Science Enabled by Specimen Data
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. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504509.2022.2163717
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.
Vieira, M., R. Zetter, F. Grímsson, and T. Denk. 2023. Niche evolution versus niche conservatism and habitat loss determine persistence and extirpation in late Neogene European Fagaceae. Quaternary Science Reviews 300: 107896. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2022.107896
An increasing body of palaeobotanical data demonstrates a series of Pliocene and Pleistocene extirpations and extinctions of plant lineages in western Eurasia, which are believed to have been determined by the climatic properties of their related East Asian and North American sister lineages. We investigated the diversity of a widespread northern hemispheric plant family, Fagaceae, during the Late Pliocene of Portugal. We found a high diversity of Fagaceae comprising extant and extinct lineages. Dispersed pollen of Castanopsis and Quercus sect. Cyclobalanopsis represent the youngest records of these Himalayan-Southeast Asian groups in western Eurasia. Likewise, fossil-species of Quercus sect. Lobatae and the North American clade of sect. Quercus are the youngest records of these modern New World groups in western Eurasia. For the extinct Trigonobalanopsis, the pollen record of Portugal is the youngest known of this genus. Climate data of modern representatives demonstrate that a deterministic model can explain only a part of the Pliocene and Pleistocene extirpations. Modern cold month mean temperatures of Castanopsis and Quercus sect. Cyclobalanopsis and their last occurrences in western Eurasia in the Pliocene fit with a deterministic model (niche conservatism). In contrast, survival or extirpation of groups with high cold tolerance appear to have been more complex. Here, niche evolution, abundance and diversity of a lineage during pre-Pleistocene times, and habitat availability/loss determined the fate of Fagaceae lineages in western Eurasia.
Ralimanana, H., A. L. Perrigo, R. J. Smith, J. S. Borrell, S. Faurby, M. T. Rajaonah, T. Randriamboavonjy, et al. 2022. Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity: Threats and opportunities. Science 378. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.adf1466
Madagascar’s unique biota is heavily affected by human activity and is under intense threat. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on the conservation status of Madagascar’s terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity by presenting data and analyses on documented and predicted species-level conservation statuses, the most prevalent and relevant threats, ex situ collections and programs, and the coverage and comprehensiveness of protected areas. The existing terrestrial protected area network in Madagascar covers 10.4% of its land area and includes at least part of the range of the majority of described native species of vertebrates with known distributions (97.1% of freshwater fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals combined) and plants (67.7%). The overall figures are higher for threatened species (97.7% of threatened vertebrates and 79.6% of threatened plants occurring within at least one protected area). International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessments and Bayesian neural network analyses for plants identify overexploitation of biological resources and unsustainable agriculture as the most prominent threats to biodiversity. We highlight five opportunities for action at multiple levels to ensure that conservation and ecological restoration objectives, programs, and activities take account of complex underlying and interacting factors and produce tangible benefits for the biodiversity and people of Madagascar.
Campbell, L. C. E., E. T. Kiers, and G. Chomicki. 2022. The evolution of plant cultivation by ants. Trends in Plant Science. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2022.09.005
Outside humans, true agriculture was previously thought to be restricted to social insects farming fungus. However, obligate farming of plants by ants was recently discovered in Fiji, prompting a re-examination of plant cultivation by ants. Here, we generate a database of plant cultivation by ants, identify three main types, and show that these interactions evolved primarily for shelter rather than food. We find that plant cultivation evolved at least 65 times independently for crops (~200 plant species), and 15 times in farmer lineages (~37 ant taxa) in the Neotropics and Asia/Australasia. Because of their high evolutionary replication, and variation in partner dependence, these systems are powerful models to unveil the steps in the evolution and ecology of insect agriculture.
Testo, W. L., A. L. de Gasper, S. Molino, J. M. G. y Galán, A. Salino, V. A. de O. Dittrich, and E. B. Sessa. 2022. Deep vicariance and frequent transoceanic dispersal shape the evolutionary history of a globally distributed fern family. American Journal of Botany. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajb2.16062
Premise Historical biogeography of ferns is typically expected to be dominated by long-distance dispersal, due to their minuscule spores. However, few studies have inferred the historical biogeography of a large and widely distributed group of ferns to test this hypothesis. Our aims are to determine the extent to which long-distance dispersal vs. vicariance have shaped the history of the fern family Blechnaceae, to explore ecological correlates of dispersal and diversification, and to determine whether these patterns differ between the northern and southern hemispheres. Methods We used sequence data for three chloroplast loci to infer a time-calibrated phylogeny for 154 out of 265 species of Blechnaceae, including representatives of all genera in the family. This tree was used to conduct ancestral range reconstruction and stochastic character mapping, estimate diversification rates, and identify ecological correlates of diversification. Key results Blechnaceae originated in Eurasia and began diversifying in the late Cretaceous. A lineage comprising most extant diversity diversified principally in the austral Pacific region around the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Land connections that existed near the poles during periods of warm climates likely facilitated migration of several lineages, with subsequent climate-mediated vicariance shaping current distributions. Long-distance dispersal is frequent and asymmetrical, with New Zealand/Pacific Islands, Australia, and tropical America being major source areas. Conclusions Ancient vicariance and extensive long-distance dispersal have shaped the history of Blechnaceae in both the northern and southern hemispheres. The exceptional diversity in austral regions appears to reflect rapid speciation in these areas; mechanisms underlying this evolutionary success remain uncertain.
