Science Enabled by Specimen Data
Jiménez-López, D. A., M. J. Carmona-Higuita, G. Mendieta-Leiva, R. Martínez-Camilo, A. Espejo-Serna, T. Krömer, N. Martínez-Meléndez, and N. Ramírez-Marcial. 2023. Linking different resources to recognize vascular epiphyte richness and distribution in a mountain system in southeastern Mexico. Flora: 152261. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.flora.2023.152261
Mesoamerican mountains are important centers of endemism and diversity of epiphytes. The Sierra Madre of Chiapas in southeastern Mexico is a mountainous region of great ecological interest due to its high biological richness. We present the first checklist of epiphytes for this region based on a compilation of various information sources. In addition, we determined the conservation status for each species based on the Mexican Official Standard (NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010), endemism based on geopolitical boundaries, spatial completeness with inventory completeness index, richness distribution with range maps, and the relationship between climatic variables (temperature and rainfall) with species richness using generalized additive models. Our dataset includes 9,799 records collected between 1896-2017. Our checklist includes 708 epiphytes within 160 genera and 26 families; the most species-rich family was Orchidaceae (355 species), followed by Bromeliaceae (82) and Polypodiaceae (79). There were 74 species within a category of risk and 59 species considered endemic. Completeness of epiphyte richness suggests that sampling is still largely incomplete, particularly in the lower parts of the mountain system. Species and family range maps show the highest richness at high elevations, while geographically richness increases towards the southeast. Epiphyte richness increases with increased rainfall, although a unimodal pattern was observed along the temperature gradient with a species richness peak between 16-20 C°. The Sierra Madre of Chiapas forms a refuge to more than 40% of all epiphytes reported for Mexico and its existing network of protected areas overlaps with the greatest epiphyte richness.
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.
Ralimanana, H., A. L. Perrigo, R. J. Smith, J. S. Borrell, S. Faurby, M. T. Rajaonah, T. Randriamboavonjy, et al. 2022. Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity: Threats and opportunities. Science 378. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.adf1466
Madagascar’s unique biota is heavily affected by human activity and is under intense threat. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on the conservation status of Madagascar’s terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity by presenting data and analyses on documented and predicted species-level conservation statuses, the most prevalent and relevant threats, ex situ collections and programs, and the coverage and comprehensiveness of protected areas. The existing terrestrial protected area network in Madagascar covers 10.4% of its land area and includes at least part of the range of the majority of described native species of vertebrates with known distributions (97.1% of freshwater fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals combined) and plants (67.7%). The overall figures are higher for threatened species (97.7% of threatened vertebrates and 79.6% of threatened plants occurring within at least one protected area). International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessments and Bayesian neural network analyses for plants identify overexploitation of biological resources and unsustainable agriculture as the most prominent threats to biodiversity. We highlight five opportunities for action at multiple levels to ensure that conservation and ecological restoration objectives, programs, and activities take account of complex underlying and interacting factors and produce tangible benefits for the biodiversity and people of Madagascar.
Lannuzel, G., L. Pouget, D. Bruy, V. Hequet, S. Meyer, J. Munzinger, and G. Gâteblé. 2022. Mining rare Earth elements: Identifying the plant species most threatened by ore extraction in an insular hotspot. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2022.952439
Conservation efforts in global biodiversity hotspots often face a common predicament: an urgent need for conservation action hampered by a significant lack of knowledge about that biodiversity. In recent decades, the computerisation of primary biodiversity data worldwide has provided the scientific community with raw material to increase our understanding of the shared natural heritage. These datasets, however, suffer from a lot of geographical and taxonomic inaccuracies. Automated tools developed to enhance their reliability have shown that detailed expert examination remains the best way to achieve robust and exhaustive datasets. In New Caledonia, one of the most important biodiversity hotspots worldwide, the plant diversity inventory is still underway, and most taxa awaiting formal description are narrow endemics, hence by definition hard to discern in the datasets. In the meantime, anthropogenic pressures, such as nickel-ore mining, are threatening the unique ultramafic ecosystems at an increasing rate. The conservation challenge is therefore a race against time, as the rarest species must be identified and protected before they vanish. In this study, based on all available datasets and resources, we applied a workflow capable of highlighting the lesser known taxa. The main challenges addressed were to aggregate all data available worldwide, and tackle the geographical and taxonomic biases, avoiding the data loss resulting from automated filtering. Every doubtful specimen went through a careful taxonomic analysis by a local and international taxonomist panel. Geolocation of the whole dataset was achieved through dataset cross-checking, local botanists’ field knowledge, and historical material examination. Field studies were also conducted to clarify the most unresolved taxa. With the help of this method and by analysing over 85,000 data, we were able to double the number of known narrow endemic taxa, elucidate 68 putative new species, and update our knowledge of the rarest species’ distributions so as to promote conservation measures.
Kinosian, S. P., and P. G. Wolf. 2022. The biology of C. richardii as a tool to understand plant evolution. eLife 11. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.75019
The fern Ceratopteris richardii has been studied as a model organism for over 50 years because it is easy to grow and has a short life cycle. In particular, as the first homosporous vascular plant for which genomic resources were developed, C. richardii has been an important system for studying plant evolution. However, we know relatively little about the natural history of C. richardii. In this article, we summarize what is known about this aspect of C. richardii, and discuss how learning more about its natural history could greatly increase our understanding of the evolution of land plants.
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…
Holzmeyer, L., A.-K. Hartig, K. Franke, W. Brandt, A. N. Muellner-Riehl, L. A. Wessjohann, and J. Schnitzler. 2020. Evaluation of plant sources for antiinfective lead compound discovery by correlating phylogenetic, spatial, and bioactivity data. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117: 12444–12451. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1915277117
Antibiotic resistance and viral diseases are rising around the world and are becoming major threats to global health, food security, and development. One measure that has been suggested to mitigate this crisis is the development of new antibiotics. Here, we provide a comprehensive evaluation of the …
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. https://doi.org/10.1080/14772000.2020.1751339
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 …
Henareh Khalyani, A., W. A. Gould, M. J. Falkowski, R. Muscarella, M. Uriarte, and F. Yousef. 2019. Climate change increases potential plant species richness on Puerto Rican uplands. Climatic Change 156: 15–30. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02491-w
Modeling climate change effects on species and communities is critical especially in isolated islands. We analyzed the potential effects of climate change on 200 plant species in Puerto Rico under two emission scenarios and in four periods over the twenty-first century. Our approach was based on ens…
Margaroni, S., K. B. Petersen, R. Gleadow, and M. Burd. 2019. The role of spore size in the global pattern of co‐occurrence among Selaginella species. Journal of Biogeography 46: 807–815. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.13532
Aim: Separation of regeneration niches may promote coexistence among closely related plant species, but there is little evidence that regeneration traits affect species ranges at broad geographical scales. We address patterns of co‐occurrence within the genus Selaginella, an ancient lineage of free‐…