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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Frontiers of Biogeography

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Frontiers of Biogeography (FoB) is the scientific journal of the International Biogeography Society (IBS,, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promotion of and public understanding of the biogeographical sciences.  IBS launched FoB to provide an independent forum for biogeographical science, with the academic standards expected of a journal operated by and for an academic society.

Issue cover
Cover Caption: cover: Panulirus sp. lobster phyllosoma collected during its dispersal across the South Pacific Ocean. Picture by Jason Paul Landrum. See more on the odyssey of phyllosoma larvae at Matthew Iacchei’s thesis abstract in this issue of Frontiers of Biogeography.

Research Letters

Pitfalls in quantifying species turnover: the residency effect

The composition of ecological communities changes continuously through time and space. Understanding this turnover in species composition is a central goal in biogeography, but quantifying species turnover can be problematic. Here, I describe an underappreciated source of bias in quantifying species turnover, namely ‘the residency effect’, which occurs when the contiguous distributions of species across sampling domains are small relative to census intervals. I present the results of a simulation model that illustrates the problem theoretically and then I demonstrate the problem empirically using a long-term dataset of plant species turnover on islands. Results from both exercises indicate that empirical estimates of species turnover may be susceptible to significant observer bias, which may potentially cloud a better understanding of how the composition of ecological communities changes through time.

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Opinions, Perspectives & Reviews

From dinosaurs to dodos: who could and should we de-extinct?

Reviving extinct species with new synthetic biology tools is as exciting an idea as it is controversial. Genomic manipulation of extinct species’ close relatives and/or cloning suitably preserved cells are the two main ways synthetic biology could be used to revive species. Discussions of where to target initial revival efforts have focused on species’ charisma (e.g. Woolly mammoth, Passenger pigeon) with less emphasis on feasibility or the ecological, ethical and legal considerations. Here I discuss who we could and should de-extinct, focussing on these latter criteria. Given the current devastating anthropogenic pressures on biodiversity, I suggest that a better use of de-extinction technologies would be to focus them on preventing species extinctions by restoring populations of critically endangered species. For example, this could be through increasing population numbers through cloning or genomic manipulation to better enable susceptible species to adapt to global change or by restoring genetic diversity by reviving extinct sub-species (e.g. Quagga, Barbary lion). This idea circumvents many of the criticisms of de-extinction from conservationists, whilst retaining public interest in de-extinction.

Population genetic and phylogeographic insights into the phyllosomal odyssey

The majority of marine species maintain genetic connectivity through pelagic propagules, with pelagic duration hypothesized to limit dispersal potential. This dissertation investigates the geographic scale of genetic connectivity when pelagic duration is likely not limiting. I analyzed mtDNA sequences and microsatellites to determine patterns of genetic structure across the geographic distributions of three lobster species: Panulirus penicillatus (Red Sea to the East Pacific Ocean), P. interruptus (sub-tropical East Pacific), and P. marginatus (Hawaiian endemic). At the broadest spatial scale, significant genetic discontinuities for P. penicillatus correspond to provincial biogeographic boundaries, including putative species-level disjunction across the East Pacific Barrier. On a smaller scale, novel kinship analyses combined with traditional F-statistics indicate that larval behavior and oceanographic processes result in localized recruitment for P. interruptus. Geographic scales of connectivity differ by location and species, even in Hawai‘i, where P. marginatus and P. penicillatus co-occur. These findings indicate the combined effects of geography, ocean currents, and biology overcome extremely long pelagic periods and result in variable degrees of genetic connectivity.

Mechanisms controlling the distribution of two invasive Bromus species

In order to predict future range shifts for invasive species it is important to explore their ability to acclimate to the new environment and understand physiological and reproductive constraints controlling their distribution. My dissertation studied mechanisms by which temperature may affect the distribution of two aggressive plant invaders in North America, Bromus tectorum and Bromus rubens. I first evaluated winter freezing tolerance of Bromus species and demonstrated that the mechanism explaining their distinct northern range limits is different acquisition time of freezing tolerance. While B. rubens has a slower rate of freezing acclimation that leads to intolerance of sudden, late-autumn drops in temperature below -12°C, B. tectorum rapidly hardens and so is not impacted by the sudden onset of severe late-autumn cold. In addition, the analysis of male reproductive development and seed production showed that neither species produces seed at or above 36°C, due to complete pollen sterility, which might trigger climate-mediated range contractions at B. tectorum and B. rubens southern margins. Finally, a detailed gas-exchange analysis combined with biochemical modelling demonstrated that both species acclimate to a broad range of temperatures and photosynthetic response to temperature does not explain their current range separation.

Linking diversity and distribution to understand biodiversity gradients and inform conservation assessments

Broad-scale patterns of species richness result from differential coexistence among species in distinct regions of the globe, determined by the species’ ranges and their properties such as size, shape and location. Thus, species richness and ranges are inherently linked. These two biodiversity features also yield primary information for conservation assessments. However, species richness and range size have been usually studied separately and no formal analytical link has been established. In my PhD thesis, I applied and extended a recently developed conceptual and methodological framework to study geographical association among species and similarity among sites. This range–diversity framework, along with stochastic simulation modelling, allowed me to jointly evaluate the relationship between diversity and distribution, to infer potential processes underlying composite patterns of phyllostomid bats, and to use this approach to inform conservation assessments for the Mexican avifauna. I highlight the need to explore composite patterns for understanding biodiversity patterns and show how combining diversity and distributional data can help describe complex biogeographical patterns, providing a transparent and explicit application for initial conservation assessments.

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Panulirus sp. lobster phyllosoma

Panulirussp. lobster phyllosoma collected during its dispersal across the South Pacific Ocean. Picture by Jason Paul Landrum. See more on the odyssey of phyllosoma larvae at Matthew Iacchei’s thesis abstract in this issue ofFrontiers of Biogeography.