From a bulletin to a modern open access journal: Italian Botanist in Pensoft’s portfolio

Established in the distant 1888, the Italian Botanical Society has gone a long way towards publishing its achievements and research. Originated as a bulletin within an Italian journal, they have been growing ever since to now form a new international journal in its own right. Covering both Italian and international research in botany and mycology, the online open access journal Italian Botanist, published by Pensoft, is now officially launched via its first papers.

Although what was later to become Italian Botanist, published its first issue as an independent journal, called Informatore Botanico Italiano in 1969, the publications were still rather bulletin-style. It consisted of a mixture of administrative and scientific proceedings of the Society, the yearbook of the members, as well as scientific notes.

Nevertheless, such a major transition has been set to change everything fundamentally. Establishing its name, the journal started picking up, so that it was not long before the scientific contributions were prevailing. Impressively, for the Society’s centenary the journal published a celebratory 331-page contribution.

Gradually, its scope was expanded to cover several scientific fields. It hosted several themed columns, including cytotaxonomic contributions on the Italian flora, relevant new floristic records for Italy, conservational issues concerning the Italian flora and mycology.

However, the Directive Council of the Italian Botanical Society has not seemed to be ready to give up on their journal’s evolution. Last year, the botanists decided that they need to transform the journal to an an online, open access journal written in English and called Italian Botanist, in order to boost the scientific value and international visibility of Informatore Botanico Italiano.

italian botanist editorial PR

Under the name Italian Botanist, the journal has now joined Pensoft’s portfolio of peer-reviewed open access journals, all of which take advantage of the advanced technologies and innovations developed by the publisher.

The new journal’s scope ranges from molecular to ecosystem botany and mycology. The geographical coverage of Italian Botanist is specially focused on the Italian territory, but studies from other areas are also welcome.

Staying faithful to its spirit and philosophy, it keeps its column-format, with each issue to contain five columns, namely Chromosome numbers for the Italian flora, Global and Regional IUCN Red List Assessments, Notulae to the Italian flora of algae, briophytes, fungi and lichens, Notulae to the Italian native vascular flora and Notulae to the Italian alien vascular flora.

“Our hope is that this renewed version of the journal will serve the Italian – and foreign – botanical community more efficiently and provide readers worldwide with an easier access to knowledge concerning the Italian flora,” says Italian Botanist‘s Editor-in-Chief Lorenzo Peruzzi.

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Original source:

Peruzzi L, Siniscalco C (2016) From Bullettino della Società Botanica Italiana to Italian Botanist, passing through Informatore Botanico Italiano. A 128 years-long story. Italian Botanist 1: 1-4. doi: 10.3897/italianbotanist.1.8646

Curious new bush species growing ‘bleeding’ fruits named by a US class of 150 7th graders

A class of 150 US 7th graders has helped select a name for a newly discovered plant, which amazes with its fruits that appear to be bleeding once they are cut open. Bucknell University biology professor Chris Martine and life science teacher Bradley Catherman challenged the students to come up with ideas for what to call the new Australian species last spring.

Looking for a way to engage local youngsters in biodiversity science, Martine scheduled a presentation to the collective 7th grade life science classes at Donald H. Eichhorn Middle School. As the day of his assembly approached, he started to think that the best way to generate interest might be to somehow allow the students to participate in the actual research he was doing in his lab at the time. Only, he knew there were few things he could do with 150 13- and 14-year olds sitting in a gymnasium.

“I emailed Mr. Catherman and I said, ‘How about we ask them to name a new species for me?’ explained Martine. “And then I showed up with live plants, preserved specimens, and my notes from the Outback – and we said, ‘Go ahead, tell us what to call this thing.'”

Nearly a year later, Martine and his co-authors, including two undergraduate students, have published the new species in the open access journal PhytoKeys. The news is coming just in time for the National Teacher Appreciation Day, thus giving tribute to Bradley Catherman, a life science teacher who is not afraid to step beyond the standard curriculum and make that extra step to actually engage his students with their studies.

