Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Raggi, L., C. Zucchini, E. Sayde, D. Gigante, and V. Negri. 2024. Priority areas for the establishment of genetic reserves to actively protect key crop wild relative species in Italy. Global Ecology and Conservation 50: e02836. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2024.e02836

Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) are wild plant taxa genetically close to a crop. Being a precious source of genetic variability and of traits for crop improvement, CWR have a high socio-economic value and are identified among the main plant genetic resources. Alarming enough, the inter- and intraspecific diversity, as well as their habitat diversity, is under threat of irremediable loss. Italy is the second richest country in Europe in terms of plant species number; applying the taxon group concept 5712 have been recently identified as CWR. The aims of the present research are to identify the best sites for: i) the institution of genetic reserves to actively protect CWR species of the key crop genera as Allium, Brassica and Triticum and ii) performing new collection missions to reach adequate ex situ conservation of target species. Georeferenced data were retrieved from different online databases. CAPFITOGEN tools were initially used to develop an ecogeographic land characterisation map (ELC) of Italy. Geographical distribution data were assembled for 379 populations of 18 CWR taxa. Results of the complementarity analysis showed that 10 protected areas provide coverage of the 46.4% of the target conservation units and include 66.7% of the priority CWR taxa investigated. Alarming enough, only 7.4% of the 379 populations are currently conserved ex situ; among the 18 ecogeographic land characterisation categories only 3 are covered by ex situ conservation. This is the first study where most suitable protected areas for the institution of genetic reserves are proposed for Italy for the protection of multiple CWR taxa of key genera; this is relevant also considering the global value of many of the related crop such as different wheat species, cabbages, rape, garlic and onion. Being already dedicated to habitat and species conservation, the identified sites are optimal candidates for the institution of genetic reserves. Results will hopefully also guide new collecting missions that are urgently needed to strength ex situ conservation of such precious genetic resources.

Clemente, K. J. E., and M. S. Thomsen. 2023. High temperature frequently increases facilitation between aquatic foundation species: a global meta‐analysis of interaction experiments between angiosperms, seaweeds, and bivalves. Journal of Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.14101

Many studies have quantified ecological impacts of individual foundation species (FS). However, emerging data suggest that FS often co‐occur, potentially inhibiting or facilitating one another, thereby causing indirect, cascading effects on surrounding communities. Furthermore, global warming is accelerating, but little is known about how interactions between co‐occurring FS vary with temperature.Shallow aquatic sedimentary systems are often dominated by three types of FS: slower‐growing clonal angiosperms, faster‐growing solitary seaweeds, and shell‐forming filter‐ and deposit‐feeding bivalves. Here, we tested the impacts of one FS on another by analyzing manipulative interaction experiments from 148 papers with a global meta‐analysis.We calculated 1,942 (non‐independent) Hedges’ g effect sizes, from 11,652 extracted values over performance responses, such as abundances, growths or survival of FS, and their associated standard deviations and replication levels. Standard aggregation procedures generated 511 independent Hedges’ g that was classified into six types of reciprocal impacts between FS.We found that (i) seaweeds had consistent negative impacts on angiosperms across performance responses, organismal sizes, experimental approaches, and ecosystem types; (ii) angiosperms and bivalves generally had positive impacts on each other (e.g., positive effects of angiosperms on bivalves were consistent across organismal sizes and experimental approaches, but angiosperm effect on bivalve growth and bivalve effect on angiosperm abundance were not significant); (iii) bivalves positively affected seaweeds (particularly on growth responses); (iv) there were generally no net effects of seaweeds on bivalves (except for positive effect on growth) or angiosperms on seaweeds (except for positive effect on ‘other processes’); and (v) bivalve interactions with other FS were typically more positive at higher temperatures, but angiosperm‐seaweed interactions were not moderated by temperature.Synthesis: Despite variations in experimental and spatiotemporal conditions, the stronger positive interactions at higher temperatures suggest that facilitation, particularly involving bivalves, may become more important in a future warmer world. Importantly, addressing research gaps, such as the scarcity of FS interaction experiments from tropical and freshwater systems and for less studied species, as well as testing for density‐dependent effects, could better inform aquatic ecosystem conservation and restoration efforts and broaden our knowledge of FS interactions in the Anthropocene.

