Science Enabled by Specimen Data

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.

Louw, G. J., L. J. Potgieter, and D. M. Richardson. 2024. Myoporum (Scrophulariaceae): Introduction, naturalization, and invasion of an enigmatic tree genus in South Africa. South African Journal of Botany 168: 529–541. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sajb.2024.03.022

Myoporum is a genus of trees and shrubs native to the Northern Hemisphere that has been introduced to many parts of the world, mainly for ornamental purposes. We assessed the introduction history, distribution, and extent of naturalization/invasion for Myoporum species in South Africa.Information was collated to determine key events associated with the introduction, establishment, and naturalization of Myoporum in South Africa. Data were collated to determine the current distribution of the genus in South Africa. Twenty sites in the Western Cape were sampled to determine correlates of naturalization. Myoporum was first recorded in South Africa in 1934. Three species were confirmed to be present in South Africa: M. insulare, M. laetum and M. montanum (37 %, 25 % and 24 % of all iNaturalist records respectively). Most records are from the Western Cape (91 %) and small parts of the Eastern Cape; isolated populations occur in Gauteng and the Northern Cape. We could not confirm the presence M. petiolatum, M. tenuifolium or M. tetrandrum. Field surveys revealed widespread naturalization of M. insulare (46 % of all Research Grade observations in iNaturalist); this species was categorized code D1 in the introduction-naturalization-invasion continuum. Myoporum laetum (C3) and M. montanum (C2) are also widely naturalized but over smaller areas. Naturalized populations comprised predominantly juvenile M. insulare plants occurring in highly disturbed (transformed) habitats. Formal risk analyses for all Myoporum species in South Africa are needed as the basis for re-evaluation of their status in national legislation.

Ramírez-Barahona, S. 2024. Incorporating fossils into the joint inference of phylogeny and biogeography of the tree fern order Cyatheales R. Warnock, and M. Zelditch [eds.],. Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1093/evolut/qpae034

Present-day geographic and phylogenetic patterns often reflect the geological and climatic history of the planet. Neontological distribution data are often sufficient to unravel a lineage’s biogeographic history, yet ancestral range inferences can be at odds with fossil evidence. Here, I use the fossilized birth–death process and the dispersal–extinction cladogenesis model to jointly infer the dated phylogeny and range evolution of the tree fern order Cyatheales. I use data for 101 fossil and 442 extant tree ferns to reconstruct the biogeographic history of the group over the last 220 million years. Fossil-aware reconstructions evince a prolonged occupancy of Laurasia over the Triassic–Cretaceous by Cyathealean tree ferns, which is evident in the fossil record but hidden from analyses relying on neontological data alone. Nonetheless, fossil-aware reconstructions are affected by uncertainty in fossils’ phylogenetic placement, taphonomic biases, and specimen sampling and are sensitive to interpretation of paleodistributions and how these are scored. The present results highlight the need and challenges of incorporating fossils into joint inferences of phylogeny and biogeography to improve the reliability of ancestral geographic range estimation.

Vanderhoorn, J. M. M., J. M. Wilmshurst, S. J. Richardson, T. R. Etherington, and G. L. W. Perry. 2024. Revealing the palaeoecology of silent taxa: selecting proxy species from associations in modern vegetation data. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14826

Aim Species severely under‐represented in fossil pollen records leave gaps in interpretations and reconstructions of past vegetation. These ‘silent taxa’ leave little or no trace due to low pollen production, dispersal, preservation and taxonomic resolution. An approach for including them is through associating them with other species with reliable pollen representation. Here, we demonstrate a method for selecting such a proxy species for the Holocene using modern vegetation data.LocationNew Zealand.TaxonBeilschmiedia tawa (A.Cunn.) Benth. & Hook. F. ex Kirk (Lauraceae).MethodsWe used vegetation plot data to perform a pairwise co‐occurrence analysis of the New Zealand indigenous forest metacommunity to identify species with a strong positive association with Beilschmiedia tawa (tawa), a common tree severely under‐recorded in the pollen record. For those species, we then modelled their realised climatic niches to identify species with high niche overlap. We discuss how well those species could be interpreted from the Holocene fossil pollen record based on the representation of their pollen taxa.ResultsKnightia excelsa (rewarewa; Proteaceae) is a potential proxy for B. tawa in Holocene fossil pollen records, and other, range‐limited species may provide community‐specific proxies. We show combining resampling with sub‐sampling is a robust method for reducing the high false positive rate associated with large co‐occurrence analyses (1000+ sites) by limiting the sample size to 100 sites.Main ConclusionsWe show that the palaeoecology of silent taxa can be studied via proxy species, allowing their past distributions to be better understood. We highlight the importance of modelling many aspects of the realised niche to understand the usefulness and limitations of the silent–proxy association. Future research should focus on testing the underlying assumptions of the silent–proxy relationship so that models built on modern data can confidently be applied to palaeoecological data.

