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.

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.

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.

Zhang, H., W. Guo, and W. Wang. 2023. The dimensionality reductions of environmental variables have a significant effect on the performance of species distribution models. Ecology and Evolution 13.

How to effectively obtain species‐related low‐dimensional data from massive environmental variables has become an urgent problem for species distribution models (SDMs). In this study, we will explore whether dimensionality reduction on environmental variables can improve the predictive performance of SDMs. We first used two linear (i.e., principal component analysis (PCA) and independent components analysis) and two nonlinear (i.e., kernel principal component analysis (KPCA) and uniform manifold approximation and projection) dimensionality reduction techniques (DRTs) to reduce the dimensionality of high‐dimensional environmental data. Then, we established five SDMs based on the environmental variables of dimensionality reduction for 23 real plant species and nine virtual species, and compared the predictive performance of those with the SDMs based on the selected environmental variables through Pearson's correlation coefficient (PCC). In addition, we studied the effects of DRTs, model complexity, and sample size on the predictive performance of SDMs. The predictive performance of SDMs under DRTs other than KPCA is better than using PCC. And the predictive performance of SDMs using linear DRTs is better than using nonlinear DRTs. In addition, using DRTs to deal with environmental variables has no less impact on the predictive performance of SDMs than model complexity and sample size. When the model complexity is at the complex level, PCA can improve the predictive performance of SDMs the most by 2.55% compared with PCC. At the middle level of sample size, the PCA improved the predictive performance of SDMs by 2.68% compared with the PCC. Our study demonstrates that DRTs have a significant effect on the predictive performance of SDMs. Specifically, linear DRTs, especially PCA, are more effective at improving model predictive performance under relatively complex model complexity or large sample sizes.

Metreveli, V., H. Kreft, I. Akobia, Z. Janiashvili, Z. Nonashvili, L. Dzadzamia, Z. Javakhishvili, and A. Gavashelishvili. 2023. Potential Distribution and Suitable Habitat for Chestnut (Castanea sativa). Forests 14: 2076.

Chestnut, Castanea sativa Miller (Fagales: Fagaceae), is an ecologically and economically important tree species of the forest ecosystem in Southern Europe, North-Western Europe, Western Asia, North Africa, and the Caucasus. The distributional range of chestnut in Europe has been highly modified by humans since ancient times. Biotic and abiotic factors have dramatically changed its distribution. Historic anthropogenic range expansion makes it difficult to identify habitat requirements for natural stands of chestnut. In the Caucasus, natural stands of chestnut survived in glacial forest refugia and landscapes that have been difficult for humans to colonize. To identify the species reliable habitat requirements, we estimated the relationship between climatic variables and 620 occurrence locations of natural chestnut stands from the Caucasus and validated the model using GBIF data from outside the Caucasus. We found that our best model is reasonably accurate and the data from the Caucasus characterize chestnut stands throughout the species range well.

Jin, D., Q. Yuan, X. Dai, G. Kozlowski, and Y. Song. 2023. Enhanced precipitation has driven the evolution of subtropical evergreen broad‐leaved forests in eastern China since the early Miocene: Evidence from ring‐cupped oaks. Journal of Systematics and Evolution.

Subtropical evergreen broad‐leaved forest (EBLF) is the predominant vegetation type in eastern China. However, the majority of the region it covers in eastern China was an arid area during the Paleogene. The temporal history and essential factors involved in the evolution of subtropical EBLFs in eastern China remain enigmatic. Here we report on the niche evolution of Quercus section Cyclobalanopsis, which appeared in south China and Japan during the Eocene and became a dominant component of subtropical EBLFs since the Miocene in eastern Asia, using integrative analysis of occurrences, climate data and a dated phylogeny of 35 species in Cyclobalanopsis. Species within clades Cyclobalanoides, Lamellosa, and Helferiana mainly exist in the Himalaya–Hengduan region, adapting to a plateau climate, while species within the other clades mainly live in eastern China under the control of the East Asian monsoon. Reconstructed history showed that significant divergence of climatic tolerance in Cyclobalanopsis began around 19 million years ago (Ma) in the early Miocene. Simultaneously, disparities in precipitation of wettest/warmest quarter and annual precipitation were markedly enhanced in Cyclobalanopsis, especially in the recent eastern clades. During the Miocene, the marked radiation of Cyclobalanopsis and many other dominant taxa of subtropical EBLFs strongly suggest the rapid formation and expansion of subtropical EBLFs in eastern China. Our research highlights that the intensification of the East Asian monsoon and subsequent occupation of new niches by the ancient clades already present in the south may have jointly promoted the formation of subtropical EBLFs in eastern China since the early Miocene.

Petitpierre, B., C. Arnold, L. N. Phelps, and A. Guisan. 2023. A tale of three vines: current and future threats to wild Eurasian grapevine by vineyards and invasive rootstocks. Diversity and Distributions.

