Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Pan, Y., J. García-Girón, and L. L. Iversen. 2023. Global change and plant-ecosystem functioning in freshwaters. Trends in Plant Science. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2022.12.013

Freshwater ecosystems are of worldwide importance for maintaining biodiversity and sustaining the provision of a myriad of ecosystem services to modern societies. Plants, one of the most important components of these ecosystems, are key to water nutrient removal, carbon storage, and food provision. Understanding how the functional connection between freshwater plants and ecosystems is affected by global change will be key to our ability to predict future changes in freshwater systems. Here, we synthesize global plant responses, adaptations, and feedbacks to present-day and future freshwater environments through trait-based approaches, from single individuals to entire communities. We outline the transdisciplinary knowledge benchmarks needed to further understand freshwater plant biodiversity and the fundamental services they provide.

Mai, J., and G. Liu. 2023. Modeling and predicting the effects of climate change on cotton-suitable habitats in the Central Asian arid zone. Industrial Crops and Products 191: 115838. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indcrop.2022.115838

Climate change has significantly affected global agricultural production, particularly in arid zones of Central Asia. Thus, we analyzed changes in the habitat suitability of cotton in Central Asia under various shared socioeconomic pathway (SSP) scenarios during 2021–2060. The results showed that the average minimum temperature in April, precipitation seasonality, and distance to rivers were the main environmental factors influencing the suitable distribution of cotton. Suitable habitats expanded toward the north and east, reaching a maximum net increase of 10.85 × 104 km2 under the SSP5–8.5 scenario during 2041–2060, while habitats in the southwestern area showed a contracting trend. The maximum decreased and increased habitats were concentrated at approximately 68°E and 87°E, respectively. In addition, their latitudinal distributions were concentrated at approximately 40°N and 44°N. The longitudinal and latitudinal dividing lines of increased and decreased habitats were 69°E and 41°N, respectively. Habitats at the same altitude showed an increasing trend, excluding the elevation range of 125–325 m. Habitat shifts could exacerbate spatial conflicts with forest/grassland and natural reserves. The maximum spatial overlap between them was observed under the SSP5–8.5 scenario during 2041–2060. These findings could provide scientific evidence for rational cotton cultivation planning in global arid zones.

Campbell, L. C. E., E. T. Kiers, and G. Chomicki. 2022. The evolution of plant cultivation by ants. Trends in Plant Science. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2022.09.005

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.

Moreno, I., J. M. W. Gippet, L. Fumagalli, and P. J. Stephenson. 2022. Factors affecting the availability of data on East African wildlife: the monitoring needs of conservationists are not being met. Biodiversity and Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-022-02497-4

Understanding the status and abundance of species is essential for effective conservation decision-making. However, the availability of species data varies across space, taxonomic groups and data types. A case study was therefore conducted in a high biodiversity region—East Africa—to evaluate data biases, the factors influencing data availability, and the consequences for conservation. In each of the eleven target countries, priority animal species were identified as threatened species that are protected by national governments, international conventions or conservation NGOs. We assessed data gaps and biases in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and the Living Planet Index. A survey of practitioners and decision makers was conducted to confirm and assess consequences of these biases on biodiversity conservation efforts. Our results showed data on species occurrence and population trends were available for a significantly higher proportion of vertebrates than invertebrates. We observed a geographical bias, with higher tourism income countries having more priority species and more species with data than lower tourism income countries. Conservationists surveyed felt that, of the 40 types of data investigated, those data that are most important to conservation projects are the most difficult to access. The main challenges to data accessibility are excessive expense, technological challenges, and a lack of resources to process and analyse data. With this information, practitioners and decision makers can prioritise how and where to fill gaps to improve data availability and use, and ensure biodiversity monitoring is improved and conservation impacts enhanced.

