Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Mathur, M., and P. Mathur. 2024. Ecological niche modelling of Indigofera oblongifolia (Forssk.): a global machine learning assessment using climatic and non-climatic predictors. Discover Environment 2. https://doi.org/10.1007/s44274-024-00029-1

Climate change and other extinction facilitators have caused significant shifts in the distribution patterns of many species during the past few decades. Restoring and protecting lesser-known species may be more challenging without adequate biogeographical information. To address this knowledge gap, the current study set out to determine the global spatial distribution patterns of Indigofera oblongifolia (Forssk) a relatively lesser-known leguminous species. This was accomplished by utilizing three distinct bioclimatic temporal frames (current, 2050, and 2070) and four greenhouse gas scenarios (RCPs 2.6, 4.5, 6.0, and 8.5), in addition to non-climatic predictors such as global livestock population, human modification of terrestrial ecosystems, and global fertilizers application (nitrogen and phosphorus). Furthermore, we evaluate the degree of indigenousness using the geographical area, habitat suitability categories, and number of polygons. This research reveals that climatic predictors outperform non-climatic predictors in terms of improving model quality. Precipitation Seasonality is one of the most important factors influencing this species' optimum habitat suitability up to 150 mm for the current, 2050 RCP 8.5 and 2070-RCPs 2.6, 4.5, and 8.5. Our ellipsoid niche modelling extends the range of precipitation during the wettest quarter and maximum temperature during the warmest month to 637 mm and 26.5–31.80 degrees Celsius, respectively. India has a higher indigenous score in the optimal class than the African region. This findings suggest that the species in question tends to occupy contiguous regions in Africa, while in India, it is dispersed into several smaller meta-populations.

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palwor.2023.07.003

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.

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2023.104073

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.

Aguirre‐Liguori, J. A., A. Morales‐Cruz, and B. S. Gaut. 2022. Evaluating the persistence and utility of five wild Vitis species in the context of climate change. Molecular Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.16715

Crop wild relatives (CWRs) have the capacity to contribute novel traits to agriculture. Given climate change, these contributions may be especially vital for the persistence of perennial crops, because perennials are often clonally propagated and consequently do not evolve rapidly. By studying the landscape genomics of samples from five Vitis CWRs (V. arizonica, V. mustangensis, V. riparia, V. berlandieri and V. girdiana) in the context of projected climate change, we addressed two goals. The first was to assess the relative potential of different CWR accessions to persist in the face of climate change. By integrating species distribution models with adaptive genetic variation, additional genetic features such as genomic load and a phenotype (resistance to Pierce’s Disease), we predicted that accessions from one species (V. mustangensis) are particularly well‐suited to persist in future climates. The second goal was to identify which CWR accessions may contribute to bioclimatic adaptation for grapevine (V. vinifera) cultivation. To do so, we evaluated whether CWR accessions have the allelic capacity to persist if moved to locations where grapevines (V. vinifera) are cultivated in the United States. We identified six candidates from V. mustangensis and hypothesized that they may prove useful for contributing alleles that can mitigate climate impacts on viticulture. By identifying candidate germplasm, this work takes a conceptual step toward assessing the genomic and bioclimatic characteristics of CWRs.

Cano, Á., F. W. Stauffer, T. Andermann, I. M. Liberal, A. Zizka, C. D. Bacon, H. Lorenzi, et al. 2022. Recent and local diversification of Central American understorey palms. Global Ecology and Biogeography 31: 1513–1525. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13521

Aim Central America is largely covered by hyperdiverse, yet poorly understood, rain forests. Understorey palms are diverse components of these forests, but little is known about their historical assembly. It is not clear when palms in Central America reached present diversity levels and whether most species arrived from neighbouring regions or evolved locally. We addressed these questions using the most species-rich American palm clades indicative of rain forests. We reconstructed and compared their phylogenomic and biogeographical history with the diversification of 54 other plant lineages, to gain a better understanding of the processes that shaped the assembly of Central American rain forests. Location Central America. Time period Cretaceous to present. Major taxa studied Arecaceae: Arecoideae: Bactridinae, Chamaedoreeae, Geonomateae. Methods We sampled 218 species through fieldwork and living collections. We sequenced their genomic DNA using target sequence-capture procedures. Using 12 calibration points, we reconstructed dated phylogenies under three approaches (multispecies coalescent, maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference), conducted biogeographical analyses (dispersal–extinction–cladogenesis) and estimated phylogenetic diversity metrics. Results Dated phylogenies revealed intense diversification in Central America from 12 Ma. Local diversification events were four times more frequent than dispersal events, and we found strong phylogenetic clustering in relationship to Central America. Main conclusions Our results suggest that most understorey palm species that characterize the Central American rain forests today evolved locally after repeated dispersal events, mostly from South America. Understorey palms in Central American rain forests diversified primarily after closure of the Central American Seaway at c. 13 Ma, suggesting that the Great American Biotic Interchange was a major trigger for plant diversification in Central American rain forests. This recent diversification contrasts with the much earlier existence of rain forest palms in neighbouring South America since c. 58 Ma. We found similar timings of diversification in 54 other seed plant lineages, suggesting an unexpectedly recent assembly of the hyperdiverse Central American flora.

