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News Article | January 4, 2016

The distribution of heather predicted from the common plant survey data. This is one of the region's most characteristic species and one that many other organisms rely upon for food and cover. Credit: Dr. Quentin Groom Volunteers in the north-east of England have created a benchmark survey of common plants with which to identify change in the countryside, its result and causes. This survey will be used in future to monitor the effects of climate change on plants; assess the success of conservation measures and predict future change. Its findings are published in the open-access journal Biodiversity Data Journal, contributing an additional 35,000 observations to the 200,000 observations collected by local recorders since the turn of the millennium . Many people remark on the changes that are occurring in the countryside, the disappearance of some species and the spread of others. Yet, these anecdotes cannot substitute for hard facts. There are also many suggested causes for all these changes such as warmer climate, different agricultural practices, eutrophication, or alien species. Botanical observations tend to be biased. For example, common species are often ignored in the interest of exceptional ones. Therefore, what was needed was a dedicated survey with a clear and repeatable methodology. Common plant species are the mainstay of habitats, they create our woodlands, hedgerows and meadows. They also provide the food for herbivores and pollinators and create homes for birds and mammals. Changes in the abundance of rare species have little impact on other species, but change in the abundance of common species can have cascading effects on whole ecosystems of which we are a part. For these reasons volunteer botanists in the north-east of England conducted a four-year survey to benchmark the abundance of common plants. Led by the Botanical Societies vice county recorders, John Durkin Ecology, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, and Botanic Garden Meise, the volunteers surveyed the plants in a randomly selected sample of 1km2 grid squares in the vice counties of Durham and South Northumberland. They created a solid foundation that can be used to qualify the abundance of common species and compare against previous and future studies. The project was conducted over four years and required volunteers to go to various places. Some surveyed post-industrial brown-field sites, while others walked for miles across bleak moorland to reach sites high in the hills. Although these moors are arguably wilder and natural, the industrial wastelands turn out to be far more biodiverse. Botanical surveying continues in the region despite the end of the project. Volunteers continue to monitor rare plants in the region and are currently working towards the next atlas of Britain and Ireland, coordinated by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. "Good biological conservation in the 21st century will have as much to do with sensitive adaption to change as it is about preserving what we have," point out the authors. "Human memory is short and fickle and it is only with benchmark surveys, such as this that we can hope to understand and manage that change." More information: Quentin Groom et al. A benchmark survey of the common plants of South Northumberland and Durham, United Kingdom, Biodiversity Data Journal (2015). DOI: 10.3897/BDJ.3.e7318

Van de Vijver B.,Botanic Garden Meise | Van de Vijver B.,University of Antwerp | Zidarova R.,Sofia University | Kopalova K.,Charles University
Fottea | Year: 2014

During a survey of the freshwater aquatic and limno-terrestrial diatom flora of the Maritime Antarctic Region, six taxa belonging to the genus Muelleria that could not be identified were observed. Based on detailed LM and SEM observations, these six taxa have been described as new taxa: Muelleria desseiniana sp. nov., M. levkoviana sp. nov., M. nogae sp. nov., M. spauldingiana sp. nov., M. subsabbei sp. nov. and M. undulatoides sp. nov. Comments are made on their taxonomic position and how they can be distinguished from other species in this genus. Brief notes on the ecology and distribution of the six taxa are added. A compiled list of all Muelleria taxa described worldwide is included in this paper. © Czech Phycological Society (2014).

Ertz D.,Botanic Garden Meise | Diederich P.,Musee national d'histoire naturelle
Fungal Diversity | Year: 2015

Melaspileaceae is a heterogeneous group of Ascomycota including lichenized, lichenicolous and saprobic fungi. A first phylogenetic study of Melaspileaceae is presented and is based on mtSSU and nuLSU sequence data. We obtained 49 new sequences for 28 specimens representing 15 species. The genera Buelliella, Hemigrapha, Karschia, Labrocarpon and Melaspilea s. str. are included in a molecular phylogeny for the first time. Melaspileaceae is recovered as polyphyletic, with members placed in two main lineages of Dothideomycetes. Melaspilea s. str. is included in Eremithallales. Eremithallaceae is placed in synonymy with Melaspileaceae. The genus Encephalographa is placed in Melaspileaceae. The genera Buelliella, Karschia, Labrocarpon and several members of Melaspilea are demonstrated to belong to Asterinales, while Hemigrapha is confirmed in this order. The genera Melaspileella, Melaspileopsis, Stictographa are reinstated for former Melaspilea species now placed in Asterinales. Karschia cezannei is described as new, and the new combinations Melaspilea costaricensis, M. enteroleuca, M. urceolata, Melaspileella proximella and Melaspileopsis diplasiospora are made. Melaspileaceae as newly defined includes lichenized and saprobic species. The lichenicolous and saprobic life styles form different intermixed lineages in Asterinales that do not include lichenized taxa. The phylogenetic data provide a first framework for dismantling further the genus Melaspilea for which most of the species are expected to belong to Asterinales. © 2015, School of Science.