Wright, L. S., T. Simpkins, K. Filbee-Dexter, and T. Wernberg. 2023. Temperature sensitivity of detrital photosynthesis. Annals of Botany. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcad167

Background and Aims Kelp forests are increasingly considered blue carbon habitats for ocean-based biological carbon dioxide removal, but knowledge gaps remain in our understanding of their carbon cycle. Of particular interest is the remineralisation of detritus, which can remain photosynthetically active. Here, we study a widespread, thermotolerant kelp (Ecklonia radiata) to explore detrital photosynthesis as a mechanism underlying temperature and light as two key drivers of remineralisation. Methods We used meta-analysis to constrain the thermal optimum (Topt) of E. radiata. Temperature and light were subsequently controlled over a 119-day ex situ decomposition experiment. Flow-through experimental tanks were kept in darkness at 15 °C or under a subcompensating maximal irradiance of 8 µmol photons m−2 s−1 at 15, 20 or 25 °C. Photosynthesis of laterals (analogues to leaves) was estimated using closed-chamber oxygen evolution in darkness and under a saturating irradiance of 420 µmol photons m−2 s−1. Key Results T opt of E. radiata was 18 °C across performance variables (photosynthesis, growth, abundance, size, mass and fertility), life stages (gametophyte and sporophyte) and populations. Our models predict that a temperature of >15 °C reduces the potential for E. radiata detritus to be photosynthetically viable, hence detrital Topt ≤ 15 °C. Detritus is viable under subcompensating irradiance, where it performs better than in darkness. Comparison of net and gross photosynthesis indicates that elevated temperature primarily decreases detrital photosynthesis, whereas darkness primarily increases detrital respiration compared with optimal experimental conditions, in which detrital photosynthesis can persist for ≥119 days. Conclusions T opt of kelp detritus is ≥3 °C colder than that of the intact plant. Given that E. radiata is one of the most temperature-tolerant kelps, this suggests that photosynthesis is generally more thermosensitive in the detrital phase, which partly explains the enhancing effect of temperature on remineralisation. In contrast to darkness, even subcompensating irradiance maintains detrital viability, elucidating the accelerating effect of depth and its concomitant light reduction on remineralisation to some extent. Detrital photosynthesis is a meaningful mechanism underlying at least two drivers of remineralisation, even below the photoenvironment inhabited by the attached alga.

Liendo, D., J. A. Campos, and A. Gandarillas. 2023. Cortaderia selloana, an example of aggressive invaders that affect human health, yet to be included in binding international invasive catalogues. NeoBiota 89: 229–237. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.89.110500

Invasive plant species can suppress local biodiversity, affect soil properties and modify the landscape. However, an additional concern of plant invasions that has been more disregarded is their impact on environmental human health. Here, we discuss the case of Cortaderia selloana (Schult. & Schult.f.) Asch. & Graebn, as an example of a worldwide invasive species with a strong environmental impact. We summarise the main facts regarding the C. selloana invasion, the recent clinical evidence of its impact on human health and the great potential expansion of the species in the context of climate change. C. selloana constitutes a clear example to boost demands from policy makers for urgent and efficient measures to control or eradicate invasive species, also in ruderal areas. This aggressive invader is still out of relevant binding international invasive species catalogues, including the European List of Invasive Alien Species of Union concern (Union list), and is still subjected to extensive trading in some European countries. Therefore, including C. selloana in the Union list becomes mandatory to impose full restrictions on keeping, importing, selling, breeding and cultivating the species.

Silva-Valderrama, I., J.-R. Úrbez-Torres, and T. J. Davies. 2024. From host to host: The taxonomic and geographic expansion of Botryosphaeriaceae. Fungal Biology Reviews 48: 100352. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2023.100352

Fungal pathogens are responsible for 30% of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) in plants. The risk of a pathogen emerging on a new host is strongly tied to its host breadth; however, the determinants of host range are still poorly understood. Here, we explore the factors that shape host breadth of plant pathogens within Botryosphaeriaceae, a fungal family associated with several devastating diseases in economically important crops. While most host plants are associated with just one or a few fungal species, some hosts appear to be susceptible to infection by multiple fungi. However, the variation in the number of fungal taxa recorded across hosts is not easily explained by heritable plant traits. Nevertheless, we reveal strong evolutionary conservatism in host breadth, with most fungi infecting closely related host plants, but with some notable exceptions that seem to have escaped phylogenetic constraints on host range. Recent anthropogenic movement of plants, including widespread planting of crops, has provided new opportunities for pathogen spillover. We suggest that constraints to pathogen distributions will likely be further disrupted by climate change, and we may see future emergence events in regions where hosts are present but current climate is unfavorable.

