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Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Ract, C., N. D. Burgess, L. Dinesen, P. Sumbi, I. Malugu, J. Latham, L. Anderson, et al. 2024. Nature Forest Reserves in Tanzania and their importance for conservation S. S. Romanach [ed.],. PLOS ONE 19: e0281408.

Since 1997 Tanzania has undertaken a process to identify and declare a network of Nature Forest Reserves (NFRs) with high biodiversity values, from within its existing portfolio of national Forest Reserves, with 16 new NFRs declared since 2015. The current network of 22 gazetted NFRs covered 948,871 hectares in 2023. NFRs now cover a range of Tanzanian habitat types, including all main forest types—wet, seasonal, and dry—as well as wetlands and grasslands. NFRs contain at least 178 of Tanzania’s 242 endemic vertebrate species, of which at least 50% are threatened with extinction, and 553 Tanzanian endemic plant taxa (species, subspecies, and varieties), of which at least 50% are threatened. NFRs also support 41 single-site endemic vertebrate species and 76 single-site endemic plant taxa. Time series analysis of management effectiveness tracking tool (METT) data shows that NFR management effectiveness is increasing, especially where donor funds have been available. Improved management and investment have resulted in measurable reductions of some critical threats in NFRs. Still, ongoing challenges remain to fully contain issues of illegal logging, charcoal production, firewood, pole-cutting, illegal hunting and snaring of birds and mammals, fire, wildlife trade, and the unpredictable impacts of climate change. Increased tourism, diversified revenue generation and investment schemes, involving communities in management, and stepping up control measures for remaining threats are all required to create a network of economically self-sustaining NFRs able to conserve critical biodiversity values.

Munna, A. H., N. A. Amuri, P. Hieronimo, and D. A. Woiso. 2023. Modelling ecological niches of Sclerocarya birrea subspecies in Tanzania under the current and future climates. Silva Fennica 57.

The information on ecological niches of the Marula tree, Sclerocarya birrea (A. Rich.) Horchst. subspecies are needed for sustainable management of this tree, considering its nutritional, economic, and ecological benefits. However, despite Tanzania being regarded as a global genetic center of diversity of S. birrea, information on the subspecies ecological niches is lacking. We aimed to model ecological niches of S. birrea subspecies in Tanzania under the current and future climates. Ecological niches under the current climate were modelled by using ecological niche models in MaxEnt using climatic, edaphic, and topographical variables, and subspecies occurrence data. The Hadley Climate Center and National Center for Atmospheric Research's Earth System Models were used to predict ecological niches under the medium and high greenhouse gases emission scenarios for the years 2050 and 2080. Area under the curves (AUCs) were used to assess the accuracy of the models. The results show that the models were robust, with AUCs of 0.85–0.95. Annual and seasonal precipitation, elevation, and soil cation exchange capacity are the key environmental factors that define the ecological niches of the S. birrea subspecies. Ecological niches of subsp. caffra, multifoliata, and birrea are currently found in 30, 22, and 21 regions, and occupy 184 814 km2, 139 918 km2, and 28 446 km2 of Tanzania's land area respectively, which will contract by 0.4–44% due to climate change. Currently, 31–51% of ecological niches are under Tanzania’s protected areas network. The findings are important in guiding the development of conservation and domestication strategies for the S. birrea subspecies in Tanzania.

Zhang, H., W. Guo, and W. Wang. 2023. The dimensionality reductions of environmental variables have a significant effect on the performance of species distribution models. Ecology and Evolution 13.

