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Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Serra‐Diaz, J. M., J. Borderieux, B. Maitner, C. C. F. Boonman, D. Park, W. Guo, A. Callebaut, et al. 2024. occTest: An integrated approach for quality control of species occurrence data. Global Ecology and Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13847

Aim Species occurrence data are valuable information that enables one to estimate geographical distributions, characterize niches and their evolution, and guide spatial conservation planning. Rapid increases in species occurrence data stem from increasing digitization and aggregation efforts, and citizen science initiatives. However, persistent quality issues in occurrence data can impact the accuracy of scientific findings, underscoring the importance of filtering erroneous occurrence records in biodiversity analyses.InnovationWe introduce an R package, occTest, that synthesizes a growing open‐source ecosystem of biodiversity cleaning workflows to prepare occurrence data for different modelling applications. It offers a structured set of algorithms to identify potential problems with species occurrence records by employing a hierarchical organization of multiple tests. The workflow has a hierarchical structure organized in testPhases (i.e. cleaning vs. testing) that encompass different testBlocks grouping different testTypes (e.g. environmental outlier detection), which may use different testMethods (e.g. Rosner test, jacknife,etc.). Four different testBlocks characterize potential problems in geographic, environmental, human influence and temporal dimensions. Filtering and plotting functions are incorporated to facilitate the interpretation of tests. We provide examples with different data sources, with default and user‐defined parameters. Compared to other available tools and workflows, occTest offers a comprehensive suite of integrated tests, and allows multiple methods associated with each test to explore consensus among data cleaning methods. It uniquely incorporates both coordinate accuracy analysis and environmental analysis of occurrence records. Furthermore, it provides a hierarchical structure to incorporate future tests yet to be developed.Main conclusionsoccTest will help users understand the quality and quantity of data available before the start of data analysis, while also enabling users to filter data using either predefined rules or custom‐built rules. As a result, occTest can better assess each record's appropriateness for its intended application.

Ferreira, G. E., J. L. Clark, L. Clavijo, A. Zuluaga, A. Chautems, M. J. G. Hopkins, A. O. Araujo, and M. Perret. 2024. Phylogenetics, character evolution, and historical biogeography of the Neotropical genus Besleria (Gesneriaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/botlinnean/boae007

Besleria, a genus of perennial herbs, shrubs, or small trees growing in the understorey of rainforests, is one of the largest genera of neotropical Gesneriaceae, with over 165 species. Despite the ecological importance and ubiquity of Besleria in rainforest ecosystems, taxonomic and evolutionary studies of Besleria are limited. Here, we generated a phylogenetic analysis of Besleria using four nuclear and chloroplast DNA regions (ITS, matK, rps16, and trnL-trnF) covering more than 50% of the recognized species, along with two secondary calibration points to infer divergence times. Our results support the monophyly of Besleria and allowed us to revise the infrageneric classification and biogeographical history of the genus. We identified five major clades that do not correspond to sections or subsections in previous classifications. These clades are well circumscribed geographically but remain difficult to characterize using previously hypothesized morphological characters. Biogeographical reconstructions indicate an origin in the northern Andes during the Middle Miocene (ca. 15 Mya). The current distribution patterns of this plant group have been significantly shaped by geological and climatic events, particularly Andean uplift and the formation of the Panama Isthmus.

Ramírez-Barahona, S. 2024. Incorporating fossils into the joint inference of phylogeny and biogeography of the tree fern order Cyatheales R. Warnock, and M. Zelditch [eds.],. Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1093/evolut/qpae034

