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Raggi, L., C. Zucchini, E. Sayde, D. Gigante, and V. Negri. 2024. Priority areas for the establishment of genetic reserves to actively protect key crop wild relative species in Italy. Global Ecology and Conservation 50: e02836. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2024.e02836

Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) are wild plant taxa genetically close to a crop. Being a precious source of genetic variability and of traits for crop improvement, CWR have a high socio-economic value and are identified among the main plant genetic resources. Alarming enough, the inter- and intraspecific diversity, as well as their habitat diversity, is under threat of irremediable loss. Italy is the second richest country in Europe in terms of plant species number; applying the taxon group concept 5712 have been recently identified as CWR. The aims of the present research are to identify the best sites for: i) the institution of genetic reserves to actively protect CWR species of the key crop genera as Allium, Brassica and Triticum and ii) performing new collection missions to reach adequate ex situ conservation of target species. Georeferenced data were retrieved from different online databases. CAPFITOGEN tools were initially used to develop an ecogeographic land characterisation map (ELC) of Italy. Geographical distribution data were assembled for 379 populations of 18 CWR taxa. Results of the complementarity analysis showed that 10 protected areas provide coverage of the 46.4% of the target conservation units and include 66.7% of the priority CWR taxa investigated. Alarming enough, only 7.4% of the 379 populations are currently conserved ex situ; among the 18 ecogeographic land characterisation categories only 3 are covered by ex situ conservation. This is the first study where most suitable protected areas for the institution of genetic reserves are proposed for Italy for the protection of multiple CWR taxa of key genera; this is relevant also considering the global value of many of the related crop such as different wheat species, cabbages, rape, garlic and onion. Being already dedicated to habitat and species conservation, the identified sites are optimal candidates for the institution of genetic reserves. Results will hopefully also guide new collecting missions that are urgently needed to strength ex situ conservation of such precious genetic resources.

Huang, T., J. Chen, K. E. Hummer, L. A. Alice, W. Wang, Y. He, S. Yu, et al. 2023. Phylogeny of Rubus (Rosaceae): Integrating molecular and morphological evidence into an infrageneric revision. TAXON. https://doi.org/10.1002/tax.12885

Rubus (Rosaceae), one of the most complicated angiosperm genera, contains about 863 species, and is notorious for its taxonomic difficulty. The most recent (1910–1914) global taxonomic treatment of the genus was conducted by Focke, who defined 12 subgenera. Phylogenetic results over the past 25 years suggest that Focke's subdivisions of Rubus are not monophyletic, and large‐scale taxonomic revisions are necessary. Our objective was to provide a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of the genus based on an integrative evidence approach. Morphological characters, obtained from our own investigation of living plants and examination of herbarium specimens are combined with chloroplast genomic data. Our dataset comprised 196 accessions representing 145 Rubus species (including cultivars and hybrids) and all of Focke's subgenera, including 60 endemic Chinese species. Maximum likelihood analyses inferred phylogenetic relationships. Our analyses concur with previous molecular studies, but with modifications. Our data strongly support the reclassification of several subgenera within Rubus. Our molecular analyses agree with others that only R. subg. Anoplobatus forms a monophyletic group. Other subgenera are para‐ or polyphyletic. We suggest a revised subgeneric framework to accommodate monophyletic groups. Character evolution is reconstructed, and diagnostic morphological characters for different clades are identified and discussed. Based on morphological and molecular evidence, we propose a new classification system with 10 subgenera: R. subg. Anoplobatus, R. subg. Batothamnus, R. subg. Chamaerubus, R. subg. Cylactis, R. subg. Dalibarda, R. subg. Idaeobatus, R. subg. Lineati, R. subg. Malachobatus, R. subg. Melanobatus, and R. subg. Rubus. The revised infrageneric nomenclature inferred from our analyses is provided along with synonymy and type citations. Our new taxonomic backbone is the first systematic and complete global revision of Rubus since Focke's treatment. It offers new insights into deep phylogenetic relationships of Rubus and has important theoretical and practical significance for the development and utilization of these important agronomic crops.

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).

Pirie, M. D., R. Blackhall‐Miles, G. Bourke, D. Crowley, I. Ebrahim, F. Forest, M. Knaack, et al. 2022. Preventing species extinctions: A global conservation consortium for Erica. PLANTS, PEOPLE, PLANET 4: 335–344. https://doi.org/10.1002/ppp3.10266

Societal Impact Statement Human-caused habitat destruction and transformation is resulting in a cascade of impacts to biological diversity, of which arguably the most fundamental is species extinctions. The Global Conservation Consortia (GCC) are a means to pool efforts and expertise across national boundaries and between disciplines in the attempt to prevent such losses in focal plant groups. GCC Erica coordinates an international response to extinction threats in one such group, the heaths, or heathers, of which hundreds of species are found only in South Africa's spectacularly diverse Cape Floristic Region. Summary Effectively combating the biodiversity crisis requires coordinated conservation efforts. Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and numerous partners have established Global Conservation Consortia (GCC) to collaboratively develop and implement comprehensive conservation strategies for priority threatened plant groups. Through these networks, institutions with specialised collections and staff can leverage ongoing work to optimise impact for threatened plant species. The genus Erica poses a challenge similar in scale to that of the largest other GCC group, Rhododendron, but almost 700 of the around 800 known species of Erica are concentrated in a single biodiversity hotspot, the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of South Africa. Many species are known to be threatened, suffering the immediate impacts of habitat destruction, invasive species, changes in natural fire regimes and climate change. Efforts to counter these threats face general challenges: disproportionate burden of in situ conservation falling on a minority of the community, limited knowledge of species-rich groups, shortfalls in assessing and monitoring threat, lack of resources for in situ and limitations of knowledge for ex situ conservation efforts and in communicating the value of biological diversity to a public who may never encounter it in the wild. GCC Erica brings together the world's Erica experts, conservationists and the botanical community, including botanic gardens, seed banks and organisations in Africa, Madagascar, Europe, the United States, Australia and beyond. We are collaboratively pooling our unique sets of skills and resources to address these challenges in working groups for conservation prioritisation, conservation in situ, horticulture, seed banking, systematic research and outreach.

