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.

Babin, C. H., and C. D. Bell. 2023. The effects of climate change on cytotype distributions of endemic genera in the North American Coastal Plain. Plant Ecology & Diversity.

Background Approximately 33% of plant species face extinction due to climate change. Polyploidisation, a process resulting in more than two complete sets of chromosomes, may be promoted by periods of climate fluctuations. Ecological niche modelling (ENM) using occurrences of endemic plants in the North American Coastal Plain (NACP) biodiversity hotspot could be used to evaluate the potential effects of climate change on cytotype distributions. Aims We used known diploid and polyploid taxa endemic to the NACP to test hypotheses that diploids and polyploids differed in habitat preferences, considerable overlap existed between cytotypes, and polyploid distributions would increase under climate change projections. Methods We examined niche identity and overlap of 28 congeneric ploidy level pairs and performed ENM to evaluate how climate change could affect these groups. Results Congeneric ploidy level pairs differed significantly in niche identity, and overlap varied across genera. Eleven genera showed greater than 100% increases in habitat suitability and six genera showed almost no remaining suitable habitat in at least one future climate scenario. Conclusions With 70% of the species that showed substantial declines in projected suitable habitat being of conservation concern, we propose that future studies of these genera should be a primary focus in the NACP.

Geier, C., J. M. Bouchal, S. Ulrich, D. Uhl, T. Wappler, S. Wedmann, R. Zetter, et al. 2023. Potential pollinators and paleoecological aspects of Eocene Ludwigia (Onagraceae) from Eckfeld, Germany. Palaeoworld.

Paleogene flower-insect interactions and paleo-pollination processes are, in general, poorly understood and fossil evidence for such floral and faunal interactions are rarely reported. To shed light on angiosperm flower-insect interactions, we investigated several hundred fossil flowers and insects from the middle Eocene Fossil Lagerstätte of Eckfeld, Germany. During our work, we discovered a unique fossil Ludwigia flower (bud) with in situ pollen. The ecological preferences (climate, biome, habitat, etc.) of extant Ludwigia and the paleoecological configurations of the fossil plant assemblage support the taxonomic affiliation of the flower bud and an Eocene presence of Ludwigia in the vicinity of the former Lake Eckfeld. Today’s Ludwigia are mostly pollinated by Hymenoptera (bees). Therefore, we screened all currently known hymenopteran fossils from Eckfeld but found no Ludwigia pollen adhering to any of the specimens. On the contrary, we discovered Ludwigia pollen adhering to two different groups of Coleoptera (beetles). Our study suggests that during the Eocene of Europe, Ludwigia flowers were visited and probably pollinated by beetles and over time there was a shift in primary flower visitors/pollinators, from beetles to bees, sometime during the late Paleogene to Neogene.

Cousins-Westerberg, R., N. Dakin, L. Schat, G. Kadereit, and A. M. Humphreys. 2023. Evolution of cold tolerance in the highly stress-tolerant samphires and relatives (Salicornieae: Amaranthaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.

Low temperature constitutes one of the main barriers to plant distributions, confining many clades to their ancestrally tropical biome. However, recent evidence suggests that transitions from tropical to temperate biomes may be more frequent than previously thought. Here, we study the evolution of cold and frost tolerance in the globally distributed and highly stress-tolerant Salicornieae (Salicornioideae, Amaranthaceae s.l.). We first generate a phylogenetic tree comprising almost all known species (85-90%), using newly generated (n = 106) and published nuclear-ribosomal and plastid sequences. Next, we use geographical occurrence data to document in which clades and geographical regions cold-tolerant species occur and reconstruct how cold tolerance evolved. Finally, we test for correlated evolution between frost tolerance and the annual life form. We find that frost tolerance has evolved independently in up to four Northern Hemisphere lineages but that annuals are no more likely to evolve frost tolerance than perennials, indicating the presence of different strategies for adapting to cold environments. Our findings add to mounting evidence for multiple independent out-of-the-tropics transitions among close relatives of flowering plants and raise new questions about the ecological and physiological mechanism(s) of adaptation to low temperatures in Salicornieae.

McCoshum, S. M., and A. A. Agrawal. 2021. Ecology of Asclepias brachystephana: a plant for roadside and right-of-way management. Native Plants Journal 22: 256–267.

