Stoneflies mapped across Ohio, with implications for water quality and nature conservation

Stoneflies, or Plecoptera, are insects that live in water during immature stages, but are terrestrial as adults. They are among the best bioindicators of river water quality and general landscape disturbance. Anglers often model their dry and wet flies (lures) after these insects.

Scientists at the University of Illinois and Western Kentucky University, funded by the USA National Science Foundation, have completed the first ever statewide assessment of stonefly diversity in Ohio. The study has been published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

The team used over 30,000 insect specimens gathered from 18 regional museums (Illinois Natural History Survey, Brigham Young University, Ohio State University) and from new sampling for the analysis. They determined that at least 102, but possibly as high as 120 species occur in Ohio. The majority of species were found to have evolved to survive warm summer water temperatures and even drought, most similar to the stoneflies found in the neighboring states of Indiana and Kentucky. Analyses demonstrated that the greatest number of species lived in the eastern half of the state where forest cover is greatest.

This study provides important conservation information. The researchers found that over 17% of the species were rare, being known from only one or two locations. One of these species, the Atlantic Needlefly, Leuctra duplicata Claassen), is known only from two adjacent springbrooks in northeast Ohio. This information will help Ohio organizations to prioritize species and high quality streams for greater protection. Several other species were known from historical records, but have not been collected in the last 50-60 years. These species have long life cycles (1-2 years), a life span that increases their risk for local extinction. One example is a species that occurred in the larger rivers of Ohio, the Enigmatic Stone, Attaneuria ruralis (Hagen).

The scientists plan to use the data from Ohio and other states in the region to predict where species will be found and how climate change will affect the distribution of these environmentally sensitive insects in the future.

Original source:
DeWalt RE, Cao Y, Tweddale T, Grubbs SA, Hinz L, Pessino M, Robinson JL (2012) Ohio USA stoneflies (Insecta, Plecoptera): species richness estimation, distribution of functional niche traits, drainage affiliations, and relationships to other states. ZooKeys 178: 1-26. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.178.2616

ZooKeys continues to grow

Pensoft Publishers’ flagship taxonomic journal ZooKeys continues to experience growth. In the first quarter of 2012, the journal reported 130% increase of the number of published articles (125), in comparison to the same period of the previous year (54). The number of published issues has also increased, from 15 to 21 for the same timeframe, as well as the total number of pages (2,403 in 2012 and 1,991 in 2011).

Furthermore, ZooKeys continues to evolve it’s editorial workflow, constantly implementing new and improved publishing and dissemination technologies, thus always being on point for digital biodiversity science.

Scorpio rising – An elusive new scorpion species from California lives underground

Even in places as seemly well-studied as the national parks of North America, new species are still being discovered. Using ultraviolet light that cause scorpions to fluoresce a ghostly glow, researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) have discovered an intriguing new scorpion in Death Valley National Park. They named the species Wernerius inyoensis, after the Inyo Mountains where it was found. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

This new species is small, only 16 mm in length. "We almost overlooked this one during the survey" said Matthew Graham, a PhD Candidate with the School of Life Sciences at UNLV. Matt discovered the scorpion along with his father who was volunteering that night. "Only a single male individual was found, but the physical uniqueness was enough to identify it as a new species", said Michael Webber, another PhD Candidate from UNLV who described the specimen. This new scorpion appears to be closely related to two other species found over 400 kilometers away at Joshua Tree National Park and along the lower Colorado River. This group of scorpions is most easily identified by the presence of a conspicuous spine at the base of the stinger, the function of which, if any, is unknown.

The previously known species are also rarely observed in the wild, and this elusive nature has led to speculation that these scorpions occur at very low densities or have only sporadic surface activity. However, the rocky terrain in which the previous species were found and the discovery of the new species at the base of a talus slope, hint at the possibility that these scorpions are subterrestrial, spending their lives deep in rock crevices or in the interstitial spaces among piles of loose rock.

Scorpions are quite common within arid regions where they can comprise a large component of biological diversity. The new species was discovered during field surveys funded by the National Park Service as part of efforts to develop better inventories for all organisms occurring within the parks.

