Eaten to extinction: breeding programmes begin for endangered turtles in Vietnam

Considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam, the spotted softshell turtle faces threats from overconsumption and habitat loss.

Conservationists have initiated breeding programmes in Vietnam to recover spotted softshell turtle populations threatened by overconsumption and habitat loss.

Based on a literature study, field surveys across Vietnam, and genetic screenings of collected samples, researchers estimated the range and conservation status of Pelodiscus variegatus, the spotted softshell turtle. The data were then used to model the species’ potential range in Vietnam.

Alarmingly, although several protected areas in Vietnam appear to harbour suitable habitats for the species, no populations were identified in any of the sites, indicating it is especially susceptible to extinction.

The research team releasing juvenile turtles into water.
Release of juveile turtles in Vietnaam. Credit: C. T. Pham and T. Ziegler

To recover natural populations of the species, the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources and Cologne Zoo, Germany, initiated an in-country breeding programme. In late 2023, they released 50 young and healthy turtles to a site with suitable climate and habitat in northern Vietnam.

It is hoped that additional individuals will be reintroduced to protected areas in north-central Vietnam, the sanctuary of spotted softshell turtles, to reverse its declining trend and further contribute to the global Reverse the Red movement, a target best accomplished by applying the IUCN’s One Plan Approach to Conservation.

Softshell turtles of the genus Pelodiscus are broadly distributed from southeastern Siberia through China to Vietnam. However, their range is currently extended to Indonesia, northern Australia, western Europe, North America, Hawaii, and Mauritius as a result of human transportation and breeding activities.

The turtles are considered a delicacy in China and some Southeast Asian countries. In China alone, each year hundreds of million turtles are traded, making them the most widely consumed turtles in the world.

Traditionally, this genus had been considered monotypic with only one recognised species, the Chinese softshell turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis). However, recent research has shown that the genus is much more diverse with at least seven species known to science.

Due to their morphological similarity, widespread farming activities, overharvesting, and their aquatic lifestyle, it is often difficult to study them in their natural habitat to better understand their distribution as well as their population and conservation status.

Like other congeners, the spotted softshell turtle is facing tremendous threats, from habitat loss to overharvesting for food and genetic pollution because the Chinese softshell turtle has been farmed across the country, imperilling the native genetic sources.

As the result, the Turtle Taxonomy Working Group, the global authority on taxonomic and conservation status of turtles worldwide, provisionally classifies the species as Critically Endangered, the highest ranking for taxa most vulnerable to extinction.

Original post:

Le MD, Rödder D, Nguyen TT, The Pham C, Nguyen TQ, Ong AV, McCormack TEM, Nguyen TT, Le MH, Ngo HT, Ziegler T (2024) Climatic niche modelling and genetic analyses highlight conservation priorities for the Spotted Softshell Turtle (Pelodiscus variegatus). Nature Conservation 55: 67-82. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.55.114746

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Earth Observation meets in-situ biodiversity monitoring: Pensoft joins the OBSGESSION project

As a leader of the Work Package 6: “Dissemination, Multi-stakeholder outreach and synergies,” Pensoft is tasked to build an involved community around OBSGESSION.

Pensoft is to contribute to the OBSGESSION consortium with expertise in science communication by taking care of stakeholders engagement, thereby supporting its goal of improved terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity monitoring. As a leader of the Work Package 6: “Dissemination, Multi-stakeholder outreach and synergies,” Pensoft is tasked to build an involved community around OBSGESSION.

Terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity has been declining at an alarming rate due various factors such as intensification of anthropogenic activities and climate change.

To help protect and preserve precious ecosystems, the new research project OBSGESSION (Observation of Ecosystem Changes for Action) launched, jointly funded under the EU programme Horizon Europe, the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the University of Zurich (UZH). 

Coordinated by the Finnish Environmental Institute (Syke), OBSGESSION aims to reveal the drivers of biodiversity loss, pinpoint important indicators of ecosystem health and inform sustainability policy.

The project

OBSGESSION launched in January 2024 and will wrap up in December 2027 with the support of ~7.3 million EUR of funding, provided by the European Union’s Horizon Europe program, The UK Research and Innovation program (UKRI), and the University of Zurich (UZH).

The OBSGESSION consortium at the kick-off meeting in January 2024 (Tuusula, Finland).

The project officially kicked off with the first consortium meeting in Tuusula, Finland, between 30th January and 2nd February.

For the coming four years, the joint mission before the newly formed consortium is to integrate biodiversity data sources, such as Earth Observation, with in-situ research, and also cutting-edge ecological models. These will all be made into a comprehensive product for biodiversity management in both terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. 

