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.

Luna-Aranguré, C., and E. Vázquez-Domínguez. 2024. Bears into the Niche-Space: Phylogeography and Phyloclimatic Model of the Family Ursidae. Diversity 16: 223. https://doi.org/10.3390/d16040223

Assessing niche evolution remains an open question and an actively developing area of study. The family Ursidae consists of eight extant species for which, despite being the most studied family of carnivores, little is known about the influence of climate on their evolutionary history and diversification. We evaluated their evolutionary patterns based on a combined phylogeography and niche modeling approach. We used complete mitogenomes, estimated divergence times, generated ecological niche models and applied a phyloclimatic model to determine the species evolutionary and diversification patterns associated with their respective environmental niches. We inferred the family evolutionary path along the environmental conditions of maximum temperature and minimum precipitation, from around 20 million years ago to the present. Our findings show that the phyloclimatic niches of the bear species occupy most of the environmental space available on the planet, except for the most extreme warm conditions, in accordance with the wide geographic distribution of Ursidae. Moreover, some species exhibit broader environmental niches than others, and in some cases, they explore precipitation axes more extensively than temperature axes or vice versa, suggesting that not all species are equally adaptable to these variables. We were able to elucidate potential patterns of niche conservatism and evolution, as well as niche overlapping, suggesting interspecific competitive exclusion between some of the bear species. We present valuable insights into the ecological and evolutionary processes driving the diversification and distribution of the Ursidae. Our approach also provides essential information for guiding effective conservation strategies, particularly in terms of distribution limits in the face of climate change.

Gama-Rodríguez, A. M., J. A. García, L. F. Lozano, and D. A. Prieto-Torres. 2024. Protecting breeding sites: a critical goal for the conservation of the golden eagle in Mexico under global change scenarios. Journal of Ornithology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-024-02168-x

Impacts of global climate and land‐use changes on distribution patterns and breeding sites remain today poorly studied for several vulnerable emblematic bird species, including the Golden Eagle ( Aquila chrysaetos ). Herein, we analyzed the potential effect of global climate changes and agricultural activities on the distribution patterns of this top predator across Mexico. We assessed the long-term role of protected areas (PAs) for safeguarding the species’ overall distribution and its breeding sites. We evaluated current and future (2040s, 2060s, and 2080s) threats from global change using ecological niche modeling and geographic information system approaches to determine the percentage of the species’ distribution area that overlaps with highly human-modified areas and PAs under each climate scenario. We also used niche overlap tests to assess whether the species’ breeding sites show equivalence or similarity of climatic conditions over time. Our findings revealed shifts in the Golden Eagle’s distributional area, with an overall size reduction (by ~ 57% in the 2040s and ~ 78% in the 2080s) due to future environmental changes, mainly attributable to increasingly dry and warm conditions. Mexican PAs cover ~ 12% of the Golden Eagle’s range across country, but this decreased by > 33% on average under the species’ future distributions. Although the hypothesis of equivalent climatic conditions at breeding sites over time was rejected, those sites did have long-term climate similarity (niche overlap: 0.75–0.83; P  < 0.05). Considering the species’ nest site fidelity and that colonization of new areas within Mexico seems unlikely, protection of these breeding sites is a critical step for the long-term conservation of this emblematic species in Mexico. Brutplätze schützen: ein wichtiges Ziel für die Erhaltung des Steinadlers in Mexiko unter den Bedingungen des globalen Wandels Die Auswirkungen globaler Klima- und Landnutzungsänderungen auf die Verbreitungsmuster und Brutplätze mehrerer gefährdeter, symbolträchtiger Vogelarten, darunter der Steinadler (Aquila chrysaetos), sind bis heute kaum untersucht. In dieser Studie haben wir die potenziellen Auswirkungen globaler Klimaveränderungen und landwirtschaftlicher Aktivitäten auf die Verbreitungsmuster dieses Spitzenprädators in Mexiko untersucht. Wir bewerteten die langfristige Rolle von Schutzgebieten für die Sicherung der Gesamtverbreitung der Art und ihrer Brutplätze. Wir bewerteten aktuelle und zukünftige (2040, 2060 und 2080) Bedrohungen durch den globalen Wandel, indem wir ökologische Nischenmodelle und geografische Informationssysteme einsetzten, um den prozentualen Anteil des Verbreitungsgebiets der Art zu bestimmen, der sich mit stark vom Menschen veränderten Gebieten und Schutzgebieten unter jedem Klimaszenario überschneidet. Außerdem haben wir mit Hilfe von Nischenüberlappungstests untersucht, ob die Brutgebiete der Art im Laufe der Zeit gleichwertige oder ähnliche klimatische Bedingungen aufweisen. Unsere Ergebnisse zeigen, dass sich das Verbreitungsgebiet des Steinadlers aufgrund zukünftiger Umweltveränderungen insgesamt verkleinert (um ca. 57% in den 2040er Jahren und ca. 78% in den 2080er Jahren), was hauptsächlich auf zunehmend trockenere und wärmere Bedingungen zurückzuführen ist. Die mexikanischen Schutzgebiete decken landesweit etwa 12% des Verbreitungsgebiets des Steinadlers ab, doch wird dieser Anteil unter den zukünftigen Verbreitungsgebieten der Art im Durchschnitt um mehr als 33% abnehmen. Auch wenn wir die Hypothese über die Zeit gleichwertiger klimatischer Bedingungen an den Brutplätzen Zeit verwarfen, wiesen diese Standorte eine langfristige Klimaähnlichkeit auf (Nischenüberschneidung: 0,75-0,83; P < 0,05). In Anbetracht der Nistplatztreue der Art und der Tatsache, dass die Besiedlung neuer Gebiete in Mexiko unwahrscheinlich erscheint, ist der Schutz dieser Brutplätze ein entscheidender Schritt für die langfristige Erhaltung dieser emblematischen Art in Mexiko.

