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Köhler, M., M. Romeiro‐Brito, and M. Telhe. 2024. The Cerrado through cacti. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14846

Cerrado is a large and heterogeneous ecoregion in the Neotropics marked by the fire‐prone savanna vegetation, to which succulent lineages are usually not associated due to this adverse condition. However, recent studies have highlighted the importance of Cerrado as an ancestral range for the origin, dispersal and in situ diversification of remarkable lineages of South American cacti. In this perspective, we explore the implications of these occurrences in the Cerrado, shedding light on a frequently overlooked aspect of this ecoregion—the role of scattered rocky outcrop habitats acting as micro‐refuges for fire‐sensitive lineages. We show that most cacti occurrences are associated with patches of rock outcrops across the Cerrado. In contrast, when terricolous, a few disparate and not closely related species can develop underground structures or present a specialized habit that facilitates their presence as a putative response to fire—reinforcing the evolutionary lability of fire adaptation in Cerrado lineages. Despite some notable endemisms, several occurrences are from species with core distributions in adjacent ecoregions (e.g. Caatinga and Chaco), demonstrating the permeability of Cerrado, which can act concomitantly as a biogeographical barrier (especially due to its fire‐prone habitats) and as a corridor for biota interchange. Finally, we stress that Cerrado heterogeneity, often leading to different circumscriptions, is a relevant issue when studying and characterizing Neotropical biota, which must be further explored and considered to assess the evolutionary assembly of the biomes involved.

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.

Souto, C. P., L. P. Zalazar, M. Tadey, and A. C. Premoli. 2024. Modeling past, present and future: Species-specific responses to climate changes in three shrub congeners from south American drylands. Journal of Arid Environments 221: 105139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2024.105139

Drylands cover ca. 40% of the land global surface and deliver significant ecosystem services. These regions are the most sensitive, prone to suffer the effects of climate and distribution changes, so estimates on projected range shifts are crucial to complement traditional approaches to biodiversity conservation and sustainability. Shrubs of the Monte Desert dominate the largest temperate dryland in South America. Our goal is to assess the spatial distribution and niche overlap of three native shrubs (Larrea cuneifolia (LC), L. divaricata (LD), and L. nitida (LN)), under present climate conditions, to retrodict their potential past distribution, and anticipate their predicted range under future climate scenarios. We used ecological niche modeling that were projected to the past (LGM and Mid Holocene) and future (2050 and 2070) under two scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions and two model of global circulation. All species have high niche overlap (67–89%), but showed species-specific responses, highlighting the need to develop mitigation measures particularly for LD and LN in the face of climate change and land use pressures. Global South deserts are being highly degraded and information on future potential ranges of endemic species can support the development of sustainable conservation and management plans.

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.

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.

Rautela, K., A. Kumar, S. K. Rana, A. Jugran, and I. D. Bhatt. 2024. Distribution, Chemical Constituents and Biological Properties of Genus Malaxis. Chemistry & Biodiversity. https://doi.org/10.1002/cbdv.202301830

The genus Malaxis (family Orchidaceae), comprises nearly 183 species available across the globe. The plants of this genus have long been employed in traditional medical practices because of their numerous biological properties, like the treatment of infertility, hemostasis, burning sensation, bleeding diathesis, fever, diarrhea, dysentery, febrifuge, tuberculosis, etc. Various reports highlight their phytochemical composition and biological activities. However, there is a lack of systematic review on the distribution, phytochemistry, and biological properties of this genus. Hence, this study aims to conduct a thorough and critical review of Malaxis species, covering data published from 1965 to 2022 with nearly 90 articles. Also, it examines different bioactive compounds, their chemistry, and pharmacotherapeutics as well as their traditional uses. A total of 191 unique compounds, including the oil constituents were recorded from Malaxis species. The highest active ingredients were obtained from Malaxis acuminata (103) followed by Malaxis muscifera (50) and Malaxis rheedei (33). In conclusion, this review offers an overview of the current state of knowledge on Malaxis species and highlights prospects for future research projects on them. Additionally, it recommends the promotion of domestication studies for rare medicinal orchids like Malaxis and the prompt implementation of conservation measures.

Angulo, J. C., J. M. Burke, and F. A. Michelangeli. 2023. Characterizing the frequency, morphological gradient, and distribution of dioecy in Miconia (Melastomataceae). International Journal of Plant Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1086/729063

Dioecy has evolved many times independently within the angiosperms. The distribution, frequency of occurrence, and floral morphology of dioecious angiosperms constitute the foundations for comparative studies of dioecy, yet for many groups they are still poorly characterized. We assessed species of Miconia for the presence of dioecious reproductive system, characterized the floral morphology for staminate and pistillate flowers, and used herbarium records to analyze patterns of distribution and elevational range. We find that dioecious Miconia represent an uncommon case of mismatched stage of organ abortion between staminate and pistillate flowers, with functionally pistillate flower morphology largely consistent across species, and morphological expression in functionally staminate flowers varying from near absent to slight reductions in gynoecia. We identify 58 dioecious species and 15 putatively dioecious species within Miconia that are distributed primarily in montane habitats between 1000 m – 3500 m in the Andes, parts of Central America, and the Caribbean. Our results double the last known count of dioecy in Miconia and highlight the gradient of vestigial morphology in staminate flowers. Lastly, we provide discussion on the significance of dioecy in relation to floral development, pollination, and ecology in Miconia.

Issaly, E. A., M. C. Baranzelli, N. Rocamundi, A. M. Ferreiro, L. A. Johnson, A. N. Sérsic, and V. Paiaro. 2023. Too much water under the bridge: unraveling the worldwide invasion of the tree tobacco through genetic and ecological approaches. Biological Invasions. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-023-03189-y

Understanding how, and from where, invasive species were introduced is critical for revealing the invasive mechanism, explaining the invasion success, and providing crucial insights for effective management. Here, we combined a phylogeographic approach with ecological niche modeling comparisons to elucidate the introduction mode and source of Nicotiana glauca , a native South American species that is now invasive worldwide. We tested three different scenarios based on the invasion source—random native, restricted native, and bridgehead invasive—considering genetic diversity and climatic niche comparisons among native and invaded areas. We found three genetic lineages geographically and climatically differentiated within the native range. Only one of these genetic groups contained the invasive haplotypes, but showed no climatic niche overlap with any invaded area. Conversely, one invaded area located in western South America, with more genetic diversity than other invaded areas but less than the native range, showed climatic niche overlap with almost all other invaded areas worldwide. These findings indicate that N. glauca first likely invaded the southernmost areas beyond its native range, forming a bridgehead invasive source, from which the species subsequently invaded other regions around the world. Invasiveness would have been fostered by changes in the environmental preferences of the species in the bridgehead area, towards drier, colder and less seasonal climates, becoming the actual source of invasion to areas climatically similar throughout the world. The fine scale resolution analyses combining genetic and climatic approaches within the native range were essential to illuminating the introduction scenario of this invasive species.