Science Enabled by Specimen Data

McCulloch-Jones, E. J., T. Kraaij, N. Crouch, and K. T. Faulkner. 2023. Assessing the invasion risk of traded alien ferns using species distribution models. NeoBiota 87: 161–189.

Risk analysis plays a crucial role in regulating and managing alien and invasive species but can be time-consuming and costly. Alternatively, combining invasion and impact history with species distribution models offers a cost-effective and time-efficient approach to assess invasion risk and identify species for which a comprehensive risk analysis should take precedence. We conducted such an assessment for six traded alien fern species, determining their invasion risk in countries where they are traded. Four of the species (Dicksonia antarctica, Dryopteris erythrosora, Lygodium japonicum, and Phlebodium aureum) showed limited global distributions, while Adiantum raddianum and Sphaeropteris cooperi had broader distributions. A. raddianum, however, was the only species found to pose a high invasion risk in two known trade countries – the USA and Australia – and requires a complete risk analysis to determine the appropriate regulatory responses. Dicksonia antarctica, Phlebodium aureum (for New Zealand), and Dryopteris erythrosora (for the USA) posed a medium risk of invasion due to the lack of evidence of impacts, and a complete risk analysis is thus deemed less crucial for these species in these countries. For other species, suitable environments were not predicted in the countries where they are traded, thus the risk of invasion is low, and a complete risk analysis is not required. For species in countries where suitable environments are predicted but no trade information or presence data are available, risk assessments are recommended to better determine the risk posed. Despite the relatively limited potential global distribution of the studied ferns relative to other major plant invaders (e.g., Pinus spp. and Acacia spp.), their history of invasion, documented impacts in pristine environments, and high propagule pressure from trade warrants concern, possibly necessitating legislative and regulatory measures in environmentally suitable regions.

Pang, S. E. H., J. W. F. Slik, D. Zurell, and E. L. Webb. 2023. The clustering of spatially associated species unravels patterns in tropical tree species distributions. Ecosphere 14.

Complex distribution data can be summarized by grouping species with similar or overlapping distributions to unravel spatial patterns and separate trends (e.g., of habitat loss) among spatially unique groups. However, such classifications are often heuristic, lacking the transparency, objectivity, and data‐driven rigor of quantitative methods, which limits their interpretability and utility. Here, we develop and illustrate the clustering of spatially associated species, a methodological framework aimed at statistically classifying species using explicit measures of interspecific spatial association. We investigate several association indices and clustering algorithms and show how these methodological choices drive substantial variations in clustering outcomes and performance. To facilitate robust decision‐making, we provide guidance on choosing methods appropriate to one's study objective(s). As a case study, we apply our framework to modeled tree distributions in Borneo and subsequently evaluate the impact of land‐cover change on separate species groupings. Based on the modeled distribution of 390 tree species prior to anthropogenic land‐cover changes, we identified 11 distinct clusters that unraveled ecologically meaningful patterns in Bornean tree distributions. These clusters then enabled us to quantify trends of habitat loss tied to each of those specific clusters, allowing us to discern particularly vulnerable species clusters and their distributions. This study demonstrates the advantages of adopting quantitatively derived clusters of spatially associated species and elucidates the potential of resultant clusters as a spatially explicit framework for investigating distribution‐related questions in ecology, biogeography, and conservation. By adopting our methodological framework and publicly available codes, practitioners can leverage the ever‐growing abundance of distribution data to better understand complex spatial patterns among species distributions and the disparate effects of global changes on biodiversity.

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.

Campbell, L. C. E., E. T. Kiers, and G. Chomicki. 2022. The evolution of plant cultivation by ants. Trends in Plant Science.

Outside humans, true agriculture was previously thought to be restricted to social insects farming fungus. However, obligate farming of plants by ants was recently discovered in Fiji, prompting a re-examination of plant cultivation by ants. Here, we generate a database of plant cultivation by ants, identify three main types, and show that these interactions evolved primarily for shelter rather than food. We find that plant cultivation evolved at least 65 times independently for crops (~200 plant species), and 15 times in farmer lineages (~37 ant taxa) in the Neotropics and Asia/Australasia. Because of their high evolutionary replication, and variation in partner dependence, these systems are powerful models to unveil the steps in the evolution and ecology of insect agriculture.

Zhang, X., X. Ci, J. Hu, Y. Bai, A. H. Thornhill, J. G. Conran, and J. Li. 2022. Riparian areas as a conservation priority under climate change. Science of The Total Environment: 159879.

