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Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Babin, C. H., and C. D. Bell. 2023. The effects of climate change on cytotype distributions of endemic genera in the North American Coastal Plain. Plant Ecology & Diversity.

Background Approximately 33% of plant species face extinction due to climate change. Polyploidisation, a process resulting in more than two complete sets of chromosomes, may be promoted by periods of climate fluctuations. Ecological niche modelling (ENM) using occurrences of endemic plants in the North American Coastal Plain (NACP) biodiversity hotspot could be used to evaluate the potential effects of climate change on cytotype distributions. Aims We used known diploid and polyploid taxa endemic to the NACP to test hypotheses that diploids and polyploids differed in habitat preferences, considerable overlap existed between cytotypes, and polyploid distributions would increase under climate change projections. Methods We examined niche identity and overlap of 28 congeneric ploidy level pairs and performed ENM to evaluate how climate change could affect these groups. Results Congeneric ploidy level pairs differed significantly in niche identity, and overlap varied across genera. Eleven genera showed greater than 100% increases in habitat suitability and six genera showed almost no remaining suitable habitat in at least one future climate scenario. Conclusions With 70% of the species that showed substantial declines in projected suitable habitat being of conservation concern, we propose that future studies of these genera should be a primary focus in the NACP.

Cousins-Westerberg, R., N. Dakin, L. Schat, G. Kadereit, and A. M. Humphreys. 2023. Evolution of cold tolerance in the highly stress-tolerant samphires and relatives (Salicornieae: Amaranthaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.

Low temperature constitutes one of the main barriers to plant distributions, confining many clades to their ancestrally tropical biome. However, recent evidence suggests that transitions from tropical to temperate biomes may be more frequent than previously thought. Here, we study the evolution of cold and frost tolerance in the globally distributed and highly stress-tolerant Salicornieae (Salicornioideae, Amaranthaceae s.l.). We first generate a phylogenetic tree comprising almost all known species (85-90%), using newly generated (n = 106) and published nuclear-ribosomal and plastid sequences. Next, we use geographical occurrence data to document in which clades and geographical regions cold-tolerant species occur and reconstruct how cold tolerance evolved. Finally, we test for correlated evolution between frost tolerance and the annual life form. We find that frost tolerance has evolved independently in up to four Northern Hemisphere lineages but that annuals are no more likely to evolve frost tolerance than perennials, indicating the presence of different strategies for adapting to cold environments. Our findings add to mounting evidence for multiple independent out-of-the-tropics transitions among close relatives of flowering plants and raise new questions about the ecological and physiological mechanism(s) of adaptation to low temperatures in Salicornieae.

Medzihorský, V., J. Trombik, R. Mally, M. Turčáni, and A. M. Liebhold. 2023. Insect invasions track a tree invasion: Global distribution of black locust herbivores. Journal of Biogeography.

Aim Many invasive plant species benefit from enemy release resulting from the absence of insect herbivores in their invaded range. However, over time, specialized herbivores may ‘catch up’ with such invasive plants. Black locust is a tree species with a relatively limited native range in North America but has invaded large areas in virtually every temperate continent including North America. We hypothesize that both intra- and intercontinental spread of black locust leads to a parallel, though delayed pattern of intra- and intercontinental spread of insect herbivores. Location Global. Taxon Black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, and its insect herbivores. Methods We compiled historical records of the occurrence of insect herbivore species associated with R. pseudoacacia from all world regions. Based on this list, we describe taxonomic patterns and investigate associations between environmental features and numbers of non-native specialist herbivores in the portion of North America invaded by R. pseudoacacia. Results A total of 454 herbivorous species are recorded feeding on R. pseudoacacia across the world, with 23 of these being specialized on Robinia. From this group, seven species have successfully expanded their range beyond North America. Within North America, the richness of specialists is explained by a combination of road density, R. pseudoacacia density, distance from the R. pseudoacacia native range, and climate. Main Conclusion Non-native herbivore species have accumulated on invasive R. pseudoacacia in both North America and in other continents. The steady build-up of invasions likely has diminished the enemy release that this invasive tree species has benefited from – a trend that will likely continue in the future. These findings support the hypothesis that invasive plants promote parallel though delayed invasions of specialist insect herbivores.

McCoshum, S. M., and A. A. Agrawal. 2021. Ecology of Asclepias brachystephana: a plant for roadside and right-of-way management. Native Plants Journal 22: 256–267.