The project will also spearhead an innovative approach for assessing Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) and their resilience to errors. Through purposely propagating error into biodiversity estimates and comparing the resulting models with ones using correct estimates, the EBV case studies aim to investigate model uncertainties and identify approaches that are more sensitive. Thus, they will inform policy and management about the optimal EBVs, and their key thresholds for conservation.

To demonstrate the implementation of the techniques and methodologies they are to develop within the project; and to respond to the needs of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the consortium will focus on six distinct pilot activities:

  1. Investigating and predicting biodiversity change in the European Alps: multi-scale, multi-modal and multi-temporal investigation using remote and in-situ data integration.
  2. Improving habitat classification models: going beyond state-of-the-art in terms of accurate high-resolution mapping of Europe’s habitats, powered by machine learning.
  3. Forecasting ecosystem productivity under disturbances & climate change: incorporating remote sensing EBVs to assess metrics of ecosystem structure and health.
  4. Supporting temperate and boreal forest protection & restoration: through assessing ecosystem conditions via eDNA & image spectroscopy.
  5. Monitoring freshwater ecosystems under disturbances & climate change: utilizing the novel Thematic Ecosystem Change Indices (TECIs).
  6. Ecosystem functioning of the Kokemäenjoki estuary – assessing freshwater & transitional water quality incorporating both in-situ and Earth Observation data.

Through its pilot studies, methodological assessments, data stream integration, and investigating land use cover changes across Europe, OBSGESSION will help improve our understanding of ecosystem vulnerability across a range of specific habitat types, identify drivers and pressures to ecosystem change and improve planning and prioritization of restoration measures.

“At Pensoft, we are eager to be part of the bright OBSGESSION consortium and look forward to offering our expertise and experience in raising awareness towards the project and contributing to the high impact of the resulting outputs, methodologies and policy recommendations that aim to strengthen our understanding of biodiversity change,”

says Gabriela Popova, science communicator at Pensoft and leader of the Work Package #6: “Dissemination, Multi-stakeholder outreach and synergies” at OBSGESSION.

International Consortium

The interdisciplinary OBSGESSION consortium consists of 11 partnering organisations from seven European countries, who bring diverse expertise spanning from remote sensing and Earth observation, to freshwater ecosystems, programming and science communication. Many partners represent acclaimed scientific institutions with rich experience in collaborative EU projects.

Full list of partners:

Find more on the OBSGESSION website: https://obsgession.eu, and follow the project on X/Twitter (@obsgession_) and Linkedin (/obsgession-horizoneurope).

Towards the “Biodiversity PMC”: a literature database supporting advanced content queries

The indexing is one of the major outcomes from the partnerships within the Horizon 2020-funded project Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library (BiCIKL)

Amongst the major outcomes from the currently nearly completed Horizon 2020-funded project Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library (BiCIKL) – dedicated to making biodiversity data FAIR and bi-directionally linked – brings the SIB Literature Services (SIBiLS) database one step closer to solidifying its “Biodiversity PMC” portal and working title.

In a joint effort between the Swiss-based Text Mining group of Patrick Ruch at SIB (developing SIBiLS), the text- and data-mining association Plazi and scientific publisher Pensoft, the long-time collaborators have started feeding full-text content of over 500,000 taxonomic treatments extracted by Plazi and tens of thousands full-text articles from 40 well-renowned biodiversity journals published by Pensoft to the SIBiLS database. 

What this means is that users at SIBiLS – be it human or AI – have now gained access to advanced text- and data-mining tools, including AI-powered factoid question-answering capacities, to query all this full-text indexed content and seek out, for example, species traits and biotic interactions.

To index and directly feed the content from its 40+ academic outlets at SIBiLS, Pensoft relies on advanced and full-text TaxPub JATS XML journal publication workflow, powered by the ARPHA publishing platform. Meanwhile, Plazi uses its GoldenGate text- and data-mining software to harvest taxon treatments from over 80 journals stored at TreatmentBank and the Biodiversity Literature Repository, and then further re-used by GBIF, OpenBiodiv and now by SiBILS.

Seen as a pilot, the indexing – the partners believe – could soon be extended with other journals relying on modern publishing or converted legacy publications. 

In fact, ever since its launch in 2020, the queryable database SIBiLS has been retrieving relevant full-text papers directly from the NIH’s PubMed Central, including Pensoft’s ZooKeysPhytoKeysMycoKeysBiodiversity Data Journal and Comparative Cytogenetics

However, there were still gaps left to bridge before SIBiLS could indeed be dubbed “the Biodiversity PMC”, and those have mostly been about volume and breadth of content. While the above-mentioned five journals by Pensoft had long been indexed by SIBiLS through harvesting PMC, those had been quite an exception since, several years ago, a reorganisation at PMC moved the focus of the database to almost exclusively biomedical content, thus leaving biodiversity journals out of the scope of the database.

