Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Dantas, V. L., L. C. S. Oliveira, C. R. Marcati, and J. Sonsin‐Oliveira. 2024. Coordination of bark and wood traits underlies forest‐to‐savanna evolutionary transitions. Journal of Biogeography.

Aim To test the hypothesis that adaptive shifts leading to the assembly of tropical savannas involved coordination between bark and wood traits and to understand the underlying mechanisms.LocationTropical South America.TaxonAngiosperms (woody).MethodsWe compiled data on three bark traits (total, inner and outer relative bark thickness), wood density, maximum height, five secondary xylem traits and on species' habitat information (light environment, climate, soil and fire history) for Neotropical savanna, forest and generalist species (biome groups). We tested for pairwise and multivariate associations among traits across species and if biome group and habitat conditions explained species positions along the resulting strategy axes.ResultsTraits covaried along four different axes. The first axis was consistent with a trade‐off between fire (thick barks) and shade tolerance (low bark to diameter ratio, high vessel density) and contributed to differentiate the three biome groups according to the preference for shaded environments. Forest species also differed from savanna and generalist species in a separate axis by being more resource acquisitive. Maximum height and wood density did not strongly trade‐off with bark thickness, although maximum height was negatively covaried with relative outer bark thickness. Preference for shaded conditions was the main driver of variation in the two principal strategy axes, but temperature, fire and soil sand content also explained differences in plant stature between savanna and generalist species.Main ConclusionsAllocation to bark is constrained by trade‐offs with wood, opposing shade‐tolerant and acquisitive forest species to fire‐resistant and conservative savanna species. Rather than a single strategy axis, three axes are necessary to understand the functional differences among savanna, forest and generalist species. Because two of these axes are controlled by light availability, the associated traits tend to covary in space and time, but not across species.

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.

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.

Ramos, R. S., G. M. Via do Pico, M. Brea, and D. M. Kröhling. 2024. New fossil woods (upper Pleistocene) from the lower-middle Uruguay river basin (South America) reveal the past distribution of Aspidosperma (Apocynaceae). Quaternary International.

The present work describes the taxonomic and paleobiogeographic study of two fossil woods related to extant Aspidosperma. The silicified specimens come from the fossil localities of Santa Ana (30°54′S, 57°55′W) and Concordia (31°19′S, 57°59′W), Entre Ríos Province, Argentina, belonging to the El Palmar Formation (Late Pleistocene). This unit represents the sedimentary body of the upper fluvial terrace generated by the Uruguay River in its middle basin in eastern Argentina. The anatomical features that distinguish the woods are growth rings delimited by axial parenchyma and fibers, semi-ring to-diffuse-porous woods; mainly solitary vessels; simple perforation plates; alternate, bordered, and vestured intervessel pits; scarce paratracheal and diffuse apotracheal axial parenchyma; homocellular, and uniseriate to-triseriate rays; non-septate fibers. Climate reconstruction modelled at the regional scale (Ecological Niche Modeling) revealed variations in macroecological diversity patterns of the nearest living relatives (Aspidosperma australe and A. polyneuron) over the last ca. 130,000 years. Optically stimulated luminescence dating of sediments from the upper part of the El Palmar Formation in the type area reveals that the unit spans from the Last Interglacial period (warm substage, MIS marine isotope stage 5a), to the penultimate interglacial (MIS 7). This period was characterized by warmer and wetter conditions than those observed today. The eco-anatomical characteristics of the fossil record reflect this type of environment. The modern analogues of the fossils studied here are now part of the forests that integrate the Atlantic forest and Araucaria forest biogeographic provinces in South America.

Anest, A., Y. Bouchenak-Khelladi, T. Charles-Dominique, F. Forest, Y. Caraglio, G. P. Hempson, O. Maurin, and K. W. Tomlinson. 2024. Blocking then stinging as a case of two-step evolution of defensive cage architectures in herbivore-driven ecosystems. Nature Plants.

