Science Enabled by Specimen Data

COSTA, D. P., T. C. DA ROCHA, and M. F. DE SIQUEIRA. 2023. Climatic conditions may structure the distribution of Syzygiella rubricaulis (Nees) Steph., a disjunct and high elevation species. Phytotaxa 601.

Syzygiella rubricaulis is a widely distributed species in the high mountains of tropical America and in addition occurs on the Azores. In order to unravel the climatic environment of S. rubricaulis populations, we compiled georeferenced data from verified herbarium specimens, GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility – and species Link ( databases, as well as climatic data from Worldclim, to determine the climatic signals structuring the populations. We analyzed the disjunct range of Syzygiella rubricaulis from a climatic perspective. We used cluster analysis and principal components analysis (PCA) with climatic variables to clarify how climate may be structuring populations and which variables make the largest contributions to dataset variations. We recovered three major strongly supported groups of S. rubricaulis. Water vapour pressure, minimum temperature of the coldest month, annual precipitation, and precipitation of the wettest month explained variation patterns in the dataset best. We also provide a detailed dataset characterization of all records compiled in the present study. Our findings provide new insight into how climate structures the distribution of S. rubricaulis populations. Precipitation variables play an important role in determining the observed distribution patterns of the species and are suggestive of future alteration of its geographic distribution in response to climate change.

Baltensperger, A., J. Hagelin, P. Schuette, A. Droghini, and K. Ott. 2022. High dietary and habitat diversity indicate generalist behaviors of northern bog lemmings Synaptomys borealis in Alaska, USA. Endangered Species Research 49: 145–158.

The northern bog lemming Synaptomys borealis (NBL) is a rare small mammal that is undergoing a federal Species Status Assessment (SSA) under the US Endangered Species Act. Despite a wide North American distribution, very little is known about NBL dietary or habitat needs, both of which are germane to the resiliency of this species to climate change. To quantify diet composition of NBL in Alaska, we used DNA metabarcoding from 59 archived specimens to describe the taxonomic richness and relative abundance of foods in recent diets. DNA analyses revealed a broad diet composed of at least 110 families and 92 genera of bryophytes (mosses and liverworts), graminoids, fungi, forbs, and woody shrubs. Nine bryophyte genera and Carex sedges composed the largest portions of NBL diets. To quantify habitat preference, we intersected 467 georeferenced occurrence records of NBL in Alaska with remotely sensed land cover classes and used a compositional analysis framework that accounts for the relative abundance of land cover types. We did not detect significant habitat preferences for specific land cover types, although NBL frequently occurred in evergreen forest, woody wetlands, and adjacent to water. Our research highlights the importance of bryophytes, among a high diversity of dietary components, and describes NBL as boreal habitat generalists. Results will inform the current federal SSA by quantifying the extent to which ecological constraints are likely to affect NBL in a rapidly changing boreal environment.

Reichgelt, T., D. R. Greenwood, S. Steinig, J. G. Conran, D. K. Hutchinson, D. J. Lunt, L. J. Scriven, and J. Zhu. 2022. Plant Proxy Evidence for High Rainfall and Productivity in the Eocene of Australia. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology 37.

During the early to middle Eocene, a mid‐to‐high latitudinal position and enhanced hydrological cycle in Australia would have contributed to a wetter and “greener” Australian continent where today arid to semi‐arid climates dominate. Here, we revisit 12 southern Australian plant megafossil sites from the early to middle Eocene to generate temperature, precipitation and seasonality paleoclimate estimates, net primary productivity (NPP) and vegetation type, based on paleobotanical proxies and compare to early Eocene global climate models. Temperature reconstructions are uniformly subtropical (mean annual, summer, and winter mean temperatures 19–21 °C, 25–27 °C and 14–16 °C, respectively), indicating that southern Australia was ∼5 °C warmer than today, despite a >20° poleward shift from its modern geographic location. Precipitation was less homogeneous than temperature, with mean annual precipitation of ∼60 cm over inland sites and >100 cm over coastal sites. Precipitation may have been seasonal with the driest month receiving 2–7× less than mean monthly precipitation. Proxy‐model comparison is favorable with an 1680 ppm CO2 concentration. However, individual proxy reconstructions can disagree with models as well as with each other. In particular, seasonality reconstructions have systemic offsets. NPP estimates were higher than modern, implying a more homogenously “green” southern Australia in the early to middle Eocene, when this part of Australia was at 48–64 °S, and larger carbon fluxes to and from the Australian biosphere. The most similar modern vegetation type is modern‐day eastern Australian subtropical forest, although distance from coast and latitude may have led to vegetation heterogeneity.

