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Mano, G. B., A. Lopes, and M. T. F. Piedade. 2023. Will climate change favor exotic grasses over native ecosystem engineer species in the Amazon Basin? Ecological Informatics 75: 102102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoinf.2023.102102

Several anthropic disturbances, including deforestation, fires, the building of roads and dams, have intensified in Amazon in last decades. These disturbances contribute to an increase in the occurrence and intensity of extreme events, such as more frequent floods and more severe droughts, due to climate change. Along the Amazonian rivers, aquatic herbaceous plants, mainly of the Poaceae family, are very abundant and produce up to three times more biomass than the adjacent flooded forests, and some are considered ecosystem engineers given their structuring role in these environments. Invasive grasses have spread through the Neotropics and are gradually entering the Amazon via the Arc of Deforestation. These invasive species often attain high coverage, suppress other species, and become dominant in both disturbed and pristine habitats. The aim of this study was to establish the current and future distribution patterns of two native ecosystem engineer species (Echinochloa polystachya and Paspalum fasciculatum) and two invasive species (Urochloa brizantha and Urochloa decumbens) in the Amazon Basin. To predict the future climate, we used three scenarios, namely SSP1–2.6, SSP3–7.0 and SSP5–8.5 for the years 2040, 2080 and 2100, to project climatically suitable areas. The current climatically suitable range for the native ecosystem engineer species was estimated at 33–35% of the Amazon Basin, while the invasive ones have a range of 53–84% in potential climatically suitable areas. A decrease in the areas of suitability of the two ecosystem engineer species, E. polystachya and P. fasciculatum, was observed in all scenarios and years, while only the invasive U. brizantha showed an increase in suitable areas in all years. These results raise concerns about the invasion of grasses with high aggressive potential that could result in the exclusion of native ecosystem engineer species and their ecological roles.

Obiakara, M. C., O. S. Olubode, and K. S. Chukwuka. 2023. Climate change and the potential distribution of the invasive shrub, Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) De Wit in Africa. Tropical Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42965-023-00294-w

Leucaena leucocephala , previously known as ‘miracle tree’ because of its numerous agroforestry uses has become a serious invasive species in tropical regions. Despite the risks associated with the spread of L. leucocephala , changes in its distribution with respect to climate are poorly understood, particularly in Africa where it has been widely introduced in more than 30 countries. To provide first-line information for the management of L. leucocephala , we examined its potential distribution in Africa using ecological niche modelling. We identified bioclimatic variables that determine the global distribution of L. leucocephala , and calibrated niche models using MaxEnt and species occurrences recorded between 1973 and 2013. The potential distribution of this species was estimated from model projections in Africa based on current and future climatic conditions. We tested the hypothesis of niche conservatism for L. leucocephala by comparing its climatic niche in Africa to that of its native range. Under current conditions, L. leucocephala is constrained between 30° S and 20° N in Africa, with the broadest distribution in East Africa. High rainfall areas in Central Africa with no known records of this species hitherto, were found to be highly suitable for its establishment. We predicted a significant decrement in the extent of areas at risk of invasion by L. Leucocephala under changing climates in Africa. Our results revealed that the study species occupies a similar but non-identical climatic niche in Africa in relation to its native niche. Climate change is likely to impede the spread of L. leucocephala in Africa.

Lopes, A., L. O. Demarchi, M. T. F. Piedade, J. Schöngart, F. Wittmann, C. B. R. Munhoz, C. S. Ferreira, and A. C. Franco. 2023. Predicting the range expansion of invasive alien grasses under climate change in the Neotropics. Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pecon.2023.02.005

A diverse group of invasive grasses from tropical and subtropical Africa and Asia has spread throughout the Neotropics over the last decades. Despite their strong ecological impact, current and future distribution patterns of these grasses in the region according to climate change is poorly investigated. We chose ten high potential invasive grass species and used ecological niche modeling to project their geographic distribution within the Neotropics under four climate change scenarios (current, SSP1-2.6, SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5 for 2100). Current climatically suitable areas for these invasive species were estimated to account for 51.3% of the Neotropics. Projections of future climatically suitable areas ranged between 47.0% and 57.6%, depending on the climate scenario. Range retractions are projected for Melinis repens and Urochloa decumbens regardless of the SSP scenario, while Arundo donax, Hyparrhenia rufa and Melinis minutiflora are expected to expand their range in all SSP scenarios. Currently, these ten invasive species have suitable areas that greatly overlap in dry regions of the Neotropics, mainly in the savannas of Central Brazil and Central America. However, a reduction in species overlap and a geographical expansion towards wetter regions is expected under the SSP1 and SSP3 scenarios, and towards drier regions under the SSP5 scenario.