Rojas‐Soto, O., J. S. Forero‐Rodríguez, A. Galindo‐Cruz, C. Mota‐Vargas, K. D. Parra‐Henao, A. Peña‐Peniche, J. Piña‐Torres, et al. 2024. Calibration areas in ecological niche and species distribution modelling: Unravelling approaches and concepts. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14834

AbstractAimThe calibration area (CA) corresponds to the geographic region used by different algorithms that estimate the species' environmental preferences and delimit its geographic distribution. This study intended to identify, test and compare current literature's most commonly employed approaches and methods for CA creation, highlighting the differences with the accessible area (M), a frequently misapplied concept.LocationGlobal.TaxonArthropods, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.MethodsWe conducted a literature review and analysed 129 recent articles on species distribution that use correlative models to identify the methods used to establish the CA and their frequency. We also evaluated seven of the most widely used methods for 31 species from different taxa.ResultsWe found that the most frequently used methods in literature corresponded to biogeographic entities (BE). Moreover, according to our evaluation, those methods that seek to establish the CA through the accessible area approach (including BE and ‘grinnell’) were the best evaluated. Finally, we highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the analysed methods in selecting CA.Main ConclusionsAlthough we cannot fail to recognize the usefulness and validity of the different methods to establish CAs, we suggest calibrating ecological niche and species distribution models in light of explicit a priori hypotheses regarding the extent of accessible areas (M) as a delimitation of the CA, which theoretically includes the species' dispersal ability and its barriers. We recommend using the BE method, which is simple to establish and highly operational.

DuBose, T. P., V. Catalan, C. E. Moore, V. R. Farallo, A. L. Benson, J. L. Dade, W. A. Hopkins, and M. C. Mims. 2024. Thermal Traits of Anurans Database for the Southeastern United States (TRAD): A Database of Thermal Trait Values for 40 Anuran Species. Ichthyology &amp; Herpetology 112. https://doi.org/10.1643/h2022102

