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Elkins, L. C., M. R. Acre, M. G. Bean, S. M. Robertson, R. Smith, and J. S. Perkin. 2024. A multiscale perspective for improving conservation of Conchos pupfish. Animal Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1111/acv.12930

Desert spring systems of the American southwest hold high local fish endemism and are ranked among the most threatened ecosystems in the world. The prioritization of conservation resources to protect species living within these arid landscapes requires knowledge of species abundance and distribution. The plight of Conchos pupfish (Cyprinodon eximius) is representative of freshwater fishes the world over, including population extirpations caused by human poisoning of streams and reservoir construction, to the extent that the species was once considered extinct in the USA. We developed a distance‐sampling framework to monitor Conchos pupfish abundance and coupled this approach with species distribution modeling to guide conservation actions. Our multiscale approach included surveying abundances within 5‐m transects at three reaches of the Devils River, where the last known USA populations persist. We combined this fine‐scale analysis with species distribution modeling for stream segments across the range of the species in Mexico and USA. Modeling revealed Conchos pupfish abundance among transects was negatively correlated with current velocity and detection was negatively correlated with water depth. Estimated abundance at a reach where the species was previously reintroduced was greater than other reaches combined in November 2019, lowest in March 2021 when reach water levels were very low, then equivalent with other reaches by October 2021 after water returned to the reach. Modeled Conchos pupfish distribution illustrated a high probability of occurrence on the periphery of the species' overall range within Texas, USA and broadly across Chihuahua, Mexico, where proposed protected areas might benefit the species. Our study provides conservation guidance by establishing (1) baseline and trajectory values for abundance, (2) transect locations where abundances might be managed within existing protected areas, (3) reaches where high abundances could be used for future repatriation, and (4) stream segments where future surveys might be conducted to assess conservation opportunities.

Groh, S. S., P. Upchurch, J. J. Day, and P. M. Barrett. 2023. The biogeographic history of neosuchian crocodiles and the impact of saltwater tolerance variability. Royal Society Open Science 10. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.230725

Extant neosuchian crocodiles are represented by only 24 taxa that are confined to the tropics and subtropics. However, at other intervals during their 200 Myr evolutionary history the clade reached considerably higher levels of species-richness, matched by more widespread distributions. Neosuchians have occupied numerous habitats and niches, ranging from dwarf riverine forms to large marine predators. Despite numerous previous studies, several unsolved questions remain with respect to their biogeographic history, including the geographical origins of major groups, e.g. Eusuchia and Neosuchia itself. We carried out the most comprehensive biogeographic analysis of Neosuchia to date, based on a multivariate K-means clustering approach followed by the application of two ancestral area estimation methods (BioGeoBEARS and Bayesian ancestral location estimation) applied to two recently published phylogenies. Our results place the origin of Neosuchia in northwestern Pangaea, with subsequent radiations into Gondwana. Eusuchia probably emerged in the European archipelago during the Late Jurassic/Early Cretaceous, followed by dispersals to the North American and Asian landmasses. We show that putative transoceanic dispersal events are statistically significantly less likely to happen in alligatoroids. This finding is consistent with the saltwater intolerant physiology of extant alligatoroids, bolstering inferences of such intolerance in their ancestral lineages.

Long, J. M., and L. Seguy. 2023. Global Status of Non-Native Largemouth Bass (Micropterus Salmoides, Centrachidae) and Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus Dolomieu, Centrarchidae): Disparate Views as Beloved Sportfish and Feared Invader. Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture: 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/23308249.2023.2244078

Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides, LMB) and Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu, SMB) are among the most highly invasive species across the globe, but are simultaneously among the most highly sought-after game fish. To explain these disparate views, data on invasive status and angling participation of these two species were compiled at the country level. Largemouth Bass were found established in 62 countries on five continents, whereas SMB were found established in only nine countries on the same five continents. Invasive risk assessments were disparate between the species, with more for SMB (N = 29) than LMB (N = 27). In every instance save one (Finland), SMB were considered “invasive” compared to LMB, which were “invasive” in only 74% of assessments. Twenty-eight countries with non-native black bass have groups that participate in high-profile fishing tournament such the Black Bass World Championship, BASS (Bass Anglers Sportsmans Society) Nation, and Major League Fishing. Most countries with fishing tournaments occur in countries with established LMB populations than in countries with established SMB populations, suggesting a greater economic importance on LMB fishing. The struggle between conserving biodiversity and relying upon economic benefits from fishing for introduced species is a wicked problem likely to continue into the future.

