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Ract, C., N. D. Burgess, L. Dinesen, P. Sumbi, I. Malugu, J. Latham, L. Anderson, et al. 2024. Nature Forest Reserves in Tanzania and their importance for conservation S. S. Romanach [ed.],. PLOS ONE 19: e0281408. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0281408

Since 1997 Tanzania has undertaken a process to identify and declare a network of Nature Forest Reserves (NFRs) with high biodiversity values, from within its existing portfolio of national Forest Reserves, with 16 new NFRs declared since 2015. The current network of 22 gazetted NFRs covered 948,871 hectares in 2023. NFRs now cover a range of Tanzanian habitat types, including all main forest types—wet, seasonal, and dry—as well as wetlands and grasslands. NFRs contain at least 178 of Tanzania’s 242 endemic vertebrate species, of which at least 50% are threatened with extinction, and 553 Tanzanian endemic plant taxa (species, subspecies, and varieties), of which at least 50% are threatened. NFRs also support 41 single-site endemic vertebrate species and 76 single-site endemic plant taxa. Time series analysis of management effectiveness tracking tool (METT) data shows that NFR management effectiveness is increasing, especially where donor funds have been available. Improved management and investment have resulted in measurable reductions of some critical threats in NFRs. Still, ongoing challenges remain to fully contain issues of illegal logging, charcoal production, firewood, pole-cutting, illegal hunting and snaring of birds and mammals, fire, wildlife trade, and the unpredictable impacts of climate change. Increased tourism, diversified revenue generation and investment schemes, involving communities in management, and stepping up control measures for remaining threats are all required to create a network of economically self-sustaining NFRs able to conserve critical biodiversity values.

Alfaro-Saiz, E., A. B. Fernández-Salegui, and C. Acedo. 2023. Plant Conservation in the Midst of Energy Transition: Can Regional Governments Rise to the Challenge? Land 12: 2003. https://doi.org/10.3390/land12112003

Within the expanding wind energy projects context, this study explores the intricate relationship between biodiversity conservation and wind power development in the Cantabrian Mountains. By analyzing data from 1107 UTM grids measuring 10 × 10 km, we have identified 378 endangered vascular plant taxa and 36 bryophytes, including 135 that are regional endemics. Wind power complexes pose a significant risk of irreversible impacts on plant conservation zones and their integrity if proper management informed by the best available scientific knowledge is not implemented. This study introduces the concept of very important plant areas (VIPAs) as a crucial tool for identifying priority conservation areas. A total of 60% of the UTM grids were classified in the “high conservation value” category. Among the endangered species within the region, only 11% are afforded protection at the European level and 17% at the national level, leaving a key role for regional governments with heterogeneous lists. Our findings highlight the urgent need for legislation that accommodates updates to protected species lists, ensuring the inclusion of high-risk taxa and legally binding mechanisms at various administrative tiers. The proposed method relies on quantifiable and repeatable criteria, making it adaptable for application in other territories and for broader land use planning purposes.

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. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12173069

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.

Geier, C., J. M. Bouchal, S. Ulrich, D. Uhl, T. Wappler, S. Wedmann, R. Zetter, et al. 2023. Potential pollinators and paleoecological aspects of Eocene Ludwigia (Onagraceae) from Eckfeld, Germany. Palaeoworld. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palwor.2023.07.003

Paleogene flower-insect interactions and paleo-pollination processes are, in general, poorly understood and fossil evidence for such floral and faunal interactions are rarely reported. To shed light on angiosperm flower-insect interactions, we investigated several hundred fossil flowers and insects from the middle Eocene Fossil Lagerstätte of Eckfeld, Germany. During our work, we discovered a unique fossil Ludwigia flower (bud) with in situ pollen. The ecological preferences (climate, biome, habitat, etc.) of extant Ludwigia and the paleoecological configurations of the fossil plant assemblage support the taxonomic affiliation of the flower bud and an Eocene presence of Ludwigia in the vicinity of the former Lake Eckfeld. Today’s Ludwigia are mostly pollinated by Hymenoptera (bees). Therefore, we screened all currently known hymenopteran fossils from Eckfeld but found no Ludwigia pollen adhering to any of the specimens. On the contrary, we discovered Ludwigia pollen adhering to two different groups of Coleoptera (beetles). Our study suggests that during the Eocene of Europe, Ludwigia flowers were visited and probably pollinated by beetles and over time there was a shift in primary flower visitors/pollinators, from beetles to bees, sometime during the late Paleogene to Neogene.