Thermal traits, or how an animal responds to changing temperatures, impacts species persistence and thus biodiversity. Trait databases, as repositories of consolidated, measured organismal attributes, allow researchers to link study species with specific trait values, enabling comparisons within and among species. Trait databases also help lay the groundwork to build mechanistic linkages between organisms and the environment. However, missing or hidden physiological trait data preclude building mechanistic estimates of climate change vulnerability for many species. Thus, physiologically focused trait databases present an opportunity to consolidate data and enable species-specific or multispecies, mechanistic evaluations of climate change vulnerability. Here, we present TRAD: thermal traits of anurans database for the southeastern United States, a database of thermal trait values related to physiological thermoregulation (critical thermal minima and maxima, preferred temperature), behavioral thermoregulation (activity period, retreat emergence temperature, basking temperature, minimum and maximum foraging temperatures), and body mass for 37 anuran species found within the southeastern United States. In total, TRAD contains 858 reported trait values for 37 of 40 species found in the region from 267 peer-reviewed papers, dissertations, or theses and is easily linked with trait data available in ATraiU, an ecological trait database for anurans in the United States. TRAD contains trait values for multiple life stages and a summarization of interspecific adult trait values. Availability of trait data varied widely among traits and species. Estimates of mass were the most common trait values reported, with values available for 32 species. Behavioral trait values comprised 23% of our database, with activity period available for 34 species. We found the most trait values for Cope's Gray Treefrog (Dryophytes chrysoscelis), with at least one trait value for eight traits in the database. Conversely, species in the genus Pseudacris generally had the fewest trait values available. Species with the largest geographic range sizes also had the greatest coverage of data across traits (rho 5 0.75, P , 0.001). TRAD can aid studies of anuran response to changing temperatures, physiological niche space and limitations, and potential drivers of anuran geographic range limits, influencing our understanding of other ecological and evolutionary patterns and processes and enabling multispecies comparisons of potential risk and resilience in the face of climate change.

Elkins, L. C., M. R. Acre, M. G. Bean, S. M. Robertson, R. Smith, and J. S. Perkin. 2024. A multiscale perspective for improving conservation of Conchos pupfish. Animal Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1111/acv.12930

Desert spring systems of the American southwest hold high local fish endemism and are ranked among the most threatened ecosystems in the world. The prioritization of conservation resources to protect species living within these arid landscapes requires knowledge of species abundance and distribution. The plight of Conchos pupfish (Cyprinodon eximius) is representative of freshwater fishes the world over, including population extirpations caused by human poisoning of streams and reservoir construction, to the extent that the species was once considered extinct in the USA. We developed a distance‐sampling framework to monitor Conchos pupfish abundance and coupled this approach with species distribution modeling to guide conservation actions. Our multiscale approach included surveying abundances within 5‐m transects at three reaches of the Devils River, where the last known USA populations persist. We combined this fine‐scale analysis with species distribution modeling for stream segments across the range of the species in Mexico and USA. Modeling revealed Conchos pupfish abundance among transects was negatively correlated with current velocity and detection was negatively correlated with water depth. Estimated abundance at a reach where the species was previously reintroduced was greater than other reaches combined in November 2019, lowest in March 2021 when reach water levels were very low, then equivalent with other reaches by October 2021 after water returned to the reach. Modeled Conchos pupfish distribution illustrated a high probability of occurrence on the periphery of the species' overall range within Texas, USA and broadly across Chihuahua, Mexico, where proposed protected areas might benefit the species. Our study provides conservation guidance by establishing (1) baseline and trajectory values for abundance, (2) transect locations where abundances might be managed within existing protected areas, (3) reaches where high abundances could be used for future repatriation, and (4) stream segments where future surveys might be conducted to assess conservation opportunities.

Novoa, A., H. Hirsch, M. L. Castillo, S. Canavan, L. González, D. M. Richardson, P. Pyšek, et al. 2023. Genetic and morphological insights into the Carpobrotus hybrid complex around the world. NeoBiota 89: 135–160. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.89.109164

The genus Carpobrotus N.E.Br. comprises between 12 and 25 species, most of which are native to South Africa. Some Carpobrotus species are considered among the most damaging invasive species in coastal dune systems worldwide. In their introduced areas, these species represent a serious threat to native species and significantly impact soil conditions and geochemical processes. Despite being well studied, the taxonomy of Carpobrotus remains problematic, as the genus comprises a complex of species that hybridize easily and are difficult to distinguish from each other. To explore the population genetic structure of invasive Carpobrotus species (i.e., C. acinaciformis and C. edulis) across a significant part of their native and non-native ranges, we sampled 40 populations across Argentina, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and the USA. We developed taxon-specific microsatellite markers using a Next Generation Sequencing approach to analyze the population genetic structure and incidence of hybridization in native and non-native regions. We identified three genetically distinct clusters, which are present in both the native and non-native regions. Based on a set of selected morphological characteristics, we found no clear features to identify taxa morphologically. Our results suggest that the most probable sources of global introductions of Carpobrotus species are the Western Cape region of South Africa and the coastline of California. We suggest that management actions targeting Carpobrotus invasions globally should focus on preventing additional introductions from the east coast of South Africa, and on searching for prospective biocontrol agents in the Western Cape region of South Africa.

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. https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyad101

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. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.15887

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.

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.