In the meantime, while Plazi has been feeding SIBiLS a growing volume of taxonomic treatments and visual data, as it was exponentially increasing the number of publishers and journals it mined data from, a lot of biodiversity data (e.g. genetic, molecular, ecological) published in the article narratives that were not taxon treatments could not make it to the portal.

“We all know the advantages and practical uses PMC offers to its users, so we cannot miss the opportunity to incorporate this well-proven approach to navigate the data deluge in biodiversity science. Undoubtedly, it is an extremely ambitious and demanding task. Yet, I believe that, at the BiCIKL consortium, we have made it pretty clear we have the necessary expertise, know-how and aspiration to take on the challenge,”

said Prof. Lyubomir Penev, founder/CEO at Pensoft and project coordinator of BiCIKL.

“For far too long, scientific knowledge about biodiversity has been imprisoned in a continuously growing corpus of scientific outputs, which – most of the time – are published in unstructured formats, such as PDF, or as paywalled content, and often locked by both! This means that they are – at best – difficult to access and comprehend by computer algorithms. In the meantime, we need all that knowledge, in order to accelerate our understanding of the dynamics of the global biodiversity crisis and to efficiently assess the impact of climate change. This is why the need for advanced workflows and tools to annotate, mine, query and discover new facts from the available literature is more than obvious,”

added Dr. Donat Agosti, President at Plazi.

“In the course of the BiCIKL project, at SIBiLS, we started indexing a larger set of biodiversity-related contents in the broad sense, including environmental sciences and ecology, to build a new literature database, or what we now call ‘Biodiversity PMC’. Now, with the help of Plazi and Pensoft, we provide a unique entry point to half a million taxonomic treatments, which were not included into the original PubMed Central. Next on the list is to expand our network of literature sources and continue this exponential growth of queryable biodiversity knowledge to turn Biodiversity PMC into the “One Health” library. We promise to keep you posted,”

said Dr. Patrick Ruch, Group Leader at SIB and Head of Research at HES-SO, HEG Geneva, Switzerland. 

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Follow BiCIKL Project on Twitter and Facebook. Join the conversation on Twitter at #BiCIKL_H2020.

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About the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics:

SIB is an internationally recognized non-profit organisation, dedicated to biological and biomedical data science. SIB’s data scientists are passionate about creating knowledge and solving complex questions in many fields, from biodiversity and evolution to medicine. They provide essential databases and software platforms as well as bioinformatics expertise and services to academic, clinical, and industry groups. With the recent creation of the Environmental Bioinformatics group, led by Robert Waterhouse, SIB is engaged in an unprecedented effort to streamline data across molecular biology, health and biodiversity. SIB also federates the Swiss bioinformatics community of some 900 scientists, encouraging collaboration and knowledge sharing.

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About Plazi:

Plazi is an association supporting and promoting the development of persistent and openly accessible digital taxonomic literature. To this end, Plazi maintains TreatmentBank, a digital taxonomic literature repository to enable archiving of taxonomic treatments; develops and maintains TaxPub, an extension of the National Library of Medicine / National Center for Biotechnology Informatics Journal Article Tag Suite for taxonomic treatments; is co-founder of the Biodiversity Literature Repository at Zenodo, participates in the development of new models for publishing taxonomic treatments in order to maximise interoperability with other relevant cyberinfrastructure components such as name servers and biodiversity resources; and advocates and educates about the vital importance of maintaining free and open access to scientific discourse and data. Plazi is a major contributor to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.

Assessment, monitoring, and mitigation of chemical stressors on the health of wild pollinators: Pensoft joins WildPosh

Pensoft is amongst the participants of a new Horizon Europe project aiming to better evaluate the risk to wild pollinators of pesticide exposure, enhancing their health & pollination services.

Wild fauna and flora are facing variable and challenging environmental disturbances. One of the animal groups that is most impacted by these disturbances are pollinators, which face multiple threats, driven to a huge extent by the spread of anthropogenic chemicals, such as pesticides. 

WildPosh (Pan-european assessment, monitoring, and mitigation of chemical stressors on the health of wild pollinators) is a multi-actor, transdisciplinary project whose overarching mission and ambition are to significantly improve the evaluation of the risk to wild pollinators of pesticide exposure, and enhance the sustainable health of pollinators and pollination services in Europe.

On 25 and 26 January 2024, project partners from across Europe met for the first time in Mons, Belgium and marked the beginning of the 4-year endeavour that is WildPosh. During the two days of the meeting, the partners had the chance to discuss objectives and strategies and plan their work ahead. 