Schertler, A., B. Lenzner, S. Dullinger, D. Moser, J. L. Bufford, L. Ghelardini, A. Santini, et al. 2023. Biogeography and global flows of 100 major alien fungal and fungus‐like oomycete pathogens. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14755

AbstractAimSpreading infectious diseases associated with introduced pathogens can have devastating effects on native biota and human livelihoods. We analyse the global distribution of 100 major alien fungal and oomycete pathogens with substantial socio‐economic and environmental impacts and examine their taxonomy, ecological characteristics, temporal accumulation trajectories, regional hot‐ and coldspots of taxon richness and taxon flows between continents.LocationGlobal.TaxonAlien/cryptogenic fungi and fungus‐like oomycetes, pathogenic to plants or animals.MethodsTo identify over/underrepresented classes and phyla, we performed Chi2 tests of independence. To describe spatial patterns, we calculated the region‐wise richness and identified hot‐ and coldspots, defined as residuals after correcting taxon richness for region area and sampling effort via a quasi‐Poisson regression. We examined the relationship with environmental and socio‐economic drivers with a multiple linear regression and evaluated a potential island effect. Regional first records were pooled over 20‐year periods, and for global flows the links between the native range to the alien regions were mapped.ResultsPeronosporomycetes (Oomycota) were overrepresented among taxa and regional taxon richness was positively correlated with area and sampling effort. While no island effect was found, likely due to host limitations, hotspots were correlated with human modification of terrestrial land, per capita gross domestic product, temperate and tropical forest biomes, and orobiomes. Regional first records have increased steeply in recent decades. While Europe and Northern America were major recipients, about half of the taxa originate from Asia.Main ConclusionsWe highlight the putative importance of anthropogenic drivers, such as land use providing a conducive environment, contact opportunities and susceptible hosts, as well as economic wealth likely increasing colonisation pressure. While most taxa were associated with socio‐economic impacts, possibly partly due to a bias in research focus, about a third show substantial impacts to both socio‐economy and the environment, underscoring the importance of maintaining a wholescale perspective across natural and managed systems.

Zhang, H., W. Guo, and W. Wang. 2023. The dimensionality reductions of environmental variables have a significant effect on the performance of species distribution models. Ecology and Evolution 13. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.10747

How to effectively obtain species‐related low‐dimensional data from massive environmental variables has become an urgent problem for species distribution models (SDMs). In this study, we will explore whether dimensionality reduction on environmental variables can improve the predictive performance of SDMs. We first used two linear (i.e., principal component analysis (PCA) and independent components analysis) and two nonlinear (i.e., kernel principal component analysis (KPCA) and uniform manifold approximation and projection) dimensionality reduction techniques (DRTs) to reduce the dimensionality of high‐dimensional environmental data. Then, we established five SDMs based on the environmental variables of dimensionality reduction for 23 real plant species and nine virtual species, and compared the predictive performance of those with the SDMs based on the selected environmental variables through Pearson's correlation coefficient (PCC). In addition, we studied the effects of DRTs, model complexity, and sample size on the predictive performance of SDMs. The predictive performance of SDMs under DRTs other than KPCA is better than using PCC. And the predictive performance of SDMs using linear DRTs is better than using nonlinear DRTs. In addition, using DRTs to deal with environmental variables has no less impact on the predictive performance of SDMs than model complexity and sample size. When the model complexity is at the complex level, PCA can improve the predictive performance of SDMs the most by 2.55% compared with PCC. At the middle level of sample size, the PCA improved the predictive performance of SDMs by 2.68% compared with the PCC. Our study demonstrates that DRTs have a significant effect on the predictive performance of SDMs. Specifically, linear DRTs, especially PCA, are more effective at improving model predictive performance under relatively complex model complexity or large sample sizes.

Islomiddinov, Z. Sh., I. M. Mustafaev, J. P. Shirqulova, B. S. Khabibullaev, Y. W. Lim, et al. 2023. The first record of Pisolithus arhizus (Sclerodermataceae, Basidiomycota) in Central Asia. Ukrainian Botanical Journal 80: 337–342. https://doi.org/10.15407/ukrbotj80.04.337

Pisolithus is a genus of gasteroid mycorrhizal symbionts associated with trees of several families of angiosperms and gymnosperms and distributed almost worldwide. Here we report a new record of Pisolithus arhizus from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the first record of this species in Central Asia. The fruit bodies of P. arhizus were collected in several locations within the city and identified based on morphological characters. The ectomycorrhizal fungus formed symbiotic relationships with Juniperus sp. and Quercus sp. We provide its morphological description and photographs and also discuss our findings in the context of previously known records of this species.