Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Marcussen, T., H. E. Ballard, J. Danihelka, A. R. Flores, M. V. Nicola, and J. M. Watson. 2022. A Revised Phylogenetic Classification for Viola (Violaceae). Plants 11: 2224. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11172224

The genus Viola (Violaceae) is among the 40–50 largest genera among angiosperms, yet its taxonomy has not been revised for nearly a century. In the most recent revision, by Wilhelm Becker in 1925, the then-known 400 species were distributed among 14 sections and numerous unranked groups. Here, we provide an updated, comprehensive classification of the genus, based on data from phylogeny, morphology, chromosome counts, and ploidy, and based on modern principles of monophyly. The revision is presented as an annotated global checklist of accepted species of Viola, an updated multigene phylogenetic network and an ITS phylogeny with denser taxon sampling, a brief summary of the taxonomic changes from Becker’s classification and their justification, a morphological binary key to the accepted subgenera, sections and subsections, and an account of each infrageneric subdivision with justifications for delimitation and rank including a description, a list of apomorphies, molecular phylogenies where possible or relevant, a distribution map, and a list of included species. We distribute the 664 species accepted by us into 2 subgenera, 31 sections, and 20 subsections. We erect one new subgenus of Viola (subg. Neoandinium, a replacement name for the illegitimate subg. Andinium), six new sections (sect. Abyssinium, sect. Himalayum, sect. Melvio, sect. Nematocaulon, sect. Spathulidium, sect. Xanthidium), and seven new subsections (subsect. Australasiaticae, subsect. Bulbosae, subsect. Clausenianae, subsect. Cleistogamae, subsect. Dispares, subsect. Formosanae, subsect. Pseudorupestres). Evolution within the genus is discussed in light of biogeography, the fossil record, morphology, and particular traits. Viola is among very few temperate and widespread genera that originated in South America. The biggest identified knowledge gaps for Viola concern the South American taxa, for which basic knowledge from phylogeny, chromosome counts, and fossil data is virtually absent. Viola has also never been subject to comprehensive anatomical study. Studies into seed anatomy and morphology are required to understand the fossil record of the genus.

Almirón, N. E. A., G. M. Via do Pico, A. Cosacov, E. N. Paredes, G. A. Robledo Dobladez, and V. G. Solís Neffa. 2022. The geography of Aspidosperma quebracho-blanco vulnerability, an emblematic species of the South American Gran Chaco. Forest Ecology and Management 523: 120503. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2022.120503

Aspidosperma quebracho-blanco is a key species of the Gran Chaco, one of the most threatened subtropical woodlands in South America. By combining ecological niche modeling (ENM) and population genetic analysis, we explored the impact of land use and climate change on the species distribution with the aim to map the geography of its vulnerability and to propose conservation strategies. Future climate models revealed a generalized reduction in climatic suitability for A. quebracho-blanco, as well as a tendency of suitable areas for the species to shift towards the south-southeast. Land use and land cover (LULC) analysis indicated that more than 50% of A. quebracho-blanco distribution is mainly affected by cultivated lands. The analysis of the genetic population showed that the species has moderate genetic structure and populations are clustered in three genetic groups. The ENM analyses indicated an under-representation of the species’ potential range in protected areas. These results highlight the need to prioritize the conservation and restoration of remnant populations and the expansion of protected natural areas. Therefore, using an integrative approach of the results obtained here, we identified four areas with different levels of vulnerability and proposed specific conservation strategies for each one. This work can be similarly applied in other countries that might establish common criteria in the definition of conservation strategies for tree species.

Testo, W. L., A. L. de Gasper, S. Molino, J. M. G. y Galán, A. Salino, V. A. de O. Dittrich, and E. B. Sessa. 2022. Deep vicariance and frequent transoceanic dispersal shape the evolutionary history of a globally distributed fern family. American Journal of Botany. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajb2.16062

Premise Historical biogeography of ferns is typically expected to be dominated by long-distance dispersal, due to their minuscule spores. However, few studies have inferred the historical biogeography of a large and widely distributed group of ferns to test this hypothesis. Our aims are to determine the extent to which long-distance dispersal vs. vicariance have shaped the history of the fern family Blechnaceae, to explore ecological correlates of dispersal and diversification, and to determine whether these patterns differ between the northern and southern hemispheres. Methods We used sequence data for three chloroplast loci to infer a time-calibrated phylogeny for 154 out of 265 species of Blechnaceae, including representatives of all genera in the family. This tree was used to conduct ancestral range reconstruction and stochastic character mapping, estimate diversification rates, and identify ecological correlates of diversification. Key results Blechnaceae originated in Eurasia and began diversifying in the late Cretaceous. A lineage comprising most extant diversity diversified principally in the austral Pacific region around the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Land connections that existed near the poles during periods of warm climates likely facilitated migration of several lineages, with subsequent climate-mediated vicariance shaping current distributions. Long-distance dispersal is frequent and asymmetrical, with New Zealand/Pacific Islands, Australia, and tropical America being major source areas. Conclusions Ancient vicariance and extensive long-distance dispersal have shaped the history of Blechnaceae in both the northern and southern hemispheres. The exceptional diversity in austral regions appears to reflect rapid speciation in these areas; mechanisms underlying this evolutionary success remain uncertain.

