Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Ziliaskopoulos, K., and C. Laspidou. 2024. Using remote-sensing and citizen-science data to assess urban biodiversity for sustainable cityscapes: the case study of Athens, Greece. Landscape Ecology 39.

Context Urban biodiversity is an important and growing research area as cities continue to expand and human populations concentrate in urban centers. In order to effectively conserve urban biodiversity and inform future urban planning, a thorough understanding of the patterns and underlying factors affecting biodiversity is essential. However, a methodology of assessing urban biodiversity that would be replicable to different cities has been challenging, primarily due to data limitation on habitats and species in urban areas. Objectives In response to these challenges, this work implements a biodiversity analysis framework, adapted for the municipality of Athens, Greece, a city that is facing its own unique challenges in preserving biodiversity while accommodating urban growth. The analysis granularity is at the zipcode level. Methods A k-means clustering scheme that leads to theclassification of urban habitats is incorporated using earth observation data, while citizen science-generated species occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) platform is used for biodiversity analysis and validation. This integrative approach allows us to account for fine-scale environmental variation, which plays a crucial role in species' abundances and distributions in urban settings. Results Our analysis shows that the fact that almost 80% of the Athens land cover is impervious and lacks vegetation has serious effects on biodiversity in the city, which is very limited and is only abundant in Urban Green areas. The city’s dense urban fabric, followed by intense cementification, lack of open streams and noisy large arterial roads take a toll on urban species occurrences, which are up to 100 times less than the green and blue areas. Conclusions This work highlights the significance of zipcode-level analyses in understanding the complex interplay between urbanization and biodiversity. Furthermore, it shows that it is possible to assess urban biodiversity using free and open satellite data, without previously acquiring a high-resolution species occurrence dataset through field surveys, thus providing a comprehensive understanding of urban biodiversity patterns in cities like Athens.

Melin, A., C. M. Beale, J. C. Manning, and J. F. Colville. 2024. Fine‐scale bee species distribution models: Hotspots of richness and endemism in South Africa with species‐area comparisons. Insect Conservation and Diversity.

While global patterns of bee diversity have been modelled, our understanding of fine‐scale regional patterns is more limited, particularly for under‐sampled regions such as Africa. South Africa is among the exceptions on the African continent; its bee fauna (ca. 1253 species) has been well collected and documented, including mass digitising of its natural history collections. It is a region with high floral diversity, high habitat heterogeneity and variable rainfall seasonality.Here, we combine a South African bee species distributional database (877 bee species) with a geospatial modelling approach to determine fine‐scale (~11 × 11 km grid cell resolution) hotspots of bee species richness, endemism and range‐restricted species.Our analyses, based on the probabilities of occurrence surfaces for each species across 108,803 two‐minute grid cells, reveal three bee hotspots of richness: Winter rainfall, Aseasonal rainfall and Early‐to‐late summer rainfall. These hotspots contain large numbers of endemic and geographically restricted taxa. Hotspots with particularly high bee diversity include the Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Desert biomes; the latter showing 6–20 times more species per unit area than other biomes. Our results conform with global species‐area patterns: areas of higher‐than‐expected bee density are largely concentrated in Mediterranean and arid habitats.This study further enhances our knowledge in identifying regional and global hotspots of richness and endemism for a keystone group of insects and enabling these to be accounted for when setting conservation priorities.

Feuerborn, C., G. Quinlan, R. Shippee, T. L. Strausser, T. Terranova, C. M. Grozinger, and H. M. Hines. 2023. Variance in heat tolerance in bumble bees correlates with species geographic range and is associated with several environmental and biological factors. Ecology and Evolution 13.

Globally, insects have been impacted by climate change, with bumble bees in particular showing range shifts and declining species diversity with global warming. This suggests heat tolerance is a likely factor limiting the distribution and success of these bees. Studies have shown high intraspecific variance in bumble bee thermal tolerance, suggesting biological and environmental factors may be impacting heat resilience. Understanding these factors is important for assessing vulnerability and finding environmental solutions to mitigate effects of climate change. In this study, we assess whether geographic range variation in bumble bees in the eastern United States is associated with heat tolerance and further dissect which other biological and environmental factors explain variation in heat sensitivity in these bees. We examine heat tolerance by caste, sex, and rearing condition (wild/lab) across six eastern US bumble bee species, and assess the role of age, reproductive status, body size, and interactive effects of humidity and temperature on thermal tolerance in Bombus impatiens. We found marked differences in heat tolerance by species that correlate with each species' latitudinal range, habitat, and climatic niche, and we found significant variation in thermal sensitivity by caste and sex. Queens had considerably lower heat tolerance than workers and males, with greater tolerance when queens would first be leaving their natal nest, and lower tolerance after ovary activation. Wild bees tended to have higher heat tolerance than lab reared bees, and body size was associated with heat tolerance only in wild‐caught foragers. Humidity showed a strong interaction with heat effects, pointing to the need to regulate relative humidity in thermal assays and consider its role in nature. Altogether, we found most tested biological conditions impact thermal tolerance and highlight the stages of these bees that will be most sensitive to future climate change.

de Pedro, D., F. S. Ceccarelli, R. Vandame, J. Mérida, and P. Sagot. 2023. Congruence between species richness and phylogenetic diversity in North America for the bee genus Diadasia (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Biodiversity and Conservation.