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“I was really impressed with Mr. Catherman’s willingness to work outside of the typical curriculum on this,” said Martine, “In an age when K-12 teachers are increasingly pressured to ‘teach to the test’ he is still willing to think creatively and try something unusual.”

Curiously, the new flowering bush species ‘behaves’ nothing like an ordinary plant. While its unripened fruits are greenish white on the inside when cut open, they start ‘bleeding’ in no more than two minutes. The scientists have even filmed a video short showing how their insides turn bloody scarlet at first, before growing darker, appearing just like clotting blood.

A week after the presentation, each of the students submitted an essay in which they suggested a name, explained the meaning, and translated it into Latin (the language that scientific names are required to be in). Catherman and Martine then selected the two best essays for the inaugural Discovery Prize, a new middle school science award established by Martine and his wife, Rachel.

“As you might imagine, the suggestions ran the gamut from the silly to the scientific,” said Martine. “But for every request to name the species after a favorite food, family pet, or Taylor Swift, there were many suggestions based on the data the students had been provided.”

According to Martine, a number of the students suggested names based on two characteristics of the plant’s berries: the ‘bleeding’ unripened fruits and the dry and bone-hard mature ones. Based on this, the plant will now be known as Solanum ossicruentum, best translated to Australian blood bone tomato, with “ossi” meaning “bone” and “cruentum” meaning “bloody”. The species belongs to the genus of the tomato.mature fruit

The species is native to the sub-arid tropical zone of northern Australia. Martine collected the seeds, he grew his research plants from, during a 2014 expedition to Western Australia and the Northern Territory. However, specimens of the plant had actually been gathered for years before then.

“This is just one of thousands of unnamed Australian species that have been collected by dedicated field biologists and then stored in museums,” said Martine, who studied specimens of the new species in the Northern Territory Herbarium before hunting for it in the bush.

“There is a wealth of museum material just waiting to be given names – and, of course, the organisms represented by those specimens await that recognition, as well as the attention and protection that come with it.”

 

IMG_5089Luckily for Solanum ossicruentum, attention and protection are not too much of an issue.

“Not only is it widespread and fairly abundant,” said Martine, “but one of the healthiest populations occurs in Mirima National Park, a popular and easily-accessible natural area just outside the Western Australian town of Kununurra.”

“Plus, middle schoolers can be tough to deal with. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would mess with this plant, now,” the botanist joked.

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Original source:

Martine CT, Cantley JT, Frawley ES, Butler AR, Jordon-Thaden IE (2016) New functionally dioecious bush tomato from northwestern Australia, Solanum ossicruentum, may utilize “trample burr” dispersal. PhytoKeys 63: 19-29. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.63.7743

Poorly known South African mountain endemic appears to be a very valuable keystone species

Mountain ecosystems are valuable providers of key resources including water. These ecosystems comprise diverse species, some of which appear to be especially important to the ecosystem’s functioning. In poorly studied mountain environments in biodiversity-rich countries, these keystone species can often be overlooked and undervalued.

Macowania is a group of yellow daisy shrubs occurring in the alpine-like regions of the Drakensberg and highlands of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen. Doctoral student Joanne Bentley, University of Cape Town, studied the genetic relationships between the various Macowaniaspecies and relatives during her Masters degree studies. Her research led to the first collection of the poorly known species Macowania revoluta (known also as the Amathole Macowania) in about 40 years.

The story of Macowania revoluta is published in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

The Amathole Macowania appears to be an exceptionally important keystone species. This is because it forms one of the dominant members of the valuable mountain wetland communities and, thus, likely plays a very important role in wetland functioning and soil protection.

It appears to be somewhat tolerant of woody alien species and a valuable pioneer species protecting its native co-habitants. Plants like this one buffer more sensitive plants from sudden changes in environment (such as forestry, alien invasion and fire), and provide an opportunity for the ecosystem to ‘bounce back’.

113693Restricted to the Amathole mountains in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, the Amathole Macowania was first collected sometime before 1870 by the pioneer botanist Peter MacOwan, and was well documented until around 1949. After that, except for one record in 1976, the plant quietly disappeared.

