Science Enabled by Specimen Data

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.

Akinlabi, F. M., M. D. Pirie, and A. A. Oskolski. 2023. Fire, frost, and drought constrain the structural diversity of wood within southern African Erica (Ericaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.

Erica comprises ~860 species of evergreen shrubs and trees ranged from Europe to southern Africa and Madagascar. Wood structure of the around 20 European species is well studied, but despite its relevance to adaptation across the wider geographic range, it has not yet been explored across the much greater diversity, particularly of southern African lineages. In this study, we examine wood structure of 28 Erica species from southern Africa. In the African Erica clade, loss of scalariform perforation plates could be driven by increased aridity and seasonality in the mid-Miocene, and its re-gain can represent an adaptation to freezing in the high elevation species E. nubigena. As vessels in Erica are mostly solitary, imperforate tracheary elements probably form a subsidiary conduit network instead of vessel groups. Increase of ray frequency in habitats with a prominent dry and hot season probably facilitates refilling of vessels after embolism caused by water stress. Wider rays are ancestral for the lineage comprising African Erica and the Mediterranean E. australis. The negative correlation between ray width and expression of summer drought is consistent with Ojeda’s model explaining the diversification of seeders and resprouters among southern African Erica.

Hill, A., M. F. T. Jiménez, N. Chazot, C. Cássia‐Silva, S. Faurby, L. Herrera‐Alsina, and C. D. Bacon. 2023. Apparent effect of range size and fruit colour on palm diversification may be spurious. Journal of Biogeography.

Aim Fruit selection by animal dispersers with different mobility directly impacts plant geographical range size, which, in turn, may impact plant diversification. Here, we examine the interaction between fruit colour, range size and diversification rate in palms by testing two hypotheses: (1) species with fruit colours attractive to birds have larger range sizes due to high dispersal ability and (2) disperser mobility affects whether small or large range size has higher diversification, and intermediate range size is expected to lead to the highest diversification rate regardless of disperser. Location Global. Time Period Contemporary (or present). Major Taxa Studied Palms (Arecaceae). Methods Palm species were grouped based on likely animal disperser group for given fruit colours. Range sizes were estimated by constructing alpha convex hull polygons from distribution data. We examined disperser group, range size or an interaction of both as possible drivers of change in diversification rate over time in a likelihood dynamic model (Several Examined State-dependent Speciation and Extinction [SecSSE]). Models were fitted, rate estimates were retrieved and likelihoods were compared to those of appropriate null models. Results Species with fruit colours associated with mammal dispersal had larger ranges than those with colours associated with bird dispersal. The best fitting SecSSE models indicated that the examined traits were not the primary driver of the heterogeneity in diversification rates in the model. Extinction rate complexity had a marked impact on model performance and on diversification rates. Main Conclusions Two traits related to dispersal mobility, range size and fruit colour, were not identified as the main drivers of diversification in palms. Increased model extinction rate complexity led to better performing models, which indicates that net diversification should be estimated rather than speciation alone. However, increased complexity may lead to incorrect SecSSE model conclusions without careful consideration. Finally, we find palms with more mobile dispersers do not have larger range sizes, meaning other factors are more important determinants of range size.

Zargar, S. A., A. H. Ganie, Z. A. Reshi, M. A. Shah, N. Sharma, and A. A. Khuroo. 2023. Oxalis corniculata L. (Oxalidaceae), an addition of an alien plant species to the flora of Ladakh, India. Vegetos.

Oxalis corniculata L. is recorded for the first time from the Trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh. The plant species has a conspicuous stem, obcordate leaf blades, and umbellate inflorescence with yellow flowers and cylindrical or narrowly ovoid fruits. As the plant is known to spread rapidly, it may become an aggressive weed of agricultural crops in Ladakh in near future. The taxonomic description, photographs and distribution map of O. corniculata are provided to facilitate its field identification in the region.

Reichgelt, T., A. Baumgartner, R. Feng, and D. A. Willard. 2023. Poleward amplification, seasonal rainfall and forest heterogeneity in the Miocene of the eastern USA. Global and Planetary Change 222: 104073.

Paleoclimate reconstructions can provide a window into the environmental conditions in Earth history when atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were higher than today. In the eastern USA, paleoclimate reconstructions are sparse, because terrestrial sedimentary deposits are rare. Despite this, the eastern USA has the largest population and population density in North America, and understanding the effects of current and future climate change is of vital importance. Here, we provide terrestrial paleoclimate reconstructions of the eastern USA from Miocene fossil floras. Additionally, we compare proxy paleoclimate reconstructions from the warmest period in the Miocene, the Miocene Climatic Optimum (MCO), to those of an MCO Earth System Model. Reconstructed Miocene temperatures and precipitation north of 35°N are higher than modern. In contrast, south of 35°N, temperatures and precipitation are similar to today, suggesting a poleward amplification effect in eastern North America. Reconstructed Miocene rainfall seasonality was predominantly higher than modern, regardless of latitude, indicating greater variability in intra-annual moisture transport. Reconstructed climates are almost uniformly in the temperate seasonal forest biome, but heterogeneity of specific forest types is evident. Reconstructed Miocene terrestrial temperatures from the eastern USA are lower than modeled temperatures and coeval Atlantic sea surface temperatures. However, reconstructed rainfall is consistent with modeled rainfall. Our results show that during the Miocene, climate was most different from modern in the northeastern states, and may suggest a drastic reduction in the meridional temperature gradient along the North American east coast compared to today.