Heo, N., D. J. Leopold, M. V. Lomolino, S. Yun, and D. D. Fernando. 2022. Global and regional drivers of abundance patterns in the hart’s tongue fern complex (Aspleniaceae). Annals of Botany. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcac129

Abstract Background and Aims The hart’s tongue fern (HTF) complex is a monophyletic group composed of five geographically segregated members with divergent abundance patterns across its broad geographic range. We postulated hierarchical systems of environmental controls in which climatic and land-use change drive abundance patterns at the global scale, while various ecological conditions function as finer-scale determinants that further increase geographic disparities at regional to local scales. Methods After quantifying the abundance patterns of the HTF complex, we estimated their correlations with global climate and land-use dynamics. Regional determinants were assessed using boosted regression tree models with 18 potential ecological variables. Moreover, we investigated long-term population trends in the U.S. to understand the interplay of climate change and anthropogenic activities on a temporal scale. Key Results Latitudinal climate shifts drove latitudinal abundance gradients, and regionally different levels of land-use change resulted in global geographic disparities in population abundance. At a regional scale, population isolation, which accounts for rescue effects, played an important role, particularly in Europe and East Asia where several hotspots occurred. Furthermore, the variables most strongly influencing abundance patterns greatly differed by region: precipitation seasonality in Europe, spatial heterogeneity of temperature and precipitation in East Asia, and magnitudes of past climate change, temperature seasonality, and edaphic conditions in North America. In the U.S., protected populations showed increasing trends compared to unprotected populations at the same latitude, highlighting the critical role of habitat protection in conservation measures. Conclusions Geographic disparities in the abundance patterns of HTF complex were determined by hierarchical systems of environmental controls, wherein climatic and land-use dynamics act globally but are modulated by various regional and local determinants operating at increasingly finer scales. We highlighted that fern conservation must be tailored to particular geographic contexts and environmental conditions by incorporating a better understanding of the dynamics acting at different spatiotemporal scales.

Latron, M., J. Arnaud, E. Schmitt, and A. Duputié. 2022. Idiosyncratic shifts in life‐history traits at species’ geographic range edges. Oikos. https://doi.org/10.1111/oik.09098

Anthropogenic changes drive shifts in species' geographic distributions and increase the occurrence of leading or trailing‐edge marginal populations. Theoretical predictions and empirical observations indicate substantial changes in life‐history traits in marginal populations, often involving dispersal and reproductive abilities. Using a common garden experiment, we studied the variation of life‐history traits of populations sampled on spatial gradients extending from range‐core to range‐edge habitats for three expanding (miner's lettuce Claytonia perfoliata, Danish scurvygrass Cochlearia danica and rock samphire Crithmum maritimum) and one receding plant species (dune pansy Viola tricolor subs. curtisii). We monitored life‐history traits related to dispersal, phenology, survival, reproductive output and selfing ability. Significant shifts in life‐history traits between central and marginal populations strongly differed among species. Marginal populations of the three expanding species displayed modified seed weight in natura, suggesting increased dispersal abilities in leading‐edge populations. Discarding unassessed maternal effects, this trait modification can be due to phenotypic plasticity or to genetic differentiation. In miner's lettuce, marginal expanding populations show advanced phenology and higher reproductive output, that may potentially influence their colonization ability. In rock samphire, life‐history traits showed large intra‐ and inter‐population variability that did not follow a core‐to‐edge geographic trend, except for seed size. Finally, the receding populations of the dune pansy displayed a shift towards a plant architecture maximizing survival but reducing individual reproductive success. Altogether, our results indicated a common trend for increased dispersal abilities in marginal populations of expanding species. However, shifts in species' distributions may drive idiosyncratic changes in other life‐history traits, for which we observed no general evolutionary syndrome at range edges. These findings go along a stochastic view of trait evolution during range expansion, and question how to draw predictive projections of species' distribution shifts under current global change.

Kroonen, G., A. Jakob, A. I. Palmér, P. van Sluis, and A. Wigman. 2022. Indo-European cereal terminology suggests a Northwest Pontic homeland for the core Indo-European languages S. Wichmann [ed.],. PLOS ONE 17: e0275744. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0275744