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.

Marcussen, T., H. E. Ballard, J. Danihelka, A. R. Flores, M. V. Nicola, and J. M. Watson. 2022. A Revised Phylogenetic Classification for Viola (Violaceae). Plants 11: 2224. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11172224

The genus Viola (Violaceae) is among the 40–50 largest genera among angiosperms, yet its taxonomy has not been revised for nearly a century. In the most recent revision, by Wilhelm Becker in 1925, the then-known 400 species were distributed among 14 sections and numerous unranked groups. Here, we provide an updated, comprehensive classification of the genus, based on data from phylogeny, morphology, chromosome counts, and ploidy, and based on modern principles of monophyly. The revision is presented as an annotated global checklist of accepted species of Viola, an updated multigene phylogenetic network and an ITS phylogeny with denser taxon sampling, a brief summary of the taxonomic changes from Becker’s classification and their justification, a morphological binary key to the accepted subgenera, sections and subsections, and an account of each infrageneric subdivision with justifications for delimitation and rank including a description, a list of apomorphies, molecular phylogenies where possible or relevant, a distribution map, and a list of included species. We distribute the 664 species accepted by us into 2 subgenera, 31 sections, and 20 subsections. We erect one new subgenus of Viola (subg. Neoandinium, a replacement name for the illegitimate subg. Andinium), six new sections (sect. Abyssinium, sect. Himalayum, sect. Melvio, sect. Nematocaulon, sect. Spathulidium, sect. Xanthidium), and seven new subsections (subsect. Australasiaticae, subsect. Bulbosae, subsect. Clausenianae, subsect. Cleistogamae, subsect. Dispares, subsect. Formosanae, subsect. Pseudorupestres). Evolution within the genus is discussed in light of biogeography, the fossil record, morphology, and particular traits. Viola is among very few temperate and widespread genera that originated in South America. The biggest identified knowledge gaps for Viola concern the South American taxa, for which basic knowledge from phylogeny, chromosome counts, and fossil data is virtually absent. Viola has also never been subject to comprehensive anatomical study. Studies into seed anatomy and morphology are required to understand the fossil record of the genus.

Lu, L.-L., B.-H. Jiao, F. Qin, G. Xie, K.-Q. Lu, J.-F. Li, B. Sun, et al. 2022. Artemisia pollen dataset for exploring the potential ecological indicators in deep time. Earth System Science Data 14: 3961–3995. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-14-3961-2022

Abstract. Artemisia, along with Chenopodiaceae, is the dominant component growing in the desert and dry grassland of the Northern Hemisphere. Artemisia pollen with its high productivity, wide distribution, and easy identification is usually regarded as an eco-indicator for assessing aridity and distinguishing grassland from desert vegetation in terms of the pollen relative abundance ratio of Chenopodiaceae/Artemisia (C/A). Nevertheless, divergent opinions on the degree of aridity evaluated by Artemisia pollen have been circulating in the palynological community for a long time. To solve the confusion, we first selected 36 species from nine clades and three outgroups of Artemisia based on the phylogenetic framework, which attempts to cover the maximum range of pollen morphological variation. Then, sampling, experiments, photography, and measurements were taken using standard methods. Here, we present pollen datasets containing 4018 original pollen photographs, 9360 pollen morphological trait measurements, information on 30 858 source plant occurrences, and corresponding environmental factors. Hierarchical cluster analysis on pollen morphological traits was carried out to subdivide Artemisia pollen into three types. When plotting the three pollen types of Artemisia onto the global terrestrial biomes, different pollen types of Artemisia were found to have different habitat ranges. These findings change the traditional concept of Artemisia being restricted to arid and semi-arid environments. The data framework that we designed is open and expandable for new pollen data of Artemisia worldwide. In the future, linking pollen morphology with habitat via these pollen datasets will create additional knowledge that will increase the resolution of the ecological environment in the geological past. The Artemisia pollen datasets are freely available at Zenodo (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6900308; Lu et al., 2022).

