Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Paquette, H. A., R. T. McMullin, and Y. F. Wiersma. 2023. The importance of taxonomy for determining species distribution: a case study using the disjunct lichen Brodoa oroarctica. Botany.

Species-focused conservation requires a thorough understanding of species’ distributions. Delineating a species’ distribution requires taxonomic knowledge and adequate occurrence data. For plants and fungi, herbaria represent a valuable source of large-scale occurrence data. Advances in digital technology mean that data from many herbarium collections worldwide are now easily accessible. However, species concepts can change over time requiring herbarium records to be re-examined and databases updated, which does not always occur synchronously across all collections. Therefore, non-critical use of these data can promote inaccuracies in understanding species distributions. Taxonomic revisions are common in understudied organisms, such as lichens. Here, we illustrate how changing taxonomy and non-critical acceptance of online data affects our understanding of disjunct distributions, using the lichen Brodoa oroarctica (Krog) Goward as an example. Defining the distribution of the arctic lichen B. oroarctica is confounded by changing taxonomy and uncertainty of herbarium records that pre-date taxonomic revisions. We review the distribution of this species in the literature and in aggregate occurrence databases, and verify herbarium specimens that represent disjunct occurrences in eastern North America to present an updated account of its distribution and frequency in eastern North America. We show that knowledge of changing species taxonomy is essential to depicting accurate species distributions.

Ripley, B. S., S. L. Raubenheimer, L. Perumal, M. Anderson, E. Mostert, B. S. Kgope, G. F. Midgley, and K. J. Simpson. 2022. CO 2 ‐fertilisation enhances resilience to browsing in the recruitment phase of an encroaching savanna tree. Functional Ecology.

CO2‐fertilisation is implicated in the widespread and significant woody encroachment of savannas due to CO2‐stimulated increases in belowground reserves that enhance sapling regrowth after fire. However, the effect of CO2 concentration ([CO2]) on tree responses to the other major disturbance in savannas, herbivory, is poorly understood. Herbivory‐responses cannot be predicted from fire‐responses, as herbivore effects occur earlier during establishment and are moderated by plant palatability and defence rather than belowground carbon accumulation.