Declining insect abundance is occurring around the world, and some management projects are aiming to utilize roadsides and other right-of-ways as insect conservation areas. In the US, the decline of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus Linnaeus [Nymphalidae]) populations has led to multiple studies focusing on a small number of milkweed species (Asclepias [Apocynaceae]) that occur in the major flyways. Here we survey a poorly studied milkweed, bract milkweed (A. brachystephana Engelm. ex Torr.), to document where it grows, which organisms make use of the plants, seed production, and concentrations of milkweed toxins (cardenolides) and to investigate if this species is suitable for roadside or right-of-ways management projects. Our results show that the range of A. brachystephana includes the Chihuahuan Desert and neighboring ecoregions. Plant populations were also observed occurring on roadsides and right-of-ways, rarely spreading into neighboring habitats. We document a variety of native pollinators utilizing floral resources and a few herbivores feeding on plant tissue. Chemical analyses show wild plants produce higher concentrations of toxic cardenolide than many other milkweed species. These data suggest A. brachystephana should be considered for roadside and right-of-way plantings, restoration projects, or seeding throughout the Chihuahuan Desert and adjoining ecoregions.

Clemente, K. J. E., and M. S. Thomsen. 2023. High temperature frequently increases facilitation between aquatic foundation species: a global meta‐analysis of interaction experiments between angiosperms, seaweeds, and bivalves. Journal of Ecology.

Many studies have quantified ecological impacts of individual foundation species (FS). However, emerging data suggest that FS often co‐occur, potentially inhibiting or facilitating one another, thereby causing indirect, cascading effects on surrounding communities. Furthermore, global warming is accelerating, but little is known about how interactions between co‐occurring FS vary with temperature.Shallow aquatic sedimentary systems are often dominated by three types of FS: slower‐growing clonal angiosperms, faster‐growing solitary seaweeds, and shell‐forming filter‐ and deposit‐feeding bivalves. Here, we tested the impacts of one FS on another by analyzing manipulative interaction experiments from 148 papers with a global meta‐analysis.We calculated 1,942 (non‐independent) Hedges’ g effect sizes, from 11,652 extracted values over performance responses, such as abundances, growths or survival of FS, and their associated standard deviations and replication levels. Standard aggregation procedures generated 511 independent Hedges’ g that was classified into six types of reciprocal impacts between FS.We found that (i) seaweeds had consistent negative impacts on angiosperms across performance responses, organismal sizes, experimental approaches, and ecosystem types; (ii) angiosperms and bivalves generally had positive impacts on each other (e.g., positive effects of angiosperms on bivalves were consistent across organismal sizes and experimental approaches, but angiosperm effect on bivalve growth and bivalve effect on angiosperm abundance were not significant); (iii) bivalves positively affected seaweeds (particularly on growth responses); (iv) there were generally no net effects of seaweeds on bivalves (except for positive effect on growth) or angiosperms on seaweeds (except for positive effect on ‘other processes’); and (v) bivalve interactions with other FS were typically more positive at higher temperatures, but angiosperm‐seaweed interactions were not moderated by temperature.Synthesis: Despite variations in experimental and spatiotemporal conditions, the stronger positive interactions at higher temperatures suggest that facilitation, particularly involving bivalves, may become more important in a future warmer world. Importantly, addressing research gaps, such as the scarcity of FS interaction experiments from tropical and freshwater systems and for less studied species, as well as testing for density‐dependent effects, could better inform aquatic ecosystem conservation and restoration efforts and broaden our knowledge of FS interactions in the Anthropocene.

Huang, T., J. Chen, K. E. Hummer, L. A. Alice, W. Wang, Y. He, S. Yu, et al. 2023. Phylogeny of Rubus (Rosaceae): Integrating molecular and morphological evidence into an infrageneric revision. TAXON.