The current ecological crisis stemming from the loss of biodiversity and associated ecosystem services, highlights the urgency of documenting diversity and distribution. Bees are a classical example of an ecologically and economically important group, due to their high diversity and varied ecosystem services, especially pollination. Here, two common biodiversity indices, namely species richness and phylogenetic diversity, are evaluated geographically to determine the best approach for selecting areas of conservation priority. The model organisms used in this study are the North American species belonging to the bee genus Diadasia (Apidae). Based on the results obtained by analyzing distributional records and a molecular phylogeny, we can see that species richness and phylogenetic diversity are closely linked, although phylogenetic diversity provides a more detailed assessment of the spatial distribution of diversity. Therefore, while either one of these commonly used indices are valid as far as selecting areas of conservation priority, we recommend, if possible, to include genetic information in biodiversity and conservation studies.

Andersen, M. K., Q. Willot, and H. A. MacMillan. 2023. A neurophysiological limit and its biogeographic correlations: Cold-induced spreading depolarization in tropical butterflies. Journal of Experimental Biology.

The physiology of insects is directly influenced by environmental temperature, and thermal tolerance is therefore intrinsically linked to their thermal niche and distribution. Understanding the mechanisms that limit insect thermal tolerance is crucial to predicting biogeography and range shifts. Recent studies on locusts and flies suggest that the critical thermal minimum (CTmin) follows from a loss of CNS function via a spreading depolarization. We hypothesized that other insect taxa share this phenomenon. Here we investigate whether spreading depolarization events occur in butterflies exposed to cold. Supporting our hypothesis, we find that exposure to stressful cold induced spreading depolarization in all 12 species tested. This reinforces the idea that spreading depolarization is a common mechanism underlying the insect CTmin. Furthermore, our results highlight how CNS function is tuned to match species’ environments. Further research into the physiology underlying spreading depolarization will likely elucidate key mechanisms determining insect thermal tolerance and ecology.

Lopes, D., E. de Andrade, A. Egartner, F. Beitia, M. Rot, C. Chireceanu, V. Balmés, et al. 2023. FRUITFLYRISKMANAGE: A Euphresco project for Ceratitis capitata Wiedemann (Diptera: Tephritidae) risk management applied in some European countries. EPPO Bulletin.

Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann), the Mediterranean fruit fly or medfly, is one of the world's most serious threats to fresh fruits. It is highly polyphagous (recorded from over 300 hosts) and capable of adapting to a wide range of climates. This pest has spread to the EPPO region and is mainly present in the southern part, damaging Citrus and Prunus. In Northern and Central Europe records refer to interceptions or short‐lived adventive populations only. Sustainable programs for surveillance, spread assessment using models and control strategies for pests such as C. capitata represent a major plant health challenge for all countries in Europe. This article includes a review of pest distribution and monitoring techniques in 11 countries of the EPPO region. This work compiles information that was crucial for a better understanding of pest occurrence and contributes to identifying areas susceptible to potential invasion and establishment. The key outputs and results obtained in the Euphresco project included knowledge transfer about early detection tools and methods used in different countries for pest monitoring. A MaxEnt software model resulted in risk maps for C. capitata in different climatic regions. This is an important tool to help decision making and to develop actions against this pest in the different partner countries.

Hamer, M., M. Kgatla, and B. Petersen. 2023. An assessment of collection specimen data for South African mountain plants and invertebrates. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa: 1–19.

South Africa is considered a megadiverse country, with exceptionally high plant and relatively high animal species richness and endemism. The country’s species have been surveyed and studied for over 200 years, resulting in extensive natural science collections and a vast number of scientific papers and books. This study assessed whether existing data portals provide access to occurrence data and investigated the extent of the data in Global Biodiversity Information Facility and its completeness for plants and selected invertebrate taxa. The main focus was preserved specimen data, but some observation data from iNaturalist were also considered for selected analyses. Records that include species-level identification and co-ordinates were mapped in QGIS to show the coverage of collection localities across the country. The records that fall within the mountain range spatial layer were then extracted and counted to identify density of records per mountain range for various taxa. Forty percent of plant records are from mountain localities, and the Atlantic Cape Fold Mountains had the highest density of records. Table Mountain has been extensively collected for plants and invertebrates. A large proportion of the records for invertebrates lacked species-level identification and co-ordinates, resulting in a low number of records for analyses. The accessible data are only a relatively small subset of existing collections, and digitisation and data upgrading is considered a high priority before collecting gaps can be addressed by targeted surveys.