"In North America, inventories for mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians are pretty well developed, and we have a good handle on higher-order plants, but for many groups of smaller organisms taxonomic inventories will no doubt lead to numerous new discoveries" said Dr. Jef Jaeger, a Research Assistant Professor at UNLV who initiated and oversaw the scorpion surveys.

In the face of regional environmental changes brought about by human actions and the potential for larger changes that global warming may bring, many scientists and resource managers place new importance on efforts to document and catalog species diversity.

Original source:
Webber MM, Graham MR, Jaeger JR (2012) Wernerius inyoensis, an elusive new scorpion from the Inyo Mountains of California (Scorpiones, Vaejovidae). ZooKeys 177: 1-13. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.177.2562

Megalara garuda: the King of Wasps – A new, giant wasp comes from Indonesia

A new and unusual wasp species has been discovered during an expedition to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

It was independently also found in the insect collections of the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, where it was awaiting discovery since the 1930s, when it had been collected on Sulawesi. The new species is pitch-black, has an enormous body size, and its males have long, sickle-shaped jaws. The findings have now been described in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The species belongs into the digger wasp family, which is a diverse group of wasps with several thousands of species known from all over the world. Female digger wasps search for other insects as prey for their young and paralyze the prey by stinging it. Prey selection is often species specific, but the prey of the new species is unknown. With its unusual body size and the male’s jaws, the new species differs from all known related digger wasps, so much so that it was placed in a new genus of its own, Megalara.

The new genus name is a combination of the Greek Mega, meaning large, and the ending of Dalara, a related wasp genus.

Lynn Kimsey (UC Davis) and Michael Ohl (Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin), who discovered the giant wasp simultaneously and have worked on it in collaboration, named the species after Garuda, the national symbol of Indonesia, a part-human, part-eagle mythical creature known as the King of Birds in Hindu mythology.

Since this species has never been observed alive, nothing is known about its biology or behavior. The males of Megalara garuda are distinctly larger than the females, and bear very long jaws. As can be deduced from other insects with large jaws, it is likely that the males hold the females with it during copulation. It is also possible that they use the jaws for defense.

Original source:
Kimsey LS, Ohl M (2012) Megalara garuda, a new genus and species of larrine wasps from Indonesia (Larrinae, Crabronidae, Hymenoptera). ZooKeys 177: 49-57. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.177.2475

Dr. Lynn Kimsey,;
Dr. Michael Ohl,

Plant DNA speaks English, identifies new species

The important changes to the way scientists name new plants that took effect on 1 January 2012 included the fall of the so-called Latin requirement – a stipulation that descriptions or diagnoses of new species had to be in Latin.

The new rules make it possible to take full advantage of an ongoing revolution in how botanists and mycologists verify that a particular species is indeed new to science: Many studies now routinely include the sequencing of short DNA regions that will amplify easily, even when the DNA comes from old specimens.

Such "barcoding" sequences can be used to confirm a suspected new species as long as related species that already have a scientific name are also being sequenced for the same DNA stretch.

There is no standard Latin vocabulary for describing DNA barcoding, yet in English, there is.

In an article in the open access journal PhytoKeys, botanists Natalia Filipowicz (Medical University of Gdańsk), Michael Nee (New York Botanical Garden), and Susanne Renner (University of Munich), now provide the first English-language diagnosis of a new species that relies exclusively on DNA data.

Their publication of a new species in the Solanaceae genus Brunfelsia also includes a traditional morphology-based description and pictures of the plant, but the researchers trust that "molecular diagnoses" will become a standard feature in future taxon descriptions.

The DNA sequences generated for the study have all been deposited in the public database GenBank, enabling other researchers to make use of them.

Original source:
Filipowicz N, Nee MH, Renner SS (2012) Description and molecular diagnosis of a new species of Brunfelsia (Solanaceae) from the Bolivian and Argentinean Andes. PhytoKeys 10: 25-36. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.10.2558

A new pipewort species from a unique, but fragile habitat in India

The foot hills of the Western Ghats are a remarkable habitat. Formed of Laterite (a hard rock) outcrops, they are a barren land during summer. Yet, as soon as the monsoon rains start, they sprout vibrant plant carpets in blue, pink and white. This seasonal vegetation is formed mainly by pipeworts and insectivorous plants, such as bladderworts or sundews. The species combinations differ greatly along the Western Ghats and the rich plant growth attracts many birds, butterflies and other insects.

