Science Enabled by Specimen Data

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.

Tazikeh, S., S. Zendehboudi, S. Ghafoori, A. Lohi, and N. Mahinpey. 2022. Algal bioenergy production and utilization: Technologies, challenges, and prospects. Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering 10: 107863.

Increasing demand for energy and also escalating environmental pollution show that industries cannot rely on fossil fuels, and it is necessary to adopt an alternative. In recent decades, algal bioenergy has emerged as a renewable energy source in different industries. However, algal bioenergy production is costly and faces different challenges and unknown aspects that need to be addressed. Experimental and theoretical research works have revealed that the efficiency of algal bioenergy production is influenced by several factors, including algae species, temperature, light, CO2, cultivation method, and available nutrients. Algal bioenergy production on commercial scales in cost-effective ways is the main aim of industries to compete with fossil fuels. Hence, it is vital to have a comprehensive knowledge of the previous findings and attain a suitable pathway for future studies/activities. In the present review paper, the potential of microalgae bioenergy production, influential parameters, previous experimental and theoretical studies, and different methods for microalgae biofuel production from cultivation stage to utilization are reviewed. Moreover, this work discusses the engineering activities and economic analysis of microalgae cultivation to utilization, and also useful suggestions are made for future research works. The outcomes of the present work confirm that innovative engineering methods can overcome scale-up challenging, increase the rate of production, and decrease the cost of algae bioenergy production. Hence, there is no long way to produce cost-effective algae bioenergy on commercial scales.

Bywater‐Reyes, S., R. M. Diehl, A. C. Wilcox, J. C. Stella, and L. Kui. 2022. A Green New Balance: Interactions among riparian vegetation plant traits and morphodynamics in alluvial rivers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 47: 2410–2436.

The strength of interactions between plants and river processes is mediated by plant traits and fluvial conditions, including above‐ground biomass, stem density and flexibility, channel and bed material properties, and flow and sediment regimes. In many rivers, concurrent changes in 1) the composition of riparian vegetation communities as a result of exotic species invasion and 2) shifts in hydrology have altered physical and ecological conditions in a manner that has been mediated by feedbacks between vegetation and morphodynamic processes. We review how Tamarix, which has invaded many U.S. Southwest waterways, and Populus species, woody pioneer trees that are native to the region, differentially affect hydraulics, sediment transport, and river morphology. We draw on flume, field, and modeling approaches spanning the individual seedling to river‐corridor scales. In a flume study, we found differences in the crown morphology, stem density, and flexibility of Tamarix compared to Populus influenced near‐bed flow velocities in a manner that favored aggradation associated with Tamarix. Similarly, at the patch and corridor scales, observations confirmed increased aggradation with increased vegetation density. Furthermore, long‐term channel adjustments were different for Tamarix‐ versus Populus‐dominated reaches, with faster and greater geomorphic adjustments for Tamarix. Collectively, our studies show how plant‐trait differences between Tamarix and Populus, from individual seedlings to larger spatial and temporal scales, influence the co‐adjustment of rivers and riparian plant communities. These findings provide a basis for predicting changes in alluvial riverine systems which we conceptualize as a Green New Balance model that considers how channels may adjust to changes in plant traits and community structure in additional to alterations in flow and sediment supply. We offer suggestions regarding how the Green New Balance can be used in management and invasive species management.

Liang, S., X. Zhang, and R. Wei. 2022. Ecological adaptation shaped the genetic structure of homoploid ferns against strong dispersal capacity. Molecular Ecology 31: 2679–2697.

The formation of spatial genetic structure with the presence of extensive gene flow, an evolutionary force which is generally expected to eliminate population-specific variation and maintain genetic homogeneity, remains poorly understood. Homosporous ferns, which spread by spores through wind and possess long-distance dispersal capacity, provide an ideal system to investigate such a process. Here, using a homoploid fern lineage, the Athyrium sinense complex, we used reduced-representation genomic data to examine spatial genetic structure and explored potential driving forces including geographical distance, environment, climatic history and external dispersal constraints. Our findings showed a clear north-south divergence at the genetic, morphological and ecological levels between both sides of 35°N in East Asia. Fluctuant and heterogeneous climatic condition was demonstrated to play a crucial role during the formation of the divergence. Our results suggested that this lineage was able to migrate southward and colonize new habitat as a result of the Quaternary climatic fluctuation. Furthermore, the present genetic structure is attributed to adaptation to heterogeneous environments, especially temperature difference. In addition to ecological adaptation, we found clues showing that canopy density, wind direction as well as habitat continuity were all likely to constrain the effect of gene flow. These results demonstrated a diversification process without ploidy changes in ferns providing new insights for our present knowledge on ferns’ spatio-temporal evolutionary pattern. In particular, our study highlights the influence of environmental heterogeneity in driving genetic divergence against strong dispersal capacity.

Laeseke, P., B. Martínez, A. Mansilla, and K. Bischof. 2021. Invaders in waiting? Non-equilibrium in Southern Hemisphere seaweed distributions may lead to underestimation of Antarctic invasion potential. Frontiers of Biogeography 13.

Bioinvasions pose a major threat to global biodiversity. Correlative Ecological Niche Models (ENMs) can be a valuable tool to identify invaders and invasion sites. However, in cases when species are in non-equilibrium with their native environment (i.e. do not fill their niche), correlative approach…

Meller, P., M. Stellmes, A. Fidelis, and M. Finckh. 2022. Correlates of geoxyle diversity in Afrotropical grasslands. Journal of Biogeography 49: 339–352.

Aim: Tropical old-growth grasslands are increasingly acknowledged as biodiverse ecosystems, but they are understudied in many aspects. Geoxyle species are a key component in many of these ecosystems, their belowground storage organs and bud banks are functionally diverse and contribute to the grassl…

de Deus Vidal, J., P. C. le Roux, S. D. Johnson, M. te Beest, and V. R. Clark. 2021. Beyond the Tree-Line: The C3-C4 “Grass-Line” Can Track Global Change in the World’s Grassy Mountain Systems. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 9.

von Humboldt’s tree-line concept has dominated mountain ecology for almost two hundred years, and is considered a key indicator for monitoring change in biome boundaries and biodiversity shifts under climate change. Even though the concept of life zones and elevation gradients are a globally observe…

Lim, J. Y., H. Huang, A. Farnsworth, D. J. Lunt, W. J. Baker, R. J. Morley, W. D. Kissling, et al. 2021. The Cenozoic history of palms: Global diversification, biogeography and the decline of megathermal forests. Global Ecology and Biogeography 31: 425–439.

Aim: Megathermal rain forests and mangroves are much smaller in extent today than in the early Cenozoic, primarily owing to global cooling and drying trends since the Eocene–Oligocene transition (c. 34 Ma). The general reduction of these biomes is hypothesized to shape the diversity and biogeographi…

Beaulieu, W. T., D. G. Panaccione, Q. N. Quach, K. L. Smoot, and K. Clay. 2021. Diversification of ergot alkaloids and heritable fungal symbionts in morning glories. Communications Biology 4.

Heritable microorganisms play critical roles in life cycles of many macro-organisms but their prevalence and functional roles are unknown for most plants. Bioactive ergot alkaloids produced by heritable Periglandula fungi occur in some morning glories (Convolvulaceae), similar to ergot alkaloids in …

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…