Rubus (Rosaceae), one of the most complicated angiosperm genera, contains about 863 species, and is notorious for its taxonomic difficulty. The most recent (1910–1914) global taxonomic treatment of the genus was conducted by Focke, who defined 12 subgenera. Phylogenetic results over the past 25 years suggest that Focke's subdivisions of Rubus are not monophyletic, and large‐scale taxonomic revisions are necessary. Our objective was to provide a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of the genus based on an integrative evidence approach. Morphological characters, obtained from our own investigation of living plants and examination of herbarium specimens are combined with chloroplast genomic data. Our dataset comprised 196 accessions representing 145 Rubus species (including cultivars and hybrids) and all of Focke's subgenera, including 60 endemic Chinese species. Maximum likelihood analyses inferred phylogenetic relationships. Our analyses concur with previous molecular studies, but with modifications. Our data strongly support the reclassification of several subgenera within Rubus. Our molecular analyses agree with others that only R. subg. Anoplobatus forms a monophyletic group. Other subgenera are para‐ or polyphyletic. We suggest a revised subgeneric framework to accommodate monophyletic groups. Character evolution is reconstructed, and diagnostic morphological characters for different clades are identified and discussed. Based on morphological and molecular evidence, we propose a new classification system with 10 subgenera: R. subg. Anoplobatus, R. subg. Batothamnus, R. subg. Chamaerubus, R. subg. Cylactis, R. subg. Dalibarda, R. subg. Idaeobatus, R. subg. Lineati, R. subg. Malachobatus, R. subg. Melanobatus, and R. subg. Rubus. The revised infrageneric nomenclature inferred from our analyses is provided along with synonymy and type citations. Our new taxonomic backbone is the first systematic and complete global revision of Rubus since Focke's treatment. It offers new insights into deep phylogenetic relationships of Rubus and has important theoretical and practical significance for the development and utilization of these important agronomic crops.

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.

Hernández, S., A. G. García, F. Arenas, M. P. Escribano, A. Jueterbock, O. De Clerck, C. A. Maggs, et al. 2023. Range‐edge populations of seaweeds show niche unfilling and poor adaptation to increased temperatures. Journal of Biogeography.

(no abstract available)

Kolanowska, M., S. Nowak, and A. Rewicz. 2022. Will Greenland be the last refuge for the continental European small-white orchid?Niche modeling of future distribution of Pseudorchis albida. Frontiers in Environmental Science 10.

Climate change affects populations of plants, animals, and fungi not only by direct modifications of their climatic niches but also by altering their ecological interactions. In this study, the future distribution of suitable habitats for the small-white orchid (Pseudorchis albida) was predicted using ecological niche modeling. In addition, the effect of global warming on the spatial distribution and availability of the pollen vectors of this species was evaluated. Due to the inconsistency in the taxonomic concepts of Pseudorchis albida, the differences in the climatic preferences of three proposed subspecies were investigated. Due to the overlap of both morphological and ecological characters of ssp. albida and ssp. tricuspis, they are considered to be synonyms, and the final analyses were carried out using ssp. albida s.l. and ssp. straminea. All of the models predict that with global warming, the number of suitable niches for these orchids will increase. This significant increase in preferred habitats is expected to occur in Greenland, but habitat loss in continental Europe will be severe. Within continental Europe, Pseudorchis albida ssp. albida will lose 44%–98% of its suitable niches and P. albida ssp. straminea will lose 46%–91% of its currently available habitats. An opposite effect of global warming was predicted for pollinators of P. albida s.l., and almost all insects studied will be subject to habitat loss. Still, within the predicted potential geographical ranges of the orchid studied, some pollen vectors are expected to occur, and these can support the long-term survival of the small-white orchid.

Smith, A. B., S. J. Murphy, D. Henderson, and K. D. Erickson. 2023. Including imprecisely georeferenced specimens improves accuracy of species distribution models and estimates of niche breadth. Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Aim Museum and herbarium specimen records are frequently used to assess the conservation status of species and their responses to climate change. Typically, occurrences with imprecise geolocality information are discarded because they cannot be matched confidently to environmental conditions and are thus expected to increase uncertainty in downstream analyses. However, using only precisely georeferenced records risks undersampling of the environmental and geographical distributions of species. We present two related methods to allow the use of imprecisely georeferenced occurrences in biogeographical analysis. Innovation Our two procedures assign imprecise records to the (1) locations or (2) climates that are closest to the geographical or environmental centroid of the precise records of a species. For virtual species, including imprecise records alongside precise records improved the accuracy of ecological niche models projected to the present and the future, especially for species with c. 20 or fewer precise occurrences. Using only precise records underestimated loss of suitable habitat and overestimated the amount of suitable habitat in both the present and the future. Including imprecise records also improves estimates of niche breadth and extent of occurrence. An analysis of 44 species of North American Asclepias (Apocynaceae) yielded similar results. Main conclusions Existing studies examining the effects of spatial imprecision typically compare outcomes based on precise records against the same records with spatial error added to them. However, in real-world cases, analysts possess a mix of precise and imprecise records and must decide whether to retain or discard the latter. Discarding imprecise records can undersample the geographical and environmental distributions of species and lead to mis-estimation of responses to past and future climate change. Our method, for which we provide a software implementation in the enmSdmX package for R, is simple to use and can help leverage the large number of specimen records that are typically deemed “unusable” because of spatial imprecision in their geolocation.