A team of botanists discovered another new species of pipewort from this unique but highly threatened habitat, indicating the importance of such areas. "It is a treasure trove of unique plants to the botanists, but considered just a wasteland, or a dump by the authorities." said Dr K.P. Rajesh of the Zamorin’s Guruvayurappan College (ZGC). "Many more unique and unknown plants still await discovery in such areas. " Added Dr Rajesh. The study was published in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

The shallow wet areas formed in the rocks, for a short period from June to November, are the home of some of the rarest plants on the planet. These aquatic or semi-aquatic plants soon set seeds, and dry up before the summer season. The seeds remain in the soil, waiting for the next rains to wake them up. The flat-topped hills are one of the most threatened habitats on Earth, under severe pressure from population growth. The Laterite areas are being destroyed or converted into infrastructure – sites for mining, waste dumping and similar. Uncontrolled tourism is also causing heavy damage – beyond repair – to this fragile system.

The new discovery increases the conservation potential of the area. "It is high time to take urgent steps to conserve this fragile habitat." said Dr. C.N. Manju. Efforts to conserve the unique plants from Western Ghats in experimental gardens are ongoing in the Malabar Botanical Garden (MBG), an organisation specialised in the study and conservation of aquatic plants. It proved very difficult to replicate the exact conditions of the Laterite pools in the gardens. ‘Conserving the natural habitat is the best solution. If proper measures are not being taken, this unique habitat may degrade beyond repair’ adds Dr. Prakshkumar. The study, conducted in collaboration with the (MBG), was supported by the Kerala State Council for Science Technology & Environment (KSCSTE), of the Government of Kerala.

Original source:
Swapna MM, Rajesh KP, Manju CN, Prakashkumar R (2012) Eriocaulon madayiparense (Eriocaulaceae) – A new species from the foot hills of the Western Ghats of India. PhytoKeys 10: 19-23. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.10.2297

Additional information:
Balakrishnan VC, Palot MJ, Rajesh KP (2010) Observations on the flora of Madayipara a midland laterite hill in Kannur district, Kerala. Malabar Trogon 8 (2&3): 14-29.
Kumar RB, Anitha K, Watve A, Mani S, Rehel S, Aridason W (2011) Chapter 6. The status and distribution of aquatic plants of the Western Ghats. Pp. 73-85. In: MolurS, Smith KG, Daniel BA, Darwall WRT (Compilers). The Status and Distribution of Freshwater biodiversity in the Western Ghats, India. IUCN Cambridge, UK and Gland, Switzerland, IUCN.

Nature Conservation – a new open-access, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal launched!

Pensoft Publishers announced the launch of Nature Conservation, the next member of Pensoft’s family of high technology open-access journals for biodiversity science. Its goal is to mobilize ideas and data in all theoretical and applied aspects of nature conservation – biological, ecological, societal, economic, and legal. The journal’s broad scope and innovative use of media encourage interdisciplinary and integrative approaches.
Nature Conservation is a new-generation open-access journal launched by Pensoft Publishers. The journal is platform comprising both innovative technologies and a routine medium for publication of data related to the vast area of basic and applied research in conservation of nature. Nature Conservation builds upon the success of its sister journals ZooKeys, PhytoKeys, BioRisk, and NeoBiota, and is supported by an editorial team of highly renowned specialists in the field. The composition of papers in the inaugural issue largely reflects the focus and scope of the new journal, which are also outlined in the opening Editorial paper.

The journal was established within the framework of the European Union’s Framework Program 7 large-integrated project SCALES: Securing the Conservation of biodiversity across Administrative Levels and spatial, temporal, and Ecological Scales.

"Nature Conservation is dedicated to provide a venue for those ecologists and conservationists who are keen to see their works published in a way better than ever, through innovative publishing technologies, as well as through widest possible, barrier-free distribution of works at no charge to the reader", said the Editor-in-Chief Dr. Klaus Henle, from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig, Germany.