AbstractAimEurasian grapevine (Vitis vinifera), one of the most important fruit crops worldwide, diverged from its wild and currently endangered relative (V. vinifera ssp. sylvestris) about 11,000 years ago. In the 19th century, detrimental phylloxera and disease outbreaks in Europe forced grapevine cultivation to use American Vitis species as rootstocks, which have now become naturalized in Europe and are starting to colonize similar habitats to the wild grapevine. Accordingly, wild grapevine now faces two additional threats: the expansion of vineyards and invasive rootstocks. Furthermore, climate change is expected to have significant impacts on the distribution of all grapevines in Europe. In this study, we quantified the distributional and bioclimatic overlap between grapewine's wild relative and the taxa associated with viticulture, under current and future climate.LocationEurope, North America.MethodsThe distributions of wild Eurasian grapevine, cultivated Eurasian grapevine and five American grapevine species used in rootstock breeding programs were linked to climate variables to model their bioclimatic niches. These ecological niche models were used to quantify the spatial and bioclimatic overlap between these seven Vitis taxa in Europe.ResultsNiche and spatial overlap is high between the wild, cultivated and rootstock grapevines, suggesting that existing conflicts between vineyards and wild grapevine conservation may be further complicated by naturalized rootstocks outcompeting the wild grapevine, especially under future scenarios of climate change. In the hottest scenario, only 76.1% of the current distribution of the Eurasian grapevine remains in suitable area.Main ConclusionsAs wild grapevine may ultimately provide a valuable gene pool for adapting viticulture to a changing world, these findings demonstrate the need for improved management of the wild grapevine and its natural habitat, to counteract the harmful effects of global change on the wild relatives of viticulture.

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.

Graham, C. D. K., E. J. Forrestel, A. L. Schilmiller, A. T. Zemenick, and M. G. Weber. 2023. Evolutionary signatures of a trade-off in direct and indirect defenses across the wild grape genus Vitis. Evolution.

Evolutionary correlations between chemical defense and protection by mutualist bodyguards have been long predicted, but tests of these pattern remain rare. We use a phylogenetic framework to test for evolutionary correlations indicative of trade-offs or synergisms between direct defense in the form of plant secondary metabolism, and indirect defense in the form of leaf domatia, across 33 species in the wild grape genus, Vitis. We also performed a bioassay with a generalist herbivore to associate our chemical phenotypes with herbivore palatability. Finally, we tested whether defensive traits correlate with the average abiotic characteristics of each species’ contemporary range and whether these correlations were consistent with plant defense theory. We found a negative evolutionary correlation between domatia size and the diversity of secondary metabolites in Vitis leaf tissue across the genus, and also that leaves with a higher diversity and richness of secondary metabolites were less palatable to a generalist herbivore, consistent with a trade-off in chemical and mutualistic defense investment. Predictions from plant defense theory were not supported by associations between investment in defense phenotypes and abiotic variables. Our work demonstrates an evolutionary pattern indicative of a trade-off between indirect and direct defense strategies across the Vitis genus.

Goolsby, J. A., P. J. Moran, M. Martínez Jiménez, C. Yang, K. Canavan, Q. Paynter, N. Ota, and D. J. Kriticos. 2023. Biology of Invasive Plants 4. Arundo donax L. Invasive Plant Science and Management 16: 81–109.

Benson, C. W., M. R. Sheltra, P. J. Maughan, E. N. Jellen, M. D. Robbins, B. S. Bushman, E. L. Patterson, et al. 2023. Homoeologous evolution of the allotetraploid genome of Poa annua L. BMC Genomics 24.

Background Poa annua (annual bluegrass) is an allotetraploid turfgrass, an agronomically significant weed, and one of the most widely dispersed plant species on earth. Here, we report the chromosome-scale genome assemblies of P. annua’s diploid progenitors, P. infirma and P. supina, and use multi-omic analyses spanning all three species to better understand P. annua’s evolutionary novelty. Results We find that the diploids diverged from their common ancestor 5.5 – 6.3 million years ago and hybridized to form P. annua  ≤ 50,000 years ago. The diploid genomes are similar in chromosome structure and most notably distinguished by the divergent evolutionary histories of their transposable elements, leading to a 1.7 × difference in genome size. In allotetraploid P. annua, we find biased movement of retrotransposons from the larger (A) subgenome to the smaller (B) subgenome. We show that P. annua’s B subgenome is preferentially accumulating genes and that its genes are more highly expressed. Whole-genome resequencing of several additional P. annua accessions revealed large-scale chromosomal rearrangements characterized by extensive TE-downsizing and evidence to support the Genome Balance Hypothesis. Conclusions The divergent evolutions of the diploid progenitors played a central role in conferring onto P. annua its remarkable phenotypic plasticity. We find that plant genes (guided by selection and drift) and transposable elements (mostly guided by host immunity) each respond to polyploidy in unique ways and that P. annua uses whole-genome duplication to purge highly parasitized heterochromatic sequences. The findings and genomic resources presented here will enable the development of homoeolog-specific markers for accelerated weed science and turfgrass breeding .