Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Reichgelt, T., A. Baumgartner, R. Feng, and D. A. Willard. 2023. Poleward amplification, seasonal rainfall and forest heterogeneity in the Miocene of the eastern USA. Global and Planetary Change 222: 104073.

Paleoclimate reconstructions can provide a window into the environmental conditions in Earth history when atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were higher than today. In the eastern USA, paleoclimate reconstructions are sparse, because terrestrial sedimentary deposits are rare. Despite this, the eastern USA has the largest population and population density in North America, and understanding the effects of current and future climate change is of vital importance. Here, we provide terrestrial paleoclimate reconstructions of the eastern USA from Miocene fossil floras. Additionally, we compare proxy paleoclimate reconstructions from the warmest period in the Miocene, the Miocene Climatic Optimum (MCO), to those of an MCO Earth System Model. Reconstructed Miocene temperatures and precipitation north of 35°N are higher than modern. In contrast, south of 35°N, temperatures and precipitation are similar to today, suggesting a poleward amplification effect in eastern North America. Reconstructed Miocene rainfall seasonality was predominantly higher than modern, regardless of latitude, indicating greater variability in intra-annual moisture transport. Reconstructed climates are almost uniformly in the temperate seasonal forest biome, but heterogeneity of specific forest types is evident. Reconstructed Miocene terrestrial temperatures from the eastern USA are lower than modeled temperatures and coeval Atlantic sea surface temperatures. However, reconstructed rainfall is consistent with modeled rainfall. Our results show that during the Miocene, climate was most different from modern in the northeastern states, and may suggest a drastic reduction in the meridional temperature gradient along the North American east coast compared to today.

Welk, E., and A. Oesau. 2019. Carex liparocarpos in Deutschland – ein Erstnachweis und viele Fragen. Kochia 12: 83–98.

Carex liparocarpos s. str., die Glanzfrüchtige Segge, wurde durch Albert Oesau im NSG Lennebergwald bei Mainz erstmals sicher für Deutschland nachgewiesen. Der Neufund wird hier areal- und vegetationskundlich eingeordnet und diskutiert. Dabei werden zahlreiche interessante Fakten, aber auch Fragen und Unklarheiten aufgeworfen. Die Art ist nah verwandt mit C. supina, mit der sie oft verwechselt wurde und wird. In der Ukraine ist die Abgrenzung zu C. schkuhrii (Syn. C. liparocarpos subsp. bordzilowskii) unklar. Mit C. turkestanica kommt der engere Verwandtschaftskreis als Subsektion Nitidae bis in mittelasiatische Gebirge vor. Das Hauptareal der Art wird – genauer als bisher – als submediterran-westpannonisch charakterisiert. Azonale Arealbereiche sind durch südatlantische, nordadriatische und pontische Dünenregionen repräsentiert. Mediterran-alpine, isolierte Vorposten wurden in Nordafrika bis auf ca. 30° n. Br. gefunden. In Frankreich gibt es wenige, bis auf ca. 50° n. Br. vorgeschobene, isolierte Vorposten, von denen viele gefährdet bzw. erloschen sind. C. liparocarpos s. str. besiedelt vorrangig neutral-basische Sandsteppen-, Dünen-, Fluss-Schotter- und Felserosionsstandorte und ist u. a. typisch für die Festucetalia vaginatae, Festucetalia valesiacae, Artemisio albae-Brometalia erecti, Scorzoneretalia villosae, Trachynietalia (Brachypodietalia) distachyi, Ononidetalia striatae und Artemisio-Koelerietalia. Auf Grundlage der gewonnenen Gesamtübersicht zu Verbreitung und Habitatbindung wird der Einbürgerungsstatus des Neufundes bewertet. Nach dem derzeitigem floristischen Kenntnisstand erscheint eine neophytische Einschleppung wahrscheinlich – ist aber nicht zwingend anzunehmen, da der Wuchsort in einem für die Art vegetationskundlich nahezu perfekt typischen Lebensraum liegt, der allerdings floristisch gut durchforscht ist.

