Science Enabled by Specimen Data

López‐Aguilar, T. P., J. Montalva, B. Vilela, M. P. Arbetman, M. A. Aizen, C. L. Morales, and D. de P. Silva. 2024. Niche analyses and the potential distribution of four invasive bumblebees worldwide. Ecology and Evolution 14. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.11200

The introduction of bees for agricultural production in distinct parts of the world and poor management have led to invasion processes that affect biodiversity, significantly impacting native species. Different Bombus species with invasive potential have been recorded spreading in different regions worldwide, generating ecological and economic losses. We applied environmental niche and potential distribution analyses to four species of the genus Bombus to evaluate the similarities and differences between their native and invaded ranges. We found that B. impatiens has an extended environmental niche, going from dry environmental conditions in the native range to warmer and wetter conditions in the invaded range. Bombus ruderatus also exhibited an extended environmental niche with drier and warmer conditions in the invaded range than in its native range. Bombus subterraneus expanded its environmental niche from cooler and wetter conditions in the native range to drier and warmer conditions in the invaded range. Finally, B. terrestris showed the most significant variation in the environmental niche, extending to areas with similar and different environmental conditions from its native range. The distribution models agreed with the known distributions for the four Bombus species, presenting geographic areas known to be occupied by each species in different regions worldwide. The niche analysis indicate shifts in the niches from the native to the invaded distribution area of the bee species. Still, niche similarities were observed in the areas of greatest suitability in the potential distribution for B. ruderatus, B. subterraneus, and B. terrestris, and to a lesser degree in the same areas with B. impatiens. These species require similar environmental conditions as in their native ranges to be established in their introduced ranges. Still, they can adapt to changes in temperature and humidity, allowing them to expand their ranges into new climatic conditions.

Melin, A., C. M. Beale, J. C. Manning, and J. F. Colville. 2024. Fine‐scale bee species distribution models: Hotspots of richness and endemism in South Africa with species‐area comparisons. Insect Conservation and Diversity. https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12715

While global patterns of bee diversity have been modelled, our understanding of fine‐scale regional patterns is more limited, particularly for under‐sampled regions such as Africa. South Africa is among the exceptions on the African continent; its bee fauna (ca. 1253 species) has been well collected and documented, including mass digitising of its natural history collections. It is a region with high floral diversity, high habitat heterogeneity and variable rainfall seasonality.Here, we combine a South African bee species distributional database (877 bee species) with a geospatial modelling approach to determine fine‐scale (~11 × 11 km grid cell resolution) hotspots of bee species richness, endemism and range‐restricted species.Our analyses, based on the probabilities of occurrence surfaces for each species across 108,803 two‐minute grid cells, reveal three bee hotspots of richness: Winter rainfall, Aseasonal rainfall and Early‐to‐late summer rainfall. These hotspots contain large numbers of endemic and geographically restricted taxa. Hotspots with particularly high bee diversity include the Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Desert biomes; the latter showing 6–20 times more species per unit area than other biomes. Our results conform with global species‐area patterns: areas of higher‐than‐expected bee density are largely concentrated in Mediterranean and arid habitats.This study further enhances our knowledge in identifying regional and global hotspots of richness and endemism for a keystone group of insects and enabling these to be accounted for when setting conservation priorities.

Ranjbaran, Y., D. Rödder, R. Saberi-Pirooz, and F. Ahmadzadeh. 2024. What happens in ice age, does not stay in ice age: Phylogeography of Bombus terrestris revealed a low genetic diversity amongst the Eurasian populations. Global Ecology and Conservation 49: e02775. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2023.e02775

The objective of this research was to assess the genetic diversity and phylogeography of Bombus terrestris and examine the historical events that shaped its contemporary genetic structures using the COI mitochondrial marker. Specimens of the species were collected from its distribution range alongside the Alborz Mountain range, and GenBank sequences from the Eurasian distribution range were incorporated into the dataset. The COI sequences were employed in Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood analyses to generate phylogenetic trees for the species populations and to investigate the evolutionary history of the species. Additionally, species occurrence points and climate data were utilized in Species Distribution Modeling (SDM) analyses to reconstruct the species range under past, present, and future climate conditions. The ML and BI trees yielded similar topologies, indicating extremely low genetic diversity and a homogeneous structure in the species population distribution range in Eurasia. Demographic analyses suggested that the species may have experienced a bottleneck during the last glacial maximum in Eurasia, followed by a recent expansion. The SDM analyses revealed significant fluctuations in the species range in the past and expansion under present conditions. Given the high dispersal ability of the species, the population expansion rate has surpassed the rate of developing new genetic diversity, and the estimated polymorphic sites for the species are likely relatively recent. This low level of genetic variation can also be attributed to the absence of geographical barriers and the excellent flying ability of the queen bee, leading to sustained gene flow throughout the entire continent. Despite the general correlation between larger populations and higher genetic diversity, bumblebees can expand their population size without increasing genetic diversity when residing in resourceful habitats.

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.

