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Bürger, M., and J. Chory. 2024. A potential role of heat‐moisture couplings in the range expansion of Striga asiatica. Ecology and Evolution 14. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.11332

Parasitic weeds in the genera Orobanche, Phelipanche (broomrapes) and Striga (witchweeds) have a devastating impact on food security across much of Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean Basin. Yet, how climatic factors might affect the range expansion of these weeds in the context of global environmental change remains unexplored. We examined satellite‐based environmental variables such as surface temperature, root zone soil moisture, and elevation, in relation to parasitic weed distribution and environmental conditions over time, in combination with observational data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Our analysis reveals contrasting environmental and altitude preferences in the genera Striga and Orobanche. Asiatic witchweed (Striga asiatica), which infests corn, rice, sorghum, and sugar cane crops, appears to be expanding its range in high elevation habitats. It also shows a significant association with heat‐moisture coupling events, the frequency of which is rising in such environments. These results point to geographical shifts in distribution and abundance in parasitic weeds due to climate change.

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.

Maurin, O., A. Anest, F. Forest, I. Turner, R. L. Barrett, R. C. Cowan, L. Wang, et al. 2023. Drift in the tropics: Phylogenetics and biogeographical patterns in Combretaceae. Global Ecology and Biogeography. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13737

Aim The aim of this study was to further advance our understanding of the species-rich, and ecologically important angiosperm family Combretaceae to provide new insights into their evolutionary history. We assessed phylogenetic relationships in the family using target capture data and produced a dated phylogenetic tree to assess fruit dispersal modes and patterns of distribution. Location Tropical and subtropical regions. Time Period Cretaceous to present. Major Taxa Studied Family Combretaceae is a member of the rosid clade and comprises 10 genera and more than 500 species, predominantly assigned to genera Combretum and Terminalia, and occurring on all continents and in a wide range of ecosystems. Methods We use a target capture approach and the Angiosperms353 universal probes to reconstruct a robust dated phylogenetic tree for the family. This phylogenetic framework, combined with seed dispersal traits, biome data and biogeographic ranges, allows the reconstruction of the biogeographical history of the group. Results Ancestral range reconstructions suggest a Gondwanan origin (Africa/South America), with several intercontinental dispersals within the family and few transitions between biomes. Relative abundance of fruit dispersal types differed by both continent and biome. However, intercontinental colonizations were only significantly enhanced by water dispersal (drift fruit), and there was no evidence that seed dispersal modes influenced biome shifts. Main Conclusions Our analysis reveals a paradox as drift fruit greatly enhanced dispersal distances at intercontinental scale but did not affect the strong biome conservatism observed.

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.

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.

Vieira Araújo, F. H., J. C. B. dos Santos, J. B. dos Santos, A. Ferreira da Silva, R. S. Ramos, R. Siqueira da Silva, and F. Shabani. 2023. Spread of Striga asiatica through suitable climatic conditions: Risk assessment in new areas producing Zea mays in South America. Journal of Arid Environments 210: 104924. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2022.104924

Striga asiatica (dicot), an obligate hemiparasitic of monocots, is a potential threat to South America. Determining the ecological factors that explain the occurrence and predicting suitable areas for S. asiatica are fundamental for designing prevention strategies. We developed a Spatio-temporal dynamics model and evaluated Brazil's Weekly Growth Index (GIW) for S. asiatica. We analyzed four Brazilian regions (Central-West, South, Southeast, and Northeast) to verify the local seasonal variation of the species in climatic data. Our results indicated areas with favorable climatic suitability for the species in part of South America. Seasonal assessment models showed that high rainfall and the dry and cold periods common in tropical regions affect the GIW for S. asiatica. When we associate periods with maximum rainfall of 53 mm per week and temperature above 20 °C, the GIW approaches the optimal index for the regions evaluated, indicating the influence of soil moisture and air temperature. Our risk assessment indicated that the Southeast and Northeast are at the most significant risk of S. asiatica invasion. Projections for climate change between 2040–2059 showed expansions in areas suitable for S. asiatica compared to the current climate of South America.

Vieira Araújo, F. H., A. Ferreira da Silva, R. S. Ramos, S. R. Ferreira, J. Barbosa dos Santos, R. Siqueira da Silva, and F. Shabani. 2022. Modelling climate suitability for Striga asiatica, a potential invasive weed of cereal crops. Crop Protection 160: 106050. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cropro.2022.106050

Striga asiatica (Lamiales: Orobanchaceae), a hemi-parasitic plant native to sub-Saharan Africa and tropical Asia, is particularly problematic to rice, corn, and sorghum cultivation in Africa. Striga asiatica produces a large number of small sized (<0.5 mm) seeds, thereby facilitating easy dispersion by commercial exchange of contaminated grains. The distribution of this species in Africa is regulated by climate, which is the main factor determining local suitability. Modelling is a useful tool to analyse climate suitability for species. This study aimed to determine the areas more vulnerable to S. asiatica invasion both in the present and under the projected climate change model using two methods: MaxEnt (as a correlative approach) and CLIMEX (as a semi-mechanistic approach). The MIROC-H Global Climate Model and the A2 and RCP 8.5 scenarios (the most pessimistic one) were used. Our projections indicated areas suitable for S. asiatica invasion in all continents under both present and projected climate change, with high suitability areas in South America, Africa, and Europe. We found agreement and disagreement between CLIMEX and MaxEnt outputs and the extent of disagreement on the increases in climate suitability by 2050 and 2100 in North America, Europe, and eastern, southern, and western Australia. This study provides a useful tool to design strategies aimed at preventing the introduction and establishment of S. asiatica in South America, with considerable agreement between CLIMEX and MaxEnt outputs.

