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News Article | May 30, 2017
Site: phys.org

Pigeon pea yields have remained stagnant during the last 60 years, which has hurt farmers in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean who rely on the legume to feed their families and make a living. Pigeon peas are an important source of protein in the diets of more than 1.5 billion people in developing countries. "In agriculture, we want plants that flower at the best time for a particular place. But with climate change, that time is shifting," said Eric von Wettberg, professor of biological sciences at Florida International University and co-author of the study. Von Wettberg, a conservation geneticist, helped analyze the data. He conducts his research with the International Center for Tropical Botany, a collaboration between FIU and the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Flowering times of any plant are influenced by the environment, including soil, sunlight, temperature and pollen conditions. It is a local decision. If a plant flowers too soon, it may produce fewer seeds, but, if it flowers too late, it may not produce any seeds. The researchers' genetic finding could help breeders create varieties of pigeon pea adapted to local conditions that will flower at a particular time, producing more seeds in one yield. The research team also identified genetic associations responsible for other key traits in pigeon peas, including pod shattering, branching and height. When they become ripe, pigeon pea pods split open and fling seeds away. In nature, dispersal is good because it lets seeds take up residence in new habitats and find refuge from predators and pathogens that target parent plants. But, in agriculture, it is disastrous because that is the food people rely on to survive, according von Wettberg. Identifying the gene responsible for shattering could help breeders create varieties of pigeon pea that keep seeds for longer and are easier to harvest. In different parts of the world, people eat pigeon pea in different ways. The legume is eaten green or ripe, and it is used in a variety of soup, stew, curry and rice dishes. The finding will also allow breeders to create varieties of pigeon pea that keep the culinary and cultural traits that locals prefer. "It's one thing to want to increase the yield of seeds, but the way people eat pigeon pea is a distinctive part of heritage and culture. That's something we don't want to change," von Wettberg said. "If we can keep seeds appealing to the people that use them, they're more likely to adopt them." The researchers will partner with international crop breeding centers to provide them with the information they need to adapt pigeon pea seeds to local conditions. Von Wettberg will extend his research to other legume crops, including fenugreek, grass pea and mung bean. The study was recently published in Nature Genetics. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, it was led by Rajeev Varshney and Rachit Saxena of International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, an international non-profit dedicated to reducing poverty, hunger and environmental degradation through better agriculture. Von Wettberg has a long-running commitment to provide support, training and assistance to research staff at the institute. Explore further: Scientific discovery could revolutionize one of world's most important crops More information: Rajeev K Varshney et al. Whole-genome resequencing of 292 pigeonpea accessions identifies genomic regions associated with domestication and agronomic traits, Nature Genetics (2017). DOI: 10.1038/ng.3872

Dietl G.P.,Paleontological Research Institution | Dietl G.P.,Cornell University | Kidwell S.M.,University of Chicago | Brenner M.,University of Florida | And 5 more authors.
Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences | Year: 2015

Humans now play a major role in altering Earth and its biota. Finding ways to ameliorate human impacts on biodiversity and to sustain and restore the ecosystem services on which we depend is a grand scientific and societal challenge. Conservation paleobiology is an emerging discipline that uses geohistorical data to meet these challenges by developing and testing models of how biota respond to environmental stressors. Here we (a) describe how the discipline has already provided insights about biotic responses to key environmental stressors, (b) outline research aimed at disentangling the effects of multiple stressors, (c) provide examples of deliverables for managers and policy makers, and (d) identify methodological advances in geohistorical analysis that will foster the next major breakthroughs in conservation outcomes. We highlight cases for which exclusive reliance on observations of living biota may lead researchers to erroneous conclusions about the nature and magnitude of biotic change, vulnerability, and resilience. Copyright © 2015 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.