Coca‐de‐la‐Iglesia, M., N. G. Medina, J. Wen, and V. Valcárcel. 2022. Evaluation of the tropical‐temperate transitions: An example of climatic characterization in the Asian Palmate group of Araliaceae. American Journal of Botany. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajb2.16059

(no abstract available)

Zhang, Q., J. Ye, C. Le, D. M. Njenga, N. R. Rabarijaona, W. O. Omollo, L. Lu, et al. 2022. New insights into the formation of biodiversity hotspots of the Kenyan flora. Diversity and Distributions. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.13624

Aim This study aimed to investigate the distribution patterns of plant diversity in Kenya, how climatic fluctuations and orogeny shaped them, and the formation of its β-diversity. Location Kenya, East Africa. Taxon Angiosperms. Methods We quantified patterns of turnover and nestedness components of phylogenetic β-diversity for angiosperm species among neighbouring sites using a well-resolved phylogenetic tree and extensive distribution records from public databases and other published sources. We applied clustering methods to delineate biota based on pairwise similarities among multiple sites and used a random assembly null model to assess the effects of species abundance distribution on phylogenetic β-diversity. Results The phylogenetic turnover of the Kenyan flora, intersecting with the biodiversity hotspots Eastern Afromontane, Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa, and Horn of Africa, shows a non-monotonic pattern along a latitudinal gradient that is strongly structured into volcanic and coastal areas. The other areas are mainly dominated by phylogenetic nestedness, even in the eastern part of the equatorial region parallel to the volcanic area. Phylogenetic diversity and phylogenetic structure analyses explain the mechanism of the observed phylogenetic turnover and nestedness patterns. We identified five phytogeographical regions in Kenya: the Mandera, Turkana, Volcanic, Pan Coastal and West Highland Regions. Conclusions Variations in turnover gradient and coexistence are highly dependent on the regional biogeographical history resulting from climatic fluctuations and long-lasting orogeny, which jointly shaped the biodiversity patterns of the Kenyan flora. The nestedness component dominated climatically unstable regions and is presumed to have been caused by heavy local species extinction and recolonization from the Volcanic Region. The high turnover component in climatically stable regions may have preserved old lineages and the prevalence of endemic species within narrow ranges.

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. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2022.952439

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.

Clark, R. P., K.-W. Jiang, and E. Gagnon. 2022. Reinstatement of Ticanto (Leguminosae-Caesalpinioideae) – the final piece in the Caesalpinia group puzzle. PhytoKeys 205: 59–98. https://doi.org/10.3897/phytokeys.205.82300

A recent molecular phylogenetic analysis of the Caesalpinia group demonstrated that it comprises 26 genera, but the recognition of a putative 27th genus, Ticanto, remained in doubt. This study presents a phylogenetic analysis of ITS and five plastid loci revealing a robustly supported monophyletic group representing the Ticanto clade, sister to the morphologically distinct genus Pterolobium. Based upon this evidence, along with a morphological evaluation, the genus Ticanto is here reinstated. Descriptions are provided for all nine species of Ticanto, together with a key to the species, maps, and colour photographs. Nine new combinations are made: Ticantocaesia (Hand.-Mazz.) R. Clark & Gagnon, T.crista (L.) R. Clark & Gagnon, T.elliptifolia (S. J. Li, Z. Y. Chen & D. X. Zhang) R. Clark & Gagnon, T.magnifoliolata (Metcalf) R. Clark & Gagnon, T.rhombifolia R. Clark & Gagnon, T.sinensis (Hemsl.) R. Clark & Gagnon, T.szechuenensis (Craib) R. Clark & Gagnon, T.vernalis (Champion ex Benth.) R. Clark & Gagnon and T.yunnanensis (S. J. Li, D. X. Zhang & Z.Y. Chen) R. Clark & Gagnon. The final major question in the delimitation of segregate genera from within Caesalpiniasensu lato and the Caesalpinia group is thus resolved.