Identifying climatic refugia is important for long-term conservation planning under climate change. Riparian areas have the potential to provide climatic refugia for wildlife, but literature remains limited, especially for plants. This study was conducted with the purpose of identifying climatic refugia of plant biodiversity in the portion of the Mekong River Basin located in Xishuangbanna, China. We first predicted the current and future (2050s and 2070s) potential distribution of 50 threatened woody species in Xishuangbanna by using an ensemble of small models, then stacked the predictions for individual species to derive spatial biodiversity patterns within each 10 × 10 km grid cell. We then identified the top 17 % of the areas for spatial biodiversity patterns as biodiversity hotspots, with climatic refugia defined as areas that remained as biodiversity hotspots over time. Stepwise regression and linear correlation were applied to analyze the environmental correlations with spatial biodiversity patterns and the relationships between climatic refugia and river distribution, respectively. Our results showed potential upward and northward shifts in threatened woody species, with range contractions and expansions predicted. The spatial biodiversity patterns shift from southeast to northwest, and were influenced by temperature, precipitation, and elevation heterogeneity. Climatic refugia under climate change were related closely to river distribution in Xishuangbanna, with riparian areas identified that could provide climatic refugia. These refugial zones are recommended as priority conservation areas for mitigating the impacts of climate change on biodiversity. Our study confirmed that riparian areas could act as climatic refugia for plants and emphasizes the conservation prioritization of riparian areas within river basins for protecting biodiversity under climate change.

Aguirre‐Liguori, J. A., A. Morales‐Cruz, and B. S. Gaut. 2022. Evaluating the persistence and utility of five wild Vitis species in the context of climate change. Molecular Ecology.

Crop wild relatives (CWRs) have the capacity to contribute novel traits to agriculture. Given climate change, these contributions may be especially vital for the persistence of perennial crops, because perennials are often clonally propagated and consequently do not evolve rapidly. By studying the landscape genomics of samples from five Vitis CWRs (V. arizonica, V. mustangensis, V. riparia, V. berlandieri and V. girdiana) in the context of projected climate change, we addressed two goals. The first was to assess the relative potential of different CWR accessions to persist in the face of climate change. By integrating species distribution models with adaptive genetic variation, additional genetic features such as genomic load and a phenotype (resistance to Pierce’s Disease), we predicted that accessions from one species (V. mustangensis) are particularly well‐suited to persist in future climates. The second goal was to identify which CWR accessions may contribute to bioclimatic adaptation for grapevine (V. vinifera) cultivation. To do so, we evaluated whether CWR accessions have the allelic capacity to persist if moved to locations where grapevines (V. vinifera) are cultivated in the United States. We identified six candidates from V. mustangensis and hypothesized that they may prove useful for contributing alleles that can mitigate climate impacts on viticulture. By identifying candidate germplasm, this work takes a conceptual step toward assessing the genomic and bioclimatic characteristics of CWRs.

Marcussen, T., H. E. Ballard, J. Danihelka, A. R. Flores, M. V. Nicola, and J. M. Watson. 2022. A Revised Phylogenetic Classification for Viola (Violaceae). Plants 11: 2224.

The genus Viola (Violaceae) is among the 40–50 largest genera among angiosperms, yet its taxonomy has not been revised for nearly a century. In the most recent revision, by Wilhelm Becker in 1925, the then-known 400 species were distributed among 14 sections and numerous unranked groups. Here, we provide an updated, comprehensive classification of the genus, based on data from phylogeny, morphology, chromosome counts, and ploidy, and based on modern principles of monophyly. The revision is presented as an annotated global checklist of accepted species of Viola, an updated multigene phylogenetic network and an ITS phylogeny with denser taxon sampling, a brief summary of the taxonomic changes from Becker’s classification and their justification, a morphological binary key to the accepted subgenera, sections and subsections, and an account of each infrageneric subdivision with justifications for delimitation and rank including a description, a list of apomorphies, molecular phylogenies where possible or relevant, a distribution map, and a list of included species. We distribute the 664 species accepted by us into 2 subgenera, 31 sections, and 20 subsections. We erect one new subgenus of Viola (subg. Neoandinium, a replacement name for the illegitimate subg. Andinium), six new sections (sect. Abyssinium, sect. Himalayum, sect. Melvio, sect. Nematocaulon, sect. Spathulidium, sect. Xanthidium), and seven new subsections (subsect. Australasiaticae, subsect. Bulbosae, subsect. Clausenianae, subsect. Cleistogamae, subsect. Dispares, subsect. Formosanae, subsect. Pseudorupestres). Evolution within the genus is discussed in light of biogeography, the fossil record, morphology, and particular traits. Viola is among very few temperate and widespread genera that originated in South America. The biggest identified knowledge gaps for Viola concern the South American taxa, for which basic knowledge from phylogeny, chromosome counts, and fossil data is virtually absent. Viola has also never been subject to comprehensive anatomical study. Studies into seed anatomy and morphology are required to understand the fossil record of the genus.

Testo, W. L., A. L. de Gasper, S. Molino, J. M. G. y Galán, A. Salino, V. A. de O. Dittrich, and E. B. Sessa. 2022. Deep vicariance and frequent transoceanic dispersal shape the evolutionary history of a globally distributed fern family. American Journal of Botany.