Present-day geographic and phylogenetic patterns often reflect the geological and climatic history of the planet. Neontological distribution data are often sufficient to unravel a lineage’s biogeographic history, yet ancestral range inferences can be at odds with fossil evidence. Here, I use the fossilized birth–death process and the dispersal–extinction cladogenesis model to jointly infer the dated phylogeny and range evolution of the tree fern order Cyatheales. I use data for 101 fossil and 442 extant tree ferns to reconstruct the biogeographic history of the group over the last 220 million years. Fossil-aware reconstructions evince a prolonged occupancy of Laurasia over the Triassic–Cretaceous by Cyathealean tree ferns, which is evident in the fossil record but hidden from analyses relying on neontological data alone. Nonetheless, fossil-aware reconstructions are affected by uncertainty in fossils’ phylogenetic placement, taphonomic biases, and specimen sampling and are sensitive to interpretation of paleodistributions and how these are scored. The present results highlight the need and challenges of incorporating fossils into joint inferences of phylogeny and biogeography to improve the reliability of ancestral geographic range estimation.

Anest, A., Y. Bouchenak-Khelladi, T. Charles-Dominique, F. Forest, Y. Caraglio, G. P. Hempson, O. Maurin, and K. W. Tomlinson. 2024. Blocking then stinging as a case of two-step evolution of defensive cage architectures in herbivore-driven ecosystems. Nature Plants. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-024-01649-4

Dense branching and spines are common features of plant species in ecosystems with high mammalian herbivory pressure. While dense branching and spines can inhibit herbivory independently, when combined, they form a powerful defensive cage architecture. However, how cage architecture evolved under mammalian pressure has remained unexplored. Here we show how dense branching and spines emerged during the age of mammalian radiation in the Combretaceae family and diversified in herbivore-driven ecosystems in the tropics. Phylogenetic comparative methods revealed that modern plant architectural strategies defending against large mammals evolved via a stepwise process. First, dense branching emerged under intermediate herbivory pressure, followed by the acquisition of spines that supported higher speciation rates under high herbivory pressure. Our study highlights the adaptive value of dense branching as part of a herbivore defence strategy and identifies large mammal herbivory as a major selective force shaping the whole plant architecture of woody plants. This study explores the evolution of two traits, branching density and spine presence, in the globally distributed plant family Combretaceae. These traits were found to have appeared in a two-step process in response to mammalian herbivory pressure, revealing the importance of large mammals in the evolution of plant architecture diversity.

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.

SILVA, I. M. D., J. E. SERRÃO, M. M. D. SANTOS, R. S. D. SILVA, A. G. D. CARVALHO, E. M. PIRES, J. C. ZANUNCIO, and M. A. SOARES. 2023. Insecticidal plants as trade opportunities and use by small vegetable producers: an example using essential oils to control Diaphania hyalinata (Lepidoptera: Crambidae). Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências 95. https://doi.org/10.1590/0001-3765202320191305

Production and sale of botanical insecticides depend on knowing the potential opportunities for these products. Essential oils from plants secondary metabolism can control pests, especially in agricultural systems where synthetic insecticides are limited, as in organic agriculture. The objective of this study was to evaluate the toxicity of essential oils to Diaphania hyalinata (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) and to show regions with the potential to use Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Citrus sinensis, and Syzygium aromaticum in the formulation and commercialization of insecticides to control this insect. The C. zeylanicum oil was more toxic to larvae and pupae and the S. aromaticum to eggs of D. hyalinata. Essential oils are an alternative for the management of D. hyalinata. The production of pesticides from essential oils of C. zeylanicum, C. sinensis, and S. aromaticum to control D. hyalinata has high potential in America. Also, Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia can extract these plants to formulate insecticide molecules for the America countries.