Smith, A. B., S. J. Murphy, D. Henderson, and K. D. Erickson. 2023. Including imprecisely georeferenced specimens improves accuracy of species distribution models and estimates of niche breadth. Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Aim Museum and herbarium specimen records are frequently used to assess the conservation status of species and their responses to climate change. Typically, occurrences with imprecise geolocality information are discarded because they cannot be matched confidently to environmental conditions and are thus expected to increase uncertainty in downstream analyses. However, using only precisely georeferenced records risks undersampling of the environmental and geographical distributions of species. We present two related methods to allow the use of imprecisely georeferenced occurrences in biogeographical analysis. Innovation Our two procedures assign imprecise records to the (1) locations or (2) climates that are closest to the geographical or environmental centroid of the precise records of a species. For virtual species, including imprecise records alongside precise records improved the accuracy of ecological niche models projected to the present and the future, especially for species with c. 20 or fewer precise occurrences. Using only precise records underestimated loss of suitable habitat and overestimated the amount of suitable habitat in both the present and the future. Including imprecise records also improves estimates of niche breadth and extent of occurrence. An analysis of 44 species of North American Asclepias (Apocynaceae) yielded similar results. Main conclusions Existing studies examining the effects of spatial imprecision typically compare outcomes based on precise records against the same records with spatial error added to them. However, in real-world cases, analysts possess a mix of precise and imprecise records and must decide whether to retain or discard the latter. Discarding imprecise records can undersample the geographical and environmental distributions of species and lead to mis-estimation of responses to past and future climate change. Our method, for which we provide a software implementation in the enmSdmX package for R, is simple to use and can help leverage the large number of specimen records that are typically deemed “unusable” because of spatial imprecision in their geolocation.

Rifki Hariri, M., A. S. Dwipa Irsyam, R. Ratnasih Irwanto, and K. Kusnadi. 2022. The Extended Distributional Areas of Solanum lasiocarpum (Solanaceae) in Sumatra, Indonesia. Jurnal Penelitian Hutan dan Konservasi Alam 19: 279–286.

Solanum is one of Solanaceae's largest genera, where some species are usually used as food and medicine. Until recently, 15 species of Solanum subg. Leptostemonum has been listed in Sumatra, Indonesia. Solanum lasiocarpum Dunal is a native Leptostemonum found in Indonesia. S. lasiocarpum was only recorded in Northern Sumatra by several botanists. In 2019, S. lasiocarpum was also reported from Bengkulu, but there were still doubts about these findings. During the expedition of invasive alien plant species in Padang Bindu, Sumatra Selatan, in May 2021, we discovered S. lasiocarpum with different noticeable characteristics from S. lasiocarpum, which was previously found in Bengkulu. Detailed examination of the morphological characters, our study revealed that that species was S. lasiocarpum. This finding suggested an extended distributional record for S. lasiocarpum in Sumatra.

Dang, A. T. N., M. Reid, and L. Kumar. 2023. Coastal Melaleuca wetlands under future climate and sea-level rise scenarios in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam: vulnerability and conservation. Regional Environmental Change 23.

Melaleuca wetland ecosystems play crucial roles in ecology and human livelihood, yet the ecosystems are vulnerable to climate change and relative sea-level rise (SLR) impacts. Documents and research on climate change and SLR impacts on coastal Melaleuca wetlands in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam, are currently limited. Therefore, the present study aimed to identify changes in habitat suitability for a coastal Melaleuca wetland species in response to different future climate change and SLR scenarios, in the West Sea of the Mekong Delta, with the aid of an ensemble species distribution model (SDM) and the Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM). Melaleuca species occurrence records, bioclimatic and eco-physiological variables were utilized to predict potential distribution of the species in response to current and future climate scenarios (i.e. RCP4.5 and 8.5) for the year 2070. Wetland maps for 2020, a digital elevation model (DEM) and localized site-specific parameters (i.e. historic trend of SLR, erosion, subsidence and overwash) were utilized as input data for SLAMM to simulate spatial distribution of Melaleuca/forested wetlands under the two SLR scenarios. The final habitat suitability for the Melaleuca wetland species was identified based on these two resultant datasets, climatic suitability and spatial distribution of the wetlands. Simulated results suggested mean losses in suitable habitat of 29.8% and 58.7% for stable and subsidence scenarios, respectively, for the year 2070 in comparison to the baseline scenario. SLR combined with considerable subsidence rate was suggested as one of the main drivers responsible for the habitat suitability loss. The findings obtained from the current work are useful sources for planning conservation areas for the Melaleuca wetlands, to protect and preserve the ecosystems and their important services under future climate and SLR scenarios.

