Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Zhang, X., X. Ci, J. Hu, Y. Bai, A. H. Thornhill, J. G. Conran, and J. Li. 2022. Riparian areas as a conservation priority under climate change. Science of The Total Environment: 159879.

Identifying climatic refugia is important for long-term conservation planning under climate change. Riparian areas have the potential to provide climatic refugia for wildlife, but literature remains limited, especially for plants. This study was conducted with the purpose of identifying climatic refugia of plant biodiversity in the portion of the Mekong River Basin located in Xishuangbanna, China. We first predicted the current and future (2050s and 2070s) potential distribution of 50 threatened woody species in Xishuangbanna by using an ensemble of small models, then stacked the predictions for individual species to derive spatial biodiversity patterns within each 10 × 10 km grid cell. We then identified the top 17 % of the areas for spatial biodiversity patterns as biodiversity hotspots, with climatic refugia defined as areas that remained as biodiversity hotspots over time. Stepwise regression and linear correlation were applied to analyze the environmental correlations with spatial biodiversity patterns and the relationships between climatic refugia and river distribution, respectively. Our results showed potential upward and northward shifts in threatened woody species, with range contractions and expansions predicted. The spatial biodiversity patterns shift from southeast to northwest, and were influenced by temperature, precipitation, and elevation heterogeneity. Climatic refugia under climate change were related closely to river distribution in Xishuangbanna, with riparian areas identified that could provide climatic refugia. These refugial zones are recommended as priority conservation areas for mitigating the impacts of climate change on biodiversity. Our study confirmed that riparian areas could act as climatic refugia for plants and emphasizes the conservation prioritization of riparian areas within river basins for protecting biodiversity under climate change.

Lannuzel, G., L. Pouget, D. Bruy, V. Hequet, S. Meyer, J. Munzinger, and G. Gâteblé. 2022. Mining rare Earth elements: Identifying the plant species most threatened by ore extraction in an insular hotspot. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10.

Conservation efforts in global biodiversity hotspots often face a common predicament: an urgent need for conservation action hampered by a significant lack of knowledge about that biodiversity. In recent decades, the computerisation of primary biodiversity data worldwide has provided the scientific community with raw material to increase our understanding of the shared natural heritage. These datasets, however, suffer from a lot of geographical and taxonomic inaccuracies. Automated tools developed to enhance their reliability have shown that detailed expert examination remains the best way to achieve robust and exhaustive datasets. In New Caledonia, one of the most important biodiversity hotspots worldwide, the plant diversity inventory is still underway, and most taxa awaiting formal description are narrow endemics, hence by definition hard to discern in the datasets. In the meantime, anthropogenic pressures, such as nickel-ore mining, are threatening the unique ultramafic ecosystems at an increasing rate. The conservation challenge is therefore a race against time, as the rarest species must be identified and protected before they vanish. In this study, based on all available datasets and resources, we applied a workflow capable of highlighting the lesser known taxa. The main challenges addressed were to aggregate all data available worldwide, and tackle the geographical and taxonomic biases, avoiding the data loss resulting from automated filtering. Every doubtful specimen went through a careful taxonomic analysis by a local and international taxonomist panel. Geolocation of the whole dataset was achieved through dataset cross-checking, local botanists’ field knowledge, and historical material examination. Field studies were also conducted to clarify the most unresolved taxa. With the help of this method and by analysing over 85,000 data, we were able to double the number of known narrow endemic taxa, elucidate 68 putative new species, and update our knowledge of the rarest species’ distributions so as to promote conservation measures.

Zhao, J., X. Yu, W. J. Kress, Y. Wang, Y. Xia, and Q. Li. 2022. Historical biogeography of the gingers and its implications for shifts in tropical rain forest habitats. Journal of Biogeography 49: 1339–1351.