“This was the first Macowania species that we found during our fieldtrip across the greater Drakensberg. We had combed several of the localities where it had been collected before; mostly from several decades ago, some from more than a century ago!” says Joanne Bentley. “We became increasingly doubtful about finding the plant, given the heavily transformed plantation landscape.”

“Ready to throw in the towel, we came across a peaty area on the margins of the forest and decided on one last investigation. We were lucky: it was growing prolifically! It was a very special moment.”

As it often happens, exciting discoveries come in bulk. Joanne’s discovery of the plant in July 2010 was followed by another record in October 2010, by the Curator of the Schonland Herbarium, Tony Dold. In 2014 at least three additional localities were recorded along the popular Amathole Hiking Trail by Dr Ralph Clark, Rhodes University. A further record was added in 2015 by Vathi Zikishe, South African National Biodiversity Institute. The verdict: this is a very localised but patchily abundant species, and an ecologically valuable component of the Amathole flora.

Listed as ‘Data Deficient’ in the Threated Plants List for South Africa, this string of modern records of the species also provided the first opportunity to get an idea of its ecology and abundance, as well as the first photographs.

“The practical value of this species in local land restoration projects still needs to be explored, but the opportunities are exciting,” says Dr Clark. “The discovery that this obscure endemic mountain plant is not only abundant, but is, in fact, fulfilling an extremely important ecological role, highlights the value of detailed mountain biodiversity research in southern Africa.”

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Original source

Clark VR, Bentley J, Dold AP, Zikishe V, Barker NP (2016) The rediscovery of the Great Winterberg endemic Lotononis harveyi B.-E.van Wyk after 147 years, and notes on the poorly known Amathole endemic Macowania revoluta Oliv. (southern Great Escarpment, South Africa). PhytoKeys 62: 1-13. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.62.8348

South African endemic mountain plant gives itself up after 147-year absence

South Africa’s mountains are essential to the economic well-being of the country, providing many goods and services essential for social and economic prosperity. However, the biodiversity value of these mountains is still poorly understood. This is exemplified by the large number of plant species still only known from one or two collections made well over a century ago.

The Great Escarpment Biodiversity Research Programme, led by Prof. Nigel Barker, University of Pretoria, has been systematically documenting plant diversity and endemism along much of the Great Escarpment – southern Africa’s principal mountain system.

“This ‘un-sexy’ foot-slogging research has yielded a number of valuable discoveries and rediscoveries, highlighting the biodiversity value of these mountains,” points lead author Dr Ralph Clark, Rhodes University, South Aftica.

One of these rediscoveries is a plant last seen only by one more person: Mrs Elizabeth Barber, one of South Africa’s finest women botanists of the 19th century. Mrs Barber has been a regular correspondent with Charles Darwin and has provided material of South African plants to numerous institutions in Europe.

“Her discovery – Lotononis harveyi, also known under the common name ‘Mrs Barber’s Beauty’ in her honour, was published in 1862, but unfortunately, as her specimen did not include a date, we do not know the actual year in which she discovered it,” he explains. “What we do know, is that it mysteriously disappeared for at least 147 years, despite attempts to relocate it.”harveyi img2

In 2009, Dr Ralph Clark undertook an extensive collecting trip to the Great Winterberg, where he accidently stumbled across a flowering specimen of ‘Mrs Barber’s Beauty’. It was only in 2014, however, that the plant was properly recognised for what it was, and a second trip was quickly planned.

The results of the second trip included the first photographs and ecological records of this apparently scarce species. Dr Clark’s results have been published in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

“There are currently only six known individuals of this species. The main limiting factors appear to be fire and grazing, the plants only occurring where these two prominent ecological actors have been excluded for some time,” notes Dr Clark.

“However, with much of these mountains still poorly explored by biodiversity scientists, it is possible that additional individuals will come to light. For now the species will be regarded as Critically Endangered.”

