Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Garcia-Cardenas, E. E., L. E. Angeles-Gonzalez, and G. Alcaraz. 2024. Hermit crabs of the genera Calcinus and Clibanarius show no evidence of competitive exclusion at a geographic scale. Hydrobiologia. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-024-05501-w

The fundamental ecological niche is determined by individuals’ ability to cope with abiotic conditions; however, biotic interactions (e.g., competition) can also influence species’ distribution ranges, reducing the fundamental niche to the realized niche. Several species of the genera Clibanarius and Calcinus overlap in their distributions. The agonistically dominant Calcinus species inhabits mostly lower intertidal levels, while Clibanarius is more abundant in the abiotically demanding upper strata. Additionally, evidence of microhabitat competitive exclusion shows that the superior competitor, Ca . californiensis , causes the vertical displacement of Cl . albidigitus . However, it is unknown whether competitive exclusion between species of these genera has influenced their distributions at the macroecological scale. We used ecological niche models to compare the distribution and the habitat suitability of species of these genera. We used databases of species occurrences and bioclimatic and geophysical variables to model and map the species’ niches. Species of the two hermit crab genera showed strong overlap in their habitat suitability. Calcinus and Clibanarius species occur in broad sympatry at the regional scale without regions of partial overlap that would indicate competitive exclusion. Therefore, competitive exclusion among species of these genera seems to act only on a microhabitat scale in the most dynamic shoreline areas.

Ramiro-Sánchez, B., A. Martin, and B. Leroy. 2023. The epitome of data paucity: Deep-sea habitats of the Southern Indian Ocean. Biological Conservation 283: 110096. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2023.110096

Vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) are protected from bottom-fishing impacts in international waters by UN resolutions through Regional Fishery Management Organizations. VMEs include deep-sea benthic taxa whose life-history traits make them vulnerable to disturbance. Conservation measures for VMEs require regulatory frameworks informed by biodiversity maps. Here we evaluate biogeographic patterns of VME biodiversity of the Southern Indian Ocean to understand conservation avenues for the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA) management organization. We synthesised knowledge on the distribution of deep-sea benthic taxa and explored the quality and quantity of available data. Next, we explored how taxa are structured into bioregions using biogeographical networks. We found astounding Wallacean and Linnaean shortfalls within SIOFA's area, which is virtually devoid of distributional data. Across the entire area, results suggest that only 48 % of the expected deep-sea taxa has been sampled at most, and most sampled cells are inadequately sampled. Yet, our bioregionalization analysis identified multiple bioregions, some only observed within SIOFA's area. Whilst the Wallacean and Linnean shortfalls are so important for VMEs that they severely impede to make adequate maps for conservation planning, results suggest that SIOFA hosts a unique faunal composition that must be safeguarded. Predictive approaches to compensate for these shortfalls exist but will likely be insufficient and uncertain. Within SIOFA's area, there is no satisfying solution to cope with the data shortfalls. Yet, biodiversity maps are a global responsibility. This study makes a call to invest in biodiversity inventories in this region to promote informed conservation decisions.

Chaudhary, C., J. M. Alfaro-Lucas, M. V. P. Simões, A. Brandt, and H. Saeedi. 2023. Potential geographic shifts in the coral reef ecosystem under climate change. Progress in Oceanography 213: 103001. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2023.103001

The coral reefs are the most diverse marine ecosystem in the world. Considering its contribution as a natural resource for humanity and global biodiversity, it is critical to understand its response to climatic change. To date, no global predictions have been made about potential ecosystem changes in relation to its inhabiting species. Predicting changes in species' climatic suitability under increasing temperature and comparing them among species would be the first step in understanding the geographic and taxonomic coherence and discrepancies that may occur within the ecosystem. Using 57 species-specific global climate suitability models (of corals, molluscs, fish, crustaceans, and polychaetes) under present and future climate scenarios (RCP 4.5 and 8.5), we compared the potential coherence and differences and their cumulative impact on the ecosystem in warm, cold, shallow, and deep waters.Under the climatic scenarios, nearly 90% of 30 warm-water species were predicted to lose their suitability in the parts of the Indo-west Pacific, the Coast of Northern Australia, the South China Sea, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the overall southward shift in their distributions. In contrast, a mixed response occurred in 27 cold-water species, with most northern temperate/boreal ones increasing their suitability in the Arctic Ocean and the Arctic species declining overall. We noticed that irrespective of their taxonomic group, the species with wider distribution ranges (thermal and geographic) had larger predicted gains in their suitability than their stenothermal counterparts, suggesting an increase of generalist species and a decline of specialist (endemic) species of the ecosystem under a warming climate.Our coherent projections of species' climatic suitability in warm and cold habitats of the tropics, temperate, boreal, and the Arctic, represent significant taxonomic groups of the ecosystem. This might indicate mass extinction risk (local– in the tropics and northern temperate regions, and overall– in the Arctic) in native habitats and a high species turnover across the ecosystem under a warming climate. This may also destabilise predator–prey dynamics in the ecosystem, especially if foraging specialists dominate coral food webs and adversely affect the associated countries. Our global projections highlight the regions of species’ potential loss and gain; stakeholders could use the information to protect biodiversity and maintain human well-being.

