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Silva, C. P., D. N. López, P. I. Naulin, and S. A. Estay. 2023. Can suitability indices predict plant growth in the invaded range? The case of Acacias species. Frontiers in Plant Science 14. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2023.1125019

IntroductionForestry in many parts of the world depends on exotic species, making this industry a source of invasions in some countries. Among others, plantations of the genus Pinus, Eucalyptus, Acacia, Populus, and Pseudotsuga underpin the forestry industry and are a vital component of many countries economies. Among woody plants, the cosmopolitan genus Acacia includes some of the most commonly planted trees worldwide. In order to prevent, manage and control invasive plant species, one of the most used tools is species distribution models. The output of these models can also be used to obtain information about population characteristics, such as spatial abundance patterns or species performance. Although ecological theory suggests a direct link between fitness and suitability, this link is often absent. The reasons behind the lack of this relationship are multiple. Chile is one of the countries where Acacia species, in particular, A. dealbata and A. melanoxylon, have become invaders. MethodsHere, we used climatic and edaphic variables to predict thepotentially suitable habitats for A. dealbata and A. melanoxylon in continental Chile and evaluate if the suitability indices obtained from these models are associated with the observed performance of the trees along the country. ResultsOur models show that variable importance showed significant similarities between the variables that characterize each species’ niche. However, despite the high accuracy of our models, we did not observe an association between suitability and tree growth.DiscussionThis disconnection between suitability and performance can result from multiple causes, from structural limitations, like the lack of biotic interactions in the models, to methodological issues, like the usefulness of the performance metric used. Whatever the scenario, our results suggest that plans to control invasive species should be cautious in assuming this relationship in their design and consider other indicators such as species establishment success.

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2023.104073

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.

Gómez Díaz, J. A., A. Lira-Noriega, and F. Villalobos. 2023. Expanding protected areas in a Neotropical hotspot. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology: 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504509.2022.2163717

The region of central Veracruz is considered a biodiversity hotspot due to its high species richness and environmental heterogeneity, but only 2% of this region is currently protected. This study aimed to assess the current protected area system’s effectiveness and to identify priority conservation areas for expanding the existing protected area system. We used the distribution models of 1186 species from three kingdoms (Animalia, Plantae, and Fungi) together with ZONATION software, a conservation planning tool, to determine areas that could help expand the current network of protected areas. We applied three different parametrizations (including only species, using the boundary quality penalty, and using corridor connectivity). We found that protecting an additional 15% of the area would increase, between 16.2% and 19.3%, the protection of the distribution area of all species. We propose that the regions with a consensus of the three parametrizations should be declared as new protected areas to expand 374 km2 to the 216 km2 already protected. Doing so would double the protected surface in central Veracruz. The priority areas identified in this study have more species richness, carbon stock values, natural vegetation cover, and less human impact index than the existing protected areas. If our identified priority areas are declared protected, we could expect a future recovery of endangered species populations for Veracruz. The proposed new protected areas are planned and designed as corridors connecting currently isolated protected areas to promote biodiversity protection.

Desert greening and animal feed production are needed in the Republic of Djibouti, in east Africa. It is important to have information on the plants that are abundant in Djibouti. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) database records the occurrence of organisms worldwide by integrating specimens and discovery information. This study collected basic data on plant species in Djibouti, especially with regard to the frequency of occurrence of vascular plants, using the GBIF database, to understand the potential for greening and grazing. In total, 6982 vascular plants from 561 species were in the GBIF database. The literature reports 783 vascular plant species in Djibouti. Thus, 71.6% of the species are in the GBIF database. The most frequently registered family was Fabaceae (19.2%), followed by Poaceae (10.9%), Asteraceae (8.0%), Solanaceae (4.8%), Malvaceae (4.4%), and Euphorbiaceae (4.4%). The most frequently registered species were Vachellia (previously Acacia) tortilis (3.8%), Solanum somalense (2.2%), and Rhigozum somalense (2.1%). Vachellia spp. accounted for five of the top 10 species. Fabaceae can grow on infertile soil because of nitrogen fixation. Poaceae and Asteraceae are recently evolved plant taxa that have adapted to arid land. The rank-frequency relationship of families and species (log-log scale) was significantly linear, where x denotes rank order of families or species, and y denotes frequency of occurrence, (log(y) = -1.24 log(x) + 7.70, (R2 = 0.93, P < 0.001), log(y) = -0.521 log(x) + 5.48, R2 = 0.98, P < 0.001), following Zipf’s law.

Nuñez Landa, M. de L., J. C. Montero Castro, T. C. Monterrubio-Rico, S. I. Lara-Cabrera, and D. A. Prieto-Torres. 2023. Predicting co-distribution patterns of parrots and woody plants under global changes: The case of the Lilac-crowned Amazon and Neotropical dry forests. Journal for Nature Conservation 71: 126323. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnc.2022.126323

Global climate and land-use changes are the most significant causes of the current habitat loss and biodiversity crisis. Although there is information measuring these global changes, we lack a full understanding of how they impact community assemblies and species interactions across ecosystems. Herein, we assessed the potential distribution of eight key woody plant species associated with the habitat of the endangered Lilac-crowned Amazon (Amazon finschi) under global changes scenarios (2050′s and 2070′s), to answer the following questions: (1) how do predicted climate and land-use changes impact these species’ individual distributions and co-distribution patterns?; and (2) how effective is the existing Protected Area network for safeguarding the parrot species, the plant species, and their biological interactions? Our projections were consistent identifying the species that are most vulnerable to climate change. The distribution ranges of most of the species tended to decrease under future climates. These effects were strongly exacerbated when incorporating land-use changes into models. Even within existing protected areas, >50 % of the species’ remaining distribution and sites with the highest plant richness were predicted to be lost in the future under these combined scenarios. Currently, both individual species ranges and sites of highest richness of plants, shelter a high proportion (ca. 40 %) of the Lilac-crowned Amazon distribution. However, this spatial congruence could be reduced in the future, potentially disrupting the ecological associations among these taxa. We provide novel evidence for decision-makers to enhance conservation efforts to attain the long-term protection of this endangered Mexican endemic parrot and its habitat.

