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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.

Louw, G. J., L. J. Potgieter, and D. M. Richardson. 2024. Myoporum (Scrophulariaceae): Introduction, naturalization, and invasion of an enigmatic tree genus in South Africa. South African Journal of Botany 168: 529–541. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sajb.2024.03.022

Myoporum is a genus of trees and shrubs native to the Northern Hemisphere that has been introduced to many parts of the world, mainly for ornamental purposes. We assessed the introduction history, distribution, and extent of naturalization/invasion for Myoporum species in South Africa.Information was collated to determine key events associated with the introduction, establishment, and naturalization of Myoporum in South Africa. Data were collated to determine the current distribution of the genus in South Africa. Twenty sites in the Western Cape were sampled to determine correlates of naturalization. Myoporum was first recorded in South Africa in 1934. Three species were confirmed to be present in South Africa: M. insulare, M. laetum and M. montanum (37 %, 25 % and 24 % of all iNaturalist records respectively). Most records are from the Western Cape (91 %) and small parts of the Eastern Cape; isolated populations occur in Gauteng and the Northern Cape. We could not confirm the presence M. petiolatum, M. tenuifolium or M. tetrandrum. Field surveys revealed widespread naturalization of M. insulare (46 % of all Research Grade observations in iNaturalist); this species was categorized code D1 in the introduction-naturalization-invasion continuum. Myoporum laetum (C3) and M. montanum (C2) are also widely naturalized but over smaller areas. Naturalized populations comprised predominantly juvenile M. insulare plants occurring in highly disturbed (transformed) habitats. Formal risk analyses for all Myoporum species in South Africa are needed as the basis for re-evaluation of their status in national legislation.

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.

Vanderhoorn, J. M. M., J. M. Wilmshurst, S. J. Richardson, T. R. Etherington, and G. L. W. Perry. 2024. Revealing the palaeoecology of silent taxa: selecting proxy species from associations in modern vegetation data. Journal of Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14826

Aim Species severely under‐represented in fossil pollen records leave gaps in interpretations and reconstructions of past vegetation. These ‘silent taxa’ leave little or no trace due to low pollen production, dispersal, preservation and taxonomic resolution. An approach for including them is through associating them with other species with reliable pollen representation. Here, we demonstrate a method for selecting such a proxy species for the Holocene using modern vegetation data.LocationNew Zealand.TaxonBeilschmiedia tawa (A.Cunn.) Benth. & Hook. F. ex Kirk (Lauraceae).MethodsWe used vegetation plot data to perform a pairwise co‐occurrence analysis of the New Zealand indigenous forest metacommunity to identify species with a strong positive association with Beilschmiedia tawa (tawa), a common tree severely under‐recorded in the pollen record. For those species, we then modelled their realised climatic niches to identify species with high niche overlap. We discuss how well those species could be interpreted from the Holocene fossil pollen record based on the representation of their pollen taxa.ResultsKnightia excelsa (rewarewa; Proteaceae) is a potential proxy for B. tawa in Holocene fossil pollen records, and other, range‐limited species may provide community‐specific proxies. We show combining resampling with sub‐sampling is a robust method for reducing the high false positive rate associated with large co‐occurrence analyses (1000+ sites) by limiting the sample size to 100 sites.Main ConclusionsWe show that the palaeoecology of silent taxa can be studied via proxy species, allowing their past distributions to be better understood. We highlight the importance of modelling many aspects of the realised niche to understand the usefulness and limitations of the silent–proxy association. Future research should focus on testing the underlying assumptions of the silent–proxy relationship so that models built on modern data can confidently be applied to palaeoecological data.

ter Huurne, M. B., L. J. Potgieter, C. Botella, and D. M. Richardson. 2023. Melaleuca (Myrtaceae): Biogeography of an important genus of trees and shrubs in a changing world. South African Journal of Botany 162: 230–244. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sajb.2023.08.052

The number of naturalised and invasive woody plant species has increased rapidly in recent decades. Despite the increasing interest in tree and shrub invasions, little is known about the invasion ecology of most species. This paper explores the global movement of species in the genus Melaleuca (Myrtaceae; here including the genus Callistemon). We assess the global introduction history, distribution and biogeographic status of the genus. Various global species occurrence databases, citizen science (iNaturalist), and the literature were used.Seventy-two species [out of 386 Melaleuca species; 19%] have been introduced to at least 125 regions outside their native range. The main regions of global Melaleuca introductions are Southeast Asia, the southern parts of North America, south-eastern South America, southern Africa and Europe. The earliest record of a Melaleuca species outside of the native range of the genus is 1789. First records of Melaleuca species outside their native range were most commonly recorded in the 1960s, with records from all over the world. The main reasons for Melaleuca introductions were for use in the tea tree (pharmaceutical value) and ornamental horticulture industries. Melaleuca introductions, naturalizations and invasions are recent compared to many other woody plant taxa. Experiences in Florida and South Africa highlight the potential of Melaleuca species to spread rapidly and have significant ecological impacts. It is likely that the accumulating invasion debt will result in further naturalization and invasion of Melaleuca species in the future.

