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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. https://doi.org/10.3368/npj.22.3.256

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.

Huber, B. A., G. Meng, J. Král, I. M. Ávila Herrera, M. A. Izquierdo, and L. S. Carvalho. 2023. High and dry: integrative taxonomy of the Andean spider genus Nerudia (Araneae: Pholcidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlac100

Abstract Ninetinae are a group of poorly known spiders that do not fit the image of ‘daddy long-legs spiders’ (Pholcidae), the family to which they belong. They are mostly short-legged, tiny and live in arid environments. The previously monotypic Andean genus Nerudia exemplifies our poor knowledge of Ninetinae: only seven adult specimens from two localities in Chile and Argentina have been reported in the literature. We found representatives of Nerudia at 24 of 52 localities visited in 2019, mostly under rocks in arid habitats, up to 4450 m a.s.l., the highest known record for Pholcidae. With now more than 400 adult specimens, we revise the genus, describing ten new species based on morphology (including SEM) and COI barcodes. We present the first karyotype data for Nerudia and for its putative sister-genus Gertschiola. These two southern South American genera share a X1X2X3Y sex chromosome system. We model the distribution of Nerudia, showing that the genus is expected to occur in the Atacama biogeographic province (no record so far) and that its environmental niche is phylogenetically conserved. This is the first comprehensive revision of any Ninetinae genus. It suggests that focused collecting may uncover a considerable diversity of these enigmatic spiders.

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2022.109677

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.

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. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.9168

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.

Vasconcelos, T., J. D. Boyko, and J. M. Beaulieu. 2021. Linking mode of seed dispersal and climatic niche evolution in flowering plants. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14292

Aim: Due to the sessile nature of flowering plants, movements to new geographical areas occur mainly during seed dispersal. Frugivores tend to be efficient dispersers because animals move within the boundaries of their preferable niches, so seeds are more likely to be transported to environments tha…

Schneider, K., D. Makowski, and W. van der Werf. 2021. Predicting hotspots for invasive species introduction in Europe. Environmental Research Letters 16: 114026. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ac2f19

Plant pest invasions cost billions of Euros each year in Europe. Prediction of likely places of pest introduction could greatly help focus efforts on prevention and control and thus reduce societal costs of pest invasions. Here, we test whether generic data-driven risk maps of pest introduction, val…