Science Enabled

Ecke, F., B. A. Han, B. Hörnfeldt, H. Khalil, M. Magnusson, N. J. Singh, and R. S. Ostfeld. 2022. Population fluctuations and synanthropy explain transmission risk in rodent-borne zoonoses. Nature Communications 13.

Population fluctuations are widespread across the animal kingdom, especially in the order Rodentia, which includes many globally important reservoir species for zoonotic pathogens. The implications of these fluctuations for zoonotic spillover remain poorly understood. Here, we report a global empirical analysis of data describing the linkages between habitat use, population fluctuations and zoonotic reservoir status in rodents. Our quantitative synthesis is based on data collated from papers and databases. We show that the magnitude of population fluctuations combined with species’ synanthropy and degree of human exploitation together distinguish most rodent reservoirs at a global scale, a result that was consistent across all pathogen types and pathogen transmission modes. Our spatial analyses identified hotspots of high transmission risk, including regions where reservoir species dominate the rodent community. Beyond rodents, these generalities inform our understanding of how natural and anthropogenic factors interact to increase the risk of zoonotic spillover in a rapidly changing world. Many rodent species are known as hosts of zoonotic pathogens, but the ecological conditions that trigger spillover are not well-understood. Here, the authors show that population fluctuations and association with human-dominated habitats explain the zoonotic reservoir status of rodents globally.

D’Apolito, C., B. Tacoronte Gomes, F. P. R. Leite, and S. A. Ferreira Da Silva-Caminha. 2022. Fossil Parkia R.Br. (Fabaceae) pollen from the Miocene of western Amazonia. Grana: 1–20.

The legume genus Parkia R.Br. has a pantropical distribution and centre of diversity in the Amazon. The molecular phylogeny of the group indicates a Neotropical origin in the Amazon biome during the Miocene, and habitat reconstruction points to terra firme (unflooded) forests. We examined recently described fossil pollen from the Miocene Solimões Formation in western Brazilian Amazonia attributed to this genus. Aiming to establish an infra-generic affinity, comparisons were performed between fossil pollen of Parkiidites marileae Leite and pollen from extant Parkia species using morphological characters and multivariate analyses. Parkiidites marileae is characterised by large and globose polyads, the polyads are composed of 16 monads, and the monads have a verrucate ornamentation. Analyses suggest two well-defined groups, a non-NLR (nearest living relative) group composed of P. decussata, P. gigantocarpa, P. velutina, P. panurensis, P. platycephala, P. pendula, P. multijuga, and P. ulei; and a NLR group composed of P. cachimboensis, P. discolor, P. igneiflora, P. lutea, and P. nitida. All species of the NLR group belong to the same clade, with a molecular age estimated at ∼12.8 million years, which is virtually the same age as interpreted for the first occurrence of P. marileae in the Solimões Formation. The late Middle to Late Miocene in western Amazonia was a time of gradual change from vast wetlands to more river-dominated landscapes that favoured unflooded forests where Parkia diversified and is distributed 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.

Liu, S., S. Xia, D. Wu, J. E. Behm, Y. Meng, H. Yuan, P. Wen, et al. 2022. Understanding global and regional patterns of termite diversity and regional functional traits. iScience: 105538.

Our understanding of broad-scale biodiversity and functional trait patterns is largely based on plants, and relatively little information is available on soil arthropods. Here, we investigated the distribution of termite diversity globally and morphological traits and diversity across China. Our analyses showed increasing termite species richness with decreasing latitude at both the globally, and within-China. Additionally, we detected obvious latitudinal trends in the mean community value of termite morphological traits on average, with body size and leg length decreasing with increasing latitude. Furthermore, temperature, NDVI and water variables were the most important drivers controlling the variation in termite richness, and temperature and soil properties were key drivers of the geographic distribution of termite morphological traits. Our global termite richness map is one of the first high resolution maps for any arthropod group and especially given the functional importance of termites, our work provides a useful baseline for further ecological analysis.

Moreno, I., J. M. W. Gippet, L. Fumagalli, and P. J. Stephenson. 2022. Factors affecting the availability of data on East African wildlife: the monitoring needs of conservationists are not being met. Biodiversity and Conservation.

Understanding the status and abundance of species is essential for effective conservation decision-making. However, the availability of species data varies across space, taxonomic groups and data types. A case study was therefore conducted in a high biodiversity region—East Africa—to evaluate data biases, the factors influencing data availability, and the consequences for conservation. In each of the eleven target countries, priority animal species were identified as threatened species that are protected by national governments, international conventions or conservation NGOs. We assessed data gaps and biases in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and the Living Planet Index. A survey of practitioners and decision makers was conducted to confirm and assess consequences of these biases on biodiversity conservation efforts. Our results showed data on species occurrence and population trends were available for a significantly higher proportion of vertebrates than invertebrates. We observed a geographical bias, with higher tourism income countries having more priority species and more species with data than lower tourism income countries. Conservationists surveyed felt that, of the 40 types of data investigated, those data that are most important to conservation projects are the most difficult to access. The main challenges to data accessibility are excessive expense, technological challenges, and a lack of resources to process and analyse data. With this information, practitioners and decision makers can prioritise how and where to fill gaps to improve data availability and use, and ensure biodiversity monitoring is improved and conservation impacts enhanced.

Li, X., and J. J. Wiens. 2022. Estimating Global Biodiversity: the Role of Cryptic Insect Species. Systematic Biology.