McCulloch-Jones, E. J., T. Kraaij, N. Crouch, and K. T. Faulkner. 2023. Assessing the invasion risk of traded alien ferns using species distribution models. NeoBiota 87: 161–189. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.87.101104

Risk analysis plays a crucial role in regulating and managing alien and invasive species but can be time-consuming and costly. Alternatively, combining invasion and impact history with species distribution models offers a cost-effective and time-efficient approach to assess invasion risk and identify species for which a comprehensive risk analysis should take precedence. We conducted such an assessment for six traded alien fern species, determining their invasion risk in countries where they are traded. Four of the species (Dicksonia antarctica, Dryopteris erythrosora, Lygodium japonicum, and Phlebodium aureum) showed limited global distributions, while Adiantum raddianum and Sphaeropteris cooperi had broader distributions. A. raddianum, however, was the only species found to pose a high invasion risk in two known trade countries – the USA and Australia – and requires a complete risk analysis to determine the appropriate regulatory responses. Dicksonia antarctica, Phlebodium aureum (for New Zealand), and Dryopteris erythrosora (for the USA) posed a medium risk of invasion due to the lack of evidence of impacts, and a complete risk analysis is thus deemed less crucial for these species in these countries. For other species, suitable environments were not predicted in the countries where they are traded, thus the risk of invasion is low, and a complete risk analysis is not required. For species in countries where suitable environments are predicted but no trade information or presence data are available, risk assessments are recommended to better determine the risk posed. Despite the relatively limited potential global distribution of the studied ferns relative to other major plant invaders (e.g., Pinus spp. and Acacia spp.), their history of invasion, documented impacts in pristine environments, and high propagule pressure from trade warrants concern, possibly necessitating legislative and regulatory measures in environmentally suitable regions.

Cousins-Westerberg, R., N. Dakin, L. Schat, G. Kadereit, and A. M. Humphreys. 2023. Evolution of cold tolerance in the highly stress-tolerant samphires and relatives (Salicornieae: Amaranthaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/botlinnean/boad009

Low temperature constitutes one of the main barriers to plant distributions, confining many clades to their ancestrally tropical biome. However, recent evidence suggests that transitions from tropical to temperate biomes may be more frequent than previously thought. Here, we study the evolution of cold and frost tolerance in the globally distributed and highly stress-tolerant Salicornieae (Salicornioideae, Amaranthaceae s.l.). We first generate a phylogenetic tree comprising almost all known species (85-90%), using newly generated (n = 106) and published nuclear-ribosomal and plastid sequences. Next, we use geographical occurrence data to document in which clades and geographical regions cold-tolerant species occur and reconstruct how cold tolerance evolved. Finally, we test for correlated evolution between frost tolerance and the annual life form. We find that frost tolerance has evolved independently in up to four Northern Hemisphere lineages but that annuals are no more likely to evolve frost tolerance than perennials, indicating the presence of different strategies for adapting to cold environments. Our findings add to mounting evidence for multiple independent out-of-the-tropics transitions among close relatives of flowering plants and raise new questions about the ecological and physiological mechanism(s) of adaptation to low temperatures in Salicornieae.

Richard-Bollans, A., C. Aitken, A. Antonelli, C. Bitencourt, D. Goyder, E. Lucas, I. Ondo, et al. 2023. Machine learning enhances prediction of plants as potential sources of antimalarials. Frontiers in Plant Science 14. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2023.1173328