Zhao, J., X. Yu, W. J. Kress, Y. Wang, Y. Xia, and Q. Li. 2022. Historical biogeography of the gingers and its implications for shifts in tropical rain forest habitats. Journal of Biogeography 49: 1339–1351. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14386

Aim The relationships between biome shifts and global environmental changes in temperate zone habitats have been extensively explored; yet, the historical dynamics of taxa found in the tropical rain forest (TRF) remain poorly known. This study aims to reconstruct the relationships between tropical rain forest shifts and global environmental changes through the patterns of historical biogeography of a pantropical family of monocots, the Zingiberaceae. Location Global. Taxon Zingiberaceae. Methods We sampled DNA sequences (nrITS, trnK, trnL-trnF and psbA-trnH) from GenBank for 77% of the genera, including 30% of species, in the Zingiberaceae. Global fossil records of the Zingiberaceae were collected from literatures. Rates of speciation, extinction and diversification were estimated based on phylogenetic data and fossil records through methods implemented in BAMM. Ancestral ranges were estimated using single-tree BioGeoBEARS and multiple-trees BioGeoBEARS in RASP. Dispersal rate through time and dispersal rate among regions were calculated in R based on the result of ancestral estimation. Results The common ancestor of the Zingiberaceae likely originated in northern Africa during the mid-Cretaceous, with later dispersal to the Asian tropics. Indo-Burma, rather than Malesia, was likely a provenance of the common ancestor of Alpinioideae–Zingiberoideae. Several abrupt shifts of evolutionary rates from the Palaeocene were synchronized with sudden global environmental changes. Main conclusions Integrating phylogenetic patterns with fossil records suggests that the Zingiberaceae dispersed to Asia through drift of the Indian Plate from Africa in the late Palaeocene. Formation of island chains, land corridors and warming temperatures facilitated the emigration of the Zingiberaceae to a broad distribution across the tropics. Moreover, dramatic fluctuations of the speciation rate of Zingiberoideae appear to have been synchronized with global climate fluctuations. In general, the evolutionary history of the Zingiberaceae broadens our understanding of the association between TRF shifts in distribution and past global environmental changes, especially the origin of TRF in Southeast Asia.

Williams, C. J. R., D. J. Lunt, U. Salzmann, T. Reichgelt, G. N. Inglis, D. R. Greenwood, W. Chan, et al. 2022. African Hydroclimate During the Early Eocene From the DeepMIP Simulations. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology 37. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022pa004419

The early Eocene (∼56‐48 million years ago) is characterised by high CO2 estimates (1200‐2500 ppmv) and elevated global temperatures (∼10 to 16°C higher than modern). However, the response of the hydrological cycle during the early Eocene is poorly constrained, especially in regions with sparse data coverage (e.g. Africa). Here we present a study of African hydroclimate during the early Eocene, as simulated by an ensemble of state‐of‐the‐art climate models in the Deep‐time Model Intercomparison Project (DeepMIP). A comparison between the DeepMIP pre‐industrial simulations and modern observations suggests that model biases are model‐ and geographically dependent, however these biases are reduced in the model ensemble mean. A comparison between the Eocene simulations and the pre‐industrial suggests that there is no obvious wetting or drying trend as the CO2 increases. The results suggest that changes to the land sea mask (relative to modern) in the models may be responsible for the simulated increases in precipitation to the north of Eocene Africa. There is an increase in precipitation over equatorial and West Africa and associated drying over northern Africa as CO2 rises. There are also important dynamical changes, with evidence that anticyclonic low‐level circulation is replaced by increased south‐westerly flow at high CO2 levels. Lastly, a model‐data comparison using newly‐compiled quantitative climate estimates from palaeobotanical proxy data suggests a marginally better fit with the reconstructions at lower levels of CO2.

Colli-Silva, M., J. R. Pirani, and A. Zizka. 2022. Ecological niche models and point distribution data reveal a differential coverage of the cacao relatives (Malvaceae) in South American protected areas. Ecological Informatics 69: 101668. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoinf.2022.101668

For many regions, such as in South America, it is unclear how well the existent protected areas network (PAs) covers different taxonomic groups and if there is a coverage bias of PAs towards certain biomes or species. Publicly available occurrence data along with ecological niche models might help to overcome this gap and to quantify the coverage of taxa by PAs ensuring an unbiased distribution of conservation effort. Here, we use an occurrence database of 271 species from the cacao family (Malvaceae) to address how South American PAs cover species with different distribution, abundance, and threat status. Furthermore, we compared the performance of online databases, expert knowledge, and modelled species distributions in estimating species coverage in PAs. We found 79 species from our survey (29% of the total) lack any record inside South American PAs and that 20 out of 23 species potentially threatened with extinction are not covered by PAs. The area covered by South American PAs was low across biomes, except for Amazonia, which had a relative high PA coverage, but little information on species distribution within PA available. Also, raw geo-referenced occurrence data were underestimating the number of species in PAs, and projections from ecological niche models were more prone to overestimating the number of species represented within PAs. We discuss that the protection of South American flora in heterogeneous environments demand for specific strategies tailored to particular biomes, including making new collections inside PAs in less collected areas, and the delimitation of more areas for protection in more known areas. Also, by presenting biasing scenarios of collection effort in a representative plant group, our results can benefit policy makers in conserving different spots of tropical environments highly biodiverse.