Science Enabled by Specimen Data

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.

Contreras-Medina, R., M. Santiago-Alvarado, D. Espinosa, G. Rivas, and I. Luna-Vega. 2022. Distributional patterns and conservation of the genus Habromys (Rodentia: Cricetidae) in Mesoamerica. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment: 1–17.

We analyzed the geographical distribution of Habromys species based on distributional data from museum specimens, web databases, and literature. We recorded species-presence data of each species in 0.5° × 0.5° grid cells and biogeographic provinces in Mexico and Central America. We analyzed the association between vegetation types and land use. We carried out species distribution models of most species of Habromys and those tree species frequently harboring these mice, finding a high distributional congruence among mice and trees. Species of Habromys occur throughout the montane systems of Mexico and northern Central America, so they can be considered characteristic elements of the Neotropical montane cloud forests. All species of the genus occur in Mexico, whereas Guatemala and El Salvador have only one species. Although all species of Habromys are highly restricted and considered rare species, only one (H. simulatus) is currently protected by Mexican laws. We assigned two species to a high and four to the critical conservation risk. Habromys species contribute to the recognition of Mesoamerica as a biodiversity hotspot.

Führding‐Potschkat, P., H. Kreft, and S. M. Ickert‐Bond. 2022. Influence of different data cleaning solutions of point‐occurrence records on downstream macroecological diversity models. Ecology and Evolution 12.

Digital point‐occurrence records from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and other data providers enable a wide range of research in macroecology and biogeography. However, data errors may hamper immediate use. Manual data cleaning is time‐consuming and often unfeasible, given that the databases may contain thousands or millions of records. Automated data cleaning pipelines are therefore of high importance. Taking North American Ephedra as a model, we examined how different data cleaning pipelines (using, e.g., the GBIF web application, and four different R packages) affect downstream species distribution models (SDMs). We also assessed how data differed from expert data. From 13,889 North American Ephedra observations in GBIF, the pipelines removed 31.7% to 62.7% false positives, invalid coordinates, and duplicates, leading to datasets between 9484 (GBIF application) and 5196 records (manual‐guided filtering). The expert data consisted of 704 records, comparable to data from field studies. Although differences in the absolute numbers of records were relatively large, species richness models based on stacked SDMs (S‐SDM) from pipeline and expert data were strongly correlated (mean Pearson's r across the pipelines: .9986, vs. the expert data: .9173). Our results suggest that all R package‐based pipelines reliably identified invalid coordinates. In contrast, the GBIF‐filtered data still contained both spatial and taxonomic errors. Major drawbacks emerge from the fact that no pipeline fully discovered misidentified specimens without the assistance of taxonomic expert knowledge. We conclude that application‐filtered GBIF data will still need additional review to achieve higher spatial data quality. Achieving high‐quality taxonomic data will require extra effort, probably by thoroughly analyzing the data for misidentified taxa, supported by experts.

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.

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…

López‐Delgado, J., and P. G. Meirmans. 2021. History or demography? Determining the drivers of genetic variation in North American plants. Molecular Ecology 31: 1951–1962.

Understanding the impact of historical and demographic processes on genetic variation is essential for devising conservation strategies and predicting responses to climate change. Recolonization after Pleistocene glaciations is expected to leave distinct genetic signatures, characterised by lower ge…

de Jesús Hernández-Hernández, M., J. A. Cruz, and C. Castañeda-Posadas. 2020. Paleoclimatic and vegetation reconstruction of the miocene southern Mexico using fossil flowers. Journal of South American Earth Sciences 104: 102827.

Concern about the course of the current environmental problems has raised interest in investigating the different scenarios that have taken place in our planet throughout time. To that end, different methodologies have been employed in order to determine the different variables that compose the envi…

Goodwin, Z. A., P. Muñoz-Rodríguez, D. J. Harris, T. Wells, J. R. I. Wood, D. Filer, and R. W. Scotland. 2020. How long does it take to discover a species? Systematics and Biodiversity 18: 784–793.

The description of a new species is a key step in cataloguing the World’s flora. However, this is only a preliminary stage in a long process of understanding what that species represents. We investigated how long the species discovery process takes by focusing on three key stages: 1, the collection …

Karger, D. N., M. Kessler, O. Conrad, P. Weigelt, H. Kreft, C. König, and N. E. Zimmermann. 2019. Why tree lines are lower on islands—Climatic and biogeographic effects hold the answer J. Grytnes [ed.],. Global Ecology and Biogeography 28: 839–850.

Aim: To determine the global position of tree line isotherms, compare it with observed local tree limits on islands and mainlands, and disentangle the potential drivers of a difference between tree line and local tree limit. Location: Global. Time period: 1979–2013. Major taxa studied: Trees. Method…