Williams, C. J. R., D. J. Lunt, U. Salzmann, T. Reichgelt, G. N. Inglis, D. R. Greenwood, W. Chan, et al. 2022. African Hydroclimate During the Early Eocene From the DeepMIP Simulations. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology 37. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022pa004419

The early Eocene (∼56‐48 million years ago) is characterised by high CO2 estimates (1200‐2500 ppmv) and elevated global temperatures (∼10 to 16°C higher than modern). However, the response of the hydrological cycle during the early Eocene is poorly constrained, especially in regions with sparse data coverage (e.g. Africa). Here we present a study of African hydroclimate during the early Eocene, as simulated by an ensemble of state‐of‐the‐art climate models in the Deep‐time Model Intercomparison Project (DeepMIP). A comparison between the DeepMIP pre‐industrial simulations and modern observations suggests that model biases are model‐ and geographically dependent, however these biases are reduced in the model ensemble mean. A comparison between the Eocene simulations and the pre‐industrial suggests that there is no obvious wetting or drying trend as the CO2 increases. The results suggest that changes to the land sea mask (relative to modern) in the models may be responsible for the simulated increases in precipitation to the north of Eocene Africa. There is an increase in precipitation over equatorial and West Africa and associated drying over northern Africa as CO2 rises. There are also important dynamical changes, with evidence that anticyclonic low‐level circulation is replaced by increased south‐westerly flow at high CO2 levels. Lastly, a model‐data comparison using newly‐compiled quantitative climate estimates from palaeobotanical proxy data suggests a marginally better fit with the reconstructions at lower levels of CO2.

Colli-Silva, M., J. R. Pirani, and A. Zizka. 2022. Ecological niche models and point distribution data reveal a differential coverage of the cacao relatives (Malvaceae) in South American protected areas. Ecological Informatics 69: 101668. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoinf.2022.101668

For many regions, such as in South America, it is unclear how well the existent protected areas network (PAs) covers different taxonomic groups and if there is a coverage bias of PAs towards certain biomes or species. Publicly available occurrence data along with ecological niche models might help to overcome this gap and to quantify the coverage of taxa by PAs ensuring an unbiased distribution of conservation effort. Here, we use an occurrence database of 271 species from the cacao family (Malvaceae) to address how South American PAs cover species with different distribution, abundance, and threat status. Furthermore, we compared the performance of online databases, expert knowledge, and modelled species distributions in estimating species coverage in PAs. We found 79 species from our survey (29% of the total) lack any record inside South American PAs and that 20 out of 23 species potentially threatened with extinction are not covered by PAs. The area covered by South American PAs was low across biomes, except for Amazonia, which had a relative high PA coverage, but little information on species distribution within PA available. Also, raw geo-referenced occurrence data were underestimating the number of species in PAs, and projections from ecological niche models were more prone to overestimating the number of species represented within PAs. We discuss that the protection of South American flora in heterogeneous environments demand for specific strategies tailored to particular biomes, including making new collections inside PAs in less collected areas, and the delimitation of more areas for protection in more known areas. Also, by presenting biasing scenarios of collection effort in a representative plant group, our results can benefit policy makers in conserving different spots of tropical environments highly biodiverse.

Rodrigues, A. V., G. Nakamura, V. G. Staggemeier, and L. Duarte. 2022. Species misidentification affects biodiversity metrics: Dealing with this issue using the new R package naturaList. Ecological Informatics 69: 101625. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoinf.2022.101625

Biodiversity databases are increasingly available and have fostered accelerated advances in many disciplines within ecology and evolution. However, the quality of the evidence generated depends critically on the quality of the input data, and species misidentifications are present in virtually any o…

Meller, P., M. Stellmes, A. Fidelis, and M. Finckh. 2022. Correlates of geoxyle diversity in Afrotropical grasslands. Journal of Biogeography 49: 339–352. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14305

Aim: Tropical old-growth grasslands are increasingly acknowledged as biodiverse ecosystems, but they are understudied in many aspects. Geoxyle species are a key component in many of these ecosystems, their belowground storage organs and bud banks are functionally diverse and contribute to the grassl…

Zhang, N., Z. Liao, S. Wu, M. P. Nobis, J. Wang, and N. Wu. 2021. Impact of climate change on wheat security through an alternate host of stripe rust. Food and Energy Security 11. https://doi.org/10.1002/fes3.356

In the 21st century, stripe rust, caused by Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (Pst), is still the most devastating disease of wheat globally. Despite the critical roles of the alternate host plants, the Berberis species, in the sexual reproduction and spread of Pst, the climate change impacts on t…