Declining insect abundance is occurring around the world, and some management projects are aiming to utilize roadsides and other right-of-ways as insect conservation areas. In the US, the decline of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus Linnaeus [Nymphalidae]) populations has led to multiple studies focusing on a small number of milkweed species (Asclepias [Apocynaceae]) that occur in the major flyways. Here we survey a poorly studied milkweed, bract milkweed (A. brachystephana Engelm. ex Torr.), to document where it grows, which organisms make use of the plants, seed production, and concentrations of milkweed toxins (cardenolides) and to investigate if this species is suitable for roadside or right-of-ways management projects. Our results show that the range of A. brachystephana includes the Chihuahuan Desert and neighboring ecoregions. Plant populations were also observed occurring on roadsides and right-of-ways, rarely spreading into neighboring habitats. We document a variety of native pollinators utilizing floral resources and a few herbivores feeding on plant tissue. Chemical analyses show wild plants produce higher concentrations of toxic cardenolide than many other milkweed species. These data suggest A. brachystephana should be considered for roadside and right-of-way plantings, restoration projects, or seeding throughout the Chihuahuan Desert and adjoining ecoregions.

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.

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.

Jacquemyn, H., T. Pankhurst, P. S. Jones, R. Brys, and M. J. Hutchings. 2023. Biological Flora of Britain and Ireland: Liparis loeselii. Journal of Ecology.

This account presents information on all aspects of the biology of Liparis loeselii (L.) Rich. (Fen Orchid) that are relevant to understanding its ecological characteristics and behaviour. The main topics are presented within the standard framework of the Biological Flora of Britain and Ireland: distribution, habitat, communities, responses to biotic factors, responses to environment, structure and physiology, phenology, floral and seed characters, herbivores and disease, history and conservation.Liparis loeselii is a small terrestrial orchid that has a circumboreal distribution and is widespread in Europe and North America. Despite its wide distribution, the species is locally rare and has declined considerably in most of its range. In Britain, the species has a disjunct distribution and is now known to occur consistently at only six sites in eastern England and three in south Wales. It is absent from Ireland. Its most characteristic habitats in Britain are inland fens and coastal dune slacks, but outside Britain it can also be found in wet meadows, marshes, forested seep springs, at lake borders or on mats of floating peat.Populations of Liparis loeselii in dune slacks tend to be short‐lived, and can rapidly increase in size or decrease and disappear as environmental conditions change. The species does not tolerate high nutrient concentrations or low pH. It is susceptible to drought, which reduces seed germination, seedling recruitment and adult survival. Heavy predation by rabbits and rodents has been observed under drought conditions.Liparis loeselii reproduces both by sexual reproduction, and by vegetative propagation through the production of pseudobulbs. Although flowers are accessible to insects, entomophilous pollination is unusual, and most sexual reproduction is the result of selfing. Fruits ripen late in the growing season (mid‐October) and the dust‐like seeds are dispersed during winter by wind and water. Germination occurs during the following growing season and is supported by a wide variety of mycorrhizal fungi.Since the late 19th century Liparis loeselii has declined considerably in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, primarily due to habitat destruction and loss, natural succession, and habitat desiccation due to drainage. As a result, the species has been listed as endangered in the Bern Convention and the European Habitat Directive (92/43/EEC), and is the focus of intensive conservation efforts in many countries. Restoration of habitat by mowing, extensive grazing, peat removal, and the creation of new habitat by dune slack formation in dune systems and peat removal in fens may prolong population persistence and promote establishment of new populations.

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.

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.

Yu, J., Y. Niu, Y. You, C. J. Cox, R. L. Barrett, A. Trias‐Blasi, J. Guo, et al. 2022. Integrated phylogenomic analyses unveil reticulate evolution in Parthenocissus (Vitaceae), highlighting speciation dynamics in the Himalayan‐Hengduan Mountains. New Phytologist.

Hybridization caused by frequent environmental changes can lead to both species diversification (speciation) and speciation reversal (despeciation), but the latter has rarely been demonstrated. Parthenocissus, a genus with its trifoliolate lineage in the Himalayan‐Hengduan Mountains (HHM) region showing perplexing phylogenetic relationships, provides an opportunity for investigating speciation dynamics based on integrated evidence.We investigated phylogenetic discordance and reticulate evolution in Parthenocissus based on rigorous analyses of plastome and transcriptome data. We focussed on reticulations in the trifoliolate lineage in the HHM region using a population‐level genome resequencing dataset, incorporating evidence from morphology, distribution, and elevation.Comprehensive analyses confirmed multiple introgressions within Parthenocissus in a robust temporal‐spatial framework. Around the HHM region, at least three hybridization hotspots were identified, one of which showed evidence of ongoing speciation reversal.We present a solid case study using an integrative methodological approach to investigate reticulate evolutionary history and its underlying mechanisms in plants. It demonstrates an example of speciation reversal through frequent hybridizations in the HHM region, which provides new perspectives on speciation dynamics in mountainous areas with strong topographic and environmental heterogeneity.