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Original source:

Clark VR, Bentley J, Dold AP, Zikishe V, Barker NP (2016) The rediscovery of the Great Winterberg endemic Lotononis harveyi B.-E.van Wyk after 147 years, and notes on the poorly known Amathole endemic Macowania revolutaOliv. (southern Great Escarpment, South Africa). PhytoKeys 62: 1-13. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.62.8348

New bush tomato species is the link between botany and an Oscar-nominated Hollywood movie

A new Australian bush tomato species, discovered by a team of researchers led by biology professor Chris Martine of Bucknell University, has been named after main character Mark Watney from the book and film The Martian. The authors, among whom is the undergraduate student Emma Frawley, have published the new species in the open-access journal PhytoKeys.

Martine announced the new name, Solanum watneyi, in The Huffington Post last year when he described it as a tribute to the heroic portrayal of Watney as a NASA botanist and engineer who saves himself with plant science expertise after being stranded on Mars.

In fact, Matt Damon’s botanist character impressed both the audience and the critics so much that it resulted in several Academy Awards nominations to the whole production team. The actor himself received a Golden Globe among many other prestigious recognitions including the BAFTA for Best Actor and the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actor.   

This is a botanist portrayal that turns an unusually bright spotlight on authentic scientific endeavor,” Martine explains the choice. “Scientist heroes are already unusual in Hollywood, but a space-deserted protagonist who studies plants as a profession is something extraordinary.

However, according to Martine, the decision to name the species after Watney also has some taxonomic relevance.

“The plant that Watney manages to grow on Mars is none other than Solanum tuberosum (the potato), a member of the same genus as our new species,” he says.

This connection was not missed by Andy Weir, author of the book-turned-movie and father of the Watney character, who expressed his approval of the name on his Facebook page.  

“What higher honor could a botanist like Watney ask for than to have a plant named after him?” writes Weir. “And to have it be a relative of the potato as well? Perfect!”

[PR] Solanum watneyi Martine Img2Martine collected specimens of the new species during a six-week expedition to the Northern Territory of Australia with his wife, Rachel, and their two children. Rachel drew the illustration of the species that appears in the PhytoKeys paper.

In order to make sure the new species is not in fact a previously known and closely related Solanum species, the family team collected hundreds of seeds of both species. Thus, the plants could be grown and compared side-by-side in a research greenhouse.

In the summer of 2015, Bucknell undergraduate student Emma Frawley, class 2017, studied the plants, ultimately gathering and analyzing enough morphometric data to confirm the distinctiveness of Solanum watneyi. This is how Frawley, a double major in environmental studies and Spanish, became a co-author of the present paper.

The new species occurs in and around the western part of Judbarra/Gregory National Park, where it was occasionally encountered by regional botanists who nicknamed the oddball plant “Bullita” after the cattle station that once operated in the area.

“The nickname started being applied in the 1970s,” said Martine, who studied historical collections of the plant at the Northern Territory Herbarium. “But no one had yet done statistical comparisons between that plant and its similar relative.”

Watney is not the only one being recognized by the botanical community following the release of The Martian. In recognition of his botanist star turn, the Botanical Society of America has extended an honorary membership to actor Matt Damon, who portrays the space botanist in the film.

 

Note:  Also listed as authors on the recent publication are Bucknell University Burpee Postdoctoral Fellow Jason Cantley and University of California-Berkeley Research Botanist Ingrid Jordon-Thaden.

 

Original source:

 

Martine CT, Frawley ES, Cantley JT, Jordon-Thaden IE (2016) Solanum watneyi, a new bush tomato species from the Northern Territory, Australia named for Mark Watney of the book and film “The Martian”. PhytoKeys 61: 1–13. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.61.6995

Four new orchid species discovered during Lengguru 2014 expedition, West Papua, Indonesia

One of the biggest scientific expeditions ever undertaken in Indonesia, Lengguru 2014, made it possible to study and collect dozens of unknown plant and animal species, including four new orchids. Curiously, the research team, led by Dr. Lina Juswara, Cibinong Science Centre, Indonesia, collected three of these novelties over the span of a single day at the top of a small and unexplored mountain at 1000-metre elevation. The findings, which confirm previous suggestions that many species still await discovery there, are described and published in the open-access journal Phytokeys.