Premise Historical biogeography of ferns is typically expected to be dominated by long-distance dispersal, due to their minuscule spores. However, few studies have inferred the historical biogeography of a large and widely distributed group of ferns to test this hypothesis. Our aims are to determine the extent to which long-distance dispersal vs. vicariance have shaped the history of the fern family Blechnaceae, to explore ecological correlates of dispersal and diversification, and to determine whether these patterns differ between the northern and southern hemispheres. Methods We used sequence data for three chloroplast loci to infer a time-calibrated phylogeny for 154 out of 265 species of Blechnaceae, including representatives of all genera in the family. This tree was used to conduct ancestral range reconstruction and stochastic character mapping, estimate diversification rates, and identify ecological correlates of diversification. Key results Blechnaceae originated in Eurasia and began diversifying in the late Cretaceous. A lineage comprising most extant diversity diversified principally in the austral Pacific region around the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Land connections that existed near the poles during periods of warm climates likely facilitated migration of several lineages, with subsequent climate-mediated vicariance shaping current distributions. Long-distance dispersal is frequent and asymmetrical, with New Zealand/Pacific Islands, Australia, and tropical America being major source areas. Conclusions Ancient vicariance and extensive long-distance dispersal have shaped the history of Blechnaceae in both the northern and southern hemispheres. The exceptional diversity in austral regions appears to reflect rapid speciation in these areas; mechanisms underlying this evolutionary success remain uncertain.

Zhao, J., X. Yu, W. J. Kress, Y. Wang, Y. Xia, and Q. Li. 2022. Historical biogeography of the gingers and its implications for shifts in tropical rain forest habitats. Journal of Biogeography 49: 1339–1351.

Aim The relationships between biome shifts and global environmental changes in temperate zone habitats have been extensively explored; yet, the historical dynamics of taxa found in the tropical rain forest (TRF) remain poorly known. This study aims to reconstruct the relationships between tropical rain forest shifts and global environmental changes through the patterns of historical biogeography of a pantropical family of monocots, the Zingiberaceae. Location Global. Taxon Zingiberaceae. Methods We sampled DNA sequences (nrITS, trnK, trnL-trnF and psbA-trnH) from GenBank for 77% of the genera, including 30% of species, in the Zingiberaceae. Global fossil records of the Zingiberaceae were collected from literatures. Rates of speciation, extinction and diversification were estimated based on phylogenetic data and fossil records through methods implemented in BAMM. Ancestral ranges were estimated using single-tree BioGeoBEARS and multiple-trees BioGeoBEARS in RASP. Dispersal rate through time and dispersal rate among regions were calculated in R based on the result of ancestral estimation. Results The common ancestor of the Zingiberaceae likely originated in northern Africa during the mid-Cretaceous, with later dispersal to the Asian tropics. Indo-Burma, rather than Malesia, was likely a provenance of the common ancestor of Alpinioideae–Zingiberoideae. Several abrupt shifts of evolutionary rates from the Palaeocene were synchronized with sudden global environmental changes. Main conclusions Integrating phylogenetic patterns with fossil records suggests that the Zingiberaceae dispersed to Asia through drift of the Indian Plate from Africa in the late Palaeocene. Formation of island chains, land corridors and warming temperatures facilitated the emigration of the Zingiberaceae to a broad distribution across the tropics. Moreover, dramatic fluctuations of the speciation rate of Zingiberoideae appear to have been synchronized with global climate fluctuations. In general, the evolutionary history of the Zingiberaceae broadens our understanding of the association between TRF shifts in distribution and past global environmental changes, especially the origin of TRF in Southeast Asia.

Chen, K., P. K. Khine, Z. Yang, and H. Schneider. 2022. Historical plant records enlighten the conservation efforts of ferns and Lycophytes’ diversity in tropical China. Journal for Nature Conservation 68: 126197.

Historical records, e.g., herbarium vouchers, contain information about species distribution since the early days of the scientific exploration of floras until today. These data provide crucial evidence to map the biodiversity of the area of interest and most importantly enable the evaluation of the conservation effectiveness for a given group of organisms. This study aimed to explore the ferns and lycophytes’ diversity of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in tropical China with special emphasis on conservation efforts provided by the currently established protected areas (PAs). Instead of relying exclusively on current observation, the database was compiled from digitalized herbarium vouchers and publications being explored with special attention on the temporal and spatial dimensions of collecting efforts. Utilizing the indices including species richness, weighed endemism, corrected weighted endemism, and beta diversity, hotspots of ferns and lycophytes’ diversity were identified. In turn, the proportion of hotspots located outside PAs was estimated as a measure of conservation gaps in Xishuangbanna. Our results revealed a long collecting history of ferns and lycophytes in Xishuangbanna and this prefecture accumulated a considerable number of historical records covering 20.2 % of Chinese and 3.6% of global fern diversity. The accumulation of historical records showed strong parallelism to the historical events shaping modern China. The spatial distribution of ferns and lycophytes in Xishuangbanna was characterized by a concentration of species richness in southern valleys and endemism in western and northern mountains. In terms of conservation, existing PAs showed higher effectiveness in the protection of species richness, whereas lower effectiveness was observed in the protection of endemism and beta diversity. Our research provided a key reference for understanding the diversity and conservation of ferns and lycophytes in Xishuangbanna, as well as highlighting the locality for future collecting and conservation efforts.