Chevalier, M. 2022. <i>crestr</i>: an R package to perform probabilistic climate reconstructions from palaeoecological datasets. Climate of the Past 18: 821–844.

Abstract. Statistical climate reconstruction techniques are fundamental tools to study past climate variability from fossil proxy data. In particular, the methods based on probability density functions (or PDFs) can be used in various environments and with different climate proxies because they rely on elementary calibration data (i.e. modern geolocalised presence data). However, the difficulty of accessing and curating these calibration data and the complexity of interpreting probabilistic results have often limited their use in palaeoclimatological studies. Here, I introduce a new R package (crestr) to apply the PDF-based method CREST (Climate REconstruction SofTware) on diverse palaeoecological datasets and address these problems. crestr includes a globally curated calibration dataset for six common climate proxies (i.e. plants, beetles, chironomids, rodents, foraminifera, and dinoflagellate cysts) associated with an extensive range of climate variables (20 terrestrial and 19 marine variables) that enables its use in most terrestrial and marine environments. Private data collections can also be used instead of, or in combination with, the provided calibration dataset. The package includes a suite of graphical diagnostic tools to represent the data at each step of the reconstruction process and provide insights into the effect of the different modelling assumptions and external factors that underlie a reconstruction. With this R package, the CREST method can now be used in a scriptable environment and thus be more easily integrated with existing workflows. It is hoped that crestr will be used to produce the much-needed quantified climate reconstructions from the many regions where they are currently lacking, despite the availability of suitable fossil records. To support this development, the use of the package is illustrated with a step-by-step replication of a 790 000-year-long mean annual temperature reconstruction based on a pollen record from southeastern Africa.

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…

Rozefelds, A. C., G. Stull, P. Hayes, and D. R. Greenwood. 2020. The fossil record of Icacinaceae in Australia supports long-standing Palaeo-Antarctic rainforest connections in southern high latitudes. Historical Biology 33: 2854–2864.

Fossil fruits of Icacinaceae are recorded from two Cenozoic sites in Australia, at Launceston in northern Tasmania and the Poole Creek palaeochannel in northern South Australia, representing the first report of fossil Icacinaceae from Australia. The Launceston material includes two endocarps with br…

Yi, S., C.-P. Jun, K. Jo, H. Lee, M.-S. Kim, S. D. Lee, X. Cao, and J. Lim. 2020. Asynchronous multi-decadal time-scale series of biotic and abiotic responses to precipitation during the last 1300 years. Scientific Reports 10.


Chase, B. M., A. Boom, A. S. Carr, M. Chevalier, L. J. Quick, G. A. Verboom, and P. J. Reimer. 2019. Extreme hydroclimate response gradients within the western Cape Floristic region of South Africa since the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews 219: 297–307.

The Cape Floristic Region (CFR) is one of the world's major biodiversity hotspots, and much work has gone into identifying the drivers of this diversity. Considered regionally in the context of Quaternary climate change, climate stability is generally accepted as being one of the major factors promo…

Chevalier, M., B. M. Chase, L. J. Quick, L. M. Dupont, and T. C. Johnson. 2020. Temperature change in subtropical southeastern Africa during the past 790,000 yr. Geology 49: 71–75.

Across the glacial-interglacial cycles of the late Pleistocene (~700 k.y.), temperature variability at low latitudes is often considered to have been negligible compared to changes in precipitation. However, a paucity of quantified temperature records makes this difficult to reliably assess. In this…

Pisarenko, O. Yu., V. A. Bakalin, and E. A. Ignatova. 2020. Hookeria acutifolia (Hookeriaceae, Bryophyta), a new species for the moss flora of Russia. Botanica Pacifica.

Hookeria acutifolia Hook. & Grev. was found on Kunashir Island (South Kuril Islands, East Asia). This is the northernmost locality of the species in Asia and the first record for Russia. A description and illustrations of the species based on the Russian specimen are provided. Details on its ecology…