Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Rautela, K., A. Kumar, S. K. Rana, A. Jugran, and I. D. Bhatt. 2024. Distribution, Chemical Constituents and Biological Properties of Genus Malaxis. Chemistry & Biodiversity. https://doi.org/10.1002/cbdv.202301830

The genus Malaxis (family Orchidaceae), comprises nearly 183 species available across the globe. The plants of this genus have long been employed in traditional medical practices because of their numerous biological properties, like the treatment of infertility, hemostasis, burning sensation, bleeding diathesis, fever, diarrhea, dysentery, febrifuge, tuberculosis, etc. Various reports highlight their phytochemical composition and biological activities. However, there is a lack of systematic review on the distribution, phytochemistry, and biological properties of this genus. Hence, this study aims to conduct a thorough and critical review of Malaxis species, covering data published from 1965 to 2022 with nearly 90 articles. Also, it examines different bioactive compounds, their chemistry, and pharmacotherapeutics as well as their traditional uses. A total of 191 unique compounds, including the oil constituents were recorded from Malaxis species. The highest active ingredients were obtained from Malaxis acuminata (103) followed by Malaxis muscifera (50) and Malaxis rheedei (33). In conclusion, this review offers an overview of the current state of knowledge on Malaxis species and highlights prospects for future research projects on them. Additionally, it recommends the promotion of domestication studies for rare medicinal orchids like Malaxis and the prompt implementation of conservation measures.

Noori, S., A. Hofmann, D. Rödder, M. Husemann, and H. Rajaei. 2024. A window to the future: effects of climate change on the distribution patterns of Iranian Zygaenidae and their host plants. Biodiversity and Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-023-02760-2

Climate change has been suggested as an important human-induced driver for the ongoing sixth mass extinction. As a common response to climate change, and particularly global warming, species move toward higher latitudes or shift uphill. Furthermore, rapid climate change impacts the biotic interactions of species, particularly in the case of Zygaenid moths which exhibit high specialization in both habitat and host plant preferences. Iranian Zygaenidae are relatively well-known and represent a unique fauna with a high endemism rate (46%) in the whole Palearctic; as such they are a good model group to study the impact of climate change on future distributions. In this study, we used species distribution models (SDMs) and ensembles of small models (ESMs) to investigate the impact of climate change on the future distribution of endemic and non-endemic species of zygaenids, as well as their larval host plants. Three different climate scenarios were applied to forecast the probable responses of the species to different climate change intensities. Our results suggest that the central and southern parts of the country will be impacted profoundly by climate change compared to the northern regions. Beyond this, most endemic species will experience an altitudinal shift from their current range, while non-endemic species may move towards higher latitudes. Considering that the regions with higher diversity of zygaenids are limited to mountainous areas, mainly within the Irano-Anatolian biodiversity hotspot, the identification of their local high diversity regions for conservation practices has a high priority.

Roberts, J., K. Dhileepan, and S. Florentine. 2024. A review of the biology, distribution, and management challenges posed by the invasive weed Ziziphus mauritianaL., with special reference to its invasion in Australia. Weed Research. https://doi.org/10.1111/wre.12610

Ziziphus mauritiana is an economically detrimental and environmentally destructive plant in non‐native areas where it has escaped cultivation. It forms dense, impenetrable thickets that restrict the movement of livestock across the landscape and has the capacity to alter various ecological functions at the site of invasion, all of which contribute towards land degradation and the reduction of economic profitability. Although there are several management strategies implemented to control Z. mauritiana, it is clear that no single‐method approach will effectively control the species in the long‐term. Whilst chemical and mechanical methods appear to show promising results, they tend to be restricted to areas that are easily accessible and, even so, can be challenging and laborious to treat evenly across dense thicket areas. Several prospective biological control agents have been identified for Z. mauritiana, although further investigations are required to ascertain the host specificity, and to explore and identify their climatic and environmental suitability of host specific agents for release in non‐native regions. Ecological burning alone is not effective in controlling Z. mauritiana and will likely increase its emergence. As such, it could be adopted as part of an integrated management approach to assist other methods for long‐term control, but again the development of such an approach requires further investigation. To contribute towards the control of Z. mauritiana, this review explores its biology, distribution and management challenges whilst identifying areas of research that will assist in the long‐term and confident control of the species, with an emphasis on its invasion in Australia.

Scarpetta, S. G. 2024. A Palaeogene stem crotaphytid ( Aciprion formosum ) and the phylogenetic affinities of early fossil pleurodontan iguanians. Royal Society Open Science 11. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.221139

Pleurodonta is an ancient, diverse clade of iguanian lizard distributed primarily in the Western Hemisphere. Although the clade is a frequent subject of systematic research, phylogenetic resolution among the major pleurodontan clades is elusive. That uncertainty has complicated the interpretations of many fossil pleurodontans. I describe a fossil skull of a pleurodontan lizard from the Palaeogene of Wyoming that was previously allocated to the puzzling taxon Aciprion formosum , and provide an updated morphological matrix for iguanian lizards. Phylogenetic analyses using Bayesian inference demonstrate that the fossil skull is the oldest and first definitive stem member of Crotaphytidae (collared and leopard lizards), establishing the presence of that clade in North America during the Palaeogene. I also discuss new or revised hypotheses for the relationships of several early pleurodontans. In particular, I examine potential evidence for crown-Pleurodonta in the Cretaceous of Mongolia ( Polrussia ), stem Pleurodonta in the Cretaceous of North America ( Magnuviator ) and a stem anole in the Eocene of North America ( Afairiguana ). I suggest that the placement of the fossil crotaphytid is stable to the uncertain phylogeny of Pleurodonta, but recognize the dynamic nature of fossil diagnosis and the potential for updated systematic hypotheses for the other fossils analysed here.

