Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Mamba, H. S., and T. O. Randhir. 2024. Exploring temperature and precipitation changes under future climate change scenarios for black and white rhinoceros populations in Southern Africa. Biodiversity 25: 52–64.

Climate change is a potential human-induced threat to rhino populations and their habitat. Information on the effects of climate change on rhinoceros species can help manage and develop conservation plans to adapt to these changes. In this study, two climate change scenarios were used to predict temperature and precipitation changes in national parks in southern Africa and the effect those changes would have on black (Diceros bicornis) and white (Ceratotherium simum) rhinoceros populations. The study used the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) 4.5 and 8.5, atmospheric CO2 concentrations of 650 and 1370 ppm, for the years 2055 and 2085 to explore the temperature and precipitation changes. All spatial information was processed using Geographic Information Systems and statistical analysis. Results show the changing climate will have significant negative impacts on the probability of occurrence of both species. Temperature changes will affect these probabilities more than precipitation changes. All study parks will have zero probability of occurrence for the species throughout their ranges should conditions reach those represented by the RCP 8.5 scenario late in the century. Conservation activities for the rhinoceros should take into consideration the potential for temperature and precipitation changes modelled in this study.

Ortiz-Acosta, M. Á., J. Galindo-González, A. A. Castro-Luna, and C. Mota-Vargas. 2023. Potential distribution of marsupials (Didelphimorphia: Didelphidae) in Mexico under 2 climate change scenarios M. Vieira [ed.],. Journal of Mammalogy.

Climate change is one of the main threats to biodiversity in the 21st century. However, the effects that it may have on different mammal species are unknown, making it difficult to implement conservation strategies. In this paper, we used species distribution models (SDM) to assess the effect of global climate change on the potential distribution of the 8 of the 9 marsupial species in Mexico, and analyzed their distribution in the current system of natural protected areas (NPAs). We used presence records for each species and bioclimatic variables from the present and the future (2050 and 2080) with 2 contrasting possible scenarios (representative concentration pathways RCP 4.5 and 8.5). We found that Tlacuatzin canescens would have the most stable potential range under any climate change scenario, while the remaining species (Caluromys derbianus, Chironectes minimus, Didelphis marsupialis, D. virginiana, Philander opossum, Marmosa mexicana, and Metachirus nudicaudatus) would undergo notable range losses in the future, though there would not only be losses—according to our SDMs, for all species there would be some range gain under the different climate scenarios, assuming the vegetation cover remained. The current system of NPAs in Mexico currently protects and under the 2 future scenarios would protect less than 20% of the potential range of marsupials, so a reevaluation of their areas beyond the NPAs is highly recommended for the long-term conservation of this group. Our results provide relevant information on the estimated effects of global climate change on marsupials, allowing us to design more effective methodologies for the protection of this portion of the mammalian fauna in Mexico.

Leão, C. F., M. S. Lima Ribeiro, K. Moraes, G. S. R. Gonçalves, and M. G. M. Lima. 2023. Climate change and carnivores: shifts in the distribution and effectiveness of protected areas in the Amazon. PeerJ 11: e15887.

Background Carnivore mammals are animals vulnerable to human interference, such as climate change and deforestation. Their distribution and persistence are affected by such impacts, mainly in tropical regions such as the Amazon. Due to the importance of carnivores in the maintenance and functioning of the ecosystem, they are extremely important animals for conservation. We evaluated the impact of climate change on the geographic distribution of carnivores in the Amazon using Species Distribution Models (SDMs). Do we seek to answer the following questions: (1) What is the effect of climate change on the distribution of carnivores in the Amazon? (2) Will carnivore species lose or gain representation within the Protected Areas (PAs) of the Amazon in the future? Methods We evaluated the distribution area of 16 species of carnivores mammals in the Amazon, based on two future climate scenarios (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5) for the year 2070. For the construction of the SDMs we used bioclimatic and vegetation cover variables (land type). Based on these models, we calculated the area loss and climate suitability of the species, as well as the effectiveness of the protected areas inserted in the Amazon. We estimated the effectiveness of PAs on the individual persistence of carnivores in the future, for this, we used the SDMs to perform the gap analysis. Finally, we analyze the effectiveness of PAs in protecting taxonomic richness in future scenarios. Results The SDMs showed satisfactory predictive performance, with Jaccard values above 0.85 and AUC above 0.91 for all species. In the present and for the future climate scenarios, we observe a reduction of potencial distribution in both future scenarios (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), where five species will be negatively affected by climate change in the RCP 4.5 future scenario and eight in the RCP 8.5 scenario. The remaining species stay stable in terms of total area. All species in the study showed a loss of climatic suitability. Some species lost almost all climatic suitability in the RCP 8.5 scenario. According to the GAP analysis, all species are protected within the PAs both in the current scenario and in both future climate scenarios. From the null models, we found that in all climate scenarios, the PAs are not efficient in protecting species richness.