Aim The relationships between biome shifts and global environmental changes in temperate zone habitats have been extensively explored; yet, the historical dynamics of taxa found in the tropical rain forest (TRF) remain poorly known. This study aims to reconstruct the relationships between tropical rain forest shifts and global environmental changes through the patterns of historical biogeography of a pantropical family of monocots, the Zingiberaceae. Location Global. Taxon Zingiberaceae. Methods We sampled DNA sequences (nrITS, trnK, trnL-trnF and psbA-trnH) from GenBank for 77% of the genera, including 30% of species, in the Zingiberaceae. Global fossil records of the Zingiberaceae were collected from literatures. Rates of speciation, extinction and diversification were estimated based on phylogenetic data and fossil records through methods implemented in BAMM. Ancestral ranges were estimated using single-tree BioGeoBEARS and multiple-trees BioGeoBEARS in RASP. Dispersal rate through time and dispersal rate among regions were calculated in R based on the result of ancestral estimation. Results The common ancestor of the Zingiberaceae likely originated in northern Africa during the mid-Cretaceous, with later dispersal to the Asian tropics. Indo-Burma, rather than Malesia, was likely a provenance of the common ancestor of Alpinioideae–Zingiberoideae. Several abrupt shifts of evolutionary rates from the Palaeocene were synchronized with sudden global environmental changes. Main conclusions Integrating phylogenetic patterns with fossil records suggests that the Zingiberaceae dispersed to Asia through drift of the Indian Plate from Africa in the late Palaeocene. Formation of island chains, land corridors and warming temperatures facilitated the emigration of the Zingiberaceae to a broad distribution across the tropics. Moreover, dramatic fluctuations of the speciation rate of Zingiberoideae appear to have been synchronized with global climate fluctuations. In general, the evolutionary history of the Zingiberaceae broadens our understanding of the association between TRF shifts in distribution and past global environmental changes, especially the origin of TRF in Southeast Asia.

Pang, S. E. H., Y. Zeng, J. D. T. Alban, and E. L. Webb. 2022. Occurrence–habitat mismatching and niche truncation when modelling distributions affected by anthropogenic range contractions B. Leroy [ed.],. Diversity and Distributions 28: 1327–1343.

Aims Human-induced pressures such as deforestation cause anthropogenic range contractions (ARCs). Such contractions present dynamic distributions that may engender data misrepresentations within species distribution models. The temporal bias of occurrence data—where occurrences represent distributions before (past bias) or after (recent bias) ARCs—underpins these data misrepresentations. Occurrence–habitat mismatching results when occurrences sampled before contractions are modelled with contemporary anthropogenic variables; niche truncation results when occurrences sampled after contractions are modelled without anthropogenic variables. Our understanding of their independent and interactive effects on model performance remains incomplete but is vital for developing good modelling protocols. Through a virtual ecologist approach, we demonstrate how these data misrepresentations manifest and investigate their effects on model performance. Location Virtual Southeast Asia. Methods Using 100 virtual species, we simulated ARCs with 100-year land-use data and generated temporally biased (past and recent) occurrence datasets. We modelled datasets with and without a contemporary land-use variable (conventional modelling protocols) and with a temporally dynamic land-use variable. We evaluated each model's ability to predict historical and contemporary distributions. Results Greater ARC resulted in greater occurrence–habitat mismatching for datasets with past bias and greater niche truncation for datasets with recent bias. Occurrence–habitat mismatching prevented models with the contemporary land-use variable from predicting anthropogenic-related absences, causing overpredictions of contemporary distributions. Although niche truncation caused underpredictions of historical distributions (environmentally suitable habitats), incorporating the contemporary land-use variable resolved these underpredictions, even when mismatching occurred. Models with the temporally dynamic land-use variable consistently outperformed models without. Main conclusions We showed how these data misrepresentations can degrade model performance, undermining their use for empirical research and conservation science. Given the ubiquity of ARCs, these data misrepresentations are likely inherent to most datasets. Therefore, we present a three-step strategy for handling data misrepresentations: maximize the temporal range of anthropogenic predictors, exclude mismatched occurrences and test for residual data misrepresentations.

Reichgelt, T., D. R. Greenwood, S. Steinig, J. G. Conran, D. K. Hutchinson, D. J. Lunt, L. J. Scriven, and J. Zhu. 2022. Plant Proxy Evidence for High Rainfall and Productivity in the Eocene of Australia. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology 37.