Thanks to the 2014 Lengguru scientific expedition some of the mysteries of Lengguru, an almost impenetrable mountainous area in an isolated and difficult-to-reach part of the Indonesian half of the New Guinea island, have been revealed. About a hundred participants, including 25 European and 45 Indonesian scientists, took part in it with the shared goal to collect essential data on the biodiversity of West Papua.

Lengguru remains one of the last unexplored territories on the planet. Covering an area, comparable in size to Sardinia, it consists of limestone formations, known as ‘karst’, forming a mosaic of natural ecosystems. The Lengguru 2014 expedition attempted to investigate Lengguru’s biodiversity in order to generate scientific data for molecular, ecological, taxonomical and biogeographical studies.

During the 6-week expedition, 72 fertile/flowering orchid specimens have been collected from the field by the internal team of Indonesian, French and Belgian botanists. So far, four new species have been identified among them.

“After the expedition, we examined and compared the Lengguru orchids with reference material housed in scientific collections,” explains Dr. Lina Juswara. Together with Dr. Vincent Droissart from the Research Institute for Development, France, they were the experts in charge to gather data on the large and glamorous Orchid family during the expedition. The identifications, descriptions and drawings of the new species were realized in close collaboration with Dr. Andre Schuiteman, Royal Botanical Garden Kew, United Kingdom, an internationally recognized expert on the orchid flora of Asia.

15112014-Bulbophyllum leucoglossum_copyright V Droissart IRD (2)

New Guinea is known to harbor one of the richest orchid floras in the world, surpassed only by Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. All four new orchid species discovered in Lengguru have been collected in high altitude forest, at over 1000 meters above sea level. These particular habitats, usually shrouded in clouds, are home to an exceptional plant diversity with a high degree of endemism, meaning the species cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The specific environmental conditions and the very small surface occupied by these ‘isolated islands’ of mountain forests make them particularly vulnerable to global climate change.

“Large parts of New Guinea have been overlooked in terms of collection initiatives and it is likely that many species still await discovery there”, says Dr. Lina Juswara. “More field studies are also required to find additional populations of the new species we found in Lengguru, in order to better characterize their habitat, ecology and conservation status. Of the four new orchid species collected during the expedition, three were collected on a single day, confirming that the flora of Lengguru is still far from completely described.”

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15112014-Bulbophyllum leucoglossum_copyright V Droissart IRD

Original source:

Juswara L, Schuiteman A, Droissart V (2016) Four new orchid species from the Lengguru fold belt, West Papua, Indonesia. PhytoKeys 61: 47-59. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.61.7590

Additional Information:

Fieldwork, laboratory activities and herbarium visits were supported by the Project Lengguru 2014 (http://www.lengguru.org), conducted by the French Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), the University of Papua (UNIPA), the University of Cendrawasih (UNCEN), the University of Musamus (UNMUS) and the Sorong Fisheries Academy (APSOR) with corporate sponsorship from COLAS Group, Veolia Water and the Total Foundation.

New species with heart-shaped fruits inspires a love for biodiversity in Hawai’i

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, botanists from Hawai’i have discovered a new species of plant with small heart-shaped fruits. The new species is a member of the coffee family (Rubiaceae) and part of the genus Coprosma, which occurs across many remote islands of the Pacific Ocean. They named the new Hawaiian species after the symbol of love – calling it Coprosma cordicarpa – meaning the Coprosma with heart-shaped fruit. Their research is published in the open-access journal PhytoKeys.

 

The botanists, who discovered C. cordicarpa, describe their finding as the result of a loving adventure with Hawaiian biodiversity. It began when Hawai’i’s State Botanist Dr. Maggie J. Sporck-Koehler noticed the little heart-shaped fruits in the Kanaio Natural Area Reserve on the Island of Maui, while attending a work meeting with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW).