Campbell, L. C. E., E. T. Kiers, and G. Chomicki. 2022. The evolution of plant cultivation by ants. Trends in Plant Science.

Outside humans, true agriculture was previously thought to be restricted to social insects farming fungus. However, obligate farming of plants by ants was recently discovered in Fiji, prompting a re-examination of plant cultivation by ants. Here, we generate a database of plant cultivation by ants, identify three main types, and show that these interactions evolved primarily for shelter rather than food. We find that plant cultivation evolved at least 65 times independently for crops (~200 plant species), and 15 times in farmer lineages (~37 ant taxa) in the Neotropics and Asia/Australasia. Because of their high evolutionary replication, and variation in partner dependence, these systems are powerful models to unveil the steps in the evolution and ecology of insect agriculture.

Aguirre‐Liguori, J. A., A. Morales‐Cruz, and B. S. Gaut. 2022. Evaluating the persistence and utility of five wild Vitis species in the context of climate change. Molecular Ecology.

Crop wild relatives (CWRs) have the capacity to contribute novel traits to agriculture. Given climate change, these contributions may be especially vital for the persistence of perennial crops, because perennials are often clonally propagated and consequently do not evolve rapidly. By studying the landscape genomics of samples from five Vitis CWRs (V. arizonica, V. mustangensis, V. riparia, V. berlandieri and V. girdiana) in the context of projected climate change, we addressed two goals. The first was to assess the relative potential of different CWR accessions to persist in the face of climate change. By integrating species distribution models with adaptive genetic variation, additional genetic features such as genomic load and a phenotype (resistance to Pierce’s Disease), we predicted that accessions from one species (V. mustangensis) are particularly well‐suited to persist in future climates. The second goal was to identify which CWR accessions may contribute to bioclimatic adaptation for grapevine (V. vinifera) cultivation. To do so, we evaluated whether CWR accessions have the allelic capacity to persist if moved to locations where grapevines (V. vinifera) are cultivated in the United States. We identified six candidates from V. mustangensis and hypothesized that they may prove useful for contributing alleles that can mitigate climate impacts on viticulture. By identifying candidate germplasm, this work takes a conceptual step toward assessing the genomic and bioclimatic characteristics of CWRs.

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).

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.

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.

Torres-Conde, E. G. 2022. Is simultaneous arrival of pelagic Sargassum and Physalia physalis a new threat to the Atlantic coasts? Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 275: 107971.

The massive influxes of pelagic Sargassum and Physalia physalis have become an increasingly recurrent phenomenon on the Atlantic coasts, affecting the economy and the structure of coastal ecosystems. For the first time, a study assesses the simultaneous arrival of these pelagic organisms. This study was conducted from June/2019 through June/2021 on the littoral of La Habana, one of the circulation points of the currents that form the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre (NASG) run. Transects of 40 m were located parallel to the shoreline, the biomass of pelagic Sargassum was weighed, and the number of colonies of P. physalis was counted at the intertidal zone. The biomass of pelagic Sargassum was estimated as dry biomass. The simultaneous arrival of pelagic Sargassum and P. physalis was reported. Simultaneous arrivals of these pelagic species were recorded in the winter seasons, with the occurrence of cold fronts, low mean temperatures (22–27 °C), and strong northerly winds. Most months with the arrival of these pelagic species coincided with a negative average magnitude of the Arctic Oscillation Index, which favors the occurrence of cold fronts and northerly winds. The mean landing dry biomass of Sargassum during the peak months was low (0.73 ± 0.54 kg/m2) compared to the Mexican Caribbean. 145 P. physalis colonies over 100 m of coast length per year were reported during the study period. The higher visual occurrence of Sargassum natans I and the higher percentage of left-handed P. physalis colonies (56.16 ± 3.37) may indicate that the NASG area, which encloses the Sargasso Sea, could be the primary source of arrivals to La Habana littoral. As reported, the distribution of sightings of pelagic Sargassum and P. physalis coincided in several regions in the Atlantic Ocean and represents an urgent call for coordinated monitoring and development of predictive forecasting of beach landings. This work suggests that there are Atlantic coastal sites such as La Habana littoral that could host the dangerous simultaneous arrivals of pelagic Sargassum and P. physalis. Finally, the use of remote sensing techniques with in situ observations is considered important for future work, since using remote sensing techniques alone seems to miss important events such as those documented in this study.