Anon. 2023. Ecological Niche Modelling of an Industrially Important Mushroom - Ganoderma lucidum (Leys.) Karsten: A Machine Learning Global Appraisal. Journal of Scientific & Industrial Research 82. https://doi.org/10.56042/jsir.v82i12.1973

Species Distribution Modelling (SDM) involves utilizing observations of a given species and its surrounding environment to produce a sound approximation of the species' potential distribution. The intricate relationships between organisms and their surroundings, coupled with the profusion of data, have captured the attention of ecologists and statisticians alike. Consequently, they have directed their efforts towards exploring the potential of machine learning techniques. Our study employs an ensemble machine learning approach to simulate the global ecological niche modelling of Ganoderma lucidum fungus. This involves the utilization of various environmental predictors and the averaging of multiple algorithms to achieve a comprehensive analysis. 563 spatially thinned presence points of G. lucidum were projected with three bio-climatic time frames, namely current, 2050, and 2070, and four Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), namely 2.6, 4.5, 6.0, and 8.5, as well as non-climatic variables (surface soil features, land use, rooting depth and water storage capacity at rooting zone). We observed excellent model qualities as the Area Under the receiver operating Curve (AUC) approached 0.90. Random Forest was identified as the best individual algorithm, while the Maxent entropy was identified as the least effective for Ecological Niche Modelling (ENM) of G. lucidum. Globally, under the current bio-climatic and non-bioclimatic projection, optimum habitat for this fungus covers 12510876.3 km2 area while, maximum area (13248546.9 Sq. km.) under this habitat class with future projections was recorded with RCP of 8.5 in 2070. The primary determinants of its current global distribution were ecosystem rooting depth, water storage capacity, and precipitation seasonality. While, with two future bioclimatic time frames and RCPs, Isothermality was identified as the most influential predictor. Based on our assessment, it has been determined that this particular fungus is exhibiting a persistent pattern of proliferation across the regions of Europe, America, and certain areas of India. The present investigation sought to underscore the importance of discerning the native habitats of this species, taking into account both current and anticipated climatic shifts. This knowledge is essential for effectively coordinating the artificial cultivation and natural harvesting of G. lucidum, which is necessary to meet the ever-increasing industrial demands.

Liendo, D., J. A. Campos, and A. Gandarillas. 2023. Cortaderia selloana, an example of aggressive invaders that affect human health, yet to be included in binding international invasive catalogues. NeoBiota 89: 229–237. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.89.110500

Invasive plant species can suppress local biodiversity, affect soil properties and modify the landscape. However, an additional concern of plant invasions that has been more disregarded is their impact on environmental human health. Here, we discuss the case of Cortaderia selloana (Schult. & Schult.f.) Asch. & Graebn, as an example of a worldwide invasive species with a strong environmental impact. We summarise the main facts regarding the C. selloana invasion, the recent clinical evidence of its impact on human health and the great potential expansion of the species in the context of climate change. C. selloana constitutes a clear example to boost demands from policy makers for urgent and efficient measures to control or eradicate invasive species, also in ruderal areas. This aggressive invader is still out of relevant binding international invasive species catalogues, including the European List of Invasive Alien Species of Union concern (Union list), and is still subjected to extensive trading in some European countries. Therefore, including C. selloana in the Union list becomes mandatory to impose full restrictions on keeping, importing, selling, breeding and cultivating the species.

Putra, A. R., K. A. Hodgins, and A. Fournier‐Level. 2023. Assessing the invasive potential of different source populations of ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) through genomically informed species distribution modelling. Evolutionary Applications. https://doi.org/10.1111/eva.13632

The genetic composition of founding populations is likely to play a key role in determining invasion success. Individual genotypes may differ in habitat preference and environmental tolerance, so their ability to colonize novel environments can be highly variable. Despite the importance of genetic variation on invasion success, its influence on the potential distribution of invaders is rarely investigated. Here, we integrate population genomics and ecological niche models (ENMs) into a single framework to predict the distribution of globally invasive common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) in Australia. We identified three genetic clusters for ragweed and used these to construct cluster‐specific ENMs and characterize within‐species niche differentiation. The potential range of ragweed in Australia depended on the genetic composition and continent of origin of the introduced population. Invaders originating from warmer, wetter climates had a broader potential distribution than those from cooler, drier ones. By quantifying this change, we identified source populations most likely to expand the ragweed distribution. As prevention remains the most effective method of invasive species management, our work provides a valuable way of ranking the threat posed by different populations to better inform management decisions.

