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.

Campbell, L. C. E., E. T. Kiers, and G. Chomicki. 2022. The evolution of plant cultivation by ants. Trends in Plant Science.

Outside humans, true agriculture was previously thought to be restricted to social insects farming fungus. However, obligate farming of plants by ants was recently discovered in Fiji, prompting a re-examination of plant cultivation by ants. Here, we generate a database of plant cultivation by ants, identify three main types, and show that these interactions evolved primarily for shelter rather than food. We find that plant cultivation evolved at least 65 times independently for crops (~200 plant species), and 15 times in farmer lineages (~37 ant taxa) in the Neotropics and Asia/Australasia. Because of their high evolutionary replication, and variation in partner dependence, these systems are powerful models to unveil the steps in the evolution and ecology of insect agriculture.

García, L., J. Veneros, S. Chavez, M. Oliva, and N. B. Rojas Briceño. 2022. World historical mapping and potential distribution of Cinchona spp. in Peru as a contribution for its restoration and conservation. Journal for Nature Conservation: 126290.

Peru is a megadiverse country in neotropical flora and is home to an important genus of plants called Cinchona and commonly all its individual species are called Cinchona Tree (Cinchona spp.), which represents the national tree for this nation. This country has 18 species, a group of these species are listed as vulnerable, endangered, and their population trend is currently unknown. This genus is at risk of extinction due to overexploitation for its medicinal, constructive and food uses. The IUCN also mentions that increased species assessments and records will help make the IUCN Red List a “barometer of life”. Based on the fact that understanding the effects of environmental change on ecosystems requires the identification of historical and current baselines, which can act as reference conditions, this research generated georeferenced global historical maps of Cinchona spp. and then determined the appropriate sites based on environmental variables using the Maxent software and established the probabilities of occurrence of this genus in Peru to establish priority areas for its conservation and restoration. Four maps were obtained, one for each centennial, from 1737 to the present, with 10,860 occurrences of Cinchona. In the MaxEnt modeling, 10.30 % (13 3172.56 km2) and 19.20 % (24 7371.32 km2) of Peru's surface area had high (> 0.6) and moderate (0.4 - 0.6) probabilities, respectively, of hosting Cinchona. Only 7.6 % (17 305.32 km2) and 22.0 % (50 153.73 km2) of the areas with high and moderate distribution potential, respectively, were covered by natural protected areas. Likewise, 11.90 % (21 738.75 km2) and 33.20 % (60 789.17 km2) of the high and moderate probability lands, respectively, correspond to degraded areas (DAs) and, therefore, are considered a priority for restoration with Cinchona spp. The results may stimulate the rethinking of decision making for the National Action Plan for Reforestation with Species of the Genus Cinchona and other plans or tools for Cinchona conservation in Peru.

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.

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.

Coca‐de‐la‐Iglesia, M., N. G. Medina, J. Wen, and V. Valcárcel. 2022. Evaluation of the tropical‐temperate transitions: An example of climatic characterization in the Asian Palmate group of Araliaceae. American Journal of Botany.

(no abstract available)

Zhang, Q., J. Ye, C. Le, D. M. Njenga, N. R. Rabarijaona, W. O. Omollo, L. Lu, et al. 2022. New insights into the formation of biodiversity hotspots of the Kenyan flora. Diversity and Distributions.

Aim This study aimed to investigate the distribution patterns of plant diversity in Kenya, how climatic fluctuations and orogeny shaped them, and the formation of its β-diversity. Location Kenya, East Africa. Taxon Angiosperms. Methods We quantified patterns of turnover and nestedness components of phylogenetic β-diversity for angiosperm species among neighbouring sites using a well-resolved phylogenetic tree and extensive distribution records from public databases and other published sources. We applied clustering methods to delineate biota based on pairwise similarities among multiple sites and used a random assembly null model to assess the effects of species abundance distribution on phylogenetic β-diversity. Results The phylogenetic turnover of the Kenyan flora, intersecting with the biodiversity hotspots Eastern Afromontane, Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa, and Horn of Africa, shows a non-monotonic pattern along a latitudinal gradient that is strongly structured into volcanic and coastal areas. The other areas are mainly dominated by phylogenetic nestedness, even in the eastern part of the equatorial region parallel to the volcanic area. Phylogenetic diversity and phylogenetic structure analyses explain the mechanism of the observed phylogenetic turnover and nestedness patterns. We identified five phytogeographical regions in Kenya: the Mandera, Turkana, Volcanic, Pan Coastal and West Highland Regions. Conclusions Variations in turnover gradient and coexistence are highly dependent on the regional biogeographical history resulting from climatic fluctuations and long-lasting orogeny, which jointly shaped the biodiversity patterns of the Kenyan flora. The nestedness component dominated climatically unstable regions and is presumed to have been caused by heavy local species extinction and recolonization from the Volcanic Region. The high turnover component in climatically stable regions may have preserved old lineages and the prevalence of endemic species within narrow ranges.