News Article | November 25, 2015
Site: www.scientificamerican.com

This week’s death of another northern white rhino—there are now just three in the world—presents the world with a rare and devastating opportunity: the chance to actually watch a species go extinct. That doesn’t very often, because most extinctions happen far away from humans’ prying eyes. Populations decline, become scattered and flitter away. In most cases, no one is there to witness a species becoming a memory. Scientists and conservationists don’t declare a species extinct all that often because, well, hope remains eternal. Even if they know that an existing population disappears, there’s always the possibility that the species itself still exists on the next hill over, or under a rock, or somewhere we have yet to search. Sometimes, however, hope is hard to hang on to. That’s why 25 species have just been identified as “critically endangered, possibly extinct” in the latest update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The list of possibly extinct species includes a frog, numerous orchids, several Hawaiian plants and a lost legume—all of which have not been seen for many years, but none of which conservationists have completely given up hope about. Let’s take a look at these potentially lost species: Rhynchosia ledermannii — Last seen in 1908, this Cameroonian legume came from just a since site smaller than 4 square kilometers. The only known specimen has since been lost, as has the original habitat. Stereospermum zenkeri — Also from Cameroon, this tree grew in within an 8 square kilometer region that has now become urbanized. It was last seen in 1950. — When this Hawaiian plant was discovered in 1987 the entire species consisted of just 15 mature individuals. Pigs, invasive plants and 1992’s Hurricane Iniki whittled that number down pretty quickly. The last individual plant was seen in 1998. Attempts to propagate this species in a greenhouse failed and that habitat where it could grow in the wild, if it still exists, continues to degrade. Delissea rhytidosperma and D. takeuchii — These two flowering plant species were last seen on the Hawaiian islands of Kaua’i and O’ahu in 2002 and 1987. Competition from non-native plants and predation by invasive pigs did them both in. D. rhytidosperma still exists in the National Tropical Botanical Garden, but the chances of it returning to the wild seem slim. Kadua haupuensis — Another Hawaiian plant, this time from Kaua’i. Only seven plants were ever known in the wild—all of which were wiped out in a landslide in 1998. This is another plant with a sliver of hope. According to the IUCN, “nine accessions grown from seed from the original plants in the wild are in living collections at the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kaua’i, and there are 69,300 seeds in storage.” Phyllostegia kahiliensis and P. knudsenii — More Hawaiian plants with the same threats posed by invasive species. These were last seen in 1987 and 2001. Silene perlmanii — Yup, another Hawaiian plant. Yup, the same threats. Last seen on O’ahu in 1997. Seeds exist, but we’ve never gotten them to grow enough to reproduce on their own. Stenogyne bifida and S. kanehoana — Two of the most recent probably disappearances on this list, these plants were last seen on Moloka'I and O’ahu in 2014 and 2013, respectively. Seeds exist, and cultivation is ongoing for the latter species. Bulbophyllum erythroglossum, B. hirsutiusculum, B. minax, B. sanguineum and B. tampoketsense — These orchids, all native to Madagascar, each had incredibly small known habitats which have now been degraded by wood harvesting and subsistence agriculture. Illegal orchid collectors also took their toll. They were last seen in 1964, 1928, 1919, 1925 and 1923, respectively. Cynorkis bimaculata, C. catatii, C. rolfei and C. sylvatica — More missing Madagascar orchids. Last seen in 1961, 1889, 1903 and 1951. Disperis bosseri, Eulophia grandidieri and Hymenodictyon seyrigii — More orchids. Last seen in 1957, 1901 and 1942. Lepidoblepharis miyatai — This tiny gecko once lived alongside several other lizard species on a beach on the Caribbean coast of Colombia that is popular with herpetological collectors. It was only seen once—a single day in August 1964. It hasn’t been observed since. The Arico water frog (Telmatobius pefauri) — The only species on this list with a popular name, this frog from a mountain in northern Chile hasn’t been seen since 1976, the only time it was ever observed. The streams the frogs once swam in have since been drained to provide water for human use and cattle ranching. It’s hard to be a water frog if there’s no water left in which to swim. Of course, there’s always hope that any of these species could turn up again. It happens all the time. Case in point, the Mahé boulder cricket (Phalangacris alluaudi), which the IUCN Red List previously listed as possibly extinct. It was rediscovered last year and it is now listed as critically endangered. That may not be great news, but it’s a rare win in the fight against extinction.

