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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.

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.

Rocha, J., P. J. Nunes, A. Pinto, L. Fenina, A. L. Afonso, A. R. Seixas, R. Cruz, et al. 2024. Ecological adaptation of Australian Myrtaceae through the leaf waxes analysis: Corymbia citriodora, Eucalyptus gunnii, and Eucalyptus globulus. Flora 310: 152435.

Seeking to get insight into the close relationship between plant waxes and the climatic conditions of plants’ original biomes, the leaves of three Myrtaceae from the eastern Australian-Tasmanian region (Corymbia citriodora (Hook.) K.D.Hill & L.A.S.Johnson (lemon-scented gum), Eucalyptus gunnii Hook. (cider gum), and Eucalyptus globulus Labill. (blue gum)) were selected. The present study relied on the analysis of juvenile leaf samples of the three species collected at the Botanical Garden of the University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (Portugal) during the driest and warmest period of the year (July), to ensure the same environmental conditions as the Australian species from December to February, for cider gum and blue gum, and from June to September, for lemon-scented gum. Both surfaces of the leaves of the three Myrtaceae species exhibit superhydrophobic behavior. They are covered with wax tubules, but these are thicker and the surface is smoother in the case of cider gum. From the chemical standpoint, the leaf waxes of the three species revealed a prevalence of β-diketones and sterols over alcohols, alkanes, and esters. The relative ketone/sterol concentration ratio demonstrated an environmental dynamic variation with climate, i.e., with the ombrothermic regimes. The highest concentration of β-diketone and the lowest concentration of sterols was observed for species from dryer conditions (lemon-scented gum), whereas the reverse trend was found for species from wetter conditions (cider gum and blue gum).The present work strongly suggests that the chemical composition of leaf waxes, rather than wettability, seems to be directly correlated with environmental variability at the species’ natural site. The methodology proposed here opens exciting new prospects for the investigation of the environmental dynamics of terrestrial plants.

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.

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.

Rodríguez-Merino, A. 2023. Identifying and Managing Areas under Threat in the Iberian Peninsula: An Invasion Risk Atlas for Non-Native Aquatic Plant Species as a Potential Tool. Plants 12: 3069.

Predicting the likelihood that non-native species will be introduced into new areas remains one of conservation’s greatest challenges and, consequently, it is necessary to adopt adequate management measures to mitigate the effects of future biological invasions. At present, not much information is available on the areas in which non-native aquatic plant species could establish themselves in the Iberian Peninsula. Species distribution models were used to predict the potential invasion risk of (1) non-native aquatic plant species already established in the peninsula (32 species) and (2) those with the potential to invade the peninsula (40 species). The results revealed that the Iberian Peninsula contains a number of areas capable of hosting non-native aquatic plant species. Areas under anthropogenic pressure are at the greatest risk of invasion, and the variable most related to invasion risk is temperature. The results of this work were used to create the Invasion Risk Atlas for Alien Aquatic Plants in the Iberian Peninsula, a novel online resource that provides information about the potential distribution of non-native aquatic plant species. The atlas and this article are intended to serve as reference tools for the development of public policies, management regimes, and control strategies aimed at the prevention, mitigation, and eradication of non-native aquatic plant species.

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.

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.

Silva, C. P., D. N. López, P. I. Naulin, and S. A. Estay. 2023. Can suitability indices predict plant growth in the invaded range? The case of Acacias species. Frontiers in Plant Science 14.

IntroductionForestry in many parts of the world depends on exotic species, making this industry a source of invasions in some countries. Among others, plantations of the genus Pinus, Eucalyptus, Acacia, Populus, and Pseudotsuga underpin the forestry industry and are a vital component of many countries economies. Among woody plants, the cosmopolitan genus Acacia includes some of the most commonly planted trees worldwide. In order to prevent, manage and control invasive plant species, one of the most used tools is species distribution models. The output of these models can also be used to obtain information about population characteristics, such as spatial abundance patterns or species performance. Although ecological theory suggests a direct link between fitness and suitability, this link is often absent. The reasons behind the lack of this relationship are multiple. Chile is one of the countries where Acacia species, in particular, A. dealbata and A. melanoxylon, have become invaders. MethodsHere, we used climatic and edaphic variables to predict thepotentially suitable habitats for A. dealbata and A. melanoxylon in continental Chile and evaluate if the suitability indices obtained from these models are associated with the observed performance of the trees along the country. ResultsOur models show that variable importance showed significant similarities between the variables that characterize each species’ niche. However, despite the high accuracy of our models, we did not observe an association between suitability and tree growth.DiscussionThis disconnection between suitability and performance can result from multiple causes, from structural limitations, like the lack of biotic interactions in the models, to methodological issues, like the usefulness of the performance metric used. Whatever the scenario, our results suggest that plans to control invasive species should be cautious in assuming this relationship in their design and consider other indicators such as species establishment success.