How to effectively obtain species‐related low‐dimensional data from massive environmental variables has become an urgent problem for species distribution models (SDMs). In this study, we will explore whether dimensionality reduction on environmental variables can improve the predictive performance of SDMs. We first used two linear (i.e., principal component analysis (PCA) and independent components analysis) and two nonlinear (i.e., kernel principal component analysis (KPCA) and uniform manifold approximation and projection) dimensionality reduction techniques (DRTs) to reduce the dimensionality of high‐dimensional environmental data. Then, we established five SDMs based on the environmental variables of dimensionality reduction for 23 real plant species and nine virtual species, and compared the predictive performance of those with the SDMs based on the selected environmental variables through Pearson's correlation coefficient (PCC). In addition, we studied the effects of DRTs, model complexity, and sample size on the predictive performance of SDMs. The predictive performance of SDMs under DRTs other than KPCA is better than using PCC. And the predictive performance of SDMs using linear DRTs is better than using nonlinear DRTs. In addition, using DRTs to deal with environmental variables has no less impact on the predictive performance of SDMs than model complexity and sample size. When the model complexity is at the complex level, PCA can improve the predictive performance of SDMs the most by 2.55% compared with PCC. At the middle level of sample size, the PCA improved the predictive performance of SDMs by 2.68% compared with the PCC. Our study demonstrates that DRTs have a significant effect on the predictive performance of SDMs. Specifically, linear DRTs, especially PCA, are more effective at improving model predictive performance under relatively complex model complexity or large sample sizes.

Nikkel, E., D. R. Clements, D. Anderson, and J. L. Williams. 2023. Regional habitat suitability for aquatic and terrestrial invasive plant species may expand or contract with climate change. Biological Invasions.

The threat of invasive species to biodiversity and ecosystem structure is exacerbated by the increasingly concerning outlook of predicted climate change and other human influences. Developing preventative management strategies for invasive plant species before they establish is crucial for effective management. To examine how climate change may impact habitat suitability, we modeled the current and future habitat suitability of two terrestrial species, Geranium lucidum and Pilosella officinarum , and two aquatic species, Butomus umbellatus and Pontederia crassipes , that are relatively new invasive plant species regionally, and are currently spreading in the Pacific Northwest (PNW, North America), an area of unique natural areas, vibrant economic activity, and increasing human population. Using North American presence records, downscaled climate variables, and human influence data, we developed an ensemble model of six algorithms to predict the potential habitat suitability under current conditions and projected climate scenarios RCP 4.5, 7.0, and 8.5 for 2050 and 2080. One terrestrial species ( P. officinarum ) showed declining habitat suitability in future climate scenarios (contracted distribution), while the other terrestrial species ( G. lucidum ) showed increased suitability over much of the region (expanded distribution overall). The two aquatic species were predicted to have only moderately increased suitability, suggesting aquatic plant species may be less impacted by climate change. Our research provides a template for regional-scale modelling of invasive species of concern, thus assisting local land managers and practitioners to inform current and future management strategies and to prioritize limited available resources for species with expanding ranges.

Hill, A., M. F. T. Jiménez, N. Chazot, C. Cássia‐Silva, S. Faurby, L. Herrera‐Alsina, and C. D. Bacon. 2023. Apparent effect of range size and fruit colour on palm diversification may be spurious. Journal of Biogeography.

Aim Fruit selection by animal dispersers with different mobility directly impacts plant geographical range size, which, in turn, may impact plant diversification. Here, we examine the interaction between fruit colour, range size and diversification rate in palms by testing two hypotheses: (1) species with fruit colours attractive to birds have larger range sizes due to high dispersal ability and (2) disperser mobility affects whether small or large range size has higher diversification, and intermediate range size is expected to lead to the highest diversification rate regardless of disperser. Location Global. Time Period Contemporary (or present). Major Taxa Studied Palms (Arecaceae). Methods Palm species were grouped based on likely animal disperser group for given fruit colours. Range sizes were estimated by constructing alpha convex hull polygons from distribution data. We examined disperser group, range size or an interaction of both as possible drivers of change in diversification rate over time in a likelihood dynamic model (Several Examined State-dependent Speciation and Extinction [SecSSE]). Models were fitted, rate estimates were retrieved and likelihoods were compared to those of appropriate null models. Results Species with fruit colours associated with mammal dispersal had larger ranges than those with colours associated with bird dispersal. The best fitting SecSSE models indicated that the examined traits were not the primary driver of the heterogeneity in diversification rates in the model. Extinction rate complexity had a marked impact on model performance and on diversification rates. Main Conclusions Two traits related to dispersal mobility, range size and fruit colour, were not identified as the main drivers of diversification in palms. Increased model extinction rate complexity led to better performing models, which indicates that net diversification should be estimated rather than speciation alone. However, increased complexity may lead to incorrect SecSSE model conclusions without careful consideration. Finally, we find palms with more mobile dispersers do not have larger range sizes, meaning other factors are more important determinants of range size.

