Science Enabled by Specimen Data

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.

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.

Bento, M., H. Niza, A. Cartaxana, S. Bandeira, J. Paula, and A. M. Correia. 2023. Mind the Gaps: Taxonomic, Geographic and Temporal Data of Marine Invertebrate Databases from Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe. Diversity 15: 70. https://doi.org/10.3390/d15010070

One of the best ways to share and disseminate biodiversity information is through the digitization of data and making it available via online databases. The rapid growth of publicly available biodiversity data is not without problems which may decrease the utility of online databases. In this study we analyze taxonomic, geographic and temporal data gaps, and bias related to existing data on selected marine invertebrate occurrences along the coastline of two African countries, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe. The final marine invertebrate dataset comprises of 19.910 occurrences, but 32% of the original dataset occurrences were excluded due to data gaps. Most marine invertebrates in Mozambique were collected in seagrasses, whereas in São Tomé and Príncipe they were mostly collected offshore. The dataset has a temporal coverage from 1816 to 2019, with most occurrences collected in the last two decades. This study provides baseline information relevant to a better understanding of marine invertebrate biodiversity data gaps and bias in these habitats along the coasts of these countries. The information can be further applied to complete marine invertebrate data gaps contributing to design informed sampling strategies and advancing refined datasets that can be used in management and conservation plans in both countries.

Pérez-Hernández, C. X., W. Dáttilo, A. M. Corona-López, V. H. Toledo-Hernández, and E. del-Val. 2022. Buprestid trophic guilds differ in their structural role shaping ecological networks with their host plants. Arthropod-Plant Interactions. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11829-022-09933-w

Plant–herbivore relationships involve a significant amount of global biodiversity within complex interaction networks. Buprestidae (Coleoptera) are highly specialized herbivores, and several species have important economic and ecological impacts. We used tools derived from network theory to evaluate the structure of a plant-buprestid metaweb at three different organizational levels (network, subnetwork, and species-levels) and test whether trophic guilds and taxa differ in their patterns within the network. We also tested whether taxonomically closely related buprestid species are more likely to share the same host plant species. We found that the plant-buprestid metaweb exhibits a non-nested and significantly highly modular pattern, and most buprestid and host plant species have specialized interactions. Florivorous buprestids showed the highest diversity of host preferences and, together with Fabaceae, were the most important for the network structure as they are highly connected species. Leaf-mining buprestids had the most extreme interaction pattern among trophic guilds, with high modularity and specialized interactions. We also found a low probability to share the same group of host plants among buprestids, which decreased with taxonomic distance. Our findings uncover patterns within a plant–herbivore network at large spatial scales and at different taxonomic levels, which are shaped by the diversity of host and resources preferences, more than taxonomic relatedness. Those network patterns might reflect different ecological roles for each trophic guild and taxa. We highlight the relevance of considering the diversity of feeding habits within networks of a single type of interaction and emphasize the importance of analyze network patterns at high levels of organization.

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.

Niza, H., M. Bento, L. Lopes, A. Cartaxana, and A. Correia. 2021. A picture is worth a thousand words: using digital tools to visualise marine invertebrate diversity data along the coasts of Mozambique and São Tomé & Príncipe. Biodiversity Data Journal 9. https://doi.org/10.3897/bdj.9.e68817

The amount of biological data available in online repositories is increasing at an exponential rate. However, data on marine invertebrate biodiversity resources from Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe are still sparse and scattered. Online repositories are useful instruments for biodiversity resea…

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2021.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…

Urcádiz-Cázares, F. J., V. H. Cruz-Escalona, M. S. Peterson, R. Aguilar-Medrano, E. Marín-Enríquez, S. S. González-Peláez, A. Del Pino-Machado, et al. 2021. Linking Habitat and Associated Abiotic Conditions to Predict Fish Hotspots Distribution Areas within La Paz Bay: Evaluating Marine Conservation Areas. Diversity 13: 212. https://doi.org/10.3390/d13050212

Hotspots are priority marine or terrestrial areas with high biodiversity where delineation is essential for conservation, but equally important is their linkage to the environmental policies of the overall region. In this study, fish diversity presences were linked to abiotic conditions and differen…

Mazijk, R., M. D. Cramer, and G. A. Verboom. 2021. Environmental heterogeneity explains contrasting plant species richness between the South African Cape and southwestern Australia. Journal of Biogeography 48: 1875–1888. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14118

Aim: Given the importance of environmental heterogeneity as a driver of species richness through its effects on species diversification and coexistence, we asked whether the dramatic difference in species richness per unit area between two similar Mediterranean‐type biodiversity hotspots is explaine…

Iannella, M., P. D’Alessandro, W. De Simone, and M. Biondi. 2021. Habitat Specificity, Host Plants and Areas of Endemism for the Genera-Group Blepharida s.l. in the Afrotropical Region (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae, Galerucinae, Alticini). Insects 12: 299. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12040299

The genus Calotheca Heyden (Chrysomelidae) is mainly distributed in the eastern and southern parts of sub-Saharan Africa, with some extensions northward, while Blepharidina Bechyné occurs in the intertropical zone of Africa, with two subgenera, Blepharidina s. str. and Blepharidina(Afroblepharida) B…