Jiménez-López, D. A., M. J. Carmona-Higuita, G. Mendieta-Leiva, R. Martínez-Camilo, A. Espejo-Serna, T. Krömer, N. Martínez-Meléndez, and N. Ramírez-Marcial. 2023. Linking different resources to recognize vascular epiphyte richness and distribution in a mountain system in southeastern Mexico. Flora: 152261. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.flora.2023.152261

Mesoamerican mountains are important centers of endemism and diversity of epiphytes. The Sierra Madre of Chiapas in southeastern Mexico is a mountainous region of great ecological interest due to its high biological richness. We present the first checklist of epiphytes for this region based on a compilation of various information sources. In addition, we determined the conservation status for each species based on the Mexican Official Standard (NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010), endemism based on geopolitical boundaries, spatial completeness with inventory completeness index, richness distribution with range maps, and the relationship between climatic variables (temperature and rainfall) with species richness using generalized additive models. Our dataset includes 9,799 records collected between 1896-2017. Our checklist includes 708 epiphytes within 160 genera and 26 families; the most species-rich family was Orchidaceae (355 species), followed by Bromeliaceae (82) and Polypodiaceae (79). There were 74 species within a category of risk and 59 species considered endemic. Completeness of epiphyte richness suggests that sampling is still largely incomplete, particularly in the lower parts of the mountain system. Species and family range maps show the highest richness at high elevations, while geographically richness increases towards the southeast. Epiphyte richness increases with increased rainfall, although a unimodal pattern was observed along the temperature gradient with a species richness peak between 16-20 C°. The Sierra Madre of Chiapas forms a refuge to more than 40% of all epiphytes reported for Mexico and its existing network of protected areas overlaps with the greatest epiphyte richness.

Glison, N., D. Romero, V. Rosso, J. C. Guerrero, and P. R. Speranza. 2023. Understanding the Geographic Patterns of Closely-Related Species of Paspalum (Poaceae) Using Distribution Modelling and Seed Germination Traits. Plants 12: 1342. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12061342

The sexual species of the Dilatata complex (Paspalum dasypleurum, P. flavescens, P. plurinerve, P. vacarianum, and P. urvillei) are closely related phylogenetically and show allopatric distributions, except P. urvillei. These species show microhabitat similarities and differences in germination traits. We integrated species distribution models (SDMs) and seed germination assays to determine whether germination divergences explain their biogeographic pattern. We trained SDMs in South America using species’ presence–absence data and environmental variables. Additionally, populations sampled from highly favourable areas in the SDMs of these species were grown together, and their seeds germinated at different temperatures and dormancy-breaking conditions. Differences among species in seed dormancy and germination niche breadth were tested, and linear regressions between seed dormancy and climatic variables were explored. SDMs correctly classified both the observed presences and absences. Spatial factors and anthropogenic activities were the main factors explaining these distributions. Both SDMs and germination analyses confirmed that the niche of P. urvillei was broader than the other species which showed restricted distributions, narrower germination niches, and high correlations between seed dormancy and precipitation regimes. Both approaches provided evidence about the generalist-specialist status of each species. Divergences in seed dormancy between the specialist species could explain these allopatric distributions.