This aligns with the objectives of the European Green Deal and EU biodiversity strategy for 2030, emphasising the need to reduce pollution and safeguard pollinators. WildPosh focuses on understanding the routes of chemical exposure, evaluating toxicological effects, and developing preventive measures. By addressing knowledge gaps in pesticide risk assessment for wild pollinators, the project contributes to broader efforts in biodiversity conservation.

During the kick-off meeting in Mons, WildPosh’s project coordinator Prof. Denis Michez (University of Mons, Belgium) gave an introductory presentation.

As a leader of Work Package #7: “Communication, knowledge exchange and impact”, Pensoft is dedicated to maximising the project’s impact by employing a mix of channels in order to inform stakeholders about the results from WildPosh and raise further public awareness of wild and managed bees’ health.

Pensoft is also tasked with creating and maintaining a clear and recognisable project brand, promotional materials, website, social network profiles, internal communication platform, and online libraries. Another key responsibility is the development, implementation and regular updates of the project’s communication, dissemination and exploitation plans, that WildPosh is set to follow for the next four years.

“It is very exciting to build on the recently concluded PoshBee project, which set out to provide a holistic understanding of how chemicals affect health in honey bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees, and reveal how stressors interact to threaten bee health. WildPosh will continue this insightful work by investigating these effects on wild pollinators, such as butterflies, hoverflies and wild bee species, with the ultimate goal of protecting these small heroes who benefit the well-being of our planet,”

says Teodor Metodiev, WildPosh Principal Investigator for Pensoft.

For the next four years, WildPosh will be working towards five core objectives: 

1) Determine the real-world agrochemical exposure profile of wild pollinators at landscape level within and among sites 

2) Characterise causal relationships between pesticides and pollinator health 

3) Build open database on pollinator traits/distribution and chemicals to define exposure and toxicity scenario

4) Propose new tools for risk assessment on wild pollinators

5) Drive policy and practice.


Consortium:

The consortium consists of 17 partners coming from 10 European countries. Together, they bring extensive experience in Research and Innovation projects conducted within the Horizon programmes, as well as excellent scientific knowledge of chemistry, modelling, nutritional ecology, proteomics, environmental chemistry and nutritional biology.

  1. University of Mons
  2. Pensoft Publishers
  3. Eesti Maaülikool (Estonian University of Life Sciences)
  4. BioPark Archamps
  5. French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety
  6. French National Centre for Scientific Research
  7. Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenburg
  8. Albert Ludwigs University Freiburg
  9. UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
  10. University of Turin
  11. Italian National Institute of Health
  12. National Veterinary Research Institute – State Research Institute
  13. University of Novi Sad Faculty of Sciences
  14. University of Novi Sad, BioSense Institute-Research Institute for Information Technologies in Biosystems
  15. University of Murcia
  16. Royal Holloway and Bedford New College
  17. The University of Reading

Visit can follow WildPosh on X/Twitter (@WildPoshProject), Instagram (/wildposhproject) and Linkedin (/wildposh-eu)

Two new freshwater fungi species in China enhance biodiversity knowledge

The discoveries from the southwest of the country add to the impressive diversity of freshwater fungi in China.

Researchers have discovered two new freshwater hyphomycete (mould) species, Acrogenospora alangii and Conioscypha yunnanensis, in southwestern China. 

This discovery, detailed in a study published in MycoKeys, marks the addition of these species to the Acrogenospora and Conioscypha genera, further enriching the diversity of freshwater fungi known in the region.

A research team consisting of Lu Li, Hong-Zhi Du and Ratchadawan Cheewangkoon from Chiang Mai University, Thailand, as well as Vinodhini Thiyagaraja and Rungtiwa Phookamsak from Kunming Institute of Botany, China, and Darbhe Jayarama Bhat from King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, employed comprehensive morphological analysis and multi-gene phylogenetic assessments in their study. 

Notably, Acrogenospora alangii was identified on submerged branches of the medicinal plant Alangium chinense, highlighting a unique ecological association.

Hostplant of Acrogenospora alangii growing near water body.

Freshwater fungi are highly diverse in China and frequently reported from submerged wood, freshwater insects, herbaceous substrates, sediments, leaves, foams, and living plants.

Most species are well-known as saprobes (organisms that live on decaying organisms) and they play an important role in ecological functioning as decomposers, but also can be pathogens as well as symbionts on humans and plants.

This research underscores the ecological and taxonomic richness of freshwater fungi in China, a country already recognised for its diverse fungal habitats. The findings contribute valuable insights into the roles these organisms play in freshwater ecosystems and emphasise the importance of ongoing biodiversity studies in these environments.