Jongkind C.C.H.,Botanic Garden Meise
Candollea | Year: 2016

A new species of Maesobotrya Benth. (Phyllanthaceae) from the evergreen forest of Liberia is described. It is the second Maesobotrya Benth. species in western Africa (Upper Guinea). It resembles Maesobotrya pauciflora Pax and Maesobotrya oligantha O. Lachenaud & Breteler from west-central Africa (Lower Guinea) by its male and its female inflorescences that are both small and axillary. Illustrations are provided along with a distribution map. A preliminary assessment of its risk of extinction following the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria results in a status of "Endangered". © CONSERVATOIRE ET JARDIN BOTANIQUES DE GENÈVE 2016.

This study demonstrates the value of legacy literature and historic collections as a source of data on environmental history. Chenopodium vulvaria L. has declined in northern Europe and is of conservation concern in several countries, whereas in other countries outside Europe it has naturalised and is considered an alien weed. In its European range it is considered native in the south, but the northern boundary of its native range is unknown. It is hypothesised thatmuch of its former distribution in northern Europe was the result of repeated introductions fromsouthern Europe and that its decline in northern Europe is the result of habitat change and a reduction in the number of propagules imported to the north. A historical analysis of its ecology and distribution was conducted by mining legacy literature and historical botanical collections. Text analysis of habitat descriptions written on specimens and published in botanical literature covering a period of more than 200 years indicate that the habitat and introduction pathways of C. vulvaria have changed with time. Using the non-European naturalised range in a climate niche model, it is possible to project the range in Europe. By comparing this predicted model with a similar model created fromall observations, it is clear that there is a large discrepancy between the realized and predicted distributions. This is discussed together with the social, technological and economic changes that have occurred in northern Europe, with respect to their influence on C. vulvaria. © 2015 Groom.

Two new forest species, Eugenia sapoensis sp. nov. and Eugenia breteleri sp. nov., from Liberia and Gabon respectively, are described and illustrated here. Both are shrubs with comparatively large red fruits. They resemble each other, but E. breteleri differs from E. sapoensis in having twigs with conspicuously peeling bark, 6–8 pairs of main lateral nerves, versus 4–6 pairs, and fruits with a peduncle of 3–5 mm rather than 1– 2 mm long. Eugenia breteleri grows up to 3 m high while E. sapoensis does not grow higher than 1.4 m. © 2015, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle. All rights reserved.

De Block P.,Botanic Garden Meise
Plant Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2014

Background and aims - Ixora L. is one of the largest genera of the Rubiaceae, and badly known taxonomically. New species are described as a precursor to the author's revision of Ixora in Madagascar. Methods - Methods follow normal practice of herbarium taxonomy. Key results - Eight new Ixora species from Madagascar are recognized. Detailed descriptions, illustrations and distribution maps are provided for each species. © 2014 Botanic Garden Meise and Royal Botanical Society of Belgium.

Verloove F.,Botanic Garden Meise
Willdenowia | Year: 2014

The identity of the North American xenophyte Scirpus atrovirens in France was critically reassessed. Nearly all known populations (notably those from the departments Aisne, Jura, Pas-de-Calais and Saône-et-Loire) turned out to be referable to a closely related species, S. hattorianus. Distinguishing features for three species from the S. atrovirens complex (i.e. S. atrovirens s.str., S. georgianus and S. hattorianus) are compared and discussed. An identification key and SEM photographs of their achenes are provided. The ecology and degree of invasiveness of S. hattorianus in France are also briefly discussed. © 2014 BGBM Berlin-Dahlem.

Jongkind C.C.H.,Botanic Garden Meise
Candollea | Year: 2015

A new forest species from Liberia, Tragia liberica Jongkind (Euphorbiaceae), is described and illustrated here. It is a small climber resembling Tragia preussii Pax from Nigeria and Cameroon but differing by its leaf blade base and by the shape of the calyx of the female flower. It is the only Tragia L. species known from the wet evergreen forest in Liberia. © CONSERVATOIRE ET JARDIN BOTANIQUES DE GENÈVE 2015.

Groom Q.J.,Botanic Garden Meise
Plant Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2015

Aim – Paper-based publications were the main repository for phytogeographical information until the end of the 20th century. These texts are still an important reference source for phytogeography and potentially a valuable source of data for research on environmental change. The recent digitization of biodiversity publications, text-mining and mark-up protocols means that these data are now more accessible than ever before. Here I examine the value of legacy literature specifically for studies on phytogeography. Methods – Three contrasting data mobilisation projects are used as case studies for the extraction of phytogeographic data. Two were digitisations and XML mark-up of floras, the Flore d’Afrique Centrale from the 20th century and the Flora of Northumberland and Durham from the 19th century. A third case study used Chenopodium vulvaria L. as a test case, where I attempted to recover as much phytogeographic data as possible for one species, both from literature and from herbarium specimens. Results – A large amount of useful information was extractable from legacy literature. The main limitations are that most localities need georeferencing and that observations are only rarely associated with a precise date. In the case of C. vulvaria literature contributed about 20% of all available observations of the species. Literature becomes a progressively more important source of data the further back in time one looks. However, useful observations become much rarer earlier than about 1850. Main conclusions – Sourcing phytogeographic data from legacy literature is valuable. It contains observations and links to other data that are unavailable from any other source. Nevertheless, its extraction takes a substantial investment in time. Before commencing on such a project it is important to prioritise work and understand the limitations of such data, particularly with regard to georeferencing. © 2015 Botanic Garden Meise and Royal Botanical Society of Belgium.

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