Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Cousins-Westerberg, R., N. Dakin, L. Schat, G. Kadereit, and A. M. Humphreys. 2023. Evolution of cold tolerance in the highly stress-tolerant samphires and relatives (Salicornieae: Amaranthaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/botlinnean/boad009

Low temperature constitutes one of the main barriers to plant distributions, confining many clades to their ancestrally tropical biome. However, recent evidence suggests that transitions from tropical to temperate biomes may be more frequent than previously thought. Here, we study the evolution of cold and frost tolerance in the globally distributed and highly stress-tolerant Salicornieae (Salicornioideae, Amaranthaceae s.l.). We first generate a phylogenetic tree comprising almost all known species (85-90%), using newly generated (n = 106) and published nuclear-ribosomal and plastid sequences. Next, we use geographical occurrence data to document in which clades and geographical regions cold-tolerant species occur and reconstruct how cold tolerance evolved. Finally, we test for correlated evolution between frost tolerance and the annual life form. We find that frost tolerance has evolved independently in up to four Northern Hemisphere lineages but that annuals are no more likely to evolve frost tolerance than perennials, indicating the presence of different strategies for adapting to cold environments. Our findings add to mounting evidence for multiple independent out-of-the-tropics transitions among close relatives of flowering plants and raise new questions about the ecological and physiological mechanism(s) of adaptation to low temperatures in Salicornieae.

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.

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2021.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…

Pérez‐Navarro, M. Á., J. M. Serra‐Diaz, J. Svenning, M. Á. Esteve‐Selma, J. Hernández‐Bastida, and F. Lloret. 2021. Extreme drought reduces climatic disequilibrium in dryland plant communities. Oikos 130: 680–690. https://doi.org/10.1111/oik.07882

High rates of climate change are currently exceeding many plant species' capacity to keep up with climate, leading to mismatches between climatic conditions and climatic preferences of the species present in a community. This disequilibrium between climate and community composition could diminish, h…

Li, K., J. Wang, L. Qiao, R. Zheng, Y. Ma, Y. Chen, X. Hou, et al. 2020. Diversity of Reproductive Phenology Among Subtropical Grasses Is Constrained by Evolution and Climatic Niche. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2020.00181

Reproductive phenology is sensitive to climatic changes and is associated with species functional types, distribution ranges, and their corresponding climatic niches. Phylogenetic niche conservatism in reproductive phenology also constrains its diversity and the distribution of species. Therefore, w…

Goodwin, Z. A., P. Muñoz-Rodríguez, D. J. Harris, T. Wells, J. R. I. Wood, D. Filer, and R. W. Scotland. 2020. How long does it take to discover a species? Systematics and Biodiversity 18: 784–793. https://doi.org/10.1080/14772000.2020.1751339

The description of a new species is a key step in cataloguing the World’s flora. However, this is only a preliminary stage in a long process of understanding what that species represents. We investigated how long the species discovery process takes by focusing on three key stages: 1, the collection …

Nevado, B., E. L. Y. Wong, O. G. Osborne, and D. A. Filatov. 2019. Adaptive Evolution Is Common in Rapid Evolutionary Radiations. Current Biology 29: 3081-3086.e5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.07.059

One of the most long-standing and important mysteries in evolutionary biology is why biological diversity is so unevenly distributed across space and taxonomic lineages. Nowhere is this disparity more evident than in the multitude of rapid evolutionary radiations found on oceanic islands and mountai…

Folk, R. A., R. L. Stubbs, M. E. Mort, N. Cellinese, J. M. Allen, P. S. Soltis, D. E. Soltis, and R. P. Guralnick. 2019. Rates of niche and phenotype evolution lag behind diversification in a temperate radiation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116: 10874–10882. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1817999116

Environmental change can create opportunities for increased rates of lineage diversification, but continued species accumulation has been hypothesized to lead to slowdowns via competitive exclusion and niche partitioning. Such density-dependent models imply tight linkages between diversification and…