Research article

Li L, Du H-Z, Thiyagaraja V, Bhat DJ, Phookamsak R, Cheewangkoon R (2024) Two novel freshwater hyphomycetes, in Acrogenospora (Minutisphaerales, Dothideomycetes) and Conioscypha (Conioscyphales, Sordariomycetes) from Southwestern China. MycoKeys 101: 249-273. https://doi.org/10.3897/mycokeys.101.115209

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Spiders, snakes and pseudoscorpions: new species published in Pensoft journal

Twelve fascinating newly discovered species were published in Pensoft’s journal Zoosystematics and Evolution in January 2024.

Zoosystematics and Evolution kicked off the year with research papers introducing 12 exciting new species from around the world. The journal, published by Pensoft on behalf of Museum für Naturkunde, is known for being at the forefront of animal research and, in particular, for sharing exciting new discoveries like those below.

Four jumping spiders from India

Four new species of Phintella were discovered in India. Generally striking in appearance, the genus now has 18 recognised species in India – second only to China.

Research paper: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.113049

An ethereal sea slug from British waters

Pleurobranchaea britannica, a newly discovered sea slug, is the first of its genus found in British waters. The unusual translucent creature also represents the second valid Pleurobranchaea species from European seas.

Research paper: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.113707

A beautiful venomous snake from Thailand

In the Tenasserim Mountain Range of western Thailand, researchers discovered Bungarus sagittatus, a new species of venomous elapid snake. The name sagittatus is derived from sagittata meaning arrow, referencing the dark triangular shape on its subcaudal scales which resembles a barbed arrow.

Research paper: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.116601

Two eels from India

Researchers described two new species, Ariosoma gracile and Ariosoma kannani, from Indian waters, based on the materials collected from the Kochi coast, Gulf of Mannar and the West Bengal coast, along the Bay of Bengal.

Research paper: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.116611

An island-dwelling land snail from Australia

Xanthomelon amurndamilumila

Xanthomelon amurndamilumila was discovered on the North East Isles, offshore from Groote Eylandt, Australia. Its conservation status is of concern on North East Island because of habitat degradation caused by feral deer.

Research paper: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.113243

New fish from Türkiye

A new Eurasian minnow, Phoxinus radeki, was discovered in the Ergene River (Aegean Sea Basin). Salmo brunoi, a new species of trout, was discovered in the Nilüfer River, a tributary of the Susurluk River.

Research papers: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.113467 (Phoxinus radeki),
https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.112557 (Salmo brunoi)

An Indian pseudoscorpion

Ditha shivanparaensis

Ditha shivanparaensis may look like a scorpion, but looks can be deceiving. Rather, it is an arachnid, newly discovered from the tropical montane cloud forests or ‘sholas’ of the Western Ghats of India.

Research paper: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.110020

With all these discoveries published in January, we anticipate many more exciting new species to come from Zoosystematics and Evolution in 2024!

Follow Zoosystematics and Evolution on X and Facebook for more!

First database of the impacts of invasive plants in Europe

Freely accessible, the database provides useful contextual information and identifies key gaps in European invasive-plant research.

A team of experts has created the first database of field studies on the impacts of invasive plants on native species, communities and ecosystems in Europe.

The dataset comprises 266 peer-reviewed publications reporting 4,259 field studies on 104 invasive species across 29 European countries. It is the first harmonised database of its kind at continental scale, and is freely accessible to the scientific community for future studies. Notably, one third of the studies focused on just five species that invade several central European countries.

Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica) in a garden in Brastad, Lysekil Municipality, Sweden.

Published in NeoBiota, the project was mainly funded through the European Regional Development Fund (SUMHAL, LIFEWATCH, POPE). It was executed by researchers from the Spanish institutes, Estación Biológica de Doñana, Universidad de Sevilla, Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología and Universidad de Alcalá, as well as the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

The comprehensive database indicates that invasive plants impact other plants, animals and microbes, all trophic levels (herbivores, parasites, plants, pollinators, predators, omnivores, decomposers and symbionts) and numerous ecosystem processes.

Map of locations (red dots) of field studies on the ecological impacts of invasive plant species in Europe.
Map of locations (red dots) of field studies on the ecological impacts of invasive plant species in Europe. Credit: Vilà et al.

More than half of the studies were conducted in temperate and boreal forests and woodlands and temperate grasslands. Major knowledge gaps are found in Baltic and Balkan countries, in desert and semi-arid shrublands, subtropical forests and high mountains.

Prof. Montserrat Vilà, coordinator of this task, highlights that the database provides information on whether the invasive species increase, decrease or have a neutral effect on the ecological variable of study. This allows investigation into the circumstances in which the invader has contrasting effects.

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera). Credit: Guptaele via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The database will be updated as new field studies on the ecological impacts of invasive species are published. “We hope for more studies on species that are still locally rare and with restricted distribution,” Prof. Montserrat Vilà says, “this database is of interest for academic, management and policy-related purposes.”