Like the rest of Pensoft’s journals, Nature Conservation will be published in four different formats: (1) high-resolution, full-color print version; (2) PDF, identical to the printed version; (3) HTML version on the journals website, in order to provide links to external resources and semantic enhancements for published texts and interactive reading; (4) XML version, compatible with PubMedCentral archiving, thus providing a machine-readable copy to facilitate future data mining. Neither restrictions nor charges are imposed on the use of color illustrations for all formats, and submission of multimedia is encouraged.

"Nature Conservation will advance beyond current standards in many aspects, for instance by the implementation of cutting-edge, semantic Web tools, but also in the scope of papers it will consider. Alongside with conventional papers, we established the category of "Applied Conservation Papers" that would bring to life the precious knowledge hidden in project reports, protected areas inventories, Natura 2000 studies and so on.", added Prof. Lyubomir Penev of Pensoft Publishers in Sofia, Bulgaria, the managing editor of the new journal.

The journal aims particularly at facilitating better interaction between scientists and practitioners. A major goal of Nature Conservation is to support synergistic interactions among scientists, policy-makers, and managers. The journal will also provide opportunities and focus on open data publishing of qualitative biodiversity and environmental datasets.

"It is exciting to see the launch of Nature Conservation at a time of radical change in publishing towards opening up access to data and results obtained from public funding. The focus on interdisciplinary studies is welcome, and the explicit goal of blending biology and ecology with the humanities is long overdue.The conservation of nature has always been a political and social issue. I have no doubt that this new journal will quickly find its place in the international conservation community." commented Prof Chris Margules from James Cook University, Australia, member of the editorial team of Nature Conservation.

Original source:
Henle K, Bell S, Brotons L, Clobert J, Evans D, Görg C, Grodzińska-Jurcak M, Gruber B, Haila Y, Henry P-Y, Huth A, Julliard R, Keil P, Kleyer M, Kotze J, Kunin B, Lengyel S, Lin Y-P, Loyau A, Luck GW, Magnusson W, Margules C, Matsinos Y, May P, Pinto I, Possingham H, Potts S, Ring I, Pryke J, Samways M, Saunders D, Schmeller D, Similä J, Sommer S, Steffan-Dewenter I, Stoev P, Sykes M, Tóthmérész B, Tzanopoulos J, Yam R, Penev L (2012) Nature Conservation – a new dimension in  Open Access publishing bridging science and application. Nature Conservation 1: 1–10. doi: 10.3897/natureconservation.1.3081

Building the European Union’s Natura 2000 — the largest ever network of protected areas

The European Union’s Habitats Directive is now 20 years old, and its network of protected areas, known as Natura 2000, is nearing completion. After a slow start, the network now includes some 26 000 protected sites and covers approximately 18% of the EU’s land surface as well as significant areas of sea. It is widely considered to be the world’s largest network of protected areas based on agreed site selection criteria. The review has been published in the newly launched open-access journal Nature Conservation.

Douglas Evans, seconded to the Paris-based European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity (ETC/BD) from Scottish Natural Heritage, has been closely involved in the development of the network since 1993. His review in Nature Conservation describes how the network has evolved during a period when the EU itself has increased from 12 to 27 Member States.

Based largely on personnel experience, the author provides detailed information on the series of seminars which started in the 1990s, usually known as biogeographical seminars. These seminars, which involve both governments and Non-governmental Organisations, together with the European Commission, the ETC/BD and invited independent scientists, have been held to ensure that the network adequately covers the relevant species and habitats.

"The review of Dr Evans sheds light on the long and complicated process, that resulted in the first ever cross-border network of protected areas established in the European Union. The unique experience of the Natura 2000 builders should serve as valuable source of information and inspiration for the future conservation projects at international and continental scale", commented the Editor-in-Chief of Nature Conservation, Dr. Klaus Henle from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig, Germany.

The study was published within the framework of the European Union’s Framework Program 7 large-integrated project SCALES: Securing the Conservation of biodiversity across Administrative Levels and spatial, temporal, and Ecological Scales.

Efficient nature conservation policies require sharp focus

People have always known that their survival depends on something that is outside of their control – that is, nature. Nature regulates human life, and from it people have tried to derive rules for proper behavior. This is the historical starting point of nature conservation.