Huang, T., J. Chen, K. E. Hummer, L. A. Alice, W. Wang, Y. He, S. Yu, et al. 2023. Phylogeny of Rubus (Rosaceae): Integrating molecular and morphological evidence into an infrageneric revision. TAXON. https://doi.org/10.1002/tax.12885

Rubus (Rosaceae), one of the most complicated angiosperm genera, contains about 863 species, and is notorious for its taxonomic difficulty. The most recent (1910–1914) global taxonomic treatment of the genus was conducted by Focke, who defined 12 subgenera. Phylogenetic results over the past 25 years suggest that Focke's subdivisions of Rubus are not monophyletic, and large‐scale taxonomic revisions are necessary. Our objective was to provide a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of the genus based on an integrative evidence approach. Morphological characters, obtained from our own investigation of living plants and examination of herbarium specimens are combined with chloroplast genomic data. Our dataset comprised 196 accessions representing 145 Rubus species (including cultivars and hybrids) and all of Focke's subgenera, including 60 endemic Chinese species. Maximum likelihood analyses inferred phylogenetic relationships. Our analyses concur with previous molecular studies, but with modifications. Our data strongly support the reclassification of several subgenera within Rubus. Our molecular analyses agree with others that only R. subg. Anoplobatus forms a monophyletic group. Other subgenera are para‐ or polyphyletic. We suggest a revised subgeneric framework to accommodate monophyletic groups. Character evolution is reconstructed, and diagnostic morphological characters for different clades are identified and discussed. Based on morphological and molecular evidence, we propose a new classification system with 10 subgenera: R. subg. Anoplobatus, R. subg. Batothamnus, R. subg. Chamaerubus, R. subg. Cylactis, R. subg. Dalibarda, R. subg. Idaeobatus, R. subg. Lineati, R. subg. Malachobatus, R. subg. Melanobatus, and R. subg. Rubus. The revised infrageneric nomenclature inferred from our analyses is provided along with synonymy and type citations. Our new taxonomic backbone is the first systematic and complete global revision of Rubus since Focke's treatment. It offers new insights into deep phylogenetic relationships of Rubus and has important theoretical and practical significance for the development and utilization of these important agronomic crops.

Pan, Y., J. García-Girón, and L. L. Iversen. 2023. Global change and plant-ecosystem functioning in freshwaters. Trends in Plant Science. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2022.12.013

Freshwater ecosystems are of worldwide importance for maintaining biodiversity and sustaining the provision of a myriad of ecosystem services to modern societies. Plants, one of the most important components of these ecosystems, are key to water nutrient removal, carbon storage, and food provision. Understanding how the functional connection between freshwater plants and ecosystems is affected by global change will be key to our ability to predict future changes in freshwater systems. Here, we synthesize global plant responses, adaptations, and feedbacks to present-day and future freshwater environments through trait-based approaches, from single individuals to entire communities. We outline the transdisciplinary knowledge benchmarks needed to further understand freshwater plant biodiversity and the fundamental services they provide.

Walas, Ł., W. Kędziora, M. Ksepko, M. Rabska, D. Tomaszewski, P. A. Thomas, R. Wójcik, and G. Iszkuło. 2022. The future of Viscum album L. in Europe will be shaped by temperature and host availability. Scientific Reports 12. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-21532-6

Viscum album L. is a plant of great importance due to its influence on the host trees and, by extension, entire ecosystems. The species is also significant to humans—on the one hand, because of its use in medicine, and on the other, because of the growing threat it poses to the stability of conifer stands. Therefore, it is important to recognize the future range of three mistletoe subspecies ( Viscum album subsp. album , V. album subsp. austriacum , and V. album subsp. abietis ). Modelling of the potential range of these subspecies was performed using MAXENT software. Locations were collected from literature and databases. A total number of 3335 stands were used. Bioclimatic data for the current conditions and three future scenarios (SSP 1.26, SSP 3.70, SSP 5.85) were downloaded from the CHELSA database. The results confirmed that the temperature is the key variable on the potential range of the analysed subspecies. V. album subsp. abietis is withdrawing from its range according to all scenarios. In the case of V. album subsp. austriacum , a slight range shift is visible. Only the V. album subsp. album will expand non-directionally. The reason is most likely a very large number of host species and greater genetic variability compared to the subspecies found on conifers.

