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Dantas, V. L., L. C. S. Oliveira, C. R. Marcati, and J. Sonsin‐Oliveira. 2024. Coordination of bark and wood traits underlies forest‐to‐savanna evolutionary transitions. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14850

Aim To test the hypothesis that adaptive shifts leading to the assembly of tropical savannas involved coordination between bark and wood traits and to understand the underlying mechanisms.LocationTropical South America.TaxonAngiosperms (woody).MethodsWe compiled data on three bark traits (total, inner and outer relative bark thickness), wood density, maximum height, five secondary xylem traits and on species' habitat information (light environment, climate, soil and fire history) for Neotropical savanna, forest and generalist species (biome groups). We tested for pairwise and multivariate associations among traits across species and if biome group and habitat conditions explained species positions along the resulting strategy axes.ResultsTraits covaried along four different axes. The first axis was consistent with a trade‐off between fire (thick barks) and shade tolerance (low bark to diameter ratio, high vessel density) and contributed to differentiate the three biome groups according to the preference for shaded environments. Forest species also differed from savanna and generalist species in a separate axis by being more resource acquisitive. Maximum height and wood density did not strongly trade‐off with bark thickness, although maximum height was negatively covaried with relative outer bark thickness. Preference for shaded conditions was the main driver of variation in the two principal strategy axes, but temperature, fire and soil sand content also explained differences in plant stature between savanna and generalist species.Main ConclusionsAllocation to bark is constrained by trade‐offs with wood, opposing shade‐tolerant and acquisitive forest species to fire‐resistant and conservative savanna species. Rather than a single strategy axis, three axes are necessary to understand the functional differences among savanna, forest and generalist species. Because two of these axes are controlled by light availability, the associated traits tend to covary in space and time, but not across species.

Estrada-Sánchez, I., A. Espejo-Serna, J. García-Cruz, and A. R. López-Ferrari. 2024. Richness, distribution, and endemism of neotropical subtribe Ponerinae (Orchidaceae, Epidendreae). Brazilian Journal of Botany 47: 501–517. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40415-024-01005-y

The subtribe Ponerinae (Orchidaceae) includes the genera Helleriella A. D. Hawkes, Isochilus R. Brown, Nemaconia Knowles & Westc., and Ponera Lindl. Most of its species are epiphytes and usually grow on trees of the genus Quercus L. in cloud forests and temperate coniferous and broad-leaved forests; some taxa are rarely lithophytes or less frequently terrestrial. The aim of this study was to estimate the distribution of the species of the subtribe Ponerinae using ecological niche models (ENM), determine areas with highest richness and endemism rates with the occurrence data and the models obtained, and determine if the areas with highest richness and endemism recognized in this work are located within any of the conservation areas (ANPs) and/or Regiones Terrestres Prioritarias (RTPs). We reviewed 1 044 herbarium specimens from ten institutional collections, corresponding to two species of Helleriella , eleven of Isochilus , six of Nemaconia , and two of Ponera , and a geographic and taxonomic database was generated. ENM were constructed with MaxEnt 3.3; and we determine areas with highest species richness and endemism with Biodiverse 4.3. Mexico is the richest country with 21 species, followed by Guatemala with nine. The more widely distributed species are: Isochilus linearis (Jacq.) R.Br, and Nemaconia striata (Lindl.) Van den Berg, Salazar & Soto Arenas; I . oaxacanus Salazar & Soto Arenas is endemic to Mexican state of Oaxaca and N . dressleriana (Soto Arenas) van den Berg, Salazar & Soto Arenas of Morelos. The cells with higher occurrence richness and occurrence weighted endemism were located in Chiapas Highlands, and the higher occurrence of corrected weighted endemism is located in Transmexican Volcanic Belt, considered the nucleus of the Mexican Transition Zone. On the other hand, the cells with greater ENM richness and ENM weighted endemism were located in Sierra Madre del Sur, and the higher ENM corrected weighted endemism in Sierra Madre Oriental. It is suggested to change the status of the regions Cañón del Zopilote and El Tlacuache from RTPs to ANPs.

Serra‐Diaz, J. M., J. Borderieux, B. Maitner, C. C. F. Boonman, D. Park, W. Guo, A. Callebaut, et al. 2024. occTest: An integrated approach for quality control of species occurrence data. Global Ecology and Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13847