Sarker, U., Y.-P. Lin, S. Oba, Y. Yoshioka, and K. Hoshikawa. 2022. Prospects and potentials of underutilized leafy Amaranths as vegetable use for health-promotion. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry 182: 104–123.

Climate change causes environmental variation worldwide, which is one of the most serious threats to global food security. In addition, more than 2 billion people in the world are reported to suffer from serious malnutrition, referred to as ‘hidden hunger.’ Dependence on only a few crops could lead to the loss of genetic diversity and high fragility of crop breeding in systems adapting to global scale climate change. The exploitation of underutilized species and genetic resources, referred to as orphan crops, could be a useful approach for resolving the issue of adaptability to environmental alteration, biodiversity preservation, and improvement of nutrient quality and quantity to ensure food security. Moreover, the use of these alternative crops will help to increase the human health benefits and the income of farmers in developing countries. In this review, we highlight the potential of orphan crops, especially amaranths, for use as vegetables and health-promoting nutritional components. This review highlights promising diversified sources of amaranth germplasms, their tolerance to abiotic stresses, and their nutritional, phytochemical, and antioxidant values for vegetable purposes. Betalains (betacyanins and betaxanthins), unique antioxidant components in amaranth vegetables, are also highlighted regarding their chemodiversity across amaranth germplasms and their stability and degradation. In addition, we discuss the physiological functions, antioxidant, antilipidemic, anticancer, and antimicrobial activities, as well as the biosynthesis pathway, molecular, biochemical, genetics, and genomic mechanisms of betalains in detail.

Sluiter, I. R. K., G. R. Holdgate, T. Reichgelt, D. R. Greenwood, A. P. Kershaw, and N. L. Schultz. 2022. A new perspective on Late Eocene and Oligocene vegetation and paleoclimates of South-eastern Australia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 596: 110985.

We present a composite terrestrial pollen record of latest Eocene through Oligocene (35.5–23 Ma) vegetation and climate change from the Gippsland Basin of south-eastern Australia. Climates were overwhelmingly mesothermic through this time period, with mean annual temperature (MAT) varying between 13 and 18 °C, with an average of 16 °C. We provide evidence to support a cooling trend through the Eocene–Oligocene Transition (EOT), but also identify three subsequent warming cycles through the Oligocene, leading to more seasonal climates at the termination of the Epoch. One of the warming episodes in the Early Oligocene appears to have also occurred at two other southern hemisphere sites at the Drake Passage as well as off eastern Tasmania, based on recent research. Similarities with sea surface temperature records from modern high southern latitudes which also record similar cycles of warming and cooling, are presented and discussed. Annual precipitation varied between 1200 and 1700 mm/yr, with an average of 1470 mm/yr through the sequence. Notwithstanding the extinction of Nothofagus sg. Brassospora from Australia and some now microthermic humid restricted Podocarpaceae conifer taxa, the rainforest vegetation of lowland south-eastern Australia is reconstructed to have been similar to present day Australian Evergreen Notophyll Vine Forests existing under the sub-tropical Köppen-Geiger climate class Cfa (humid subtropical) for most of the sequence. Short periods of cooler climates, such as occurred through the EOT when MAT was ~ 13 °C, may have supported vegetation similar to modern day Evergreen Microphyll Fern Forest. Of potentially greater significance, however, was a warm period in the Early to early Late Oligocene (32–26 Ma) when MAT was 17–18 °C, accompanied by small but important increases in Araucariaceae pollen. At this time, Araucarian Notophyll/Microphyll Vine Forest likely occurred regionally.

Vasconcelos, T., J. D. Boyko, and J. M. Beaulieu. 2021. Linking mode of seed dispersal and climatic niche evolution in flowering plants. Journal of Biogeography.

Aim: Due to the sessile nature of flowering plants, movements to new geographical areas occur mainly during seed dispersal. Frugivores tend to be efficient dispersers because animals move within the boundaries of their preferable niches, so seeds are more likely to be transported to environments tha…

Benhadi-Marín, J., A. Fereres, and J. A. Pereira. 2021. Potential areas of spread of Trioza erytreae over mainland Portugal and Spain. Journal of Pest Science 95: 67–78.

Trioza erytreae is one natural psyllid vector of Candidatus liberibacter, the causal agent of the citrus greening disease (HLB). Since its introduction in 2014 into the Iberian Peninsula, T. erytreae was able to spread continuously toward southern coastal regions of Portugal and northern coastal reg…