Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Bürger, M., and J. Chory. 2024. A potential role of heat‐moisture couplings in the range expansion of Striga asiatica. Ecology and Evolution 14. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.11332

Parasitic weeds in the genera Orobanche, Phelipanche (broomrapes) and Striga (witchweeds) have a devastating impact on food security across much of Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean Basin. Yet, how climatic factors might affect the range expansion of these weeds in the context of global environmental change remains unexplored. We examined satellite‐based environmental variables such as surface temperature, root zone soil moisture, and elevation, in relation to parasitic weed distribution and environmental conditions over time, in combination with observational data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Our analysis reveals contrasting environmental and altitude preferences in the genera Striga and Orobanche. Asiatic witchweed (Striga asiatica), which infests corn, rice, sorghum, and sugar cane crops, appears to be expanding its range in high elevation habitats. It also shows a significant association with heat‐moisture coupling events, the frequency of which is rising in such environments. These results point to geographical shifts in distribution and abundance in parasitic weeds due to climate change.

Marcussen, T., H. E. Ballard, J. Danihelka, A. R. Flores, M. V. Nicola, and J. M. Watson. 2022. A Revised Phylogenetic Classification for Viola (Violaceae). Plants 11: 2224. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11172224

The genus Viola (Violaceae) is among the 40–50 largest genera among angiosperms, yet its taxonomy has not been revised for nearly a century. In the most recent revision, by Wilhelm Becker in 1925, the then-known 400 species were distributed among 14 sections and numerous unranked groups. Here, we provide an updated, comprehensive classification of the genus, based on data from phylogeny, morphology, chromosome counts, and ploidy, and based on modern principles of monophyly. The revision is presented as an annotated global checklist of accepted species of Viola, an updated multigene phylogenetic network and an ITS phylogeny with denser taxon sampling, a brief summary of the taxonomic changes from Becker’s classification and their justification, a morphological binary key to the accepted subgenera, sections and subsections, and an account of each infrageneric subdivision with justifications for delimitation and rank including a description, a list of apomorphies, molecular phylogenies where possible or relevant, a distribution map, and a list of included species. We distribute the 664 species accepted by us into 2 subgenera, 31 sections, and 20 subsections. We erect one new subgenus of Viola (subg. Neoandinium, a replacement name for the illegitimate subg. Andinium), six new sections (sect. Abyssinium, sect. Himalayum, sect. Melvio, sect. Nematocaulon, sect. Spathulidium, sect. Xanthidium), and seven new subsections (subsect. Australasiaticae, subsect. Bulbosae, subsect. Clausenianae, subsect. Cleistogamae, subsect. Dispares, subsect. Formosanae, subsect. Pseudorupestres). Evolution within the genus is discussed in light of biogeography, the fossil record, morphology, and particular traits. Viola is among very few temperate and widespread genera that originated in South America. The biggest identified knowledge gaps for Viola concern the South American taxa, for which basic knowledge from phylogeny, chromosome counts, and fossil data is virtually absent. Viola has also never been subject to comprehensive anatomical study. Studies into seed anatomy and morphology are required to understand the fossil record of the genus.

Crivellaro, A., A. Piermattei, J. Dolezal, P. Dupree, and U. Büntgen. 2022. Biogeographic implication of temperature-induced plant cell wall lignification. Communications Biology 5. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-022-03732-y

More than 200 years after von Humboldt’s pioneering work on the treeline, our understanding of the cold distribution limit of upright plant growth is still incomplete. Here, we use wood anatomical techniques to estimate the degree of stem cell wall lignification in 1770 plant species from six continents. Contrary to the frequent belief that small plants are less lignified, we show that cell wall lignification in ‘woody’ herbs varies considerably. Although trees and shrubs always exhibit lignified cell walls in their upright stems, small plants above the treeline may contain less lignin. Our findings suggest that extremely cold growing season temperatures can reduce the ability of plants to lignify their secondary cell walls. Corroborating experimental and observational evidence, this study proposes to revisit existing theories about the thermal distribution limit of upright plant growth and to consider biochemical and biomechanical factors for explaining the global treeline position. A global survey of lignin content in plant cell walls corroborates suggestions that cold temperature limits upright tree growth.

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…

Caudullo, G., E. Welk, and J. San-Miguel-Ayanz. 2017. Chorological maps for the main European woody species. Data in Brief 12: 662–666. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dib.2017.05.007

A novel chorological data compilation for the main European tree and shrub species is presented. This dataset was produced by combining numerous and heterogeneous data collected from 20th century atlas monographs providing complete species distribution maps, and from more recent national to regional…