The PLANTIMPACTSEUROPE database can be accessed at: https://figshare.com/s/0a890d22bf5632fe5cb5

Research article:

Vilà M, Trillo A, Castro-Díez P, Gallardo B, Bacher S (2024) Field studies of the ecological impacts of invasive plants in Europe. NeoBiota 90: 139-159. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.90.112368

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Brand new journal Estuarine Management and Technologies streamlines innovation in ecosystems conservation

There has been an increasing need to support the exchange of research related to the conservation and sustainable management of estuarine ecosystems by means of new-age technologies and approaches.

Where freshwater rivers meet seas and oceans lies a scientifically intriguing and ecologically important type of ecosystem. As estuarine ecosystems provide various and diverse services to humanity and the planet at large, including food security and natural buffers and filters in the events of storms and water pollution, there has been an increasing need to facilitate and support the exchange of research findings and ideas related to their conservation and sustainable management by means of new-age technology and novel approaches.

This is how a team of renowned and passionate scientists, headed by Dr. Soufiane Haddout (Ibn Tofail University, Morocco), took the decision to launch a brand new open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly, aptly titled Estuarine Management and Technologies. They explain the rationale behind the journal in a new editorial, published to mark the official launch of the journal.

Having already worked closely with the scientific publisher and technology provider Pensoft on the fine touches of the concept of the new academic title, the team opted to use Pensoft’s publishing platform of ARPHA. As a result, the new journal provides a seamless, end-to-end publishing experience, encompassing all stages between manuscript submission and article publication, indexation, dissemination and permanent archiving. 

Within the collaboration between the journal’s and Pensoft’s teams, Estuarine Management and Technologies will take advantage of various services offered by the ARPHA platform, including full-text automated export in machine-readable and minable JATS-XML format to over 60 relevant databases for scientific literature and data; semantically enriched and multimedia-friendly publications accessible in HTML; and rich statistics about the outreach and usage of each published article and its elements (e.g. figures and tables), including views, downloads, online mentions, and citations. 

The publishing platform’s in-house indexing team will continue their close work with the journal’s editors to ensure that the scholarly outlet retains highest quality and integrity, so that it covers the criteria for indexation at additional key databases that require individual evaluation. In the meantime, ARPHA’s technical and editorial teams will provide technical and customer support to authors, editors and reviewers. The marketing and promotion team of ARPHA will be also joining forces with the journal to boost the visibility and image of the new academic title.

During the launch phase, content accepted for publication following double-blinded peer review will be made public right away for free to both authors and readers, where the journal will be operating under a continuous publication model.

Estuarine Management and Technologies welcomes studies from a wide spectrum of disciplines, including physics, chemistry, geology, biology, and hydrology, with a focus on interdisciplinarity, multifaceted approaches and holistic perspectives.

“One crucial aspect of estuarine management is the sustainable use of resources to balance conservation with human needs. Striking this delicate equilibrium requires a holistic understanding of the intricate web of ecological interactions within estuarine environments. Advanced technologies, such as isotopic techniques, environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis, can provide insights into the biodiversity of estuarine ecosystems with unprecedented precision,”

explain Dr Haddout and his colleagues in the opening editorial.

Amongst the unique features of the new journal are several additional publication types, such as Expert View, Video Paper, Rapid Communication, Mini Review and Estuarine Scientists, where these have been added to traditional publication outputs (e.g. Research Paper, Review Paper, Data Paper) to foster collaboration between researchers and other stakeholders in the field.

The journal is also running an annual Trailblazing Talent in Estuarine Management and Technologies award intended to recognise and encourage young scientists and engineers at the forefront of cutting-edge research in estuarine management and technologies. Nominations and applications are currently open.

Estuarine Management and Technologies also welcomes applications for guest editors in order to further expand the journal and its immediate expert network.

“I am delighted to see the Estuarine Management and Technologies journal already live on the ARPHA platform. We are confident that this particularly important, yet so far quite overlooked area of study will greatly benefit from this highly promising journal,”

says Prof. Lyubomir Penev, CEO and founder of Pensoft and ARPHA.

“I am pleased to announce the launch of the Estuarine Management and Technologies journal on ARPHA, a decision rooted in our commitment to advancing the field. We believe that this strategic partnership will not only enhance the visibility and accessibility of our journal, but will also foster collaboration and innovation within the estuarine management and technologies community. We expect this alliance to be a catalyst for scholarly excellence, providing a robust platform for researchers and practitioners to share insights, address challenges, and propel the field forward. Together with ARPHA, we are confident in the positive impact our journal will have on shaping the future of estuarine management and technologies.”

says Dr. Soufiane Haddout, Editor-in-Chief and founder, Estuarine Management and Technologies.