Aim Species occurrence data are valuable information that enables one to estimate geographical distributions, characterize niches and their evolution, and guide spatial conservation planning. Rapid increases in species occurrence data stem from increasing digitization and aggregation efforts, and citizen science initiatives. However, persistent quality issues in occurrence data can impact the accuracy of scientific findings, underscoring the importance of filtering erroneous occurrence records in biodiversity analyses.InnovationWe introduce an R package, occTest, that synthesizes a growing open‐source ecosystem of biodiversity cleaning workflows to prepare occurrence data for different modelling applications. It offers a structured set of algorithms to identify potential problems with species occurrence records by employing a hierarchical organization of multiple tests. The workflow has a hierarchical structure organized in testPhases (i.e. cleaning vs. testing) that encompass different testBlocks grouping different testTypes (e.g. environmental outlier detection), which may use different testMethods (e.g. Rosner test, jacknife,etc.). Four different testBlocks characterize potential problems in geographic, environmental, human influence and temporal dimensions. Filtering and plotting functions are incorporated to facilitate the interpretation of tests. We provide examples with different data sources, with default and user‐defined parameters. Compared to other available tools and workflows, occTest offers a comprehensive suite of integrated tests, and allows multiple methods associated with each test to explore consensus among data cleaning methods. It uniquely incorporates both coordinate accuracy analysis and environmental analysis of occurrence records. Furthermore, it provides a hierarchical structure to incorporate future tests yet to be developed.Main conclusionsoccTest will help users understand the quality and quantity of data available before the start of data analysis, while also enabling users to filter data using either predefined rules or custom‐built rules. As a result, occTest can better assess each record's appropriateness for its intended application.

Ferreira, G. E., J. L. Clark, L. Clavijo, A. Zuluaga, A. Chautems, M. J. G. Hopkins, A. O. Araujo, and M. Perret. 2024. Phylogenetics, character evolution, and historical biogeography of the Neotropical genus Besleria (Gesneriaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/botlinnean/boae007

Besleria, a genus of perennial herbs, shrubs, or small trees growing in the understorey of rainforests, is one of the largest genera of neotropical Gesneriaceae, with over 165 species. Despite the ecological importance and ubiquity of Besleria in rainforest ecosystems, taxonomic and evolutionary studies of Besleria are limited. Here, we generated a phylogenetic analysis of Besleria using four nuclear and chloroplast DNA regions (ITS, matK, rps16, and trnL-trnF) covering more than 50% of the recognized species, along with two secondary calibration points to infer divergence times. Our results support the monophyly of Besleria and allowed us to revise the infrageneric classification and biogeographical history of the genus. We identified five major clades that do not correspond to sections or subsections in previous classifications. These clades are well circumscribed geographically but remain difficult to characterize using previously hypothesized morphological characters. Biogeographical reconstructions indicate an origin in the northern Andes during the Middle Miocene (ca. 15 Mya). The current distribution patterns of this plant group have been significantly shaped by geological and climatic events, particularly Andean uplift and the formation of the Panama Isthmus.

Ramírez-Barahona, S. 2024. Incorporating fossils into the joint inference of phylogeny and biogeography of the tree fern order Cyatheales R. Warnock, and M. Zelditch [eds.],. Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1093/evolut/qpae034

Present-day geographic and phylogenetic patterns often reflect the geological and climatic history of the planet. Neontological distribution data are often sufficient to unravel a lineage’s biogeographic history, yet ancestral range inferences can be at odds with fossil evidence. Here, I use the fossilized birth–death process and the dispersal–extinction cladogenesis model to jointly infer the dated phylogeny and range evolution of the tree fern order Cyatheales. I use data for 101 fossil and 442 extant tree ferns to reconstruct the biogeographic history of the group over the last 220 million years. Fossil-aware reconstructions evince a prolonged occupancy of Laurasia over the Triassic–Cretaceous by Cyathealean tree ferns, which is evident in the fossil record but hidden from analyses relying on neontological data alone. Nonetheless, fossil-aware reconstructions are affected by uncertainty in fossils’ phylogenetic placement, taphonomic biases, and specimen sampling and are sensitive to interpretation of paleodistributions and how these are scored. The present results highlight the need and challenges of incorporating fossils into joint inferences of phylogeny and biogeography to improve the reliability of ancestral geographic range estimation.

Anest, A., Y. Bouchenak-Khelladi, T. Charles-Dominique, F. Forest, Y. Caraglio, G. P. Hempson, O. Maurin, and K. W. Tomlinson. 2024. Blocking then stinging as a case of two-step evolution of defensive cage architectures in herbivore-driven ecosystems. Nature Plants. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-024-01649-4

Dense branching and spines are common features of plant species in ecosystems with high mammalian herbivory pressure. While dense branching and spines can inhibit herbivory independently, when combined, they form a powerful defensive cage architecture. However, how cage architecture evolved under mammalian pressure has remained unexplored. Here we show how dense branching and spines emerged during the age of mammalian radiation in the Combretaceae family and diversified in herbivore-driven ecosystems in the tropics. Phylogenetic comparative methods revealed that modern plant architectural strategies defending against large mammals evolved via a stepwise process. First, dense branching emerged under intermediate herbivory pressure, followed by the acquisition of spines that supported higher speciation rates under high herbivory pressure. Our study highlights the adaptive value of dense branching as part of a herbivore defence strategy and identifies large mammal herbivory as a major selective force shaping the whole plant architecture of woody plants. This study explores the evolution of two traits, branching density and spine presence, in the globally distributed plant family Combretaceae. These traits were found to have appeared in a two-step process in response to mammalian herbivory pressure, revealing the importance of large mammals in the evolution of plant architecture diversity.