Higino, G. T., F. Banville, G. Dansereau, N. R. Forero Muñoz, F. Windsor, and T. Poisot. 2023. Mismatch between IUCN range maps and species interactions data illustrated using the Serengeti food web. PeerJ 11: e14620.

Background Range maps are a useful tool to describe the spatial distribution of species. However, they need to be used with caution, as they essentially represent a rough approximation of a species’ suitable habitats. When stacked together, the resulting communities in each grid cell may not always be realistic, especially when species interactions are taken into account. Here we show the extent of the mismatch between range maps, provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and species interactions data. More precisely, we show that local networks built from those stacked range maps often yield unrealistic communities, where species of higher trophic levels are completely disconnected from primary producers. Methodology We used the well-described Serengeti food web of mammals and plants as our case study, and identify areas of data mismatch within predators’ range maps by taking into account food web structure. We then used occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) to investigate where data is most lacking. Results We found that most predator ranges comprised large areas without any overlapping distribution of their prey. However, many of these areas contained GBIF occurrences of the predator. Conclusions Our results suggest that the mismatch between both data sources could be due either to the lack of information about ecological interactions or the geographical occurrence of prey. We finally discuss general guidelines to help identify defective data among distributions and interactions data, and we recommend this method as a valuable way to assess whether the occurrence data that are being used, even if incomplete, are ecologically accurate.

Borges, C., A. Bertassoni, L. F. Liévano‐Latorre, T. A. F. Dória, R. Santos‐Silva, F. Miranda, and E. Barreto. 2022. Safeguarding sloths and anteaters in the future: Priority areas for conservation under climate change. Biotropica.

Sloths and anteaters form the monophyletic order Pilosa, which is currently represented by only 16 extant species distributed exclusively in the Neotropics. This present‐day low species richness is an inheritance of the Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions, where over 65 Pilosa species known from the fossil record went extinct. The large number of species lost in the recent past suggests that this group is greatly vulnerable to extinction. Here, we propose long‐term priority conservation areas for the order Pilosa, considering different future climate change scenarios, biotic stability, and the multiple dimensions of the group's biodiversity, such as species richness, species endemism, and phylogenetic diversity. Projections of species distribution for future scenarios show increased fragmentation and clear habitat loss as the Amazon Forest is replaced by savanna‐like habitats. Conservation solutions were highly congruent for the different dimensions of biodiversity, with priority areas emerging mainly in the Atlantic Forest, Amazonian wetlands, highlands of Ecuador, and the Central American isthmus. Expanding the currently protected areas network by 6% with the proposed priority areas, independently of which future climatic scenario is considered, can increase sloths and anteaters' coverage in the future by 12%. As a group of high phylogenetic and ecological importance, future conservation planning should deliberately aim to protect areas favorable to Pilosa, especially given the current scenario of environmental dismantling and neglect of critical Neotropical biomes.

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.

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.

Lal, M. M., K. T. Brown, P. Chand, and T. D. Pickering. 2022. An assessment of the aquaculture potential of indigenous freshwater food fish of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga as alternatives to farming of tilapia. Reviews in Aquaculture.

An important driver behind introductions for aquaculture of alien fish species into Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) is a lack of knowledge about domestication suitability and specific culture requirements of indigenous taxa. Introductions may be appropriate in some circumstances, but in other circumstances, the associated risks may outweigh the benefits, so greater understanding of indigenous species' aquaculture potential is important. This review summarises literature for indigenous freshwater food fish species from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga, and evaluates their aquaculture potential for food security and/or small‐scale livelihoods. A species selection criteria incorporating economic, social, biological and environmental spheres was used to score 62 candidate species. Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus and O. niloticus) now established in PICTs were evaluated for comparison. Results show that 13 species belonging to the families Mugilidae (Mullets), Terapontidae (Grunters), Kuhliidae (Flagtails) and Scatophagidae (Scats) have the highest culture potential according to selection criteria. These feed at a relatively low trophic level (are herbivores/detritivores), have comparatively fast growth rates and overall possess characteristics most amenable for small‐scale, inland aquaculture. The four top‐ranked candidates are all mountain mullets Cestraeus spp., followed by Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Lower ranked candidates include three other mullets (Planiliza melinoptera, P. subviridis and Mugil cephalus) and rock flagtail Kuhlia rupestris. Importantly, many species remain data deficient in aspects of their reproductive biology or culture performance. Species profiles and ranked priority species by country are provided with logistical, technological and environmental assessments of country capacities to culture each species.

Rahman, D. A., Y. Santosa, I. Purnamasari, and A. A. Condro. 2022. Drivers of Three Most Charismatic Mammalian Species Distribution across a Multiple-Use Tropical Forest Landscape of Sumatra, Indonesia. Animals 12: 2722.