Lee, F., N. C. Boddy, M. Bloxham, A. R. McIntosh, G. L. W. Perry, and K. S. Simon. 2023. Spatiotemporal patterns of research on Southern Hemisphere amphidromous galaxiids: A semi–quantitative review. Austral Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/aec.13315

Amphidromy is a distinctive life‐history strategy of some fish species that involves spawning in fresh or brackish water followed by dispersal to sea by newly hatched larvae, where they develop for a short period. Individuals then return to freshwater as juveniles, where they feed and grow, before maturing and spawning. Six amphidromous species from the Southern Hemisphere genus Galaxias (G. truttaceus, G. fasciatus, G. argenteus, G. postvectis, G. brevipinnis, G. maculatus) are recreationally, culturally, and economically important as the juveniles are harvested. Due to ongoing population declines and a lack of critical demographic information, there is growing concern about the management of the species. Here, we used semi‐quantitative review, culturomics, and bibliometric tools to analyse peer‐reviewed research conducted on the six amphidromous species of Galaxias to: (i) understand how spatiotemporal patterns of research have shifted over the last five decades, and (ii) identify critical research gaps. Forty percent of studies (n = 295) covered a spatial extent of 10 km or less and 87% of studies lasted less than 2 years – studies were largely small and short relative to the species' ranges and their longevity. Additionally, we found important research gaps; for example, studies on the effects of climate change and the associated effects of disturbance, and the marine phase are scarce in the peer‐reviewed literature. Finally, we suggest that quantitative models have been underutilized as tools for studying amphidromous galaxiids and should be embraced to answer questions not readily addressed with field and laboratory‐based techniques. If these species are to be effectively managed, their population dynamics across spatiotemporal scales must be understood and critical and long‐standing gaps in research knowledge addressed.

Smith, A. B., S. J. Murphy, D. Henderson, and K. D. Erickson. 2023. Including imprecisely georeferenced specimens improves accuracy of species distribution models and estimates of niche breadth. Global Ecology and Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13628

Aim Museum and herbarium specimen records are frequently used to assess the conservation status of species and their responses to climate change. Typically, occurrences with imprecise geolocality information are discarded because they cannot be matched confidently to environmental conditions and are thus expected to increase uncertainty in downstream analyses. However, using only precisely georeferenced records risks undersampling of the environmental and geographical distributions of species. We present two related methods to allow the use of imprecisely georeferenced occurrences in biogeographical analysis. Innovation Our two procedures assign imprecise records to the (1) locations or (2) climates that are closest to the geographical or environmental centroid of the precise records of a species. For virtual species, including imprecise records alongside precise records improved the accuracy of ecological niche models projected to the present and the future, especially for species with c. 20 or fewer precise occurrences. Using only precise records underestimated loss of suitable habitat and overestimated the amount of suitable habitat in both the present and the future. Including imprecise records also improves estimates of niche breadth and extent of occurrence. An analysis of 44 species of North American Asclepias (Apocynaceae) yielded similar results. Main conclusions Existing studies examining the effects of spatial imprecision typically compare outcomes based on precise records against the same records with spatial error added to them. However, in real-world cases, analysts possess a mix of precise and imprecise records and must decide whether to retain or discard the latter. Discarding imprecise records can undersample the geographical and environmental distributions of species and lead to mis-estimation of responses to past and future climate change. Our method, for which we provide a software implementation in the enmSdmX package for R, is simple to use and can help leverage the large number of specimen records that are typically deemed “unusable” because of spatial imprecision in their geolocation.

Chiarenza, A. A., A. M. Waterson, D. N. Schmidt, P. J. Valdes, C. Yesson, P. A. Holroyd, M. E. Collinson, et al. 2022. 100 million years of turtle paleoniche dynamics enable the prediction of latitudinal range shifts in a warming world. Current Biology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2022.11.056

Past responses to environmental change provide vital baseline data for estimating the potential resilience of extant taxa to future change. Here, we investigate the latitudinal range contraction that terrestrial and freshwater turtles (Testudinata) experienced from the Late Cretaceous to the Paleogene (100.5–23.03 mya) in response to major climatic changes. We apply ecological niche modeling (ENM) to reconstruct turtle niches, using ancient and modern distribution data, paleogeographic reconstructions, and the HadCM3L climate model to quantify their range shifts in the Cretaceous and late Eocene. We then use the insights provided by these models to infer their probable ecological responses to future climate scenarios at different representative concentration pathways (RCPs 4.5 and 8.5 for 2100), which project globally increased temperatures and spreading arid biomes at lower to mid-latitudes. We show that turtle ranges are predicted to expand poleward in the Northern Hemisphere, with decreased habitat suitability at lower latitudes, inverting a trend of latitudinal range contraction that has been prevalent since the Eocene. Trionychids and freshwater turtles can more easily track their niches than Testudinidae and other terrestrial groups. However, habitat destruction and fragmentation at higher latitudes will probably reduce the capability of turtles and tortoises to cope with future climate changes.