Chevalier, M. 2022. <i>crestr</i>: an R package to perform probabilistic climate reconstructions from palaeoecological datasets. Climate of the Past 18: 821–844. https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-18-821-2022

Abstract. Statistical climate reconstruction techniques are fundamental tools to study past climate variability from fossil proxy data. In particular, the methods based on probability density functions (or PDFs) can be used in various environments and with different climate proxies because they rely on elementary calibration data (i.e. modern geolocalised presence data). However, the difficulty of accessing and curating these calibration data and the complexity of interpreting probabilistic results have often limited their use in palaeoclimatological studies. Here, I introduce a new R package (crestr) to apply the PDF-based method CREST (Climate REconstruction SofTware) on diverse palaeoecological datasets and address these problems. crestr includes a globally curated calibration dataset for six common climate proxies (i.e. plants, beetles, chironomids, rodents, foraminifera, and dinoflagellate cysts) associated with an extensive range of climate variables (20 terrestrial and 19 marine variables) that enables its use in most terrestrial and marine environments. Private data collections can also be used instead of, or in combination with, the provided calibration dataset. The package includes a suite of graphical diagnostic tools to represent the data at each step of the reconstruction process and provide insights into the effect of the different modelling assumptions and external factors that underlie a reconstruction. With this R package, the CREST method can now be used in a scriptable environment and thus be more easily integrated with existing workflows. It is hoped that crestr will be used to produce the much-needed quantified climate reconstructions from the many regions where they are currently lacking, despite the availability of suitable fossil records. To support this development, the use of the package is illustrated with a step-by-step replication of a 790 000-year-long mean annual temperature reconstruction based on a pollen record from southeastern Africa.

Liang, S., X. Zhang, and R. Wei. 2022. Ecological adaptation shaped the genetic structure of homoploid ferns against strong dispersal capacity. Molecular Ecology 31: 2679–2697. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.16420

The formation of spatial genetic structure with the presence of extensive gene flow, an evolutionary force which is generally expected to eliminate population-specific variation and maintain genetic homogeneity, remains poorly understood. Homosporous ferns, which spread by spores through wind and possess long-distance dispersal capacity, provide an ideal system to investigate such a process. Here, using a homoploid fern lineage, the Athyrium sinense complex, we used reduced-representation genomic data to examine spatial genetic structure and explored potential driving forces including geographical distance, environment, climatic history and external dispersal constraints. Our findings showed a clear north-south divergence at the genetic, morphological and ecological levels between both sides of 35°N in East Asia. Fluctuant and heterogeneous climatic condition was demonstrated to play a crucial role during the formation of the divergence. Our results suggested that this lineage was able to migrate southward and colonize new habitat as a result of the Quaternary climatic fluctuation. Furthermore, the present genetic structure is attributed to adaptation to heterogeneous environments, especially temperature difference. In addition to ecological adaptation, we found clues showing that canopy density, wind direction as well as habitat continuity were all likely to constrain the effect of gene flow. These results demonstrated a diversification process without ploidy changes in ferns providing new insights for our present knowledge on ferns’ spatio-temporal evolutionary pattern. In particular, our study highlights the influence of environmental heterogeneity in driving genetic divergence against strong dispersal capacity.

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. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14292

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…

Xue, T., S. R. Gadagkar, T. P. Albright, X. Yang, J. Li, C. Xia, J. Wu, and S. Yu. 2021. Prioritizing conservation of biodiversity in an alpine region: Distribution pattern and conservation status of seed plants in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Global Ecology and Conservation 32: e01885. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2021.e01885

The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) harbors abundant and diverse plant life owing to its high habitat heterogeneity. However, the distribution pattern of biodiversity hotspots and their conservation status remain unclear. Based on 148,283 high-resolution occurrence coordinates of 13,450 seed plants, w…

Jin, W.-T., D. S. Gernandt, C. Wehenkel, X.-M. Xia, X.-X. Wei, and X.-Q. Wang. 2021. Phylogenomic and ecological analyses reveal the spatiotemporal evolution of global pines. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2022302118

How coniferous forests evolved in the Northern Hemisphere remains largely unknown. Unlike most groups of organisms that generally follow a latitudinal diversity gradient, most conifer species in the Northern Hemisphere are distributed in mountainous areas at middle latitudes. It is of great interest…

Yi, S., C.-P. Jun, K. Jo, H. Lee, M.-S. Kim, S. D. Lee, X. Cao, and J. Lim. 2020. Asynchronous multi-decadal time-scale series of biotic and abiotic responses to precipitation during the last 1300 years. Scientific Reports 10. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-74994-x

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