Sandoval-Martínez, J., E. I. Badano, F. A. Guerra-Coss, J. A. Flores Cano, J. Flores, S. M. Gelviz-Gelvez, and F. Barragán-Torres. 2023. Selecting tree species to restore forest under climate change conditions: Complementing species distribution models with field experimentation. Journal of Environmental Management 329: 117038. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.117038

The long-term success of forest restoration programs can be improved using climate-based species distribution models (SDMs) to predict which tree species will tolerate climate change. However, as SDMs cannot estimate if species will recruit at these habitats, determining whether their predictions apply to early life-cycle stages of trees is critical to support such a usage. For this, we propose sowing seeds of the focal tree species under the current climate and simulated climate change conditions in target restoration sites. Thus, using of SDMs to design climate-adaptive forest restoration programs would be supported if the differences in habitat occupancy probabilities of species they predict between the current and future climate concurs with the observed differences in recruitment rates of species when sowed under the current climate and simulated climate change conditions. To test this hypothesis, we calibrated SDMs for Vachellia pennatula and Prosopis laevigata, two pioneer tree species widely recommended to restore human-degraded drylands in Mexico, and transferred them to climate change scenarios. After that, we applied the experimental approach proposed above to validate the predictions of SDMs. These models predicted that V. pennatula will decrease its habitat occupancy probabilities across Mexico, while P. laevigata was predicted to keep out their current habitat occupancy probabilities, or even increase them, in climate change scenarios. The results of the field experiment supported these predictions, as recruitment rates of V. pennatula were lower under simulated climate change than under the current climate, while no differences were found for the recruitment rates of P. laevigata between these environmental conditions. These findings demonstrate that SDMs provide meaningful insights for designing climate-adaptive forest restoration programs but, before applying this methodology, predictions of these models must be validated with field experiments to determine whether the focal tree species will recruit under climate change conditions. Moreover, as the pioneer trees used to test our proposal seem to be differentially sensitive to climate change, this approach also allows establishing what species must be prescribed to restore forests with a view to the future and what species must be avoided in these practices.

Ralimanana, H., A. L. Perrigo, R. J. Smith, J. S. Borrell, S. Faurby, M. T. Rajaonah, T. Randriamboavonjy, et al. 2022. Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity: Threats and opportunities. Science 378. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.adf1466

Madagascar’s unique biota is heavily affected by human activity and is under intense threat. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on the conservation status of Madagascar’s terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity by presenting data and analyses on documented and predicted species-level conservation statuses, the most prevalent and relevant threats, ex situ collections and programs, and the coverage and comprehensiveness of protected areas. The existing terrestrial protected area network in Madagascar covers 10.4% of its land area and includes at least part of the range of the majority of described native species of vertebrates with known distributions (97.1% of freshwater fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals combined) and plants (67.7%). The overall figures are higher for threatened species (97.7% of threatened vertebrates and 79.6% of threatened plants occurring within at least one protected area). International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessments and Bayesian neural network analyses for plants identify overexploitation of biological resources and unsustainable agriculture as the most prominent threats to biodiversity. We highlight five opportunities for action at multiple levels to ensure that conservation and ecological restoration objectives, programs, and activities take account of complex underlying and interacting factors and produce tangible benefits for the biodiversity and people of Madagascar.

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. https://doi.org/10.1080/00173134.2022.2130009

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tplants.2022.09.005

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.

Dimobe, K., K. Ouédraogo, P. Annighöfer, J. Kollmann, J. Bayala, C. Hof, M. Schmidt, et al. 2022. Climate change aggravates anthropogenic threats of the endangered savanna tree Pterocarpus erinaceus (Fabaceae) in Burkina Faso. Journal for Nature Conservation: 126299. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnc.2022.126299

Species distribution modelling is gaining popularity due to significant habitat shifts in many plant and animal species caused by climate change. This issue is particularly pressing for species that provide significant ecosystem goods and services. A prominent case is the valuable African rosewood tree (Pterocarpus erinaceus) that is threatened in sub-Saharan Africa, while its present distribution, habitat requirements and the impact of climate change are not fully understood. This native species naturally occurs in various savanna types, but anthropogenic interventions have considerably reduced its natural populations in the past decades. In this study, ensemble modelling was used to predict the current and future distribution potential of the species in Burkina Faso. Fifty-four environmental variables were selected to describe its distribution in the years 2050 and 2070 based on the greenhouse gas concentration trajectories RCP4.5 and 8.5, and the general circulation models CNRM-CM5 and HadGEM2-CC. A network of protected areas in Burkina Faso was also included to assess how many of the suitable habitats may contribute to the conservation of the species. The factors isothermality (31%), minimum temperature of coldest month (31%), pH in H2O at horizon 0–5 cm (11%), silt content at horizon 60–100 cm (9.2%) and precipitation of warmest quarter (8%) were the most influential distribution drivers for the species. Under current climate conditions, potentially highly suitable habitats cover an area of 129,695 km2, i.e. 47% of Burkina Faso. The projected distribution under RCP4.5 and 8.5 showed that this area will decrease, and that the decline of the species will be pronounced. The two models used in this study forecast a habitat loss of up to 61% for P. erinaceus. Hence, development and implementation of a conservation program are required to save the species in its native range. This study will help land managers prioritise areas for protection of the species and avoid introducing it to inappropriate areas unless suitable conditions are artificially created through the management options applied.