Ar, B., G. Tuttu, D. Gülçin, A. U. Özcan, E. Kara, M. Sürmen, K. Çiçek, and J. Velázquez. 2022. Response of an Invasive Plant Species (Cynanchum acutum L.) to Changing Climate Conditions and Its Impact on Agricultural Landscapes. Land 11: 1438. https://doi.org/10.3390/land11091438

Forecasting the distribution patterns of invasive weed species under changing climate conditions is critical for the early identification of especially vulnerable regions and the implementation of effective preventive measures. In this study, the current and potential range of stranglewort (Cynanchum acutum L.)—an invasive alien species (IAS) in certain regions—are predicted under various climate scenarios, using the maximum entropy algorithm. Species occurrence data representing the natural distribution of C. acutum and 15 of the WorldClim bioclimatic variables are used. With an ensemble method, the impact of climate change on the distribution of the species is predicted according to five CMIP6 climate change models and three scenarios (optimistic: SSP245; middle of the road: SSP370; and pessimistic: SSP585). According to the findings, it is predicted in all scenarios that C. acutum could expand its range to the north, particularly in agricultural landscapes. Therefore, the invasive status of this species will likely continue in the future. This emphasizes the need to determine the priority of conservation targets, especially for agricultural areas, to ensure food safety and protect biodiversity.

Escolástico-Ortiz, D. A., L. Hedenäs, D. Quandt, D. Harpke, J. Larraín, M. Stech, and J. C. Villarreal A. 2022. Cryptic speciation shapes the biogeographic history of a northern distributed moss. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/botlinnean/boac027

Abstract Increasing evidence indicates that wide distributed bryophyte taxa with homogeneous morphology may represent separate evolutionary lineages. The evolutionary histories of these cryptic lineages may be related to historical factors, such as the climatic oscillations in the Quaternary. Thus, the post-glacial demographic signatures paired with cryptic speciation may result in complex phylogeographic patterns. This research has two aims: to determine whether the widespread moss Racomitrium lanuginosum represents cryptic molecular taxa across the Northern Hemisphere and to infer the effects of Quaternary glaciations on spatial genetic diversity. We used the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) marker to resolve the phylogeographic history of the species and single nucleotide polymorphisms (genotyping-by-sequencing) to infer the genetic structure and demographic history. Finally, we assessed the historical changes in the distribution range using species distribution models. Racomitrium lanuginosum comprises distinct molecular lineages sympatrically distributed in the Northern Hemisphere. We also uncovered long-distance dispersal from eastern North America to Scandinavia and potential in situ survival in northern Scandinavia. Due to the genetic signatures, the Alaska Peninsula could be considered a glacial refugium. The species experienced post-glacial expansion northwards in the Northern Hemisphere, mainly from the Alaska Peninsula. Our results exemplify the complex phylogeographic history in cold environments and contribute to recognizing evolutionary patterns in the Northern Hemisphere.

Filartiga, A. L., A. Klimeš, J. Altman, M. P. Nobis, A. Crivellaro, F. Schweingruber, and J. Doležal. 2022. Comparative anatomy of leaf petioles in temperate trees and shrubs: the role of plant size, environment and phylogeny. Annals of Botany 129: 567–582. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcac014

Background and Aims Petioles are important plant organs connecting stems with leaf blades and affecting light-harvesting ability of the leaf as well as transport of water, nutrients and biochemical signals. Despite the high diversity in petiole size, shape and anatomy, little information is availabl…