Science Enabled by Specimen Data

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.

Dimobe, K., K. Ouédraogo, P. Annighöfer, J. Kollmann, J. Bayala, C. Hof, M. Schmidt, et al. 2022. Climate change aggravates anthropogenic threats of the endangered savanna tree Pterocarpus erinaceus (Fabaceae) in Burkina Faso. Journal for Nature Conservation: 126299.

Species distribution modelling is gaining popularity due to significant habitat shifts in many plant and animal species caused by climate change. This issue is particularly pressing for species that provide significant ecosystem goods and services. A prominent case is the valuable African rosewood tree (Pterocarpus erinaceus) that is threatened in sub-Saharan Africa, while its present distribution, habitat requirements and the impact of climate change are not fully understood. This native species naturally occurs in various savanna types, but anthropogenic interventions have considerably reduced its natural populations in the past decades. In this study, ensemble modelling was used to predict the current and future distribution potential of the species in Burkina Faso. Fifty-four environmental variables were selected to describe its distribution in the years 2050 and 2070 based on the greenhouse gas concentration trajectories RCP4.5 and 8.5, and the general circulation models CNRM-CM5 and HadGEM2-CC. A network of protected areas in Burkina Faso was also included to assess how many of the suitable habitats may contribute to the conservation of the species. The factors isothermality (31%), minimum temperature of coldest month (31%), pH in H2O at horizon 0–5 cm (11%), silt content at horizon 60–100 cm (9.2%) and precipitation of warmest quarter (8%) were the most influential distribution drivers for the species. Under current climate conditions, potentially highly suitable habitats cover an area of 129,695 km2, i.e. 47% of Burkina Faso. The projected distribution under RCP4.5 and 8.5 showed that this area will decrease, and that the decline of the species will be pronounced. The two models used in this study forecast a habitat loss of up to 61% for P. erinaceus. Hence, development and implementation of a conservation program are required to save the species in its native range. This study will help land managers prioritise areas for protection of the species and avoid introducing it to inappropriate areas unless suitable conditions are artificially created through the management options applied.

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.

Colli-Silva, M., J. R. Pirani, and A. Zizka. 2022. Ecological niche models and point distribution data reveal a differential coverage of the cacao relatives (Malvaceae) in South American protected areas. Ecological Informatics 69: 101668.

For many regions, such as in South America, it is unclear how well the existent protected areas network (PAs) covers different taxonomic groups and if there is a coverage bias of PAs towards certain biomes or species. Publicly available occurrence data along with ecological niche models might help to overcome this gap and to quantify the coverage of taxa by PAs ensuring an unbiased distribution of conservation effort. Here, we use an occurrence database of 271 species from the cacao family (Malvaceae) to address how South American PAs cover species with different distribution, abundance, and threat status. Furthermore, we compared the performance of online databases, expert knowledge, and modelled species distributions in estimating species coverage in PAs. We found 79 species from our survey (29% of the total) lack any record inside South American PAs and that 20 out of 23 species potentially threatened with extinction are not covered by PAs. The area covered by South American PAs was low across biomes, except for Amazonia, which had a relative high PA coverage, but little information on species distribution within PA available. Also, raw geo-referenced occurrence data were underestimating the number of species in PAs, and projections from ecological niche models were more prone to overestimating the number of species represented within PAs. We discuss that the protection of South American flora in heterogeneous environments demand for specific strategies tailored to particular biomes, including making new collections inside PAs in less collected areas, and the delimitation of more areas for protection in more known areas. Also, by presenting biasing scenarios of collection effort in a representative plant group, our results can benefit policy makers in conserving different spots of tropical environments highly biodiverse.

Ramírez, F., V. Sbragaglia, K. Soacha, M. Coll, and J. Piera. 2022. Challenges for Marine Ecological Assessments: Completeness of Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable Biodiversity Data in European Seas. Frontiers in Marine Science 8.

The ongoing contemporary biodiversity crisis may result in much of ocean’s biodiversity to be lost or deeply modified without even being known. As the climate and anthropogenic-related impacts on marine systems accelerate, biodiversity knowledge integration is urgently required to evaluate and monit…

Vasconcelos, T., J. D. Boyko, and J. M. Beaulieu. 2021. Linking mode of seed dispersal and climatic niche evolution in flowering plants. Journal of Biogeography.

Aim: Due to the sessile nature of flowering plants, movements to new geographical areas occur mainly during seed dispersal. Frugivores tend to be efficient dispersers because animals move within the boundaries of their preferable niches, so seeds are more likely to be transported to environments tha…

Xue, T., S. R. Gadagkar, T. P. Albright, X. Yang, J. Li, C. Xia, J. Wu, and S. Yu. 2021. Prioritizing conservation of biodiversity in an alpine region: Distribution pattern and conservation status of seed plants in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Global Ecology and Conservation 32: e01885.

The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) harbors abundant and diverse plant life owing to its high habitat heterogeneity. However, the distribution pattern of biodiversity hotspots and their conservation status remain unclear. Based on 148,283 high-resolution occurrence coordinates of 13,450 seed plants, w…

TREVIÑO-ZEVALLOS, I., I. GARCÍA-CUNCHILLOS, and C. LADO. 2021. New records of Myxomycetes (Amoebozoa) from the tropical Andes. Phytotaxa 522: 231–239.

The Myxomycetes comprise a remarkably diverse group of organisms within Amoebozoa, with over 1000 species currently recognized. These organisms, at the end of their life cycles produce fruiting bodies which are the basis for their systematics. Despite being a biodiversity hotspot, the tropical Andes…

Yu, H., T. Wang, A. Skidmore, M. Heurich, C. Bässler, and S. Kivlin. 2021. The critical role of tree species and human disturbance in determining the macrofungal diversity in Europe. Global Ecology and Biogeography 30: 2084–2100.

Aim: Knowledge concerning species distribution is important for biodiversity conservation and environmental management. Fungi form a large and diverse group of species and play a key role in nutrient cycling and carbon storage. However, our understanding of fungal diversity and distribution remains …

Deanna, R., P. Wilf, and M. A. Gandolfo. 2020. New physaloid fruit‐fossil species from early Eocene South America. American Journal of Botany 107: 1749–1762.

Premise: Solanaceae is a scientifically and economically important angiosperm family with a minimal fossil record and an intriguing early evolutionary history. Here, we report a newly discovered fossil lantern fruit with a suite of features characteristic of Physalideae within Solanaceae. The fossil…