 

One of the primary mandates of DOFAW is to conserve Hawai’i’s native ecosystems and the species that reside in them. As State Botanist, Sporck-Koehler is most often working on issues relating to rare or State and Federally listed threatened and endangered (T&E) plant species. Gaining a better understanding of native Hawaiian plant conservation status and helping to facilitate conservation efforts is one of the main objectives of the work she does for the State. Therefore, when something extraordinary gets under her nose, such as an unusual Coprosmapopulation, she takes a note and a sample.

 

Sporck-Koehler attempted to identify the species using a key so that she could know what she was looking at. She got to Coprosma foliosa, but was not satisfied. So, she turned to Dr. Jason T. Cantley, who at the time was finishing his PhD research on the genus Coprosma at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Department of Botany. “I was very taken with it,” Sporck-Koehler told Cantley. “It seemed different than any other [Coprosma] foliosas I’ve seen.”

Image2_CantleyCoprosmacordicarpa

Then, Cantley concluded that the heart-shaped fruits and other characteristics looked different enough that it was worth it to visit specimens at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu, and then to examine the plants themselves. “We needed to get all our ducks in a row, making sure we knew what we were looking for before we flew to Maui,” Cantley says. “Part of that planning was to think about the long-term conservation of Coprosma cordicarpafrom the start. That’s one reason it was necessary to bring Dr. Chau into this project.”

 

Dr. Marian M. Chau is the Seed Conservation Laboratory Manager at Lyon Arboretum’s Hawaiian Rare Plant Program in Honolulu. The Seed Conservation Lab‘s mission is to aid in the prevention of extinction of Hawaiian plant species by maintaining a long-term seed bank collection, to propagate plants for use in approved restoration projects, and to conduct research on seed storage and germination for the Hawaiian flora. The Seed Conservation Lab currently stores over 11 million seeds from about 40% of all Hawaiian native species, with the ultimate goal to represent the entire flora with research and/or long-term germplasm collections. This includes under-described biodiversity, like the heart-shaped fruits of C. cordicarpa.

 

From early on, it was clear that C. cordicarpa was not all that common, as it can only be found on one island. In fact, the botanists determined the new species fell within the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Vulnerable Category (VU) for extinction risk. The VU is the lowest of the three threatened Red List categories, but indicates that C. cordicarpastill faces threats of extinction in the wild. Chau suggested that they collect seeds for long-term germplasm storage at the Seed Conservation Lab.

 

Two field adventures on Maui and many herbarium specimen measurements later, the authors were confident they were looking at a new species. All in all, 609 seeds from 32 plants were collected, which are going to help preserve the biodiversity of this species for many years to come.

 

The authors had a passion for Hawaiian plant biodiversity and conservation well before this project, but it was the discovery of the heart-shaped fruits that brought these three botanists together. With their naming of this new species, they hope to also inspire others with a love for biodiversity that will continue long into the future.

 

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Original source:

Cantley JT, Sporck-Koehler MJ, Chau MM (2016) New and resurrected Hawaiian species of pilo (Coprosma, Rubiaceae) from the island of Maui. PhytoKeys 60: 33-48. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.60.6465

Global Plant Conservation’s Phase 1: The world checklist of hornworts and liverworts

Although it was Charles Darwin himself who more than a century ago voiced his intention to support a complete catalogue of all known plant species, such is yet to be realised. In the present paper, however, an international research team present the first ever worldwide checklist of hornworts and liverworts, covering 7485 species from across 396 genera and representing 92 families from the two phyla.

“This group of generally small-sized plants are an important component of the vegetation in many regions of the world, constituting a major part of the biodiversity in moist forest, wetland, mountain and tundra ecosystems,” says Prof. Lars Soderstrom, the lead investigator from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The initiative is a part of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation aiming to list the whole known plant kingdom by 2020. Their work is published in the open-access journal PhytoKeys.

Assembling a working digital list of all known plant species is a staple within the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, a framework whose ultimate goal is to halt the loss of plant diversity, which, unfortunately, is already a widely recognised fact. Without such a list, few other targets from the strategy would be met, since there would be a lack of baseline information. There would not be accessible and accurate botanical name information to utilise in researches, conservation and sustainability projects. Eventually, it would be impossible for taxonomists to stand their ground in the atmosphere of real-world politics.