Pang, S. E. H., J. W. F. Slik, D. Zurell, and E. L. Webb. 2023. The clustering of spatially associated species unravels patterns in tropical tree species distributions. Ecosphere 14.

Complex distribution data can be summarized by grouping species with similar or overlapping distributions to unravel spatial patterns and separate trends (e.g., of habitat loss) among spatially unique groups. However, such classifications are often heuristic, lacking the transparency, objectivity, and data‐driven rigor of quantitative methods, which limits their interpretability and utility. Here, we develop and illustrate the clustering of spatially associated species, a methodological framework aimed at statistically classifying species using explicit measures of interspecific spatial association. We investigate several association indices and clustering algorithms and show how these methodological choices drive substantial variations in clustering outcomes and performance. To facilitate robust decision‐making, we provide guidance on choosing methods appropriate to one's study objective(s). As a case study, we apply our framework to modeled tree distributions in Borneo and subsequently evaluate the impact of land‐cover change on separate species groupings. Based on the modeled distribution of 390 tree species prior to anthropogenic land‐cover changes, we identified 11 distinct clusters that unraveled ecologically meaningful patterns in Bornean tree distributions. These clusters then enabled us to quantify trends of habitat loss tied to each of those specific clusters, allowing us to discern particularly vulnerable species clusters and their distributions. This study demonstrates the advantages of adopting quantitatively derived clusters of spatially associated species and elucidates the potential of resultant clusters as a spatially explicit framework for investigating distribution‐related questions in ecology, biogeography, and conservation. By adopting our methodological framework and publicly available codes, practitioners can leverage the ever‐growing abundance of distribution data to better understand complex spatial patterns among species distributions and the disparate effects of global changes on biodiversity.

Huang, T., J. Chen, K. E. Hummer, L. A. Alice, W. Wang, Y. He, S. Yu, et al. 2023. Phylogeny of Rubus (Rosaceae): Integrating molecular and morphological evidence into an infrageneric revision. TAXON.

Rubus (Rosaceae), one of the most complicated angiosperm genera, contains about 863 species, and is notorious for its taxonomic difficulty. The most recent (1910–1914) global taxonomic treatment of the genus was conducted by Focke, who defined 12 subgenera. Phylogenetic results over the past 25 years suggest that Focke's subdivisions of Rubus are not monophyletic, and large‐scale taxonomic revisions are necessary. Our objective was to provide a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of the genus based on an integrative evidence approach. Morphological characters, obtained from our own investigation of living plants and examination of herbarium specimens are combined with chloroplast genomic data. Our dataset comprised 196 accessions representing 145 Rubus species (including cultivars and hybrids) and all of Focke's subgenera, including 60 endemic Chinese species. Maximum likelihood analyses inferred phylogenetic relationships. Our analyses concur with previous molecular studies, but with modifications. Our data strongly support the reclassification of several subgenera within Rubus. Our molecular analyses agree with others that only R. subg. Anoplobatus forms a monophyletic group. Other subgenera are para‐ or polyphyletic. We suggest a revised subgeneric framework to accommodate monophyletic groups. Character evolution is reconstructed, and diagnostic morphological characters for different clades are identified and discussed. Based on morphological and molecular evidence, we propose a new classification system with 10 subgenera: R. subg. Anoplobatus, R. subg. Batothamnus, R. subg. Chamaerubus, R. subg. Cylactis, R. subg. Dalibarda, R. subg. Idaeobatus, R. subg. Lineati, R. subg. Malachobatus, R. subg. Melanobatus, and R. subg. Rubus. The revised infrageneric nomenclature inferred from our analyses is provided along with synonymy and type citations. Our new taxonomic backbone is the first systematic and complete global revision of Rubus since Focke's treatment. It offers new insights into deep phylogenetic relationships of Rubus and has important theoretical and practical significance for the development and utilization of these important agronomic crops.