Wood K.R.,National Tropical Botanical Garden
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2011

Melicope degeneri (B. Stone) T. Hartley & B. Stone is endemic to the island of Kaua'i and is one of Hawai'i's rare members of the Rutaceae. Rediscovered in 1993 after not being documented for 67 yr, it is currently known from only 22 individuals. Data concerning its morphology, distribution, and ecological preferences are presented in this paper in order to contribute to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) goals and to assist biologists and land managers in monitoring and protecting this species from extinction. A formal IUCN assessment of the species has been completed and is reported here as Critically Endangered (CR B2ab(iii,v); D). © Inter-Research 2011.

Funk V.A.,Smithsonian Institution | Wood K.R.,National Tropical Botanical Garden
PhytoKeys | Year: 2014

Bidens meyeri (Asteraceae/Compositae) is described and illustrated from Rapa, Austral Islands, (French Polynesia). This new species is presumed to be most closely related to Bidens saint-johniana from nearby Marotiri Island. Bidens meyeri may be distinguished from B. saint-johniana based on the length of the peduncle (3 cm versus 10 cm), apex of the inner involucral bracts (glabrous vs. puberulent), smaller leaves (2.0-2.3 cm vs. 5-6 cm), and the general smaller size of the new species. Known from less than 50 individuals and restricted to one remote location, Bidens meyeri falls into the IUCN Critically Endangered (CR) category. The new species is named in honor of Dr. Jean-Yves Meyer, Délégation à la Recherche, Polynésie Française. © Vicki A. Funk, Kenneth R. Wood.

McNeil C.L.,City University of New York | Burney D.A.,National Tropical Botanical Garden | Burney L.P.,Makauwahi Cave Reserve
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America | Year: 2010

Archaeologists have proposed diverse hypotheses to explain the collapse of the southern Maya lowland cities between the 8th and 10th centuries A.D. Although it generally is believed that no single factor was responsible, a commonly accepted cause is environmental degradation as a product of large-scale deforestation. To date, the most compelling scientific evidence used to support this hypothesis comes from the archaeological site of Copan, Honduras, where the analysis of a sediment core suggested a dramatic increase in forest clearance in the Late Classic period (A.D. 600-900). By contrast, in the work presented here, the authors' analysis of a longer sediment core demonstrates that forest cover increased from A.D. 400 to A.D. 900, with arboreal pollen accounting for 59.8-71.0% of the pollen assemblage by approximately A.D. 780-980. The highest levels of deforestation are found about 900 B.C. when, at its peak, herb pollen made up 89.8% of the assemblage. A second, although less pronounced, period of elevated deforestation peaked at approximately A.D. 400 when herb pollen reached 65.3% of the assemblage. The first deforestation event likely coincided with the widespread adoption of agriculture, a pattern found elsewhere in Mesoamerica. The second period of forest clearance probably was associated with the incursion of Maya speakers into the Copan Valley and their subsequent construction of the earliest levels of the Copan Acropolis. These results refute the former hypothesis that the ancient Maya responded to their increasingly large urban population by exhausting, rather than conserving, natural resources.

Burney D.A.,National Tropical Botanical Garden | Burney L.P.,Makauwahi Cave Reserve
Plant Ecology | Year: 2015

At Makauwahi Cave Reserve, on the south shore of Kaua`i, translocation decisions have been guided to a unique degree by the richly detailed fossil record of biota of recent centuries, which occurs on the site. To evaluate the efficacy of this strategy, ecological conditions and individual life histories for 3388 translocated native plants of 81 species have been monitored since 2005. Many species were selected on the basis of their prevalence as subfossils in the adjacent late Holocene cave sediments. Most of these species no longer occur on or near the abandoned farmlands and mine spoil used as a substrate for transplanted individuals. Records for each plant included location, date outplanted, flowering, fruiting, and, if applicable, mortality, including known or inferred cause. Also recorded was unaided recruitment, survival of transplanted recruits, and quantity of seed collected. Plant species selected for reintroduction on the basis of present occurrence near the site (many of which also occur there as fossils), and species not present but selected solely on the basis of fossil occurrence before European arrival, both show high survival rates in most cases. Species that fit neither of these criteria, but are judged suitable on the basis of their occurrence elsewhere on the island in similar habitats, generally showed lower survival rates. Primary mortality factors for nursery stock not surviving outplanting included transplant shock, irrigation failure, and human error (accidental cutting, pulling, or trampling). Much lower mortality rates were linked to insect damage, disease, and pig disturbance. Phenological records show that 80 % of translocated native species have flowered and 70 % produced seed. Unaided recruitment was observed for 43 % of the species with some rare species producing large numbers of volunteer seedlings. Translocated volunteer seedlings showed high survival rates. Insights from the fossil record have provided perspective on the site’s potential and limitations and enriched interest in a restoration by almost doubling the list of plant species used in restoration programs and adding a living history element to the interpretation of the site through the juxtaposition of the fossil evidence and the translocated native species. © 2015 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

