Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Smith, A. B., S. J. Murphy, D. Henderson, and K. D. Erickson. 2023. Including imprecisely georeferenced specimens improves accuracy of species distribution models and estimates of niche breadth. Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Aim Museum and herbarium specimen records are frequently used to assess the conservation status of species and their responses to climate change. Typically, occurrences with imprecise geolocality information are discarded because they cannot be matched confidently to environmental conditions and are thus expected to increase uncertainty in downstream analyses. However, using only precisely georeferenced records risks undersampling of the environmental and geographical distributions of species. We present two related methods to allow the use of imprecisely georeferenced occurrences in biogeographical analysis. Innovation Our two procedures assign imprecise records to the (1) locations or (2) climates that are closest to the geographical or environmental centroid of the precise records of a species. For virtual species, including imprecise records alongside precise records improved the accuracy of ecological niche models projected to the present and the future, especially for species with c. 20 or fewer precise occurrences. Using only precise records underestimated loss of suitable habitat and overestimated the amount of suitable habitat in both the present and the future. Including imprecise records also improves estimates of niche breadth and extent of occurrence. An analysis of 44 species of North American Asclepias (Apocynaceae) yielded similar results. Main conclusions Existing studies examining the effects of spatial imprecision typically compare outcomes based on precise records against the same records with spatial error added to them. However, in real-world cases, analysts possess a mix of precise and imprecise records and must decide whether to retain or discard the latter. Discarding imprecise records can undersample the geographical and environmental distributions of species and lead to mis-estimation of responses to past and future climate change. Our method, for which we provide a software implementation in the enmSdmX package for R, is simple to use and can help leverage the large number of specimen records that are typically deemed “unusable” because of spatial imprecision in their geolocation.

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.

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.

Ward, S. F., E. G. Brockerhoff, R. M. Turner, T. Yamanaka, L. Marini, S. Fei, and A. M. Liebhold. 2022. Prevalence and drivers of a tree-killing bark beetle, Ips typographus (Coleoptera, Scolytinae), in international invasion pathways into the USA. Journal of Pest Science.

The unintentional transport of insects beyond their native ranges has greatly increased with globalization over the past century, leading to higher propagule pressure in non-native ranges of many species. Knowledge about the prevalence of a species in international invasion pathways is important for predicting invasions and taking appropriate biosecurity measures. We investigated the spatiotemporal patterns and drivers of interceptions—detections of at least one individual with imported goods that potentially serve as a proxy for arrival rates—for a tree-killing bark beetle, the European spruce bark beetle ( Ips typographus L.; Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae), in the USA from 1914 to 2008. Across the study period, there were 505 interceptions of I. typographus with shipments originating from > 25 countries at ports in 22 US states. Interceptions first occurred in 1938, peaked at 33 and 25 in 1984 and 1996, respectively, and declined after the mid-1990s. Interceptions of I. typographus did not have a statistically detectable relationship with outbreak levels in the native range, were inversely related to annual import volume (an artifact likely driven by changes in inspection policies), and were more frequent during the winter. Thus, while interceptions of I. typographus are challenging to predict, we found evidence that (i) biosecurity practices against this beetle could be increased during winter but not in response to outbreaks in source regions and (ii) the overall abundance of this beetle in invasion pathways has recently decreased, probably because strengthened phytosanitary protocols have reduced contamination levels and/or decreased the perceived need for inspections.

Lu, L.-L., B.-H. Jiao, F. Qin, G. Xie, K.-Q. Lu, J.-F. Li, B. Sun, et al. 2022. Artemisia pollen dataset for exploring the potential ecological indicators in deep time. Earth System Science Data 14: 3961–3995.

Abstract. Artemisia, along with Chenopodiaceae, is the dominant component growing in the desert and dry grassland of the Northern Hemisphere. Artemisia pollen with its high productivity, wide distribution, and easy identification is usually regarded as an eco-indicator for assessing aridity and distinguishing grassland from desert vegetation in terms of the pollen relative abundance ratio of Chenopodiaceae/Artemisia (C/A). Nevertheless, divergent opinions on the degree of aridity evaluated by Artemisia pollen have been circulating in the palynological community for a long time. To solve the confusion, we first selected 36 species from nine clades and three outgroups of Artemisia based on the phylogenetic framework, which attempts to cover the maximum range of pollen morphological variation. Then, sampling, experiments, photography, and measurements were taken using standard methods. Here, we present pollen datasets containing 4018 original pollen photographs, 9360 pollen morphological trait measurements, information on 30 858 source plant occurrences, and corresponding environmental factors. Hierarchical cluster analysis on pollen morphological traits was carried out to subdivide Artemisia pollen into three types. When plotting the three pollen types of Artemisia onto the global terrestrial biomes, different pollen types of Artemisia were found to have different habitat ranges. These findings change the traditional concept of Artemisia being restricted to arid and semi-arid environments. The data framework that we designed is open and expandable for new pollen data of Artemisia worldwide. In the future, linking pollen morphology with habitat via these pollen datasets will create additional knowledge that will increase the resolution of the ecological environment in the geological past. The Artemisia pollen datasets are freely available at Zenodo (; Lu et al., 2022).

Kendig, A. E., S. Canavan, P. J. Anderson, S. L. Flory, L. A. Gettys, D. R. Gordon, B. V. Iannone III, et al. 2022. Scanning the horizon for invasive plant threats using a data-driven approach. NeoBiota 74: 129–154.