Moreno, I., J. M. W. Gippet, L. Fumagalli, and P. J. Stephenson. 2022. Factors affecting the availability of data on East African wildlife: the monitoring needs of conservationists are not being met. Biodiversity and Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-022-02497-4

Understanding the status and abundance of species is essential for effective conservation decision-making. However, the availability of species data varies across space, taxonomic groups and data types. A case study was therefore conducted in a high biodiversity region—East Africa—to evaluate data biases, the factors influencing data availability, and the consequences for conservation. In each of the eleven target countries, priority animal species were identified as threatened species that are protected by national governments, international conventions or conservation NGOs. We assessed data gaps and biases in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and the Living Planet Index. A survey of practitioners and decision makers was conducted to confirm and assess consequences of these biases on biodiversity conservation efforts. Our results showed data on species occurrence and population trends were available for a significantly higher proportion of vertebrates than invertebrates. We observed a geographical bias, with higher tourism income countries having more priority species and more species with data than lower tourism income countries. Conservationists surveyed felt that, of the 40 types of data investigated, those data that are most important to conservation projects are the most difficult to access. The main challenges to data accessibility are excessive expense, technological challenges, and a lack of resources to process and analyse data. With this information, practitioners and decision makers can prioritise how and where to fill gaps to improve data availability and use, and ensure biodiversity monitoring is improved and conservation impacts enhanced.

Kopperud, B. T., S. Lidgard, and L. H. Liow. 2022. Enhancing georeferenced biodiversity inventories: automated information extraction from literature records reveal the gaps. PeerJ 10: e13921. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.13921

We use natural language processing (NLP) to retrieve location data for cheilostome bryozoan species (text-mined occurrences (TMO)) in an automated procedure. We compare these results with data combined from two major public databases (DB): the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS), and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Using DB and TMO data separately and in combination, we present latitudinal species richness curves using standard estimators (Chao2 and the Jackknife) and range-through approaches. Our combined DB and TMO species richness curves quantitatively document a bimodal global latitudinal diversity gradient for extant cheilostomes for the first time, with peaks in the temperate zones. A total of 79% of the georeferenced species we retrieved from TMO (N = 1,408) and DB (N = 4,549) are non-overlapping. Despite clear indications that global location data compiled for cheilostomes should be improved with concerted effort, our study supports the view that many marine latitudinal species richness patterns deviate from the canonical latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG). Moreover, combining online biodiversity databases with automated information retrieval from the published literature is a promising avenue for expanding taxon-location datasets.

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2022.107971

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.

Li, L., X. Xu, H. Qian, X. Huang, P. Liu, J. B. Landis, Q. Fu, et al. 2022. Elevational patterns of phylogenetic structure of angiosperms in a biodiversity hotspot in eastern Himalaya Y. Qu [ed.],. Diversity and Distributions. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.13513

Aims The tropical niche conservatism (TNC) hypothesis and the out of the tropics (OTT) hypothesis propose mechanisms generating patterns of species diversity across warm-to-cold thermal gradients at large spatial scales. These two hypotheses both integrate ecological and biogeography-related evoluti…

Melo‐Merino, S. M., A. Lira‐Noriega, F. J. González‐Barrios, H. Reyes‐Bonilla, and L. Álvarez‐Filip. 2022. Functional divergence from ecological baselines on Caribbean coral reefs. Ecography 2022. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecog.05811

Understanding how emergent ecological assemblages have diverged from natural states is fundamental in predicting future functioning and services of ecosystems. Coral reefs are of particular concern due to their high susceptibility to anthropogenic stressors. Yet, little is known about their pre-dist…

Sharifian, S., E. Kamrani, and H. Saeedi. 2021. Insights toward the future potential distribution of mangrove crabs in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 59: 1620–1631. https://doi.org/10.1111/jzs.12532

Mangroves are an ideal habitat for brachyuran crabs because of nutritional and shelter support. Using maximum entropy (MaxEnt) modeling technique, we projected the potential global distributions of 10 dominant species of mangrove crabs from the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman under future climate c…

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…