Song, X.-J., G. Liu, Z.-Q. Qian, and Z.-H. Zhu. 2023. Niche Filling Dynamics of Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) during Global Invasion. Plants 12: 1313. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12061313

Determining whether the climatic ecological niche of an invasive alien plant is similar to that of the niche occupied by its native population (ecological niche conservatism) is essential for predicting the plant invasion process. Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) usually poses serious threats to human health, agriculture, and ecosystems within its newly occupied range. We calculated the overlap, stability, unfilling, and expansion of ragweed’s climatic ecological niche using principal component analysis and performed ecological niche hypothesis testing. The current and potential distribution of A. artemisiifolia was mapped by ecological niche models to identify areas in China with the highest potential risk of A. artemisiifolia invasion. The high ecological niche stability indicates that A. artemisiifolia is ecologically conservative during the invasion. Ecological niche expansion (expansion = 0.407) occurred only in South America. In addition, the difference between the climatic and native niches of the invasive populations is mainly the result of unpopulated niches. The ecological niche model suggests that southwest China, which has not been invaded by A. artemisiifolia, faces an elevated risk of invasion. Although A. artemisiifolia occupies a climatic niche distinct from native populations, the climatic niche of the invasive population is only a subset of the native niche. The difference in climatic conditions is the main factor leading to the ecological niche expansion of A. artemisiifolia during the invasion. Additionally, human activities play a substantial role in the expansion of A. artemisiifolia. Alterations in the A. artemisiifolia niche would help explain why this species is so invasive in China.

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.

Mai, J., and G. Liu. 2023. Modeling and predicting the effects of climate change on cotton-suitable habitats in the Central Asian arid zone. Industrial Crops and Products 191: 115838. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indcrop.2022.115838

Climate change has significantly affected global agricultural production, particularly in arid zones of Central Asia. Thus, we analyzed changes in the habitat suitability of cotton in Central Asia under various shared socioeconomic pathway (SSP) scenarios during 2021–2060. The results showed that the average minimum temperature in April, precipitation seasonality, and distance to rivers were the main environmental factors influencing the suitable distribution of cotton. Suitable habitats expanded toward the north and east, reaching a maximum net increase of 10.85 × 104 km2 under the SSP5–8.5 scenario during 2041–2060, while habitats in the southwestern area showed a contracting trend. The maximum decreased and increased habitats were concentrated at approximately 68°E and 87°E, respectively. In addition, their latitudinal distributions were concentrated at approximately 40°N and 44°N. The longitudinal and latitudinal dividing lines of increased and decreased habitats were 69°E and 41°N, respectively. Habitats at the same altitude showed an increasing trend, excluding the elevation range of 125–325 m. Habitat shifts could exacerbate spatial conflicts with forest/grassland and natural reserves. The maximum spatial overlap between them was observed under the SSP5–8.5 scenario during 2041–2060. These findings could provide scientific evidence for rational cotton cultivation planning in global arid zones.

Urtasun, M. M., E. M. Giamminola, C. Y. Lamas, C. Caudle Baskin, J. Croce, R. N. Curti, and M. L. de Viana. 2022. Distribución y conservación de las papayas de altura del noroeste argentino bajo escenarios de cambio global. Ecología Austral 32: 331–342. https://doi.org/10.25260/ea.

Wild species related to crops are a source of genes for improving crop tolerance of biotic and abiotic stresses. Vasconcellea quercifolia and V. glandulosa are wild relatives of papaya (Carica papaya). They are the southernmost-distributed members of the genus and have traits related to tolerance of temperature and precipitation seasonality. Climate and land-use changes, however, are threatening their persistence. Our objectives were to identify priority ex situ conservation areas based on the potential distribution of both species in northwestern Argentina under global change scenarios. The potential distribution of Vasconcellea spp. was modeled using occurrence data and five bioclimatic non-correlated variables. Distribution range shifts were assessed in two climate change scenarios for the year 2050, considering land-use changes. Gap analysis methodology was applied, and conservation priorities were identified by an integrated approach of conservation strategies. Vasconcellea quercifolia has a wider habitat suitability area than V. glandulosa, and the effect of landuse change on distribution was higher for the former than la�er species. Conversely, climate change would be more negative on V. glandulosa than V. quercifolia, and the synergic effect of both climate and land-use changes would be higher for V. quercifolia than V. glandulosa. According to gap analysis, both Vasconcellea spp. are high priority species for further germplasm collection. We identified priority areas for ex situ conservation