Schertler, A., B. Lenzner, S. Dullinger, D. Moser, J. L. Bufford, L. Ghelardini, A. Santini, et al. 2023. Biogeography and global flows of 100 major alien fungal and fungus‐like oomycete pathogens. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14755

AbstractAimSpreading infectious diseases associated with introduced pathogens can have devastating effects on native biota and human livelihoods. We analyse the global distribution of 100 major alien fungal and oomycete pathogens with substantial socio‐economic and environmental impacts and examine their taxonomy, ecological characteristics, temporal accumulation trajectories, regional hot‐ and coldspots of taxon richness and taxon flows between continents.LocationGlobal.TaxonAlien/cryptogenic fungi and fungus‐like oomycetes, pathogenic to plants or animals.MethodsTo identify over/underrepresented classes and phyla, we performed Chi2 tests of independence. To describe spatial patterns, we calculated the region‐wise richness and identified hot‐ and coldspots, defined as residuals after correcting taxon richness for region area and sampling effort via a quasi‐Poisson regression. We examined the relationship with environmental and socio‐economic drivers with a multiple linear regression and evaluated a potential island effect. Regional first records were pooled over 20‐year periods, and for global flows the links between the native range to the alien regions were mapped.ResultsPeronosporomycetes (Oomycota) were overrepresented among taxa and regional taxon richness was positively correlated with area and sampling effort. While no island effect was found, likely due to host limitations, hotspots were correlated with human modification of terrestrial land, per capita gross domestic product, temperate and tropical forest biomes, and orobiomes. Regional first records have increased steeply in recent decades. While Europe and Northern America were major recipients, about half of the taxa originate from Asia.Main ConclusionsWe highlight the putative importance of anthropogenic drivers, such as land use providing a conducive environment, contact opportunities and susceptible hosts, as well as economic wealth likely increasing colonisation pressure. While most taxa were associated with socio‐economic impacts, possibly partly due to a bias in research focus, about a third show substantial impacts to both socio‐economy and the environment, underscoring the importance of maintaining a wholescale perspective across natural and managed systems.

Kolanowska, M. 2023. Future distribution of the epiphytic leafless orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii), its pollinators and phorophytes evaluated using niche modelling and three different climate change projections. Scientific Reports 13. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-42573-5

The identification of future refugia for endangered species from the effects of global warming is crucial for improving their conservation. Because climate-driven shifts in ranges and local extinctions can result in a spatial mismatch with their symbiotic organisms, however, it is important to incorporate in niche modelling the ecological partners of the species studied. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of climate change on the distribution of suitable niches for the ghost orchid ( Dendrophylax lindenii ) and its phorophytes and pollinators. Thus, its five species of host trees and three pollen vectors were included in the analysis. Climatic preferences of all the species studied were evaluated. The modelling was based on three different climate change projections and four Shared Socio-economic Pathway trajectories. All the species analysed are characterized by narrow temperature tolerances, which with global warming are likely to result in local extinctions and range shifts. D. lindenii is likely to be subjected to a significant loss of suitable niches, but within a reduced geographical range, both host trees and pollen vectors will be available in the future. Future conservation of this orchid should focus on areas that are likely be suitable for it and its ecological partners.

Rodríguez-Merino, A. 2023. Identifying and Managing Areas under Threat in the Iberian Peninsula: An Invasion Risk Atlas for Non-Native Aquatic Plant Species as a Potential Tool. Plants 12: 3069. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12173069

Predicting the likelihood that non-native species will be introduced into new areas remains one of conservation’s greatest challenges and, consequently, it is necessary to adopt adequate management measures to mitigate the effects of future biological invasions. At present, not much information is available on the areas in which non-native aquatic plant species could establish themselves in the Iberian Peninsula. Species distribution models were used to predict the potential invasion risk of (1) non-native aquatic plant species already established in the peninsula (32 species) and (2) those with the potential to invade the peninsula (40 species). The results revealed that the Iberian Peninsula contains a number of areas capable of hosting non-native aquatic plant species. Areas under anthropogenic pressure are at the greatest risk of invasion, and the variable most related to invasion risk is temperature. The results of this work were used to create the Invasion Risk Atlas for Alien Aquatic Plants in the Iberian Peninsula, a novel online resource that provides information about the potential distribution of non-native aquatic plant species. The atlas and this article are intended to serve as reference tools for the development of public policies, management regimes, and control strategies aimed at the prevention, mitigation, and eradication of non-native aquatic plant species.

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. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.87.101104

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.