Questions on the timing and the center of the Indo-European language dispersal are central to debates on the formation of the European and Asian linguistic landscapes and are deeply intertwined with questions on the archaeology and population history of these continents. Recent palaeogenomic studies support scenarios in which the core Indo-European languages spread with the expansion of Early Bronze Age Yamnaya herders that originally inhabited the East European steppes. Questions on the Yamnaya and Pre-Yamnaya locations of the language community that ultimately gave rise to the Indo-European language family are heavily dependent on linguistic reconstruction of the subsistence of Proto-Indo-European speakers. A central question, therefore, is how important the role of agriculture was among the speakers of this protolanguage. In this study, we perform a qualitative etymological analysis of all previously postulated Proto-Indo-European terminology related to cereal cultivation and cereal processing. On the basis of the evolution of the subsistence strategies of consecutive stages of the protolanguage, we find that one or perhaps two cereal terms can be reconstructed for the basal Indo-European stage, also known as Indo-Anatolian, but that core Indo-European, here also including Tocharian, acquired a more elaborate set of terms. Thus, we linguistically document an important economic shift from a mostly non-agricultural to a mixed agro-pastoral economy between the basal and core Indo-European speech communities. It follows that the early, eastern Yamnaya of the Don-Volga steppe, with its lack of evidence for agricultural practices, does not offer a perfect archaeological proxy for the core Indo-European language community and that this stage of the language family more likely reflects a mixed subsistence as proposed for western Yamnaya groups around or to the west of the Dnieper River.

Walas, Ł., W. Kędziora, M. Ksepko, M. Rabska, D. Tomaszewski, P. A. Thomas, R. Wójcik, and G. Iszkuło. 2022. The future of Viscum album L. in Europe will be shaped by temperature and host availability. Scientific Reports 12. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-21532-6

Viscum album L. is a plant of great importance due to its influence on the host trees and, by extension, entire ecosystems. The species is also significant to humans—on the one hand, because of its use in medicine, and on the other, because of the growing threat it poses to the stability of conifer stands. Therefore, it is important to recognize the future range of three mistletoe subspecies ( Viscum album subsp. album , V. album subsp. austriacum , and V. album subsp. abietis ). Modelling of the potential range of these subspecies was performed using MAXENT software. Locations were collected from literature and databases. A total number of 3335 stands were used. Bioclimatic data for the current conditions and three future scenarios (SSP 1.26, SSP 3.70, SSP 5.85) were downloaded from the CHELSA database. The results confirmed that the temperature is the key variable on the potential range of the analysed subspecies. V. album subsp. abietis is withdrawing from its range according to all scenarios. In the case of V. album subsp. austriacum , a slight range shift is visible. Only the V. album subsp. album will expand non-directionally. The reason is most likely a very large number of host species and greater genetic variability compared to the subspecies found on conifers.

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. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.16715

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.

Perez‐Navarro, M. A., O. Broennimann, M. A. Esteve, G. Bagaria, A. Guisan, and F. Lloret. 2022. Comparing climatic suitability and niche distances to explain populations responses to extreme climatic events. Ecography. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecog.06263

Habitat suitability calculated from species distribution models (SDMs) has been used to assess population performance, but empirical studies have provided weak or inconclusive support to this approach. Novel approaches measuring population distances to niche centroid and margin in environmental space have been recently proposed to explain population performance, particularly when populations experience exceptional environmental conditions that may place them outside of the species niche. Here, we use data of co‐occurring species' decay, gathered after an extreme drought event occurring in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula which highly affected rich semiarid shrubland communities, to compare the relationship between population decay (mortality and remaining green canopy) and 1) distances between populations' location and species niche margin and centroid in the environmental space, and 2) climatic suitability estimated from frequently used SDMs (here MaxEnt) considering both the extreme climatic episode and the average reference climatic period before this. We found that both SDMs‐derived suitability and distances to species niche properly predict populations performance when considering the reference climatic period; but climatic suitability failed to predict performance considering the extreme climate period. In addition, while distance to niche margins accurately predict both mortality and remaining green canopy responses, centroid distances failed to explain mortality, suggesting that indexes containing information about the position to niche margin (inside or outside) are better to predict binary responses. We conclude that the location of populations in the environmental space is consistent with performance responses to extreme drought. Niche distances appear to be a more efficient approach than the use of climate suitability indices derived from more frequently used SDMs to explain population performance when dealing with environmental conditions that are located outside the species environmental niche. The use of this alternative metrics may be particularly useful when designing conservation measures to mitigate impacts of shifting environmental conditions.