Huber, B. A., G. Meng, J. Král, I. M. Ávila Herrera, M. A. Izquierdo, and L. S. Carvalho. 2023. High and dry: integrative taxonomy of the Andean spider genus Nerudia (Araneae: Pholcidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Abstract Ninetinae are a group of poorly known spiders that do not fit the image of ‘daddy long-legs spiders’ (Pholcidae), the family to which they belong. They are mostly short-legged, tiny and live in arid environments. The previously monotypic Andean genus Nerudia exemplifies our poor knowledge of Ninetinae: only seven adult specimens from two localities in Chile and Argentina have been reported in the literature. We found representatives of Nerudia at 24 of 52 localities visited in 2019, mostly under rocks in arid habitats, up to 4450 m a.s.l., the highest known record for Pholcidae. With now more than 400 adult specimens, we revise the genus, describing ten new species based on morphology (including SEM) and COI barcodes. We present the first karyotype data for Nerudia and for its putative sister-genus Gertschiola. These two southern South American genera share a X1X2X3Y sex chromosome system. We model the distribution of Nerudia, showing that the genus is expected to occur in the Atacama biogeographic province (no record so far) and that its environmental niche is phylogenetically conserved. This is the first comprehensive revision of any Ninetinae genus. It suggests that focused collecting may uncover a considerable diversity of these enigmatic spiders.

Grigoropoulou, A., S. A. Hamid, R. Acosta, E. O. Akindele, S. A. Al‐Shami, F. Altermatt, G. Amatulli, et al. 2023. The global EPTO database: Worldwide occurrences of aquatic insects. Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Motivation Aquatic insects comprise 64% of freshwater animal diversity and are widely used as bioindicators to assess water quality impairment and freshwater ecosystem health, as well as to test ecological hypotheses. Despite their importance, a comprehensive, global database of aquatic insect occurrences for mapping freshwater biodiversity in macroecological studies and applied freshwater research is missing. We aim to fill this gap and present the Global EPTO Database, which includes worldwide geo-referenced aquatic insect occurrence records for four major taxa groups: Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera and Odonata (EPTO). Main type of variables contained A total of 8,368,467 occurrence records globally, of which 8,319,689 (99%) are publicly available. The records are attributed to the corresponding drainage basin and sub-catchment based on the Hydrography90m dataset and are accompanied by the elevation value, the freshwater ecoregion and the protection status of their location. Spatial location and grain The database covers the global extent, with 86% of the observation records having coordinates with at least four decimal digits (11.1 m precision at the equator) in the World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS84) coordinate reference system. Time period and grain Sampling years span from 1951 to 2021. Ninety-nine percent of the records have information on the year of the observation, 95% on the year and month, while 94% have a complete date. In the case of seven sub-datasets, exact dates can be retrieved upon communication with the data contributors. Major taxa and level of measurement Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera and Odonata, standardized at the genus taxonomic level. We provide species names for 7,727,980 (93%) records without further taxonomic verification. Software format The entire tab-separated value (.csv) database can be downloaded and visualized at Fifty individual datasets are also available at, while six datasets have restricted access. For the latter, we share metadata and the contact details of the authors.

Bento, M., H. Niza, A. Cartaxana, S. Bandeira, J. Paula, and A. M. Correia. 2023. Mind the Gaps: Taxonomic, Geographic and Temporal Data of Marine Invertebrate Databases from Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe. Diversity 15: 70.

One of the best ways to share and disseminate biodiversity information is through the digitization of data and making it available via online databases. The rapid growth of publicly available biodiversity data is not without problems which may decrease the utility of online databases. In this study we analyze taxonomic, geographic and temporal data gaps, and bias related to existing data on selected marine invertebrate occurrences along the coastline of two African countries, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe. The final marine invertebrate dataset comprises of 19.910 occurrences, but 32% of the original dataset occurrences were excluded due to data gaps. Most marine invertebrates in Mozambique were collected in seagrasses, whereas in São Tomé and Príncipe they were mostly collected offshore. The dataset has a temporal coverage from 1816 to 2019, with most occurrences collected in the last two decades. This study provides baseline information relevant to a better understanding of marine invertebrate biodiversity data gaps and bias in these habitats along the coasts of these countries. The information can be further applied to complete marine invertebrate data gaps contributing to design informed sampling strategies and advancing refined datasets that can be used in management and conservation plans in both countries.