Taylor C.M.,Missouri Botanical Garden | Lorence D.H.,National Tropical Botanical Garden
Novon | Year: 2010

Although Appunia Hook. f. has been synonymized by some recent authors with Morinda L., it is here provisionally recognized as a Neotropical genus, with the new species A. megalantha C. M. Taylor & Lorence found in wet lowland forests of northwestern Colombia, northern Peru, and perhaps Ecuador and easily separated from other species of Appunia by its climbing habit and relatively large corollas with six lobes. Two new species of Coutarea Aubl. with actinomorphic corollas expand its known diversity in seasonal and dry inter-Andean valleys, with C. coutaportloides C. M. Taylor of southwestern Ecuador and C. fuchsioides C. M. Taylor of northeastern Peru both similar to C. andrei Standl. A second species of Patima Aubl., P. minor C. M. Taylor (Hamelieae) from Guyana, doubles the number of species known and expands the morphological variation in the genus to include 4-merous flowers. A fourth species of Rosenbergiodendron Fagerl., R. reflexum C. M. Taylor & Lorence from Peru, has subglobose fruits and relatively large corollas, ca. 34.5 cm long. © Missouri Botanical Garden 2010.

Butler R.,University of Hawaii at Manoa | Burney D.,National Tropical Botanical Garden | Walsh D.,Pacific Tsunami Warning Center
Geophysical Research Letters | Year: 2014

The Hawaiian Islands' location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is threatened by tsunamis from great earthquakes in nearly all directions. Historical great earthquakes Mw > 8.5 in the last 100 years have produced large inundations and loss of life in the islands but cannot account for a substantial (≤ 600 m3) paleotsunami deposit in the Makauwahi sinkhole on the Island of Kaua'i. Using high-resolution bathymetry and topography we model tsunami inundation of the sinkhole caused by an earthquake with a moment magnitude of Mw ~9.25 located in the eastern Aleutians. A preponderance of evidence indicates that a giant earthquake in the eastern Aleutian Islands circa 1425-1665 A.D. - located between the source regions of the 1946 and 1957 great tsunamigenic earthquakes - created the paleotsunami deposit in Kaua'i. A tsunami deposit in the Aleutians dated circa 1530-1660 A.D. is consistent with this eastern Aleutian source region. Key Points A Kaua'i tsunami deposit is linked to Mw 9+ earthquake in the eastern AleutiansPaleotsunami evidence in the Aleutians and West Coast U.S. corroborates the timeInundations would be greater than any experienced by Hawai'i in historic times ©2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 310.80K | Year: 2011

The Consortium of Pacific Herbaria (CPH) is being created to study and manage plant collections from the Polynesia-Micronesia hotspot region. The CPH is a new collaboration between Bishop Museum, National Tropical Botanical Garden, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and herbaria in Hawaii, American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga, Palau, Guam, and Fiji. The major goals of the CPH include curating and digitally imaging nearly one million dried plant specimens from Polynesia, Micronesia and Fiji, creating a standardized plant checklist, and making collections data and digital images available online from a single portal.

Increased access to digital data for plants and algae of the Pacific Basin through the CPH will create new opportunities for researchers and citizen scientists to discover and use collection data by species, location, and institution. A working list of Latin and common plant names will facilitate the research of biologists and work of land-use managers who monitor invasive and endangered species throughout the Pacific. Classes in herbarium curation will be offered to college students in Hawaii, and employment opportunities will be made available in herbaria to native Pacific Islanders. Identification workshops will be offered to professional biologists in the region, focusing on five common plant families that pose particular challenges for identifying Pacific species.

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