Amaral, D. T., I. A. S. Bonatelli, M. Romeiro-Brito, E. M. Moraes, and F. F. Franco. 2022. Spatial patterns of evolutionary diversity in Cactaceae show low ecological representation within protected areas. Biological Conservation 273: 109677. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2022.109677
Mapping biodiversity patterns across taxa and environments is crucial to address the evolutionary and ecological dimensions of species distribution, suggesting areas of particular importance for conservation purposes. Within Cactaceae, spatial diversity patterns are poorly explored, as are the abiotic factors that may predict these patterns. We gathered geographic and genetic data from 921 cactus species by exploring both the occurrence and genetic databases, which are tightly associated with drylands, to evaluate diversity patterns, such as phylogenetic diversity and endemism, paleo-, neo-, and superendemism, and the environmental predictor variables of such patterns in a global analysis. Hotspot areas of cacti diversity are scattered along the Neotropical and Nearctic regions, mainly in the desertic portion of Mesoamerica, Caribbean Island, and the dry diagonal of South America. The geomorphological features of these regions may create a complexity of areas that work as locally buffered zones over time, which triggers local events of diversification and speciation. Desert and dryland/dry forest areas comprise paleo- and superendemism and may act as both museums and cradles of species, displaying great importance for conservation. Past climates, topography, soil features, and solar irradiance seem to be the main predictors of distinct endemism types. The hotspot areas that encompass a major part of the endemism cells are outside or poorly covered by formal protection units. The current legally protected areas are not able to conserve the evolutionary diversity of cacti. Given the rapid anthropogenic disturbance, efforts must be reinforced to monitor biodiversity and the environment and to define/plan current and new protected areas.
Bernal‐Escobar, M., D. Zuleta, and K. J. Feeley. 2022. Changes in the climate suitability and growth rates of trees in eastern North America. Ecography 2022. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecog.06298
According to the ‘fitness‐suitability' hypothesis, ongoing changes in climate are expected to affect habitat suitability and hence species' fitness. In trees, differences in fitness may manifest as changes in growth rates, which will alter carbon uptake. Using tree‐ring data, we calculated > 1.5 million annual stem growth rate estimates (standardized for tree size) for 15 677 trees representing 37 species from 558 populations throughout eastern North America. We used collections data and species distribution models to estimate each population's climatic suitability from 1900 to 2010. We then assessed the relationships between growth, suitability and time using linear mixed‐effects models. We found that stem growth rates decreased significantly through time independent of changes in climate suitability and that relationships between growth rates and climate suitability were highly variable across species. Contrary to expectations, we found that growth rates were negatively correlated with species' climate suitability, a relationship that was consistent over time for gymnosperms and became more negative through time for angiosperms. These results may suggest that stem growth rates are not a good proxy for fitness and/or that unidentified factors may be slowing tree growth and outweighing any potential benefits of climate change and increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Regardless of the cause, this finding indicates that we should not count on the increased growth of eastern North American trees to help offset anthropogenic carbon emissions.
Zhao, J., X. Yu, W. J. Kress, Y. Wang, Y. Xia, and Q. Li. 2022. Historical biogeography of the gingers and its implications for shifts in tropical rain forest habitats. Journal of Biogeography 49: 1339–1351. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14386
Aim The relationships between biome shifts and global environmental changes in temperate zone habitats have been extensively explored; yet, the historical dynamics of taxa found in the tropical rain forest (TRF) remain poorly known. This study aims to reconstruct the relationships between tropical rain forest shifts and global environmental changes through the patterns of historical biogeography of a pantropical family of monocots, the Zingiberaceae. Location Global. Taxon Zingiberaceae. Methods We sampled DNA sequences (nrITS, trnK, trnL-trnF and psbA-trnH) from GenBank for 77% of the genera, including 30% of species, in the Zingiberaceae. Global fossil records of the Zingiberaceae were collected from literatures. Rates of speciation, extinction and diversification were estimated based on phylogenetic data and fossil records through methods implemented in BAMM. Ancestral ranges were estimated using single-tree BioGeoBEARS and multiple-trees BioGeoBEARS in RASP. Dispersal rate through time and dispersal rate among regions were calculated in R based on the result of ancestral estimation. Results The common ancestor of the Zingiberaceae likely originated in northern Africa during the mid-Cretaceous, with later dispersal to the Asian tropics. Indo-Burma, rather than Malesia, was likely a provenance of the common ancestor of Alpinioideae–Zingiberoideae. Several abrupt shifts of evolutionary rates from the Palaeocene were synchronized with sudden global environmental changes. Main conclusions Integrating phylogenetic patterns with fossil records suggests that the Zingiberaceae dispersed to Asia through drift of the Indian Plate from Africa in the late Palaeocene. Formation of island chains, land corridors and warming temperatures facilitated the emigration of the Zingiberaceae to a broad distribution across the tropics. Moreover, dramatic fluctuations of the speciation rate of Zingiberoideae appear to have been synchronized with global climate fluctuations. In general, the evolutionary history of the Zingiberaceae broadens our understanding of the association between TRF shifts in distribution and past global environmental changes, especially the origin of TRF in Southeast Asia.
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. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-022-01144-8
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.
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.