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You can visit the journal website and sign up for its newsletter from the homepage.

You can also follow Estuarine Management and Technologies on X (formerly Twitter).

Hidden biodiversity underfoot: DNA barcoding of Taiwanese forest beetles

The intricate world beneath our feet holds secrets that are only now being unveiled, as researchers embark on a groundbreaking project to explore the hidden diversity of forest leaf litter beetles in Taiwan.

Guest blog post by the research team led by Martin Fikácek and Fang-Shuo Hu, based on their paper published in Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift.

Forest leaf litter, often likened to terrestrial coral reefs, supports an astonishing variety of life. Among the myriad arthropods dwelling in this ecosystem, beetles emerge as the most common and speciose group. Despite their abundance, our understanding of leaf litter beetles remains limited due to the challenges posed by their sheer numbers, small sizes, and high local endemism.

Unlocking the Mystery with DNA Barcoding

To overcome these challenges, a team of researchers has initiated the Taiwanese Leaf Litter Beetles Barcoding project. Leveraging DNA barcoding, the project aims to create a comprehensive reference library for these elusive beetles. DNA barcoding, a technique using short mitochondrial fragments, accelerates the analysis of entire faunas and aids in the identification of species. The goal is to provide a valuable resource for researchers, ecologists, conservation biologists, and the public.

DNA voucher collection. Hu et al.

A Collaborative Journey with Taxonomists

The success of the Taiwanese Leaf Litter Beetles Barcoding project hinges on the invaluable contribution of taxonomists, who play a pivotal role in this groundbreaking research. Recognizing the specialized knowledge required for precise genus and species identifications, the researchers diligently consulted with specialists for each family represented in the extensive dataset.

In cases where these taxonomic experts provided crucial assistance, they were not merely acknowledged but offered co-authorship, acknowledging the significant commitment and expertise they bring to the project. Many taxonomists devote their entire lives to the meticulous study of specific beetle groups, and this collaboration underscores the importance of their dedication. The researchers emphasize the fairness of extending co-authorship to these taxonomic experts, acknowledging their indispensable role in advancing our understanding of Taiwan’s leaf litter beetle fauna.

Larva of Oodes (Lachnocrepisjaponicus. Hu et al.

Rich Beetle Diversity in Taiwan

Taiwan, nestled in the western Pacific, boasts a rich biodiversity resulting from its location at the crossroads of the Oriental and Palearctic biogeographical regions. Beetles, with over 7,700 recorded species belonging to 119 families, stand out as a particularly diverse insect order on the island. Despite this wealth of species, taxonomic research on beetles in Taiwan has been fragmented, and the study of leaf litter beetles has relied heavily on collections from past decades.

Larvae of Lagria scutellaris (OTU174) associated with adults by DNA. Hu et al.

The current dataset, based on specimens collected in the Huisun Recreation Forest Area in 2019–2021, comprises 4,629 beetles representing 334 species candidates from 36 families. The DNA barcoding approach has not only allowed for efficient species identification but has also provided a glimpse into the intricate world of beetle larvae, enhancing our understanding of their biology and ecological roles. This comprehensive dataset marks a significant step forward in unraveling the mysteries of Taiwan’s diverse beetle fauna.

Project Goals, Progress, and Future Outlook

The Taiwanese Leaf Litter Beetles Barcoding project is dedicated to a three-fold mission: conducting an extensive study of leaf litter beetles, documenting their diversity in Taiwan, and providing a reliable tool for quick identification. The researchers have published the first set of DNA barcodes, unveiling taxonomic insights such as the description of a new species and several newly recorded taxa.

Map of the samples collected in 2019–2023. Hu et al.

While the dataset is geographically limited to a single forest reserve in central Taiwan, it efficiently demonstrates the challenges of studying subtropical and tropical leaf litter beetle faunas. The integration of DNA barcoding and morphology proves instrumental in unraveling the mysteries of this species-diverse ecosystem. Looking ahead, the team plans to expand their sampling across Taiwan, covering diverse regions, altitudinal zones, and forest types.

Continuous updates to the DNA barcode dataset will serve as a valuable resource for future studies, maintaining a balanced approach that recognizes DNA barcoding as an efficient complement to traditional taxonomic methods.