Angulo, J. C., J. M. Burke, and F. A. Michelangeli. 2023. Characterizing the frequency, morphological gradient, and distribution of dioecy in Miconia (Melastomataceae). International Journal of Plant Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1086/729063

Dioecy has evolved many times independently within the angiosperms. The distribution, frequency of occurrence, and floral morphology of dioecious angiosperms constitute the foundations for comparative studies of dioecy, yet for many groups they are still poorly characterized. We assessed species of Miconia for the presence of dioecious reproductive system, characterized the floral morphology for staminate and pistillate flowers, and used herbarium records to analyze patterns of distribution and elevational range. We find that dioecious Miconia represent an uncommon case of mismatched stage of organ abortion between staminate and pistillate flowers, with functionally pistillate flower morphology largely consistent across species, and morphological expression in functionally staminate flowers varying from near absent to slight reductions in gynoecia. We identify 58 dioecious species and 15 putatively dioecious species within Miconia that are distributed primarily in montane habitats between 1000 m – 3500 m in the Andes, parts of Central America, and the Caribbean. Our results double the last known count of dioecy in Miconia and highlight the gradient of vestigial morphology in staminate flowers. Lastly, we provide discussion on the significance of dioecy in relation to floral development, pollination, and ecology in Miconia.

Finegan, B., D. Delgado, A. L. Hernández Gordillo, N. Zamora Villalobos, R. Núñez Florez, F. Díaz Santos, and S. Vílchez Mendoza. 2024. Multi-dimensional temperature sensitivity of protected tropical mountain rain forests. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/ffgc.2023.1214911

Introduction Tropical mountain rain forests (TMRF, natural forests at > 300 m asl) are globally important for biodiversity and ecosystem services and are believed to be highly vulnerable to climate change. But there are no specific approaches for rigorous assessment of their vulnerability at the landscape and local scales necessary for management for adaptation. We address the challenge of evaluating the ecological sensitivity to temperature of TMRF, applying a multidimensional approach in protected areas over a 440–2,950 m asl altitudinal gradient in Costa Rica, synthesizing results of a long-term research programme (2012-present). We evaluate the sensitivity to the current spatial temperature gradient of eleven ecosystem properties in three categories: forest composition and diversity, thermal characteristics of forest stands and forest structure and dynamics.MethodsData are from 29 to 32 plots of 50 m x 50 m (0.25 ha) distributed over the gradient, in which all trees, palms and tree ferns ≥ 10 dbh are identified to species and measured for recruitment, growth and mortality. An experimental study of leaf litter decomposition rates was carried out in twelve plots. Current and future (SSP 585, 2070) values of mean annual temperatures MAT were obtained from online climate surfaces. Thermal characteristics of forest stands were determined using MATs of species occurrences in GBIF and include a new index, the Community Thermal Capital Index (CTCI), calculated as CTI-MAT.ResultsWe classified degrees of sensitivity to temperature as very weak, weak, moderate or substantial. All eleven ecosystem properties are substantially sensitive, so changes in their values are expected under rising temperatures. Species density, the community temperature index CTI, tree recruitment and mortality rates and leaf litter decomposition rates are positively related to temperature, while the community weighted mean thermal niche breadth, the CTCI, net basal area increments, stand basal area and carbon in aboveground biomass are negatively related. Results point to zones of vulnerability in the protected areas.DiscussionIn montane forests, positive values of the CTCI–climate credit– robust basal area growth and very low mortality and leaf litter decomposition rates suggest healthy ecosystems and no risk of mountaintop extinction. Lowland forests may be vulnerable to degradation and biotic attrition, showing current basal area loss, high mortality and climate debts. National and local actors are participating in a process of adoption of the sensitivity analysis and recommendations regarding zones of vulnerability.

Pérez-Suárez, M., J. E. Ramírez-Albores, and Á. R. Martínez-Campos. 2023. Predicting the impacts of climate change on potential suitability habitats of three Juniperus trees in Mexico. Plant Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-023-01374-6

Future climate change will have severe impacts on the geographic distribution of species, likely leading to shifts in their suitable habitat and eventually to the extinction of some species whose distribution areas are restricted. However, some species may respond differently to climate change. In this study we model the current and future potential habitats of three Juniperus species with different population trends: J. jaliscana , J. monticola and J. pinchotii . Occurrence records were collected across their distribution, combined with environmental and topographical variables to generate a MaxEnt model of the potential distributions in the years 2050 and 2070. The most important environmental variables were precipitation of wettest quarter for J. jaliscana , maximum temperature of warmest month for J. monticola , and mean temperature of coldest quarter for J. pinchotii . Our results showed that the habitat suitability of these three Juniperus species decreased overall by more than 50% under the climate change scenarios. These findings contributed to a better understanding of the impacts of climate change on ecological distribution of these species and could inform decisions regarding to their conservation, and management, and sustainable use strategies, as well as to implement active ex situ conservation strategies.