Prochazka, L. S., S. Alcantara, J. G. Rando, T. Vasconcelos, R. C. Pizzardo, and A. Nogueira. 2024. Resource availability and disturbance frequency shape evolution of plant life forms in Neotropical habitats. New Phytologist. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.19601

Organisms use diverse strategies to thrive in varying habitats. While life history theory partly explains these relationships, the combined impact of resource availability and disturbance frequency on life form strategy evolution has received limited attention.We use Chamaecrista species, a legume plant lineage with a high diversity of plant life forms in the Neotropics, and employ ecological niche modeling and comparative phylogenetic methods to examine the correlated evolution of plant life forms and environmental niches.Chamaephytes and phanerophytes have optima in environments characterized by moderate water and nutrient availability coupled with infrequent fire disturbances. By contrast, annual plants thrive in environments with scarce water and nutrients, alongside frequent fire disturbances. Similarly, geophyte species also show increased resistance to frequent fire disturbances, although they thrive in resource‐rich environments.Our findings shed light on the evolution of plant strategies along environmental gradients, highlighting that annuals and geophytes respond differently to high incidences of fire disturbances, with one enduring it as seeds in a resource‐limited habitat and the other relying on reserves and root resprouting systems in resource‐abundant habitats. Furthermore, it deepens our understanding of how organisms evolve associated with their habitats, emphasizing a constraint posed by low‐resource and high‐disturbance environments.

Minghetti, E., P. M. Dellapé, M. Maestro, and S. I. Montemayor. 2024. Evaluating the climatic suitability of Engytatus passionarius Minghetti et al. (Heteroptera, Miridae) as a biological control agent of the invasive stinking passion flower Passiflora foetida L. in Australia through ecological niche models. Biological Control 191: 105461. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocontrol.2024.105461

Passiflora foetida is a climbing vine, native to the Neotropical Region that is causing major economic and ecological damage in Australia, where it is rapidly spreading. Traditional control options, such as cutting, manual uprooting, and herbicide applications are only effective for local management. Currently, the plant bug Engytatus passionarius is the most promising biological control agent. Specificity tests performed in its native range in Argentina suggest it is highly specific to the plant, and it has not been observed in the field associated with other plants. As climate determines the establishment of insects, knowing if the environmental conditions suit their requirements is key to introducing a species in a region. Also, an overlap between the climatic niches of species is an indicator of similar requirements. To explore the possibilities of a successful establishment of E. passionarius in Australia, ecological niche models (ENM) were built for the plant bug and for the vine and their overlap was measured. The ENM projected to Australia recognized suitable environmental conditions for the establishment of E. passionarius in several regions where P. foetida is present, both for current and future scenarios. Moreover, the niche of the plant bug is almost completely overlapped with that of the vine. All the aforementioned evidence seems to indicate that E. passionarius has a good chance to become an effective biological control agent of P. foetida.

Soto-Trejo, F., F. Robles, R. Lira, L. A. Sánchez-González, E. Ortiz, and P. Dávila. 2024. The evolution of paleo- and neo-endemic species of Cactaceae in the isolated Valley of Tehuacán-Cuicatlán, Mexico. Plant Ecology and Evolution 157: 42–54. https://doi.org/10.5091/plecevo.110352

Background and aims – Endemism may be defined according to the time of origin of taxa. Neo-endemics refer to relatively recent species that have not dispersed outside their ancestral areas. In contrast, paleo-endemics refer to species of ancient origins, which are currently geographically restricted but probably were more widespread in the past. Geographically, endemism areas may also be based on the co-occurrence of more than one species. We aimed to qualitatively identify the neo-endemism and paleo-endemism of endemic Cactaceae of the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley, as well as to quantitatively assess paleo- and neo-endemics areas. Material and methods – Using a dated molecular phylogeny of endemic Cactaceae, we defined paleo- and neo-endemics using an arbitrary boundary of 2.6 million years ago; we also assessed the significance of concentrations of these species using a categorical analysis of paleo- and neo-endemism. Key results – Our results showed that most endemic Cactaceae in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley arose throughout the Pleistocene, while categorical analysis indicated localised mixed- and super-endemism (including both paleo- and neo-endemics) areas. Conclusion – We suggest that paleo- and neo-endemics, as well as localised mixed-endemism areas, may have originated due to a probable high climatic stability in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley, which in addition to topographically rugged and ecologically complex zones (e.g. ecotones, isolated habitat patches) may have allowed it to function as a refuge throughout Pleistocene climatic changes, mainly promoting the speciation of neo-endemics, as well as the persistence of relatively few paleo-endemics.

Neupane, A., B. Adhikari, and B. B. Shrestha. 2024. Cuphea carthagenensis (Jacquin) J.F. Macbride, Lythraceae: a newly naturalised species from eastern Nepal. Check List 20: 40–46. https://doi.org/10.15560/20.1.40

Cuphea carthagenensis (Jacquin) J.F. Macbride, a native of South America, is recorded for the first time from Mechinagar municipality of south‑eastern Nepal. This weed has already been in the neighboring north‑east region of India since the 1950s and might have recently spread into south‑eastern Nepal where it is colonizing riparian habitats. We provide a detailed taxonomic account, as well as the distribution, major habitat, and invasion status of C. carthagenensis.