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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.

Novoa, A., H. Hirsch, M. L. Castillo, S. Canavan, L. González, D. M. Richardson, P. Pyšek, et al. 2023. Genetic and morphological insights into the Carpobrotus hybrid complex around the world. NeoBiota 89: 135–160. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.89.109164

The genus Carpobrotus N.E.Br. comprises between 12 and 25 species, most of which are native to South Africa. Some Carpobrotus species are considered among the most damaging invasive species in coastal dune systems worldwide. In their introduced areas, these species represent a serious threat to native species and significantly impact soil conditions and geochemical processes. Despite being well studied, the taxonomy of Carpobrotus remains problematic, as the genus comprises a complex of species that hybridize easily and are difficult to distinguish from each other. To explore the population genetic structure of invasive Carpobrotus species (i.e., C. acinaciformis and C. edulis) across a significant part of their native and non-native ranges, we sampled 40 populations across Argentina, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and the USA. We developed taxon-specific microsatellite markers using a Next Generation Sequencing approach to analyze the population genetic structure and incidence of hybridization in native and non-native regions. We identified three genetically distinct clusters, which are present in both the native and non-native regions. Based on a set of selected morphological characteristics, we found no clear features to identify taxa morphologically. Our results suggest that the most probable sources of global introductions of Carpobrotus species are the Western Cape region of South Africa and the coastline of California. We suggest that management actions targeting Carpobrotus invasions globally should focus on preventing additional introductions from the east coast of South Africa, and on searching for prospective biocontrol agents in the Western Cape region of South Africa.

Putra, A. R., K. A. Hodgins, and A. Fournier‐Level. 2023. Assessing the invasive potential of different source populations of ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) through genomically informed species distribution modelling. Evolutionary Applications. https://doi.org/10.1111/eva.13632

The genetic composition of founding populations is likely to play a key role in determining invasion success. Individual genotypes may differ in habitat preference and environmental tolerance, so their ability to colonize novel environments can be highly variable. Despite the importance of genetic variation on invasion success, its influence on the potential distribution of invaders is rarely investigated. Here, we integrate population genomics and ecological niche models (ENMs) into a single framework to predict the distribution of globally invasive common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) in Australia. We identified three genetic clusters for ragweed and used these to construct cluster‐specific ENMs and characterize within‐species niche differentiation. The potential range of ragweed in Australia depended on the genetic composition and continent of origin of the introduced population. Invaders originating from warmer, wetter climates had a broader potential distribution than those from cooler, drier ones. By quantifying this change, we identified source populations most likely to expand the ragweed distribution. As prevention remains the most effective method of invasive species management, our work provides a valuable way of ranking the threat posed by different populations to better inform management decisions.

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.flora.2023.152435

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.

Mbobo, T., D. Richardson, and J. Wilson. 2023. Syzygium australe (J.C.Wendl. ex Link) B. Hyland (Myrtaceae) in South Africa: current distribution and invasion potential. BioInvasions Records 12: 637–648. https://doi.org/10.3391/bir.2023.12.3.01

Syzygium australe (Australian brush-cherry; the names Eugenia australis and Syzygium paniculatum have been misapplied to this species in some regions) is native to Australia. It has been introduced and used as an ornamental plant in several regions outside its native range and is invasive in Hawaii and New Zealand. The species was first recorded in South Africa in 1968 and has become a popular and widely traded and planted ornamental species. The first reports of naturalisation in the country appeared in the first decade of the 21st century; the species was subsequently flagged as a priority for investigation and potential regulation as an invasive species. In this paper we mapped the current distribution of S. australe in South Africa, determined its introduction status, and modelled its potential distribution. We also investigated whether cultivated plants are producing fertile seeds and compared such seeds with those produced by plants growing outside cultivation. We recorded S. australe at 268 sites across the country, clustered primarily in the Western Cape province. Naturalised populations have established at three sites, all in the Western Cape. Surveys of these established populations revealed ~ 4000 plants covering an area of ~ 7 ha (representing ~ 2 ha condensed canopy area). These populations were flourishing in riparian habitats in urban areas. Species distribution models suggest that S. australe has the potential to expand its current range in South Africa, primarily in coastal regions. Seeds of both cultivated and naturalised plants showed similar high levels of germinability (both 100%). Building on these findings, we conducted a risk analysis using the Risk Analysis of Alien Taxa Framework, and found S. australe to be of high invasion risk in South Africa. We recommend that all populations outside cultivation be controlled, and that propagation and trade be prohibited. However, except where they occur near riparian habitats, garden plantings do not need to be prioritised for immediate control, and can rather be phased out over time.

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.

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.