AbstractEarly detection and eradication of invasive plants are more cost-effective than managing well-established invasive plant populations and their impacts. However, there is high uncertainty around which taxa are likely to become invasive in a given area. Horizon scanning that combines a data-driven approach with rapid risk assessment and consensus building among experts can help identify invasion threats. We performed a horizon scan of potential invasive plant threats to Florida, USA—a state with a high influx of introduced species, conditions that are generally favorable for plant establishment, and a history of negative impacts from invasive plants. We began with an initial list of 2128 non-native plant taxa that are known invaders or crop pests. We built on previous invasive species horizon scans by developing data-based criteria to prioritize 100 taxa for rapid risk assessment. The semi-automated prioritization process included selecting taxa “on the horizon” (i.e., not yet in the target location and not on a noxious weed list) with climate matching, naturalization history, “weediness” record, and global commonness. We derived overall invasion risk scores with rapid risk assessment by evaluating the likelihood of each of the taxa arriving, establishing, and having an impact in Florida. Then, following a consensus-building discussion, we identified six plant taxa as high risk, with overall risk scores ranging from 75 to 100 out of a possible 125. The six taxa are globally distributed, easily transported to new areas, found in regions with climates similar to Florida’s, and can impact native plant communities, human health, or agriculture. Finally, we evaluated our initial and final lists for potential biases. Assessors tended to assign higher risk scores to taxa that had more available information. In addition, we identified biases towards four plant families and certain geographical regions of origin. Our horizon scan approach identified taxa conforming to metrics of high invasion risk and used a methodology refined for plants that can be applied to other locations.

To clarify biogeographic patterns of two mushroom species (Phallus merulinus and Geastrum courtecuissei) previously reported from Myanmar, sequence data of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of nuclear ribosomal DNA were retrieved from GenBank. The BLAST search and phylogenetic analyses of Phallus indicated that P. merulinus and P. atrovolvatus from wide areas, including Australia, Myanmar, Thailand, Brazil, and French Guiana, cannot be distinguished molecularly. The species was, therefore, considered widespread across tropical to subtropical regions. In contrast, G. courtecuissei from Myanmar was tightly clustered exclusively with G. courtecuissei from Central and South America, supporting the idea of its disjunct distribution between Southeast Asia (Myanmar) and Central-South Americas.

Bywater‐Reyes, S., R. M. Diehl, A. C. Wilcox, J. C. Stella, and L. Kui. 2022. A Green New Balance: Interactions among riparian vegetation plant traits and morphodynamics in alluvial rivers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 47: 2410–2436.

The strength of interactions between plants and river processes is mediated by plant traits and fluvial conditions, including above‐ground biomass, stem density and flexibility, channel and bed material properties, and flow and sediment regimes. In many rivers, concurrent changes in 1) the composition of riparian vegetation communities as a result of exotic species invasion and 2) shifts in hydrology have altered physical and ecological conditions in a manner that has been mediated by feedbacks between vegetation and morphodynamic processes. We review how Tamarix, which has invaded many U.S. Southwest waterways, and Populus species, woody pioneer trees that are native to the region, differentially affect hydraulics, sediment transport, and river morphology. We draw on flume, field, and modeling approaches spanning the individual seedling to river‐corridor scales. In a flume study, we found differences in the crown morphology, stem density, and flexibility of Tamarix compared to Populus influenced near‐bed flow velocities in a manner that favored aggradation associated with Tamarix. Similarly, at the patch and corridor scales, observations confirmed increased aggradation with increased vegetation density. Furthermore, long‐term channel adjustments were different for Tamarix‐ versus Populus‐dominated reaches, with faster and greater geomorphic adjustments for Tamarix. Collectively, our studies show how plant‐trait differences between Tamarix and Populus, from individual seedlings to larger spatial and temporal scales, influence the co‐adjustment of rivers and riparian plant communities. These findings provide a basis for predicting changes in alluvial riverine systems which we conceptualize as a Green New Balance model that considers how channels may adjust to changes in plant traits and community structure in additional to alterations in flow and sediment supply. We offer suggestions regarding how the Green New Balance can be used in management and invasive species management.

Eduardo Sáenz-Ceja, J., M. Arenas-Navarro, and A. Torres-Miranda. 2022. Prioritizing conservation areas and vulnerability analyses of the genus Pinus L. (Pinaceae) in Mexico. Journal for Nature Conservation 67: 126171.

Mexico hosts the highest species richness of pines (Pinus, Pinaceae) worldwide; however, the priority areas for their conservation in the country are unknown. In this study, the ecological niche of the 50 native pine species was modeled. Then, through a multi-criteria analysis, the priority areas for the conservation of the genus Pinus were identified according to the spatial patterns of richness, geographic rareness, irreplaceability, the level of vulnerability of their habitat and the status of legal protection. The results revealed that the regions with high species richness differed from those with high endemism. Also, most pine species have undergone processes of habitat degradation, having been the endemic species the most affected. The priority areas covered regions with high species richness, high endemism, and highly degraded forests, located at mountainous portions of the Baja California Peninsula, the Sierra Madre Occidental, the Sierra Madre Oriental, the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, and the Sierra Madre del Sur. A low proportion of priority areas overlapped with protected areas or terrestrial regions considered priorities for biological conservation. These results suggest that conservation efforts for this genus should be focused beyond regions with high species richness and current protected areas. Besides, the priority areas identified in this study can be the basis to create biological corridors and new protected areas, which could contribute significantly to the conservation of this genus in Mexico.

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…

Van Natto, A. C., and C. G. Eckert. 2021. Genetic and conservation significance of populations at the polar vs. equatorial range limits of the Pacific coastal dune endemic Abronia umbellata (Nyctaginaceae). Conservation Genetics 23: 255–269.

Whether geographically peripheral populations are worth conserving has been hotly debated yet remains unresolved. This is especially relevant in high-latitude countries where, within their political jurisdictions, many species reach their range limits as peripheral isolates and require conservation …