“The present checklist is a result of a lengthy endeavour, started in 2008 at an international meeting hosted by The Field Museum, Chicago, and has blossomed to include over 40 authors and numerous individuals worldwide as well as several funding agencies allowing for a joint community effort to bring this to fruition,” says Dr. von Konrat. Working towards a consensus, together they managed to utilise the existing dataset and centralise nomenclature, taxonomy and geography on a global scale – something that had long been deterring such projects.

Liverworts and hornworts are of critical biological and ecological value, and an important component of the vegetation in many regions of the world. Liverworts, for example, are so widespread that can be found all the way from coastal Antarctica to the tundra of the Northern hemisphere and from the quite dry areas of Australia to the rainforest of Amazonia. Growing almost everywhere, they have turned into a microhabitat for a myriad of organisms such as single-celled eukaryotes, protozoa, and a wide range of invertebrates.

Moreover, both liverworts and hornworts play a vital role in the global carbon budget and carbon dioxide exchange. In the past they have even been used as climate change indicators and could be used as such to track potential signs of global warming in future.

In conclusion, the authors remind that their completion of the world checklist of hornwort and liverwort species is only the first phase towards the ultimate goal – a worldwide list of accepted plant names. Now, that there is a “virtual instrument with a linked environment both internally (e.g., within an article) and externally (GBIF, IPNI, Tropicos, Wikispecies, etc.) that will undoubtedly help accelerate taxonomic research,” the scientific world can set its sights on the next step – creating an easily accessible and generally recognised online platform for the supplementary information. It includes over 25,000 publications, almost 39,000 published names, and the over 700,000 geographical observations and the researchers believe that it will draw the attention and help of ecologists, conservationists, scientists from other disciplines and general interest groups.

“The broader accessibility to the wealth of auxiliary data will help augment monographic and revisionary work for many taxonomic groups, aid in identifying the need for increased floristic and survey work in many regions throughout the world, and have broad implications and applications beyond taxonomic research such as conservation science,” the scientists summarise. “However, such an effort can only be successful if it comes with sustained funding and infrastructure rather than depending on an ad hoc commitment by a few individuals, however dedicated”.

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Original source:

Soderstrom L, Hagborg A, von Konrat M, Bartholomew-Began S, Bell D, Briscoe L, Brown E, Cargill DC, Costa DP, Crandall-Stotler BJ, Cooper ED, Dauphin G, Engel JJ, Feldberg K, Glenny D, Gradstein SR, He X, Heinrichs J, Hentschel J, Ilkiu-Borges AL, Katagiri T, Konstantinova NA, Larraín J, Long DG, Nebel M, Pocs T, Felisa Puche F, Reiner-Drehwald E, Renner MAM, Sass-Gyarmati A, Schafer-Verwimp A, Moragues JGS, Stotler RE, Sukkharak P, Thiers BM, Uribe J, Vana J, Villarreal JC, Wigginton M, Zhang L, Zhu R-L (2016) World checklist of hornworts and liverworts. PhytoKeys 59: 1-821.doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.59.6261

A botanical survey to help understand change in our wild flora

Volunteers in the north-east of England have created a benchmark survey of common plants with which to identify change in the countryside, its result and causes. This survey will be used in future to monitor the effects of climate change on plants; assess the success of conservation measures and predict future change. Its findings are published in the open-access journal Biodiversity Data Journal, contributing an additional 35,000 observations to the 200,000 observations collected by local recorders since the turn of the millennium .

Many people remark on the changes that are occurring in the countryside, the disappearance of some species and the spread of others. Yet, these anecdotes cannot substitute for hard facts. There are also many suggested causes for all these changes such as warmer climate, different agricultural practices, eutrophication, or alien species. Botanical observations tend to be biased. For example, common species are often ignored in the interest of exceptional ones. Therefore, what was needed was a dedicated survey with a clear and repeatable methodology.