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.

Pirie, M. D., R. Blackhall‐Miles, G. Bourke, D. Crowley, I. Ebrahim, F. Forest, M. Knaack, et al. 2022. Preventing species extinctions: A global conservation consortium for Erica. PLANTS, PEOPLE, PLANET 4: 335–344. https://doi.org/10.1002/ppp3.10266

Societal Impact Statement Human-caused habitat destruction and transformation is resulting in a cascade of impacts to biological diversity, of which arguably the most fundamental is species extinctions. The Global Conservation Consortia (GCC) are a means to pool efforts and expertise across national boundaries and between disciplines in the attempt to prevent such losses in focal plant groups. GCC Erica coordinates an international response to extinction threats in one such group, the heaths, or heathers, of which hundreds of species are found only in South Africa's spectacularly diverse Cape Floristic Region. Summary Effectively combating the biodiversity crisis requires coordinated conservation efforts. Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and numerous partners have established Global Conservation Consortia (GCC) to collaboratively develop and implement comprehensive conservation strategies for priority threatened plant groups. Through these networks, institutions with specialised collections and staff can leverage ongoing work to optimise impact for threatened plant species. The genus Erica poses a challenge similar in scale to that of the largest other GCC group, Rhododendron, but almost 700 of the around 800 known species of Erica are concentrated in a single biodiversity hotspot, the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of South Africa. Many species are known to be threatened, suffering the immediate impacts of habitat destruction, invasive species, changes in natural fire regimes and climate change. Efforts to counter these threats face general challenges: disproportionate burden of in situ conservation falling on a minority of the community, limited knowledge of species-rich groups, shortfalls in assessing and monitoring threat, lack of resources for in situ and limitations of knowledge for ex situ conservation efforts and in communicating the value of biological diversity to a public who may never encounter it in the wild. GCC Erica brings together the world's Erica experts, conservationists and the botanical community, including botanic gardens, seed banks and organisations in Africa, Madagascar, Europe, the United States, Australia and beyond. We are collaboratively pooling our unique sets of skills and resources to address these challenges in working groups for conservation prioritisation, conservation in situ, horticulture, seed banking, systematic research and outreach.

Liang, S., X. Zhang, and R. Wei. 2022. Ecological adaptation shaped the genetic structure of homoploid ferns against strong dispersal capacity. Molecular Ecology 31: 2679–2697. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.16420

The formation of spatial genetic structure with the presence of extensive gene flow, an evolutionary force which is generally expected to eliminate population-specific variation and maintain genetic homogeneity, remains poorly understood. Homosporous ferns, which spread by spores through wind and possess long-distance dispersal capacity, provide an ideal system to investigate such a process. Here, using a homoploid fern lineage, the Athyrium sinense complex, we used reduced-representation genomic data to examine spatial genetic structure and explored potential driving forces including geographical distance, environment, climatic history and external dispersal constraints. Our findings showed a clear north-south divergence at the genetic, morphological and ecological levels between both sides of 35°N in East Asia. Fluctuant and heterogeneous climatic condition was demonstrated to play a crucial role during the formation of the divergence. Our results suggested that this lineage was able to migrate southward and colonize new habitat as a result of the Quaternary climatic fluctuation. Furthermore, the present genetic structure is attributed to adaptation to heterogeneous environments, especially temperature difference. In addition to ecological adaptation, we found clues showing that canopy density, wind direction as well as habitat continuity were all likely to constrain the effect of gene flow. These results demonstrated a diversification process without ploidy changes in ferns providing new insights for our present knowledge on ferns’ spatio-temporal evolutionary pattern. In particular, our study highlights the influence of environmental heterogeneity in driving genetic divergence against strong dispersal capacity.

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. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14292

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2021.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…