Amaral, D. T., I. A. S. Bonatelli, M. Romeiro-Brito, E. M. Moraes, and F. F. Franco. 2022. Spatial patterns of evolutionary diversity in Cactaceae show low ecological representation within protected areas. Biological Conservation 273: 109677.

Mapping biodiversity patterns across taxa and environments is crucial to address the evolutionary and ecological dimensions of species distribution, suggesting areas of particular importance for conservation purposes. Within Cactaceae, spatial diversity patterns are poorly explored, as are the abiotic factors that may predict these patterns. We gathered geographic and genetic data from 921 cactus species by exploring both the occurrence and genetic databases, which are tightly associated with drylands, to evaluate diversity patterns, such as phylogenetic diversity and endemism, paleo-, neo-, and superendemism, and the environmental predictor variables of such patterns in a global analysis. Hotspot areas of cacti diversity are scattered along the Neotropical and Nearctic regions, mainly in the desertic portion of Mesoamerica, Caribbean Island, and the dry diagonal of South America. The geomorphological features of these regions may create a complexity of areas that work as locally buffered zones over time, which triggers local events of diversification and speciation. Desert and dryland/dry forest areas comprise paleo- and superendemism and may act as both museums and cradles of species, displaying great importance for conservation. Past climates, topography, soil features, and solar irradiance seem to be the main predictors of distinct endemism types. The hotspot areas that encompass a major part of the endemism cells are outside or poorly covered by formal protection units. The current legally protected areas are not able to conserve the evolutionary diversity of cacti. Given the rapid anthropogenic disturbance, efforts must be reinforced to monitor biodiversity and the environment and to define/plan current and new protected areas.

Olivares-Pinto, U., N. P. U. Barbosa, and G. W. Fernandes. 2022. Global invasibility potential of the shrub Baccharis drancunculifolia. Brazilian Journal of Botany.

The genus  Baccharis  (Asteraceae) comprises over 440 species distributed along North and South America. Some species of this genus have remarkable invasiveness, and one of these species is the South American shrub  Baccharis dracunculifolia DC . Most of the introductions of non-indigenous species are held indirectly through trade, so it is believed that this species could become invasive worldwide with a particular interest in the North American continent because of the increasing sale of products derived from honey to this continent. The resin extracted from  B. dracunculifolia  is the leading source for preparing the green propolis produced in Southeastern Brazil. Thus, the main objective of this work is to apply an approach based on distribution modeling to investigate possible areas of high environmental suitability for  B. dracunculifolia  in the North American continent and the potential to the entire globe using current and two future scenaries. Our results show many areas of environmental suitability for  B. dracunculifolia. This species can invade over 33 countries distributed into five continents, including North America, some of the most critical parts of the southern USA, and large areas in Mexico. Since the best way of countering biological invasions is prevention, we propose that the introduction of this species should be monitored.

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.

Ramirez-Villegas, J., C. K. Khoury, H. A. Achicanoy, M. V. Diaz, A. C. Mendez, C. C. Sosa, Z. Kehel, et al. 2022. State of ex situ conservation of landrace groups of 25 major crops. Nature Plants 8: 491–499.

Crop landraces have unique local agroecological and societal functions and offer important genetic resources for plant breeding. Recognition of the value of landrace diversity and concern about its erosion on farms have led to sustained efforts to establish ex situ collections worldwide. The degree to which these efforts have succeeded in conserving landraces has not been comprehensively assessed. Here we modelled the potential distributions of eco-geographically distinguishable groups of landraces of 25 cereal, pulse and starchy root/tuber/fruit crops within their geographic regions of diversity. We then analysed the extent to which these landrace groups are represented in genebank collections, using geographic and ecological coverage metrics as a proxy for genetic diversity. We find that ex situ conservation of landrace groups is currently moderately comprehensive on average, with substantial variation among crops; a mean of 63% ± 12.6% of distributions is currently represented in genebanks. Breadfruit, bananas and plantains, lentils, common beans, chickpeas, barley and bread wheat landrace groups are among the most fully represented, whereas the largest conservation gaps persist for pearl millet, yams, finger millet, groundnut, potatoes and peas. Geographic regions prioritized for further collection of landrace groups for ex situ conservation include South Asia, the Mediterranean and West Asia, Mesoamerica, sub-Saharan Africa, the Andean mountains of South America and Central to East Asia. With further progress to fill these gaps, a high degree of representation of landrace group diversity in genebanks is feasible globally, thus fulfilling international targets for their ex situ conservation. By analysing the state of representation of traditional varieties of 25 major crops in ex situ repositories, this study demonstrates conservation progress made over more than a half-century and identifies the gaps remaining to be filled.