Abstract How many species are there on Earth and to what groups do these species belong? These fundamental questions span systematics, ecology, and evolutionary biology. Yet, recent estimates of overall global biodiversity have ranged wildly, from the low millions to the trillions. Insects are a pivotal group for these estimates. Insects make up roughly half of currently described extant species (across all groups), with ~1 million described species. Insect diversity is also crucial because many other taxa have species that may be unique to each insect host species, including bacteria, apicomplexan protists, microsporidian fungi, nematodes, and mites. Several projections of total insect diversity (described and undescribed) have converged on ~6 million species. However, these projections have not incorporated the morphologically cryptic species revealed by molecular data. Here, we estimate the extent of cryptic insect diversity. We perform a systematic review of studies that used explicit species-delimitation methods with multi-locus data. We estimate that each morphology-based insect species contains (on average) 3.1 cryptic species. We then use these estimates to project the overall number of species on Earth and their distribution among major groups. Our estimates suggest that overall global biodiversity may range from 563 million to 2.2 billion species. [Biodiversity; cryptic species; insects; species delimitation; species richness]

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.

Sánchez, C. A., H. Li, K. L. Phelps, C. Zambrana-Torrelio, L.-F. Wang, P. Zhou, Z.-L. Shi, et al. 2022. A strategy to assess spillover risk of bat SARS-related coronaviruses in Southeast Asia. Nature Communications 13.

Emerging diseases caused by coronaviruses of likely bat origin (e.g., SARS, MERS, SADS, COVID-19) have disrupted global health and economies for two decades. Evidence suggests that some bat SARS-related coronaviruses (SARSr-CoVs) could infect people directly, and that their spillover is more frequent than previously recognized. Each zoonotic spillover of a novel virus represents an opportunity for evolutionary adaptation and further spread; therefore, quantifying the extent of this spillover may help target prevention programs. We derive current range distributions for known bat SARSr-CoV hosts and quantify their overlap with human populations. We then use probabilistic risk assessment and data on human-bat contact, human viral seroprevalence, and antibody duration to estimate that a median of 66,280 people (95% CI: 65,351–67,131) are infected with SARSr-CoVs annually in Southeast Asia. These data on the geography and scale of spillover can be used to target surveillance and prevention programs for potential future bat-CoV emergence. Coronaviruses may spill over from bats to humans. This study uses epidemiological data, species distribution models, and probabilistic risk assessment to map overlap among people and SARSr-CoV bat hosts and estimate how many people are infected with bat-origin SARSr-CoVs in Southeast Asia annually.

Witkowski, R., M. K. Dyderski, M. Bełka, and A. Mazur. 2022. Potential European Geographical Distribution of Gnathotrichus materiarius (Fitch, 1858) (Coleoptera: Scolytinae) under Current and Future Climate Conditions. Forests 13: 1097.

Gnathotrichus materiarius (Fitch, 1858) is an alien ambrosia beetle from North America, that has been spreading across Europe since the 1930s. The species infests coniferous trees, excavating galleries in sapwood. However, to date very few studies have predicted changes in ambrosia beetle habitat suitability under changing climate conditions. To fill that gap in the current knowledge, we used the MaxEnt algorithm to estimate areas potentially suitable for this species in Europe, both under current climate conditions and those forecasted for the years 2050 and 2070. Our analyses showed areas where the species has not been reported, though the climatic conditions are suitable. Models for the forecasted conditions predicted an increase in suitable habitats. Due to the wide range of host trees, the species is likely to spread through the Balkans, the Black Sea and Caucasus region, Baltic countries, the Scandinavian Peninsula, and Ukraine. As a technical pest of coniferous sapwood, it can cause financial losses due to deterioration in quality of timber harvested in such regions. Our results will be helpful for the development of a climate-change-integrated management strategy to mitigate potential adverse effects.

Boyd, R. J., M. A. Aizen, R. M. Barahona‐Segovia, L. Flores‐Prado, F. E. Fontúrbel, T. M. Francoy, M. Lopez‐Aliste, et al. 2022. Inferring trends in pollinator distributions across the Neotropics from publicly available data remains challenging despite mobilization efforts Y. Fourcade [ed.],. Diversity and Distributions 28: 1404–1415.

Aim Aggregated species occurrence data are increasingly accessible through public databases for the analysis of temporal trends in the geographic distributions of species. However, biases in these data present challenges for statistical inference. We assessed potential biases in data available through GBIF on the occurrences of four flower-visiting taxa: bees (Anthophila), hoverflies (Syrphidae), leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae) and hummingbirds (Trochilidae). We also assessed whether and to what extent data mobilization efforts improved our ability to estimate trends in species' distributions. Location The Neotropics. Methods We used five data-driven heuristics to screen the data for potential geographic, temporal and taxonomic biases. We began with a continental-scale assessment of the data for all four taxa. We then identified two recent data mobilization efforts (2021) that drastically increased the quantity of records of bees collected in Chile available through GBIF. We compared the dataset before and after the addition of these new records in terms of their biases and estimated trends in species' distributions. Results We found evidence of potential sampling biases for all taxa. The addition of newly-mobilized records of bees in Chile decreased some biases but introduced others. Despite increasing the quantity of data for bees in Chile sixfold, estimates of trends in species' distributions derived using the postmobilization dataset were broadly similar to what would have been estimated before their introduction, albeit more precise. Main conclusions Our results highlight the challenges associated with drawing robust inferences about trends in species' distributions using publicly available data. Mobilizing historic records will not always enable trend estimation because more data do not necessarily equal less bias. Analysts should carefully assess their data before conducting analyses: this might enable the estimation of more robust trends and help to identify strategies for effective data mobilization. Our study also reinforces the need for targeted monitoring of pollinators worldwide.