Tropical Rainforest Heritage sites of Sumatra are some of the most irreplaceable landscapes in the world for biodiversity conservation. These landscapes harbor many endangered Asiatic mammals all suffering multifaceted threats due to anthropogenic activities. Three charismatic mammals in Sumatra: Elephas maximus sumatranus, Pongo abelii, and Panthera tigris sumatrae are protected and listed as Critically Endangered (CR) within the IUCN Red List. Nevertheless, their current geographic distribution remains unclear, and the impact of environmental factors on these species are mostly unknown. This study predicts the potential range of those species on the island of Sumatra using anthropogenic, biophysical, topographic, and climatic parameters based on the ensemble machine learning algorithms. We also investigated the effects of habitat loss from current land use, ecosystem availability, and importance of Indonesian protected areas. Our predictive model had relatively excellent performance (Sørensen: 0.81–0.94) and can enhance knowledge on the current species distributions. The most critical environmental predictors for the distribution of the three species are conservation status and temperature seasonality. This study revealed that more than half of the species distributions occurred in non-protected areas, with proportional coverage being 83%, 72%, and 54% for E.m. sumatranus, P. abelii, and P.t. sumatrae, respectively. Our study further provides reliable information on places where conservation efforts must be prioritized, both inside and outside of the protected area networks, to safeguard the ongoing survival of these Indonesian large charismatic mammals.

Daniels, S. R., A. Barnes, N. Peer, V. T. Egan, R. Taylor, R. W. Taylor, and D. van der Colff. 2022. iNaturalist is useful at enhancing biodiversity studies as evident from southern African freshwater crabs (Decapoda: Brachyura: Potamonautidae). Journal of Crustacean Biology 42.

Abstract The value of the citizen science platform iNaturalist was explored using photographic observations of southern African freshwater crabs (Potamonautidae Bott, 1970, among two genera Potamonautes sensu stricto MacLeay, 1838 and MartimonautesCumberlidge & Daniels, 2022) in combination with specimen data deposited in the South African Museum (Iziko Museums of Cape Town, South Africa). Species identification of photographic observations were assessed, and the identification of taxa corrected where necessary. From these records, the habitat type and distribution of the species were noted. The area of occupancy (AOO) and the extent of occurrence (EOO) were calculated where range extensions for species were observed. The results demonstrate that riverine/mountain stream freshwater crabs are over-represented in their frequency but species occurring in swamps/forests were under-represented. Using iNaturalist spatial data for South Africa we can identify several unsampled gaps in the country which included the Free State and North West, Gauteng and the Northern Cape, followed by Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and the Eastern Cape provinces. The Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal had the highest number of freshwater crab records on iNaturalist. The remaining southern African countries, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, have few iNaturalist records. Range extensions were observed in four South African species based on iNaturalist records (P. clarusGouws, Stewart & Coke, 2000, P. flavusjoDaniels, Phiri, & Bayliss, 2014, P. isimangaliso Peer & Gouws, 2015, and P. mariepskoppieDaniels, Barnes, Marais & Gouws, 2021) with increases in AOO and EOO. We also observed a new undescribed freshwater crab on iNaturalist and corroborated this observation by sequencing these specimens for the cytochrome oxidase one subunit (COI) locus. Photographic quality is critical for taxonomic inference. Citizen science ­platforms such as iNaturalist can be invaluable for the discovery and documentation of biodiversity and provide new spatial data for species distributions that in turn can aid conservation tools.

Cunze, S., and S. Klimpel. 2022. From the Balkan towards Western Europe: Range expansion of the golden jackal ( Canis aureus )—A climatic niche modeling approach. Ecology and Evolution 12.

In recent decades, a rapid range expansion of the golden jackal (Canis aureus) towards Northern and Western Europe has been observed. The golden jackal is a medium‐sized canid, with a broad and flexible diet. Almost 200 different parasite species have been reported worldwide from C. aureus, including many parasites that are shared with dogs and cats and parasite species of public health concern. As parasites may follow the range shifts of their host, the range expansion of the golden jackal could be accompanied by changes in the parasite fauna in the new ecosystems. In the new distribution area, the golden jackal could affect ecosystem equilibrium, e.g., through changed competition situations or predation pressure. In a niche modeling approach, we project the future climatic habitat suitability of the golden jackal in Europe in the context of whether climatic changes promote range expansion. We use an ensemble forecast based on six presence‐absence algorithms to estimate the climatic suitability of C. aureus for different time periods up to the year 2100 considering different IPCC scenarios on future development. As predictor variables, we used six bioclimatic variables provided by worldclim. Our results clearly indicate that areas with climatic conditions analogous to those of the current core distribution area of the golden jackal in Europe will strongly expand towards the north and the west in future decades. Thus, the observed range expansion may be favored by climate change. The occurrence of stable populations can be expected in Central Europe. With regard to biodiversity and public health concerns, the population and range dynamics of the golden jackal should be surveyed. Correlative niche models provide a useful and frequently applied tool for this purpose. The results can help to make monitoring more efficient by identifying areas with suitable habitat and thus a higher probability of occurrence.