Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Quillfeldt, P., Y. Bedolla-Guzmán, M. M. Libertelli, Y. Cherel, M. Massaro, and P. Bustamante. 2023. Mercury in Ten Storm-Petrel Populations from the Antarctic to the Subtropics. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

The oceans become increasingly contaminated as a result of global industrial production and consumer behaviour, and this affects wildlife in areas far removed from sources of pollution. Migratory seabirds such as storm-petrels may forage in areas with different contaminant levels throughout the annual cycle and may show a carry-over of mercury from the winter quarters to the breeding sites. In this study, we compared mercury levels among seven species of storm-petrels breeding on the Antarctic South Shetlands and subantarctic Kerguelen Islands, in temperate waters of the Chatham Islands, New Zealand, and in temperate waters of the Pacific off Mexico. We tested for differences in the level of contamination associated with breeding and inter-breeding distribution and trophic position. We collected inert body feathers and metabolically active blood samples in ten colonies, reflecting long-term (feathers) and short-term (blood) exposures during different periods ranging from early non-breeding (moult) to late breeding. Feathers represent mercury accumulated over the annual cycle between two successive moults. Mercury concentrations in feathers ranged over more than an order of magnitude among species, being lowest in subantarctic Grey-backed Storm-petrels (0.5 μg g −1 dw) and highest in subtropical Leach’s Storm-petrels (7.6 μg g −1 dw, i.e. posing a moderate toxicological risk). Among Antarctic Storm-petrels, Black-bellied Storm-petrels had threefold higher values than Wilson’s Storm-petrels, and in both species, birds from the South Shetlands (Antarctica) had threefold higher values than birds from Kerguelen (subantarctic Indian Ocean). Blood represents mercury taken up over several weeks, and showed similar trends, being lowest in Grey-backed Storm-petrels from Kerguelen (0.5 μg g −1 dw) and highest in Leach’s Storm-petrels (3.6 μg g −1 dw). Among Antarctic storm-petrels, species differences in the blood samples were similar to those in feathers, but site differences were less consistent. Over the breeding season, mercury decreased in blood samples of Antarctic Wilson’s Storm-petrels, but did not change in Wilson’s Storm-petrels from Kerguelen or in Antarctic Black-bellied Storm-petrels. In summary, we found that mercury concentrations in storm-petrels varied due to the distribution of species and differences in prey choice. Depending on prey choices, Antarctic storm-petrels can have similar mercury concentrations as temperate species. The lowest contamination was observed in subantarctic species and populations. The study shows how seabirds, which accumulate dietary pollutants in their tissues in the breeding and non-breeding seasons, can be used to survey marine pollution. Storm-petrels with their wide distributions and relatively low trophic levels may be especially useful, but more detailed knowledge on their prey choice and distributions is needed.

Moreno, I., J. M. W. Gippet, L. Fumagalli, and P. J. Stephenson. 2022. Factors affecting the availability of data on East African wildlife: the monitoring needs of conservationists are not being met. Biodiversity and Conservation.

Understanding the status and abundance of species is essential for effective conservation decision-making. However, the availability of species data varies across space, taxonomic groups and data types. A case study was therefore conducted in a high biodiversity region—East Africa—to evaluate data biases, the factors influencing data availability, and the consequences for conservation. In each of the eleven target countries, priority animal species were identified as threatened species that are protected by national governments, international conventions or conservation NGOs. We assessed data gaps and biases in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and the Living Planet Index. A survey of practitioners and decision makers was conducted to confirm and assess consequences of these biases on biodiversity conservation efforts. Our results showed data on species occurrence and population trends were available for a significantly higher proportion of vertebrates than invertebrates. We observed a geographical bias, with higher tourism income countries having more priority species and more species with data than lower tourism income countries. Conservationists surveyed felt that, of the 40 types of data investigated, those data that are most important to conservation projects are the most difficult to access. The main challenges to data accessibility are excessive expense, technological challenges, and a lack of resources to process and analyse data. With this information, practitioners and decision makers can prioritise how and where to fill gaps to improve data availability and use, and ensure biodiversity monitoring is improved and conservation impacts enhanced.

Yu, S.-E., S.-L. Dong, Z.-X. Zhang, Y.-Y. Zhang, G. Sarà, J. Wang, and Y.-W. Dong. 2022. Mapping the potential for offshore aquaculture of salmonids in the Yellow Sea. Marine Life Science & Technology 4: 329–342.

Mariculture has been one of the fastest-growing global food production sectors over the past three decades. With the congestion of space and deterioration of the environment in coastal regions, offshore aquaculture has gained increasing attention. Atlantic salmon ( Salmo salar ) and rainbow trout ( Oncorhynchus mykiss ) are two important aquaculture species and contribute to 6.1% of world aquaculture production of finfish. In the present study, we established species distribution models (SDMs) to identify the potential areas for offshore aquaculture of these two cold-water fish species considering the mesoscale spatio-temporal thermal heterogeneity of the Yellow Sea. The values of the area under the curve (AUC) and the true skill statistic (TSS) showed good model performance. The suitability index (SI), which was used in this study to quantitatively assess potential offshore aquaculture sites, was highly dynamic at the surface water layer. However, high SI values occurred throughout the year at deeper water layers. The potential aquaculture areas for S. salar and O. mykiss in the Yellow Sea were estimated as 52,270 ± 3275 (95% confidence interval, CI) and 146,831 ± 15,023 km 2 , respectively. Our results highlighted the use of SDMs in identifying potential aquaculture areas based on environmental variables. Considering the thermal heterogeneity of the environment, this study suggested that offshore aquaculture for Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout was feasible in the Yellow Sea by adopting new technologies (e.g., sinking cages into deep water) to avoid damage from high temperatures in summer.

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…

de Jesús Hernández-Hernández, M., J. A. Cruz, and C. Castañeda-Posadas. 2020. Paleoclimatic and vegetation reconstruction of the miocene southern Mexico using fossil flowers. Journal of South American Earth Sciences 104: 102827.

Concern about the course of the current environmental problems has raised interest in investigating the different scenarios that have taken place in our planet throughout time. To that end, different methodologies have been employed in order to determine the different variables that compose the envi…

Menegotto, A., T. F. Rangel, J. Schrader, P. Weigelt, and H. Kreft. 2019. A global test of the subsidized island biogeography hypothesis A. M. C. dos Santos [ed.],. Global Ecology and Biogeography 29: 320–330.

Aim: The decreasing capacity of area to predict species richness on small islands (the small‐island effect; SIE) seems to be one of the few exceptions of the species–area relationship. While most studies have focused on how to detect the SIE, the underlying ecological factors determining this patter…