Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Bürger, M., and J. Chory. 2024. A potential role of heat‐moisture couplings in the range expansion of Striga asiatica. Ecology and Evolution 14. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.11332

Parasitic weeds in the genera Orobanche, Phelipanche (broomrapes) and Striga (witchweeds) have a devastating impact on food security across much of Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean Basin. Yet, how climatic factors might affect the range expansion of these weeds in the context of global environmental change remains unexplored. We examined satellite‐based environmental variables such as surface temperature, root zone soil moisture, and elevation, in relation to parasitic weed distribution and environmental conditions over time, in combination with observational data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Our analysis reveals contrasting environmental and altitude preferences in the genera Striga and Orobanche. Asiatic witchweed (Striga asiatica), which infests corn, rice, sorghum, and sugar cane crops, appears to be expanding its range in high elevation habitats. It also shows a significant association with heat‐moisture coupling events, the frequency of which is rising in such environments. These results point to geographical shifts in distribution and abundance in parasitic weeds due to climate change.

Zhao, Y., G. A. O’Neill, N. C. Coops, and T. Wang. 2024. Predicting the site productivity of forest tree species using climate niche models. Forest Ecology and Management 562: 121936. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2024.121936

Species occurrence-based climate niche models (CNMs) serve as valuable tools for predicting the future ranges of species’ suitable habitats, aiding the development of climate change adaptation strategies. However, these models do not address an essential aspect - productivity, which holds economic significance for timber production and ecological importance for carbon sequestration and ecosystem services. In this study, we investigated the potential to extend the CNMs to predict species productivity under various climate conditions. Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Dougl. ex Loud.) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii Franco.) were selected as our model species due to their comprehensive range-wide occurrence data and measurement of site productivity. To achieve this, we compared and optimized the performance of four individual modeling algorithms (Random Forest (RF), Maxent, Generalized Boosted Models (GBM), and Generalized Additive Model (GAM)) in reflecting site productivity by evaluating the effect of spatial filtering, and the ratio of presence to absence (p/a ratio) observations. Additionally, we applied a binning process to capture the overarching trend of climatic effects while minimizing the impact of other factors. We observed consistency in optimal performance across both species when using the unfiltered data and a 1:1.5 p/a ratio, which could potentially be extended to other species. Among the modeling algorithms explored, we selected the ensemble model combining RF and Maxent as the final model to predict the range-wide site productivity for both species. The predicted range-wide site productivity was validated with an independent dataset for each species and yielded promising results (R2 above 0.7), affirming our model’s credibility. Our model introduced an innovative approach for predicting species productivity with high accuracy using only species occurrence data, and significantly advanced the application of CNMs. It provided crucial tools and insights for evaluating climate change's impact on productivity and holds a better potential for informed forest management and conservation decisions.

Owen, E., M. Zuliani, M. Goldgisser, and C. Lortie. 2024. The importance of native shrubs on the distribution and diversity of reptiles and amphibians in the central drylands of Southwestern USA. Biodiversity and Conservation 33: 2131–2151. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-024-02851-8

Conservation and management of drylands is a global challenge. Key attributes of these ecosystems, such as dominant vegetation including shrubs, can provide a crucial mechanism to inform conservation strategies. The shrub species Ephedra californica and Larrea tridentata are common native shrub species within the deserts of California and frequently benefit other plant and animal species. Here, we tested the hypothesis that shrubs support reptile and amphibian communities through relative increases in available habitat, estimated through increasing shrub densities at the site level. Reported occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and high-resolution satellite images were used to test for local-to-regional patterns in reptile and amphibian distribution and diversity by shrub densities at sites. At 43 distinct sites, the relationship between shrub density and reported reptile and amphibian communities was also tested. A total of 71 reptile and amphibian species were reported regionally. Increases in shrub density across sites positively influenced the relative abundance and richness of reptiles and amphibians observed. Moreover, increasing shrub density also had a positive influence on species evenness. Aridity differences between sites did not significantly influence the relationship between shrub density and reptiles and amphibians suggesting that the relationship was robust. This study highlights the importance of foundational shrub species in supporting reptile and amphibian communities in arid and semi-arid regions. Large-scale patterns of biodiversity in deserts can be supported by positive plant-animal interactions including small islands of fertility and resources for animals in the context of a warming climate.