Plants are a rich source of bioactive compounds and a number of plant-derived antiplasmodial compounds have been developed into pharmaceutical drugs for the prevention and treatment of malaria, a major public health challenge. However, identifying plants with antiplasmodial potential can be time-consuming and costly. One approach for selecting plants to investigate is based on ethnobotanical knowledge which, though having provided some major successes, is restricted to a relatively small group of plant species. Machine learning, incorporating ethnobotanical and plant trait data, provides a promising approach to improve the identification of antiplasmodial plants and accelerate the search for new plant-derived antiplasmodial compounds. In this paper we present a novel dataset on antiplasmodial activity for three flowering plant families – Apocynaceae, Loganiaceae and Rubiaceae (together comprising c. 21,100 species) – and demonstrate the ability of machine learning algorithms to predict the antiplasmodial potential of plant species. We evaluate the predictive capability of a variety of algorithms – Support Vector Machines, Logistic Regression, Gradient Boosted Trees and Bayesian Neural Networks – and compare these to two ethnobotanical selection approaches – based on usage as an antimalarial and general usage as a medicine. We evaluate the approaches using the given data and when the given samples are reweighted to correct for sampling biases. In both evaluation settings each of the machine learning models have a higher precision than the ethnobotanical approaches. In the bias-corrected scenario, the Support Vector classifier performs best – attaining a mean precision of 0.67 compared to the best performing ethnobotanical approach with a mean precision of 0.46. We also use the bias correction method and the Support Vector classifier to estimate the potential of plants to provide novel antiplasmodial compounds. We estimate that 7677 species in Apocynaceae, Loganiaceae and Rubiaceae warrant further investigation and that at least 1300 active antiplasmodial species are highly unlikely to be investigated by conventional approaches. While traditional and Indigenous knowledge remains vital to our understanding of people-plant relationships and an invaluable source of information, these results indicate a vast and relatively untapped source in the search for new plant-derived antiplasmodial compounds.

Robin-Champigneul, F., J. Gravendyck, H. Huang, A. Woutersen, D. Pocknall, N. Meijer, G. Dupont-Nivet, et al. 2023. Northward expansion of the southern-temperate podocarp forest during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum: Palynological evidence from the NE Tibetan Plateau (China). Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology: 104914. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.revpalbo.2023.104914

The debated vegetation response to climate change can be investigated through palynological fossil records from past extreme climate conditions. In this context, the early Eocene (53.3 to 41.2 million years ago (Ma)) is often referred to as a model for a greenhouse Earth. In the Xining Basin, situated on the North-eastern Tibetan Plateau (NETP), this time interval is represented by an extensive and well-dated sedimentary sequence of evaporites and red mudstones. Here we focus on the palynological record of the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO; 53.3 to 49.1 Ma) and study the fossil gymnosperm pollen composition in these sediments. In addition, we also investigate the nearest living relatives (NLR) or botanical affinity of these genera and the paleobiogeographic implications of their occurrence in the Eocene of the NETP. To reach our objective, we complemented transmitted light microscopy with laser scanning- and electron microscopy techniques, to produce high-resolution images, and illustrate the morphological variation within fossil and extant gymnosperm pollen. Furthermore, a morphometric analysis was carried out to investigate the infra- and intrageneric variation of these and related taxa. To place the data in context we produced paleobiogeographic maps for Phyllocladidites and for other Podocarpaceae, based on data from a global fossil pollen data base, and compare these with modern records from GBIF. We also assessed the climatic envelope of the NLR. Our analyses confirm the presence of Phyllocladidites (NLR Phyllocladus, Podocarpaceae) and Podocarpidites (NLR Podocarpus, Podocarpaceae) in the EECO deposits in the Xining Basin. In addition, a comparative study based on literature suggests that Parcisporites is likely a younger synonym of Phyllocladidites. Our findings further suggest that the Phyllocladidites specimens are derived from a lineage that was much more diverse than previously thought, and which had a much larger biogeographical distribution during the EECO than at present. Based on the climatic envelope of the NLR, we suggest that the paleoclimatic conditions in the Xining Basin were warmer and more humid during the EECO. We conclude that phylloclade-type conifers typical of the southern-temperate podocarp forests, had a northward geographical expansion during the EECO, followed by extirpation.

Gharde, Y., R. P. Dubey, P. K. Singh, and J. S. Mishra. 2023. Littleseed canarygrass (Phalaris minor Retz.) a major weed of rice-wheat system in India is predicted to experience range contraction under future climate. International Journal of Pest Management: 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1080/09670874.2023.2199258

Modelling was carried out using maximum entropy model (MaxEnt) to explore and predict the invasion potential of littleseed canarygrass (Phalaris minor Retz.) in India under current as well as future climatic conditions under Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) 4.5 and 8.5 for the years 2050 and 2070. Mutually least correlated 8 bioclimatic variables along with soil and elevation data were used for the modelling over 223 occurrence locations of the species. Jackknife test revealed the significance of temperature derived variables viz. temperature seasonality, annual mean temperature and minimum temperature of the coldest month in governing the potential distribution of P. minor. Currently, 21% of India’s area is either highly (9%) or moderately (12%) suitable as habitat for P. minor. Our model predicts approximately 90% contraction in the area considered to be highly or moderately suitable climatically between 2050 and 2070 under both moderate and high emissions scenarios. Thus, under future climate, a significant niche shift by the species and decreased suitability was observed compared to the current distribution. The present study is first of its kind in exploring the invasion potential of alien invasive weed P. minor under climate change scenarios which is a current threat to rice-wheat system in Indo-Gangetic plains of India.