Common plant species are the mainstay of habitats, they create our woodlands, hedgerows and meadows. They also provide the food for herbivores and pollinators and create homes for birds and mammals. Changes in the abundance of rare species have little impact on other species, but change in the abundance of common species can have cascading effects on whole ecosystems of which we are a part.

For these reasons volunteer botanists in the north-east of England conducted a four-year survey to benchmark the abundance of common plants. Led by the Botanical Societies vice county recorders, John Durkin Ecology, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, and Botanic Garden Meise, the volunteers surveyed the plants in a randomly selected sample of 1km2 grid squares in the vice counties of Durham and South Northumberland.

They created a solid foundation that can be used to qualify the abundance of common species and compare against previous and future studies. The project was conducted over four years and required volunteers to go to various places. Some surveyed post-industrial brown-field sites, while others walked for miles across bleak moorland to reach sites high in the hills. Although these moors are arguably wilder and natural, the industrial wastelands turn out to be far more biodiverse.

Botanical surveying continues in the region despite the end of the project. Volunteers continue to monitor rare plants in the region and are currently working towards the next atlas of Britain and Ireland, coordinated by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland.

“Good biological conservation in the 21st century will have as much to do with sensitive adaption to change as it is about preserving what we have,” point out the authors. “Human memory is short and fickle and it is only with benchmark surveys, such as this that we can hope to understand and manage that change.”

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Original source:

Groom Q, Durkin J, O’Reilly J, Mclay A, Richards A, Angel J, Horsley A, Rogers M, Young G (2015) A benchmark survey of the common plants of South Northumberland and Durham, United Kingdom. Biodiversity Data Journal 3: e7318. doi: 10.3897/BDJ.3.e7318

New gorgeous coffee tree species from Honduras is critically endangered

Amid the challenging terrain of north-western Honduras, where Dr. Kelly’s team faced rugged and steep forest areas cut across here and there by a few trails, a gorgeous tree with cherry-like fruits was discovered. Being about 10 metres (33 ft) high and covered with cream-colored flowers, it was quickly sorted into the Coffee family (Rubiaceae), but it was its further description that took much longer. Eventually, it was named Sommera cusucoana, with its specific name stemming from its so far only known locality, the Cusuco National Park. The study is available in the open-access journal PhytoKeys.

During a plant diversity study in the Cusuco National Park, conducted by Drs. Kelly, Dietzch and co-workers as a part of a broader survey by Operation Wallacea, an international organisation dealing with biodiversity and conservation management research programmes.

A couple of curious findings in the past decade provide a strong incentive to further work. The place turns out to be not only of high biodiversity, but to also contain rare and hitherto unknown plant and animal species.

For instance, the tree Hondurodendron (from Greek, ‘Honduras Tree’) and the herbaceous plant Calathea carolineae are another two endemic species discovered as a result of the Operation Wallacea survey.

In 2013, two individuals of another unknown, 10-metre high (33 ft) tree with cream-colored flowers and red, cherry-like fruits were found by Daniel Kelly and Anke Dietzsch from Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland. The two were aided by local guide Wilmer Lopez.

The multinational collaboration did not stop then and there. Although the scientists quickly figured that the tree belonged to the Coffee family, they needed some additional help to further identify their discovery. Thus, they were joined by two leading specialist in this plant group, first Charlotte Taylor from Missouri Botanical Garden and then David Lorence from the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii.

It was actually David who was the first to recognise the unknown tree as a member of theSommera genus, a group of nine known species of trees and shrubs. Later, the team decided to name the new plant Sommera cusucoana to celebrate its singular locality, the Cusuco National Park.

“Sadly, there has been extensive logging in the vicinity in recent years, and we fear for the future of our new species,” the authors stressed. “According to the criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it must be regarded as Critically Endangered.”

“We hope that the publication of this and other discoveries will help to galvanize support for the conservation of this unique and beautiful park and its denizens,” they concluded.

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Original Source:

Lorence DH, Dietzsch AC, Kelly DL (2015) Sommera cusucoana, a new species of Rubiaceaefrom Honduras. PhytoKeys 57: 1-9. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.57.5339