Serra‐Diaz, J. M., J. Borderieux, B. Maitner, C. C. F. Boonman, D. Park, W. Guo, A. Callebaut, et al. 2024. occTest: An integrated approach for quality control of species occurrence data. Global Ecology and Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13847

Aim Species occurrence data are valuable information that enables one to estimate geographical distributions, characterize niches and their evolution, and guide spatial conservation planning. Rapid increases in species occurrence data stem from increasing digitization and aggregation efforts, and citizen science initiatives. However, persistent quality issues in occurrence data can impact the accuracy of scientific findings, underscoring the importance of filtering erroneous occurrence records in biodiversity analyses.InnovationWe introduce an R package, occTest, that synthesizes a growing open‐source ecosystem of biodiversity cleaning workflows to prepare occurrence data for different modelling applications. It offers a structured set of algorithms to identify potential problems with species occurrence records by employing a hierarchical organization of multiple tests. The workflow has a hierarchical structure organized in testPhases (i.e. cleaning vs. testing) that encompass different testBlocks grouping different testTypes (e.g. environmental outlier detection), which may use different testMethods (e.g. Rosner test, jacknife,etc.). Four different testBlocks characterize potential problems in geographic, environmental, human influence and temporal dimensions. Filtering and plotting functions are incorporated to facilitate the interpretation of tests. We provide examples with different data sources, with default and user‐defined parameters. Compared to other available tools and workflows, occTest offers a comprehensive suite of integrated tests, and allows multiple methods associated with each test to explore consensus among data cleaning methods. It uniquely incorporates both coordinate accuracy analysis and environmental analysis of occurrence records. Furthermore, it provides a hierarchical structure to incorporate future tests yet to be developed.Main conclusionsoccTest will help users understand the quality and quantity of data available before the start of data analysis, while also enabling users to filter data using either predefined rules or custom‐built rules. As a result, occTest can better assess each record's appropriateness for its intended application.

Ashraf, U., T. L. Morelli, A. B. Smith, and R. R. Hernandez. 2024. Aligning renewable energy expansion with climate-driven range shifts. Nature Climate Change 14: 242–246. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-024-01941-3

Fossil fuel dependence can be reduced, in part, by renewable energy expansion. Increasingly, renewable energy siting seeks to avoid significant impacts on biodiversity but rarely considers how species ranges will shift under climate change. Here we undertake a systematic literature review on the topic and overlay future renewable energy siting maps with the ranges of two threatened species under future climate scenarios to highlight this potential conflict. The authors conduct a systematic literature review on renewable energy expansion and biodiversity. Comparing renewable energy siting maps with the ranges of two threatened species under future climates, they highlight the potential conflict and need for consideration of climate-change-driven range shifts.

Souto, C. P., L. P. Zalazar, M. Tadey, and A. C. Premoli. 2024. Modeling past, present and future: Species-specific responses to climate changes in three shrub congeners from south American drylands. Journal of Arid Environments 221: 105139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2024.105139

Drylands cover ca. 40% of the land global surface and deliver significant ecosystem services. These regions are the most sensitive, prone to suffer the effects of climate and distribution changes, so estimates on projected range shifts are crucial to complement traditional approaches to biodiversity conservation and sustainability. Shrubs of the Monte Desert dominate the largest temperate dryland in South America. Our goal is to assess the spatial distribution and niche overlap of three native shrubs (Larrea cuneifolia (LC), L. divaricata (LD), and L. nitida (LN)), under present climate conditions, to retrodict their potential past distribution, and anticipate their predicted range under future climate scenarios. We used ecological niche modeling that were projected to the past (LGM and Mid Holocene) and future (2050 and 2070) under two scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions and two model of global circulation. All species have high niche overlap (67–89%), but showed species-specific responses, highlighting the need to develop mitigation measures particularly for LD and LN in the face of climate change and land use pressures. Global South deserts are being highly degraded and information on future potential ranges of endemic species can support the development of sustainable conservation and management plans.

Anest, A., Y. Bouchenak-Khelladi, T. Charles-Dominique, F. Forest, Y. Caraglio, G. P. Hempson, O. Maurin, and K. W. Tomlinson. 2024. Blocking then stinging as a case of two-step evolution of defensive cage architectures in herbivore-driven ecosystems. Nature Plants. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-024-01649-4

Dense branching and spines are common features of plant species in ecosystems with high mammalian herbivory pressure. While dense branching and spines can inhibit herbivory independently, when combined, they form a powerful defensive cage architecture. However, how cage architecture evolved under mammalian pressure has remained unexplored. Here we show how dense branching and spines emerged during the age of mammalian radiation in the Combretaceae family and diversified in herbivore-driven ecosystems in the tropics. Phylogenetic comparative methods revealed that modern plant architectural strategies defending against large mammals evolved via a stepwise process. First, dense branching emerged under intermediate herbivory pressure, followed by the acquisition of spines that supported higher speciation rates under high herbivory pressure. Our study highlights the adaptive value of dense branching as part of a herbivore defence strategy and identifies large mammal herbivory as a major selective force shaping the whole plant architecture of woody plants. This study explores the evolution of two traits, branching density and spine presence, in the globally distributed plant family Combretaceae. These traits were found to have appeared in a two-step process in response to mammalian herbivory pressure, revealing the importance of large mammals in the evolution of plant architecture diversity.