Sumbembayev, A. A., S. Nowak, A. Burzacka-Hinz, A. Kosiróg-Ceynowa, and D. L. Szlachetko. 2023. New and Noteworthy Taxa of the Genus Dactylorhiza Necker ex Nevski (Orchidaceae Juss.) in Kazakhstan Flora and Its Response to Global Warming. Diversity 15: 369.

A critical study of the herbarium material representing the orchid genus Dactylorhiza Necker ex Nevski in Kazakhstan was conducted in 2019–2020. The information on the species composition was clarified. Dactylorhiza fuchsii subsp. hebridensis (Wilmott) Soó and D. × kerneri (Soó) Soó were identified for the first time in the country. New taxa were noted for individual botanical and geographical areas. All taxa were presented in the list and annotated with studied herbarium materials from the Kazakhstan area. Based on the collected and available locations for the studied taxa, distribution modeling was carried out for the four taxa (D. incarnata, D. majalis subsp. baltica, D. salina, and D. umbrosa). Bioclimatic data for the present and future (2041–2060) based on four possible scenarios were used. The occurrence of Dactylorhiza representatives in Kazakhstan is threatened by global climate warming. It is likely that some of them may not occur in the country in the future (D. incarnata and D. majalis subsp. baltica), losing up to 99.87% of their modern range or their range may be significantly reduced (D. salina and D. umbrosa), losing up to 80.83% of their present distribution. It is worth considering global changes in planning conservation activities and identifying areas that may play a significant role in the functioning of the national flora in the future.

Rahman, W., J. Magos Brehm, and N. Maxted. 2023. The impact of climate change on the future distribution of priority crop wild relatives in Indonesia and implications for conservation planning. Journal for Nature Conservation 73: 126368.

The analysis of climate change impact is essential to include in conservation planning of crop wild relatives (CWR) to provide the guideline for adequate long-term protection under unpredictable future environmental conditions. These resources play an important role in sustaining the future of food security, but the evidence shows that they are threatened by climate change. The current analyses show that five taxa were predicted to have contraction of more than 30 % of their current ranges: Artocarpus sepicanus (based on RCP 4.5 in both no dispersal and unlimited dispersal scenario and RCP 8.5 in no dispersal scenario by 2050), Ficus oleifolia (RCP 4.5 5 in both no dispersal and unlimited dispersal scenario by 2080), Cocos nucifera and Dioscorea alata (RCP 8.5 in both no dispersal and unlimited dispersal scenario by 2050), and Ficus chartacea (RCP 8.5 in both no dispersal and unlimited dispersal scenario by 2050 and 2080). It shows that the climate change impact is species-specific. Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and dispersal scenarios influence the prediction models, and the actual future distribution range of species falls in between those scenarios. Climate refugia, holdout populations, and non-analogue community assemblages were identified based on the Protected Areas (PAs) network. PAs capacity is considered an important element in implementing a conservation strategy for the priority CWR. In areas where PAs are isolated and have less possibility to build corridors to connect each other, such as in Java, unlimited dispersal scenarios are unlikely to be achieved and assisted dispersal is suggested. The holdout populations should be the priority target for the ex situ collection. Therefore, by considering the climate refugia, PAs capacity and holdout populations, the goal of keeping high genetic variations for the long-term conservation of CWR in Indonesia can be achieved.

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.