Dense branching and spines are common features of plant species in ecosystems with high mammalian herbivory pressure. While dense branching and spines can inhibit herbivory independently, when combined, they form a powerful defensive cage architecture. However, how cage architecture evolved under mammalian pressure has remained unexplored. Here we show how dense branching and spines emerged during the age of mammalian radiation in the Combretaceae family and diversified in herbivore-driven ecosystems in the tropics. Phylogenetic comparative methods revealed that modern plant architectural strategies defending against large mammals evolved via a stepwise process. First, dense branching emerged under intermediate herbivory pressure, followed by the acquisition of spines that supported higher speciation rates under high herbivory pressure. Our study highlights the adaptive value of dense branching as part of a herbivore defence strategy and identifies large mammal herbivory as a major selective force shaping the whole plant architecture of woody plants. This study explores the evolution of two traits, branching density and spine presence, in the globally distributed plant family Combretaceae. These traits were found to have appeared in a two-step process in response to mammalian herbivory pressure, revealing the importance of large mammals in the evolution of plant architecture diversity.

Prochazka, L. S., S. Alcantara, J. G. Rando, T. Vasconcelos, R. C. Pizzardo, and A. Nogueira. 2024. Resource availability and disturbance frequency shape evolution of plant life forms in Neotropical habitats. New Phytologist.

Organisms use diverse strategies to thrive in varying habitats. While life history theory partly explains these relationships, the combined impact of resource availability and disturbance frequency on life form strategy evolution has received limited attention.We use Chamaecrista species, a legume plant lineage with a high diversity of plant life forms in the Neotropics, and employ ecological niche modeling and comparative phylogenetic methods to examine the correlated evolution of plant life forms and environmental niches.Chamaephytes and phanerophytes have optima in environments characterized by moderate water and nutrient availability coupled with infrequent fire disturbances. By contrast, annual plants thrive in environments with scarce water and nutrients, alongside frequent fire disturbances. Similarly, geophyte species also show increased resistance to frequent fire disturbances, although they thrive in resource‐rich environments.Our findings shed light on the evolution of plant strategies along environmental gradients, highlighting that annuals and geophytes respond differently to high incidences of fire disturbances, with one enduring it as seeds in a resource‐limited habitat and the other relying on reserves and root resprouting systems in resource‐abundant habitats. Furthermore, it deepens our understanding of how organisms evolve associated with their habitats, emphasizing a constraint posed by low‐resource and high‐disturbance environments.

Minghetti, E., P. M. Dellapé, M. Maestro, and S. I. Montemayor. 2024. Evaluating the climatic suitability of Engytatus passionarius Minghetti et al. (Heteroptera, Miridae) as a biological control agent of the invasive stinking passion flower Passiflora foetida L. in Australia through ecological niche models. Biological Control 191: 105461.

Passiflora foetida is a climbing vine, native to the Neotropical Region that is causing major economic and ecological damage in Australia, where it is rapidly spreading. Traditional control options, such as cutting, manual uprooting, and herbicide applications are only effective for local management. Currently, the plant bug Engytatus passionarius is the most promising biological control agent. Specificity tests performed in its native range in Argentina suggest it is highly specific to the plant, and it has not been observed in the field associated with other plants. As climate determines the establishment of insects, knowing if the environmental conditions suit their requirements is key to introducing a species in a region. Also, an overlap between the climatic niches of species is an indicator of similar requirements. To explore the possibilities of a successful establishment of E. passionarius in Australia, ecological niche models (ENM) were built for the plant bug and for the vine and their overlap was measured. The ENM projected to Australia recognized suitable environmental conditions for the establishment of E. passionarius in several regions where P. foetida is present, both for current and future scenarios. Moreover, the niche of the plant bug is almost completely overlapped with that of the vine. All the aforementioned evidence seems to indicate that E. passionarius has a good chance to become an effective biological control agent of P. foetida.

Qin, F., T. Xue, X. Zhang, X. Yang, J. Yu, S. R. Gadagkar, and S. Yu. 2023. Past climate cooling and orogenesis of the Hengduan Mountains have influenced the evolution of Impatiens sect. Impatiens (Balsaminaceae) in the Northern Hemisphere. BMC Plant Biology 23.