Prochazka, L. S., S. Alcantara, J. G. Rando, T. Vasconcelos, R. C. Pizzardo, and A. Nogueira. 2024. Resource availability and disturbance frequency shape evolution of plant life forms in Neotropical habitats. New Phytologist. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.19601

Organisms use diverse strategies to thrive in varying habitats. While life history theory partly explains these relationships, the combined impact of resource availability and disturbance frequency on life form strategy evolution has received limited attention.We use Chamaecrista species, a legume plant lineage with a high diversity of plant life forms in the Neotropics, and employ ecological niche modeling and comparative phylogenetic methods to examine the correlated evolution of plant life forms and environmental niches.Chamaephytes and phanerophytes have optima in environments characterized by moderate water and nutrient availability coupled with infrequent fire disturbances. By contrast, annual plants thrive in environments with scarce water and nutrients, alongside frequent fire disturbances. Similarly, geophyte species also show increased resistance to frequent fire disturbances, although they thrive in resource‐rich environments.Our findings shed light on the evolution of plant strategies along environmental gradients, highlighting that annuals and geophytes respond differently to high incidences of fire disturbances, with one enduring it as seeds in a resource‐limited habitat and the other relying on reserves and root resprouting systems in resource‐abundant habitats. Furthermore, it deepens our understanding of how organisms evolve associated with their habitats, emphasizing a constraint posed by low‐resource and high‐disturbance environments.

Gherghel, I., and R. A. Martin. 2024. Biotic interactions vary across species’ ranges and are likely conserved through geological time. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14794

Aim The evolutionary interactions between western spadefoot toads (genus Spea) represent a textbook example of character displacement, facilitated by dietary specialization of one Spea species on fairy shrimp (Anostraca) when all three co‐occur. The aim of this study is to understand the covariation between predator (Spea) and prey (Anostraca) range shifts in response to climate change oscillations, and whether biotic interactions can be used to project species distribution models on different time scales when studying species with dietary specialization. Taxon: Amphibia: Spea spp. and Crustacea: Anostraca.LocationNorth America.MethodsUsing multiple modelling techniques, we first estimated the potential distribution of central and western North American fairy shrimp species (Crustacea: Anostraca) and two western spadefoot toad species (Spea bombifrons and Spea multiplicata). We then created a shrimp species richness map by aggregating individual species estimates. Third, we studied the relationship between the probability of spadefoot toad presence and fairy shrimp species richness during the present and Last Glacial Maximum conditions. Finally, we estimated the strength and direction of the co‐occurrence between spadefoot toads and fairy shrimp sampled at the level of entire predicted range and at the regional level (allopatric and sympatric).ResultsFirst, the same abiotic environmental variables shape spadefoot toad and fairy shrimp species' distributions in central and western North America across time. Second, areas of sympatry of Spea bombifrons and Spea multiplicata correspond with dry conditions and higher shrimp richness. Finally, the spatial patterns of predator–prey co‐occurrence are highly variable across geography, forming a spatial mosaic over the species' ranges.Main ConclusionPredator–prey relationships form a spatial mosaic across geography and species ranges. Including biotic interactions into species distribution estimates for organisms with dietary specialization is highly recommended. Biotic interactions can be projected across different time frames for organisms with dietary specialization as they are likely conserved.

Novoa, A., H. Hirsch, M. L. Castillo, S. Canavan, L. González, D. M. Richardson, P. Pyšek, et al. 2023. Genetic and morphological insights into the Carpobrotus hybrid complex around the world. NeoBiota 89: 135–160. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.89.109164

The genus Carpobrotus N.E.Br. comprises between 12 and 25 species, most of which are native to South Africa. Some Carpobrotus species are considered among the most damaging invasive species in coastal dune systems worldwide. In their introduced areas, these species represent a serious threat to native species and significantly impact soil conditions and geochemical processes. Despite being well studied, the taxonomy of Carpobrotus remains problematic, as the genus comprises a complex of species that hybridize easily and are difficult to distinguish from each other. To explore the population genetic structure of invasive Carpobrotus species (i.e., C. acinaciformis and C. edulis) across a significant part of their native and non-native ranges, we sampled 40 populations across Argentina, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and the USA. We developed taxon-specific microsatellite markers using a Next Generation Sequencing approach to analyze the population genetic structure and incidence of hybridization in native and non-native regions. We identified three genetically distinct clusters, which are present in both the native and non-native regions. Based on a set of selected morphological characteristics, we found no clear features to identify taxa morphologically. Our results suggest that the most probable sources of global introductions of Carpobrotus species are the Western Cape region of South Africa and the coastline of California. We suggest that management actions targeting Carpobrotus invasions globally should focus on preventing additional introductions from the east coast of South Africa, and on searching for prospective biocontrol agents in the Western Cape region of South Africa.