During the early to middle Eocene, a mid‐to‐high latitudinal position and enhanced hydrological cycle in Australia would have contributed to a wetter and “greener” Australian continent where today arid to semi‐arid climates dominate. Here, we revisit 12 southern Australian plant megafossil sites from the early to middle Eocene to generate temperature, precipitation and seasonality paleoclimate estimates, net primary productivity (NPP) and vegetation type, based on paleobotanical proxies and compare to early Eocene global climate models. Temperature reconstructions are uniformly subtropical (mean annual, summer, and winter mean temperatures 19–21 °C, 25–27 °C and 14–16 °C, respectively), indicating that southern Australia was ∼5 °C warmer than today, despite a >20° poleward shift from its modern geographic location. Precipitation was less homogeneous than temperature, with mean annual precipitation of ∼60 cm over inland sites and >100 cm over coastal sites. Precipitation may have been seasonal with the driest month receiving 2–7× less than mean monthly precipitation. Proxy‐model comparison is favorable with an 1680 ppm CO2 concentration. However, individual proxy reconstructions can disagree with models as well as with each other. In particular, seasonality reconstructions have systemic offsets. NPP estimates were higher than modern, implying a more homogenously “green” southern Australia in the early to middle Eocene, when this part of Australia was at 48–64 °S, and larger carbon fluxes to and from the Australian biosphere. The most similar modern vegetation type is modern‐day eastern Australian subtropical forest, although distance from coast and latitude may have led to vegetation heterogeneity.

Sluiter, I. R. K., G. R. Holdgate, T. Reichgelt, D. R. Greenwood, A. P. Kershaw, and N. L. Schultz. 2022. A new perspective on Late Eocene and Oligocene vegetation and paleoclimates of South-eastern Australia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 596: 110985.

We present a composite terrestrial pollen record of latest Eocene through Oligocene (35.5–23 Ma) vegetation and climate change from the Gippsland Basin of south-eastern Australia. Climates were overwhelmingly mesothermic through this time period, with mean annual temperature (MAT) varying between 13 and 18 °C, with an average of 16 °C. We provide evidence to support a cooling trend through the Eocene–Oligocene Transition (EOT), but also identify three subsequent warming cycles through the Oligocene, leading to more seasonal climates at the termination of the Epoch. One of the warming episodes in the Early Oligocene appears to have also occurred at two other southern hemisphere sites at the Drake Passage as well as off eastern Tasmania, based on recent research. Similarities with sea surface temperature records from modern high southern latitudes which also record similar cycles of warming and cooling, are presented and discussed. Annual precipitation varied between 1200 and 1700 mm/yr, with an average of 1470 mm/yr through the sequence. Notwithstanding the extinction of Nothofagus sg. Brassospora from Australia and some now microthermic humid restricted Podocarpaceae conifer taxa, the rainforest vegetation of lowland south-eastern Australia is reconstructed to have been similar to present day Australian Evergreen Notophyll Vine Forests existing under the sub-tropical Köppen-Geiger climate class Cfa (humid subtropical) for most of the sequence. Short periods of cooler climates, such as occurred through the EOT when MAT was ~ 13 °C, may have supported vegetation similar to modern day Evergreen Microphyll Fern Forest. Of potentially greater significance, however, was a warm period in the Early to early Late Oligocene (32–26 Ma) when MAT was 17–18 °C, accompanied by small but important increases in Araucariaceae pollen. At this time, Araucarian Notophyll/Microphyll Vine Forest likely occurred regionally.

Odorico, D., E. Nicosia, C. Datizua, C. Langa, R. Raiva, J. Souane, S. Nhalungo, et al. 2022. An updated checklist of Mozambique’s vascular plants. PhytoKeys 189: 61–80.

An updated checklist of Mozambique’s vascular plants is presented. It was compiled referring to several information sources such as existing literature, relevant online databases and herbaria collections. The checklist includes 7,099 taxa (5,957 species, 605 subspecies, 537 varieties), belonging to …

Vasconcelos, T., J. D. Boyko, and J. M. Beaulieu. 2021. Linking mode of seed dispersal and climatic niche evolution in flowering plants. Journal of Biogeography.

Aim: Due to the sessile nature of flowering plants, movements to new geographical areas occur mainly during seed dispersal. Frugivores tend to be efficient dispersers because animals move within the boundaries of their preferable niches, so seeds are more likely to be transported to environments tha…

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.

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…

Whitman, M., R. S. Beaman, R. Repin, K. Kitayama, S. Aiba, and S. E. Russo. 2021. Edaphic specialization and vegetation zones define elevational range‐sizes for Mt Kinabalu regional flora. Ecography 44: 1698–1709.

Identifying physical and ecological boundaries that limit where species can occur is important for predicting how those species will respond to global change. The island of Borneo encompasses a wide range of habitats that support some of the highest richness on Earth, making it an ideal location for…