Carmelet‐Rescan, D., M. Morgan‐Richards, N. Pattabiraman, and S. A. Trewick. 2022. Time‐calibrated phylogeny and ecological niche models indicate Pliocene aridification drove intraspecific diversification of brushtail possums in Australia. Ecology and Evolution 12. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.9633

Major aridification events in Australia during the Pliocene may have had significant impact on the distribution and structure of widespread species. To explore the potential impact of Pliocene and Pleistocene climate oscillations, we estimated the timing of population fragmentation and past connectivity of the currently isolated but morphologically similar subspecies of the widespread brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). We use ecological niche modeling (ENM) with the current fragmented distribution of brushtail possums to estimate the environmental envelope of this marsupial. We projected the ENM on models of past climatic conditions in Australia to infer the potential distribution of brushtail possums over 6 million years. D‐loop haplotypes were used to describe population structure. From shotgun sequencing, we assembled whole mitochondrial DNA genomes and estimated the timing of intraspecific divergence. Our projections of ENMs suggest current possum populations were unlikely to have been in contact during the Pleistocene. Although lowered sea level during glacial periods enabled connection with habitat in Tasmania, climate fluctuation during this time would not have facilitated gene flow over much of Australia. The most recent common ancestor of sampled intraspecific diversity dates to the early Pliocene when continental aridification caused significant changes to Australian ecology and Trichosurus vulpecula distribution was likely fragmented. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the subspecies T. v. hypoleucus (koomal; southwest), T. v. arnhemensis (langkurr; north), and T. v. vulpecula (bilda; southeast) correspond to distinct mitochondrial lineages. Despite little phenotypic differentiation, Trichosurus vulpecula populations probably experienced little gene flow with one another since the Pliocene, supporting the recognition of several subspecies and explaining their adaptations to the regional plant assemblages on which they feed.

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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-022-02497-4

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.

Lal, M. M., K. T. Brown, P. Chand, and T. D. Pickering. 2022. An assessment of the aquaculture potential of indigenous freshwater food fish of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga as alternatives to farming of tilapia. Reviews in Aquaculture. https://doi.org/10.1111/raq.12749

An important driver behind introductions for aquaculture of alien fish species into Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) is a lack of knowledge about domestication suitability and specific culture requirements of indigenous taxa. Introductions may be appropriate in some circumstances, but in other circumstances, the associated risks may outweigh the benefits, so greater understanding of indigenous species' aquaculture potential is important. This review summarises literature for indigenous freshwater food fish species from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga, and evaluates their aquaculture potential for food security and/or small‐scale livelihoods. A species selection criteria incorporating economic, social, biological and environmental spheres was used to score 62 candidate species. Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus and O. niloticus) now established in PICTs were evaluated for comparison. Results show that 13 species belonging to the families Mugilidae (Mullets), Terapontidae (Grunters), Kuhliidae (Flagtails) and Scatophagidae (Scats) have the highest culture potential according to selection criteria. These feed at a relatively low trophic level (are herbivores/detritivores), have comparatively fast growth rates and overall possess characteristics most amenable for small‐scale, inland aquaculture. The four top‐ranked candidates are all mountain mullets Cestraeus spp., followed by Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Lower ranked candidates include three other mullets (Planiliza melinoptera, P. subviridis and Mugil cephalus) and rock flagtail Kuhlia rupestris. Importantly, many species remain data deficient in aspects of their reproductive biology or culture performance. Species profiles and ranked priority species by country are provided with logistical, technological and environmental assessments of country capacities to culture each species.

MANCINI, F., A. O. LILLO, R. BARDELLI, S. VIZZINI, and G. MANCINELLI. 2022. Variation in the stable isotope trophic position of the bluefish Pomatomus saltatrix (Linnaeus, 1766) from two Mediterranean sites: insights from a global meta-analysis. Mediterranean Marine Science 23: 850–863. https://doi.org/10.12681/mms.29325

A direct consequence of sea warming is the shift in the distribution range of thermo-tolerant species that have the potential to determine novel inter-specific interactions, ultimately altering food web structures and ecosystem processes. In this study, we investigated the trophic position of the bluefish Pomatomus saltatrix (Linnaeus, 1766), a pelagic predator that has recently expanded its distribution in the Mediterranean basin and for which scant information is available on its functional role in recently-colonised areas. Nitrogen and carbon stable isotopes were determined in muscle tissues of bluefish specimens collected in south-east Italy in the Gulf of Taranto (NW Ionian Sea) and in the Strait of Otranto (SW Adriatic Sea) at two coastal sites showing contrasting oceanographic conditions. The bluefish trophic position (TP) was estimated using locally abundant forage fish species as isotopic baselines. The results indicated for bluefish from the Strait of Otranto a TP value of 5.1, significantly higher than that determined in the Gulf of Taranto (4.2), and exceeding stomach content-based estimations reported by the online database FishBase and by literature sources. A synthesis of 30 publications reporting isotopic data for the bluefish and its potential prey at a global scale indicated that the species’ trophic position varied considerably between 2.7 and 5.2. The observed variability depended on location and on the baseline species used in the estimations. Yet, a significant difference in trophic position was observed for bluefish from transitional and inshore environments as compared with offshore areas, mirroring the results obtained from the Gulf of Taranto and the Strait of Otranto. The findings of the study highlight the high trophic plasticity characterizing the bluefish in recently colonized areas, suggesting that it may play a key role in facilitating the expansion of its distribution range. However, additional investigations are essential to provide an advanced resolution of the bluefish functional role in Mediterranean coastal food webs.