Research article:

Hu F-S, Arriaga-Varela E, Biffi G, Bocák L, Bulirsch P, Damaška AF, Frisch J, Hájek J, Hlaváč P, Ho B-H, Ho Y-H, Hsiao Y, Jelínek J, Klimaszewski J, Kundrata R, Löbl I, Makranczy G, Matsumoto K, Phang G-J, Ruzzier E, Schülke M, Švec Z, Telnov D, Tseng W-Z, Yeh L-W, Le M-H, Fikáček M (2024) Forest leaf litter beetles of Taiwan: first DNA barcodes and first insight into the fauna. Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift 71(1): 17-47. https://doi.org/10.3897/dez.71.112278

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Ecuador’s newest tarantulas: just discovered, two new species face imminent threats

In the depths of Ecuador’s wilderness, scientists have unveiled the presence of two new tarantula species from the slopes of the Andes in the western part of the country.

In the depths of Ecuador’s wilderness, scientists have unveiled the presence of two new tarantula species. Researchers of Universidad San Francisco de Quito found them on trees on the slopes of the Andes in the western part of the country.

Meet Ecuador’s newest tarantulas

One of them was found in late February 2023, 1.5 m above the forest floor in the foothill evergreen forest of the Cordillera Occidental . Just discovered, it is already seriously threatened as people use its habitat for mining and agriculture. Its scientific name reflects this vulnerability: the tarantula is called Psalmopoeus chronoarachne, from the Greek words for “time” and “spider.”

Psalmopoeus chronoarachne.

“The compound word refers to the adage that these spiders could ‘have their time counted’ or reduced by impactful anthropogenic activities. The name addresses conservation concerns about the survival and prevalence of spider species in natural environments,” they write in their paper, which was just published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

The other newly discovered tarantula has an even more curious name: Psalmopoeus satanas. “It is appropriately named because the initial individual that was collected had an attitude!” says researcher Roberto J. León-E, who first spotted it in a bamboo fence in San José de Alluriquín. The spider immediately exhibited defensive behavior; “this behavior then transformed into fleeing, where the spider made quick sporadic movements, nearly too fast to see.”

Psalmopoeus satanas.

It was the first tarantula he ever caught.

“The members of the Mygalomorphae Research Group in the Laboratory of Terrestrial Zoology at Universidad San Francisco de Quito grew very fond of this individual during its care, in spite of the individual’s bad temperament and sporadic attacks (reason for the nickname),” he writes in the paper.

The species, which can be found in in the north of the Cordillera Occidental of the Andes at about 900 m above sea level, is facing serious threats as its habitat is degraded, ever declining, and severely fragmented by cropland and mining concessions and expanding urban and agricultural territories.

Critically endangered: threats to tarantula survival

“It is important to consider that the areas in which these arthropods live are not under legal protection. The implementation of protected areas in these localities is essential to maintain the remaining population of these endangered species and to encourage research on the remaining undescribed or unknown tarantula species in the area,” says Pedro Peñaherrera-R, who led the research on these animals.

Mining concessions in Ecuador.Credit José Manuel Falcón-Reibán

This makes the region highly vulnerable to both legal and illegal mining operations that extract metals such as copper, silver, and gold, introducing pollutants to its ecosystems.

The implementation of stricter regulations and penalties for illegal mining or other extracting-related activities, including specimen smuggling, might help these species survive. Likewise, the engaging and educating of local communities about the importance of biodiversity conservation is essential to avoid further extinction.

 “We encourage future work by Ecuadorian and international researchers, organisations, and governments to effectively understand the reality about the threat of tarantula smuggling and the required conservation status of each species in the country.” Says Roberto J. León-E.

Based on initial conservation assessments, both tarantulas meet the criteria for being considered Critically Endangered by International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Overview of the ecosystem of both species. Credit Naia Andrade Hoeneisen

“It is essential to consider the potential loss of both P. chronoarachne and P. satanas and the ecological consequences that would result from their extinctions. These species may serve essential roles in the stratified micro-ecosystems in their respective areas,” the researchers write in their paper.

The dark side: illegal trade in wild tarantulas

Illegal trade in wild tarantulas as pets is also a latent threat, not only to these two species, but to Ecuadorian tarantulas in general. Many tarantula species can be found for sale online on various websites and Facebook groups. “During the writing of this article and the publication of another article, we found that a species that we described (Neischnocolus cisnerosi) is currently in the illegal pet trade!” says Pedro Peñaherrera-R.

After studying papers on wild-caught pet-trade specimens, the researchers conclude that the issue has been going on for more than 30 years in the country. “Although this series of publications encouraged research on Ecuadorian tarantulas previously ignored for centuries, they also functioned as catalysts within the exotic pet-trade hobby, aiding in obtaining these species and further encouraging people to collect undescribed species,” says Pedro Peñaherrera-R with concern.

Original source:

Peñaherrera-R. P, León-E. RJ (2023) On Psalmopoeus Pocock, 1895 (Araneae, Theraphosidae) species and tarantula conservation in Ecuador. ZooKeys 1186: 185-205. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1186.108991