Gómez Díaz, J. A., A. Lira-Noriega, and F. Villalobos. 2023. Expanding protected areas in a Neotropical hotspot. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology: 1–15.

The region of central Veracruz is considered a biodiversity hotspot due to its high species richness and environmental heterogeneity, but only 2% of this region is currently protected. This study aimed to assess the current protected area system’s effectiveness and to identify priority conservation areas for expanding the existing protected area system. We used the distribution models of 1186 species from three kingdoms (Animalia, Plantae, and Fungi) together with ZONATION software, a conservation planning tool, to determine areas that could help expand the current network of protected areas. We applied three different parametrizations (including only species, using the boundary quality penalty, and using corridor connectivity). We found that protecting an additional 15% of the area would increase, between 16.2% and 19.3%, the protection of the distribution area of all species. We propose that the regions with a consensus of the three parametrizations should be declared as new protected areas to expand 374 km2 to the 216 km2 already protected. Doing so would double the protected surface in central Veracruz. The priority areas identified in this study have more species richness, carbon stock values, natural vegetation cover, and less human impact index than the existing protected areas. If our identified priority areas are declared protected, we could expect a future recovery of endangered species populations for Veracruz. The proposed new protected areas are planned and designed as corridors connecting currently isolated protected areas to promote biodiversity protection.

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.

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.

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.

Watts, J. L., and J. E. Watkins. 2022. New Zealand Fern Distributions from the Last Glacial Maximum to 2070: A Dynamic Tale of Migration and Community Turnover. American Fern Journal 112.

The coming decades are predicated to bring widespread shifts in local, regional, and global climatic patterns. Currently there is limited understanding of how ferns will respond to these changes and few studies have attempted to model shifts in fern distribution in response to climate change. In this paper, we present a series of these models using the country of New Zealand as our study system. Ferns are notably abundant in New Zealand and play important ecological roles in early succession, canopy biology, and understory dynamics. Here we describe how fern distributions have changed since the Last Glacial Maximum to the present and predict how they will change with anthropogenic climate change – assuming no measures are taken to reduce carbon emissions. To do this, we used MaxEnt species distribution modelling with publicly available data from and to predict the past, present, and future distributions of 107 New Zealand fern species. The present study demonstrates that ferns in New Zealand have and will continue to expand their ranges and migrate southward and upslope. Despite the predicted general increased range size as a result of climate change, our models predict that the majority (52%) of many species' current suitable habitats may be climatically unsuitable in 50 years, including the ecologically important group: tree ferns. Additionally, fern communities are predicted to undergo drastic shifts in composition, which may be detrimental to overall ecosystem functioning in New Zealand.

Hinojosa-Espinosa, O., D. Potter, M. Ishiki, E. Ortiz, and J. L. Villaseñor. 2021. Dichrocephala integrifolia (Astereae, Asteraceae), a new exotic genus and species for Mexico and second record for the New World. Botanical Sciences 99: 708–716.

Background: Dichrocephala is an Old-World genus of the tribe Astereae within the family Asteraceae. One species, D . integrifolia , has been recently reported as introduced in the New World from a pair of collections from Guatemala. During field work in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, the species was found and collected. This is the first record of both the genus and species in Mexico and the second record for these taxa in the Americas.
 Question: Can D . integrifolia occur in more areas in the New World besides those known from Guatemala and Chiapas?
 Studied species: Dichrocephala integrifolia 
 Study site and dates: Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
 Methods: An ecological niche model was made and it was projected into the New World.
 Results: The ecological niche model predicts the records of D. integrifolia in the New World in addition to other ecologically suitable areas, mostly in pine-oak forests in Mexico and Central America and zones with humid mountain and pine forest in the Caribbean. Moreover, a morphological description and illustrations of the species are provided to help with its identification.
 Conclusions: It is desirable to avoid the further spreading of D . integrifolia in the New World. Although this species is not considered as invasive, it seems to have a high dispersal potential and the ecological niche modelling indicates larger regions in the Americas that might be affected.