Yang, L., N. Zerega, A. Montgomery, and D. E. Horton. 2022. Potential of breadfruit cultivation to contribute to climate-resilient low latitude food systems T. E. Epule [ed.],. PLOS Climate 1: e0000062. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pclm.0000062

The number of people in food crisis around the world is increasing, exacerbated by COVID-19, conflict, and climate change. Major crop yields are projected to decrease in low-latitude regions, making tropical and sub-tropical food systems particularly vulnerable. Increased cultivation of breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), a neglected and underutilized species (NUS), has the potential to enhance climate resilience and overall sustainability of low-latitude agricultural systems. To better understand breadfruit’s cultivation suitability and geographic range in current and future climates, we use breadfruit presence data collected from previous studies and a global citizen science database, and a selection of bioclimactic variables, to build an ensemble of 6 species distribution models that delineate the current climatically viable breadfruit range. We then assess the climatically viable future breadfruit range (2061–2080) under stabilization and high emission scenarios using an ensemble of 8 global circulation model (GCM) projections. The area of suitable breadfruit range within the global tropics and subtropics is projected to decrease ~4.4% in the stabilization scenario and ~4.5% in the high emission scenario. In Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, yield quality and consistency show minimal decreases under the high emission scenario, with increases in total suitable area under both. In contrast, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the current suitable breadfruit range is projected to contract ~10.1–11.5% (stabilization-high emission). Present and future model suitability outputs suggest opportunities to successfully expand breadfruit cultivation over the next decades in sub-Saharan Africa, where food insecurity is coincidentally high. However, in all regions, high emission scenario conditions reduce the overall consistency and quality of breadfruit yields compared to the stabilization scenario. Our results have the potential to inform global food security adaptation planning, highlighting breadfruit as an ideal NUS to incorporate in food security adaptation strategies.

Contreras-Medina, R., M. Santiago-Alvarado, D. Espinosa, G. Rivas, and I. Luna-Vega. 2022. Distributional patterns and conservation of the genus Habromys (Rodentia: Cricetidae) in Mesoamerica. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment: 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/01650521.2022.2085071

We analyzed the geographical distribution of Habromys species based on distributional data from museum specimens, web databases, and literature. We recorded species-presence data of each species in 0.5° × 0.5° grid cells and biogeographic provinces in Mexico and Central America. We analyzed the association between vegetation types and land use. We carried out species distribution models of most species of Habromys and those tree species frequently harboring these mice, finding a high distributional congruence among mice and trees. Species of Habromys occur throughout the montane systems of Mexico and northern Central America, so they can be considered characteristic elements of the Neotropical montane cloud forests. All species of the genus occur in Mexico, whereas Guatemala and El Salvador have only one species. Although all species of Habromys are highly restricted and considered rare species, only one (H. simulatus) is currently protected by Mexican laws. We assigned two species to a high and four to the critical conservation risk. Habromys species contribute to the recognition of Mesoamerica as a biodiversity hotspot.

Amaral, D. T., I. A. S. Bonatelli, M. Romeiro-Brito, E. M. Moraes, and F. F. Franco. 2022. Spatial patterns of evolutionary diversity in Cactaceae show low ecological representation within protected areas. Biological Conservation 273: 109677. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2022.109677

Mapping biodiversity patterns across taxa and environments is crucial to address the evolutionary and ecological dimensions of species distribution, suggesting areas of particular importance for conservation purposes. Within Cactaceae, spatial diversity patterns are poorly explored, as are the abiotic factors that may predict these patterns. We gathered geographic and genetic data from 921 cactus species by exploring both the occurrence and genetic databases, which are tightly associated with drylands, to evaluate diversity patterns, such as phylogenetic diversity and endemism, paleo-, neo-, and superendemism, and the environmental predictor variables of such patterns in a global analysis. Hotspot areas of cacti diversity are scattered along the Neotropical and Nearctic regions, mainly in the desertic portion of Mesoamerica, Caribbean Island, and the dry diagonal of South America. The geomorphological features of these regions may create a complexity of areas that work as locally buffered zones over time, which triggers local events of diversification and speciation. Desert and dryland/dry forest areas comprise paleo- and superendemism and may act as both museums and cradles of species, displaying great importance for conservation. Past climates, topography, soil features, and solar irradiance seem to be the main predictors of distinct endemism types. The hotspot areas that encompass a major part of the endemism cells are outside or poorly covered by formal protection units. The current legally protected areas are not able to conserve the evolutionary diversity of cacti. Given the rapid anthropogenic disturbance, efforts must be reinforced to monitor biodiversity and the environment and to define/plan current and new protected areas.