and Fungi) together with ZONATION software, a conservation planning tool, to determine areas that could help expand the current network of protected areas. We applied three different parametrizations (including only species, using the boundary quality penalty, and using corridor connectivity). We found that protecting an additional 15% of the area would increase, between 16.2% and 19.3%, the protection of the distribution area of all species. We propose that the regions with a consensus of the three parametrizations should be declared as new protected areas to expand 374 km2 to the 216 km2 already protected. Doing so would double the protected surface in central Veracruz. The priority areas identified in this study have more species richness, carbon stock values, natural vegetation cover, and less human impact index than the existing protected areas. If our identified priority areas are declared protected, we could expect a future recovery of endangered species populations for Veracruz. The proposed new protected areas are planned and designed as corridors connecting currently isolated protected areas to promote biodiversity protection.

Baltensperger, A., J. Hagelin, P. Schuette, A. Droghini, and K. Ott. 2022. High dietary and habitat diversity indicate generalist behaviors of northern bog lemmings Synaptomys borealis in Alaska, USA. Endangered Species Research 49: 145–158.

The northern bog lemming Synaptomys borealis (NBL) is a rare small mammal that is undergoing a federal Species Status Assessment (SSA) under the US Endangered Species Act. Despite a wide North American distribution, very little is known about NBL dietary or habitat needs, both of which are germane to the resiliency of this species to climate change. To quantify diet composition of NBL in Alaska, we used DNA metabarcoding from 59 archived specimens to describe the taxonomic richness and relative abundance of foods in recent diets. DNA analyses revealed a broad diet composed of at least 110 families and 92 genera of bryophytes (mosses and liverworts), graminoids, fungi, forbs, and woody shrubs. Nine bryophyte genera and Carex sedges composed the largest portions of NBL diets. To quantify habitat preference, we intersected 467 georeferenced occurrence records of NBL in Alaska with remotely sensed land cover classes and used a compositional analysis framework that accounts for the relative abundance of land cover types. We did not detect significant habitat preferences for specific land cover types, although NBL frequently occurred in evergreen forest, woody wetlands, and adjacent to water. Our research highlights the importance of bryophytes, among a high diversity of dietary components, and describes NBL as boreal habitat generalists. Results will inform the current federal SSA by quantifying the extent to which ecological constraints are likely to affect NBL in a rapidly changing boreal environment.

Gori, B., T. Ulian, H. Y. Bernal, and M. Diazgranados. 2022. Understanding the diversity and biogeography of Colombian edible plants. Scientific Reports 12.

Despite being the second most biodiverse country in the world, hosting more than 7000 useful species, Colombia is characterized by widespread poverty and food insecurity. Following the growing attention in Neglected and Underutilized Species, the present study will combine spatial and taxonomic analysis to unveil their diversity and distribution, as well as to advocate their potential as key resources for tackling food security in the country. The cataloguing of Colombian edible plants resulted in 3805 species. Among these, the most species-rich genera included Inga, Passiflora, Miconia, Solanum, Pouteria , Protium , Annona and Bactris . Biogeographic analysis revealed major diversity hotspots in the Andean humid forests by number of records, species, families, and genera. The departments of Antioquia, Boyacá, Meta, and Cundinamarca ranked first both in terms of number of unique georeferenced records and species of edible plants. Significant information gaps about species distribution were detected in the departments of Cesar, Sucre, Atlántico, Vichada, and Guainía, corresponding to the Caribe and Llanos bioregions, indicating the urgent need for focusing investigation in these areas. Furthermore, a significant level of geographic specificity was found in edible plant species’ distributions between 13 different bioregions and 33 departments, hinting the adoption of tailorized prioritisation protocols for the conservation and revitalization of such resources at the local level.

Ramirez-Villegas, J., C. K. Khoury, H. A. Achicanoy, M. V. Diaz, A. C. Mendez, C. C. Sosa, Z. Kehel, et al. 2022. State of ex situ conservation of landrace groups of 25 major crops. Nature Plants 8: 491–499.

Crop landraces have unique local agroecological and societal functions and offer important genetic resources for plant breeding. Recognition of the value of landrace diversity and concern about its erosion on farms have led to sustained efforts to establish ex situ collections worldwide. The degree to which these efforts have succeeded in conserving landraces has not been comprehensively assessed. Here we modelled the potential distributions of eco-geographically distinguishable groups of landraces of 25 cereal, pulse and starchy root/tuber/fruit crops within their geographic regions of diversity. We then analysed the extent to which these landrace groups are represented in genebank collections, using geographic and ecological coverage metrics as a proxy for genetic diversity. We find that ex situ conservation of landrace groups is currently moderately comprehensive on average, with substantial variation among crops; a mean of 63% ± 12.6% of distributions is currently represented in genebanks. Breadfruit, bananas and plantains, lentils, common beans, chickpeas, barley and bread wheat landrace groups are among the most fully represented, whereas the largest conservation gaps persist for pearl millet, yams, finger millet, groundnut, potatoes and peas. Geographic regions prioritized for further collection of landrace groups for ex situ conservation include South Asia, the Mediterranean and West Asia, Mesoamerica, sub-Saharan Africa, the Andean mountains of South America and Central to East Asia. With further progress to fill these gaps, a high degree of representation of landrace group diversity in genebanks is feasible globally, thus fulfilling international targets for their ex situ conservation. By analysing the state of representation of traditional varieties of 25 major crops in ex situ repositories, this study demonstrates conservation progress made over more than a half-century and identifies the gaps remaining to be filled.