The intellectual roots of nature conservation are diverse. In Europe, the ideal took shape in the 19th century from such elements as concern over human-caused extinctions, excessive hunting and cruelty toward animals, from utilitarian care for natural resources, and from growing appreciation of nature as a source of human health and inspiration. More recently, the ideal gained support from growing awareness of the dependence of humanity’s future on global-scale changes in ecosystem services.

In what ways do alternative conservation policies help to protect biodiversity? How can conservation policies be extended to those sectors of social and economic activity that most directly affect biodiversity? The whole legacy of conservation science needs to be harnessed to answer such questions.

Modern nature conservation requires efficient governance, built upon competent administrative bodies with sufficient authority. However, the scale and diversity of the problem makes efficient governance difficult. First of all, nature conservation regularly drifts into conflicts with other ideals, revealing conflicting aspirations and vested interests. Another difficulty is that nature conservation aims at a moving target: when certain objectives succeed, new types of problems arise. For example, successful protection of large predators from persecution may create new rounds of protest.

The author of this study, Yrio Haila, from the University of Tampere, Finland, says "It is nowadays possible to come to agreement about ambitious general declarations on biodiversity preservation, but shaping an efficient policy that could possibly halt the deterioration of biodiversity remains difficult. There is simply no straightforward way of halting the expansion of use of the natural resources by the current world society!"

"A wise rule would be to focus on such activities that cause most damage. We are well aware of practices in forestry, agriculture, fisheries and so forth that bring about threats of immediate collapse: Such threats should be firmly addressed, to begin with" adds Dr Klaus Henle from UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany, Editor-in-Chief of Nature Conservation.

Original source:
Haila Y (2012) Genealogy of nature conservation: a political perspective. Nature Conservation 1: 27-52. doi: 10.3897/natureconservation.1.2107

How to save Europe’s most threatened butterflies

The report entitled "Dos and don’ts for butterflies of the Habitats Directive of the European Union" was published in the form of an "Applied Conservation" paper in the newly launched open-access journal Nature Conservation (press release on the journal launch). It includes detailed accounts of each species, their habitat requirements and food-plants, as well as a list of dos and don’ts in the management of their habitats.

European butterflies are under huge threat and almost 10% are now threatened with extinction. The European grassland indicator shows that the abundance of 17 characteristic butterflies has declined by over 70% in the last 15 years.

The main reasons for the declines are habitat loss and incorrect management. Many habitats are now either abandoned from agriculture, allowing them to become overgrown with scrub, while others are too intensively managed. The new publication is thus a pivotal step to get remaining habitats better managed.

Butterflies are sensitive indicators of the environment and populations respond very quickly to habitat change.

Management for butterflies will help ensure the survival of a wide range of other insects, which form the bedrock of European biodiversity.

The guidelines will help ensure that European habitats are managed in a sustainable way that helps the survival of humans as well as wildlife.

The lead author, Chris van Swaay of Dutch Butterfly Conservation said "Managing habitats in the correct way is the single most important issue affecting the survival of European butterflies. This is the first time that practical information has been brought together to address the issue. We hope the advice will be taken up urgently across Europe to help save these beautiful species from extinction."

Klaus Henle of UFZ (Germany) who established the new journal in collaboration with Pensoft Publishers (Bulgaria) within the European Union’s FP7 project SCALES says "Biodiversity loss is one of the most important topics facing the future of our planet. Our new open access journal Nature Conservation is intended to make scientific information freely available to help conserve nature and create a healthy world for everyone. The journal aims particularly at facilitating better interaction between scientists and practitioners and its major goal is to support synergistic interactions among scientists, policy-makers, and managers."

Original source:
van Swaay C, Collins C, Dušej G, Maes D, Munguira ML, Rakosy L, Ryrholm N, Šašić M, Settele J, Thomas JA, Verovnik R, Verstrael T, Warren M, Wiemers M, Wynhoff I (2012) Dos and Don’ts for butterflies of the Habitats Directive of the European Union. Nature Conservation 1: 73-153. doi: 10.3897/natureconservation.1.2786