Background Impatiens sect. Impatiens is distributed across the Northern Hemisphere and has diversified considerably, particularly within the Hengduan Mountains (HDM) in southwest China. Yet, the infra-sectional phylogenetic relationships are not well resolved, largely due to limited taxon sampling and an insufficient number of molecular markers. The evolutionary history of its diversification is also poorly understood. In this study, plastome data and the most complete sampling to date were used to reconstruct a robust phylogenetic framework for this section. The phylogeny was then used to investigate its biogeographical history and diversification patterns, specifically with the aim of understanding the role played by the HDM and past climatic changes in its diversification. Results A stable phylogeny was reconstructed that strongly supported both the monophyly of the section and its division into seven major clades (Clades I-VII). Molecular dating and ancestral area reconstruction suggest that sect. Impatiens originated in the HDM and Southeast China around 11.76 Ma, after which different lineages dispersed to Northwest China, temperate Eurasia, and North America, mainly during the Pliocene and Pleistocene. An intercontinental dispersal event from East Asia to western North America may have occurred via the Bering Land Bridge or Aleutian Islands. The diversification rate was high during its early history, especially with the HDM, but gradually decreased over time both within and outside the HDM. Multiple linear regression analysis showed that the distribution pattern of species richness was strongly associated with elevation range, elevation, and mean annual temperature. Finally, ancestral niche analysis indicated that sect. Impatiens originated in a relatively cool, middle-elevation area. Conclusions We inferred the evolutionary history of sect. Impatiens based on a solid phylogenetic framework. The HDM was the primary source or pump of its diversity in the Northern Hemisphere. Orogeny and climate change may have also shaped its diversification rates, as a steady decrease in the diversification rate coincided with the uplift of the HDM and climate cooling. These findings provide insights into the distribution pattern of sect. Impatiens and other plants in the Northern Hemisphere.

Santos, D. C., A. M. A. Oliveira, R. L. M. Alvarenga, and T. B. Gibertoni. 2023. How climate change will change the potential distribution of two wood-decaying fungi? Acta Botanica Brasilica 37.

Changes in climate, which can be understood as fluctuations in climate patterns as a reflection of natural or anthropic interventions, can generate changes in the environment and consequently affect the diversity of organisms. Fungi are extremely important in organic matter cycling in different environments, mainly forest areas, decomposing dead wood. To better understand the effects of climate change on two wood-degrading Agaricomycetes, their potential neotropical distribution was modeled using known occurrence data, available in the GBIF database and in specific literature, and associated with predictor variables extracted from Worldclim. A modeling package in R environment was used to analyze the present and future suitability for the optimistic and pessimistic scenarios. The results indicate the climate as an important factor in the distribution of Auricularia brasiliana and Megasporoporia neosetulosa. The suitability factors for the metrics used indicate that the models can be used to analyze climatic areas and that temperature and precipitation strongly influence the permanence of species in these locations. The results also indicate areas that can be affected by climatic effects, consequently causing a decrease in the occurrence and permanence of these fungi in the Neotropics. Our models can be useful as future guidelines in conservation studies for fungi.

Thongsangtum, N., J. Huang, S.-F. Li, Y. Thasod, and T. Su. 2023. Calophyllum (Calophyllaceae) from late Oligocene–Early Miocene of Li Basin, northern Thailand and its biogeographic and paleoclimatic implications. Palaeoworld.

Fossils from tropical Asia, which are far from fully investigated, are important for understanding the evolution of plant diversity and the associated surrounding environment there. In this study, we report, as the first record in Thailand, the well-preserved leaf fossils of Calophyllum Linnaeus (Calophyllaceae) from the upper Oligocene–Lower Miocene lacustrine deposits in Li Basin, northern Thailand. The fossils were identified through detailed comparison with leaves of extant and fossil species. These leaf fossils are assigned to Calophyllum based on several key leaf characteristics such as oblanceolate or oblong in shape and parallel secondary veins, nearly perpendicular to the midvein, as well as secondary veins alternate, closely placed, craspedodromous, parallel, dense, and distinct on surface, forming marginal veins. Based on detailed morphological comparison, these fossil leaves are assigned to C. suraikholaensis Awasthi and Prasad, 1990 and Calophyllum sp. The discovery of Calophyllum indicates a montane subtropical to tropical climate in northern Thailand during the Oligocene–Miocene. Together with previous fossil records, these results suggest that this genus probably originated in India during the Paleogene, and spread from India to Indochina during the Neogene, leading to its modern distribution, which currently prefers tropical climates.

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.

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.