Kolanowska, M. 2023. Loss of fungal symbionts and changes in pollinator availability caused by climate change will affect the distribution and survival chances of myco-heterotrophic orchid species. Scientific Reports 13. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-33856-y

The first comprehensive species distribution models for orchid, its fungal symbionts and pollinator are presented. To evaluate impact of global warming on these organisms three different projections and four various climate change scenarios were analysed. The niche modelling was based on presence-only records of Limodorum abortivum , two species of Russula and three insects pollinating orchid ( Anthophora affinis, Bombus terrestris, Rhodanthidium septemdentatum ). Two sets of orchid predictions were examined—the first one included only climatic data and the second one was based on climate data and data on future distribution of orchid fungal symbionts. Overall, a poleward range shift is predicted to occur as a result of climate change and apparently global warming will be favorable for L. abortivum and its potential geographical range will expand. However, due to the negative effect of global warming on fungal symbionts of L. abortivum , the actual extension of the suitable niches of the orchid will be much limited. Considering future possibility of cross-pollination, the availability of A. affinis for L. abortivum will decrease and this bee will be available in the worst case scenarios only for 21% of orchid populations. On the other hand, the overlap of orchid and the buff-tailed bumblebee will increase and as much as 86.5% of plant populations will be located within B. terrestris potential range. Also the availability of R. septemdentatum will be higher than currently observed in almost all analysed climate change projections. This study showed the importance of inclusion of ecological factors in species distribution models as the climate data itself are not enough to estimate the future distribution of plant species. Moreover, the availability of pollen vectors which is crucial for long-term survival of orchid populations should be analysed in context of climate changes.

Liu, S., S. Xia, D. Wu, J. E. Behm, Y. Meng, H. Yuan, P. Wen, et al. 2022. Understanding global and regional patterns of termite diversity and regional functional traits. iScience: 105538. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2022.105538

Our understanding of broad-scale biodiversity and functional trait patterns is largely based on plants, and relatively little information is available on soil arthropods. Here, we investigated the distribution of termite diversity globally and morphological traits and diversity across China. Our analyses showed increasing termite species richness with decreasing latitude at both the globally, and within-China. Additionally, we detected obvious latitudinal trends in the mean community value of termite morphological traits on average, with body size and leg length decreasing with increasing latitude. Furthermore, temperature, NDVI and water variables were the most important drivers controlling the variation in termite richness, and temperature and soil properties were key drivers of the geographic distribution of termite morphological traits. Our global termite richness map is one of the first high resolution maps for any arthropod group and especially given the functional importance of termites, our work provides a useful baseline for further ecological analysis.

Boyd, R. J., M. A. Aizen, R. M. Barahona‐Segovia, L. Flores‐Prado, F. E. Fontúrbel, T. M. Francoy, M. Lopez‐Aliste, et al. 2022. Inferring trends in pollinator distributions across the Neotropics from publicly available data remains challenging despite mobilization efforts Y. Fourcade [ed.],. Diversity and Distributions 28: 1404–1415. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.13551

Aim Aggregated species occurrence data are increasingly accessible through public databases for the analysis of temporal trends in the geographic distributions of species. However, biases in these data present challenges for statistical inference. We assessed potential biases in data available through GBIF on the occurrences of four flower-visiting taxa: bees (Anthophila), hoverflies (Syrphidae), leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae) and hummingbirds (Trochilidae). We also assessed whether and to what extent data mobilization efforts improved our ability to estimate trends in species' distributions. Location The Neotropics. Methods We used five data-driven heuristics to screen the data for potential geographic, temporal and taxonomic biases. We began with a continental-scale assessment of the data for all four taxa. We then identified two recent data mobilization efforts (2021) that drastically increased the quantity of records of bees collected in Chile available through GBIF. We compared the dataset before and after the addition of these new records in terms of their biases and estimated trends in species' distributions. Results We found evidence of potential sampling biases for all taxa. The addition of newly-mobilized records of bees in Chile decreased some biases but introduced others. Despite increasing the quantity of data for bees in Chile sixfold, estimates of trends in species' distributions derived using the postmobilization dataset were broadly similar to what would have been estimated before their introduction, albeit more precise. Main conclusions Our results highlight the challenges associated with drawing robust inferences about trends in species' distributions using publicly available data. Mobilizing historic records will not always enable trend estimation because more data do not necessarily equal less bias. Analysts should carefully assess their data before conducting analyses: this might enable the estimation of more robust trends and help to identify strategies for effective data mobilization. Our study also reinforces the need for targeted monitoring of pollinators worldwide.

Li, D., Z. Li, Z. Liu, Y. Yang, A. G. Khoso, L. Wang, and D. Liu. 2022. Climate change simulations revealed potentially drastic shifts in insect community structure and crop yields in China’s farmland. Journal of Pest Science. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10340-022-01479-3

Climate change will cause drastic fluctuations in agricultural ecosystems, which in turn may affect global food security. We used ecological niche modeling to predict the potential distribution for four cereal aphids (i.e., Sitobion avenae, Rhopalosiphum padi, Schizaphis graminum, and Diurphis noxia…

Kolanowska, M. 2021. The future of a montane orchid species and the impact of climate change on the distribution of its pollinators and magnet species. Global Ecology and Conservation 32: e01939. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2021.e01939

The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of global warming on suitable niches of montane orchid, Traunsteinera globosa, using ecological niche modelling approach. Additionally, the effect of various climate change scenarios on future changes in the distribution and overlap of the orchid magn…

Hemberger, J., M. S. Crossley, and C. Gratton. 2021. Historical decrease in agricultural landscape diversity is associated with shifts in bumble bee species occurrence C. Scherber [ed.],. Ecology Letters 24: 1800–1813. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13786

Agricultural intensification is a key suspect among putative drivers of recent insect declines, but an explicit link between historical change in agricultural land cover and insect occurrence is lacking. Determining whether agriculture impacts beneficial insects (e.g. pollinators), is crucial to enh…