Guest Blog Post: Researchers split the birdcatcher trees (genus Pisonia) into three

Large Cabbage trees (Pisonia grandis) dominate the landscape of a small island in the Pacific Ocean
Photo by Jean-Yves Meyer (Délégation à la Recherche de Polynésie Française, Tahiti, French Polynesia)

Guest blog post by Marcos Caraballo


The birdcatcher trees – genus Pisonia – are infamous for trapping birds with their super-sticky seed pods that would frequently entangle the body of the ‘victim’. Left flightless, the poor feathered creatures eventually die either from starvation or fatigue, or predators. Similarly notorious are the birdcatcher trees for botanists, who have been baffled by their complicated classification for the last three centuries. 

Here’s why myself and graduate student Elson Felipe Rossetto of the Universidade Estadual de Londrina (Brazil) decided to take up the untangling of this issue with our recent taxonomic studies. You can find our research paper published in the open-access scholarly journal PhytoKeys.

Ripe fruits (anthocarps) of the Birdlime tree (Ceodes umbellifera)
Photo by Ching-I Peng [deceased]

We reestablished two genera: Ceodes and Rockia, where both had been previously merged under the name of Pisonia. Now, as a result, there are three distinct lineages of birdcatcher trees from the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans: Ceodes, Pisonia, and Rockia.

“Previous molecular studies on Pisonia species from around the world showed that species were clustered into three major groups, and here we assign names for each of them. With this new classification, a large number of the species known as Pisonia will be henceforth named Ceodes. This includes the Parapara (Ceodes brunoniana) and the Birdlime (Ceodes umbellifera) trees, both native to many islands, including Hawaii and New Zealand. They are commonly planted in gardens for their lush and sometimes variegated foliage, as well as their fragrant white flowers. However, the Cabbage tree (Pisonia grandis) will still be technically known as Pisonia.”

adds the study’s lead author Felipe Rossetto.
Male (staminate) showy flowers of the Birdlime tree (Ceodes umbellifera)
Photo by Joel Bradshaw (Far Outliers, Honolulu, Hawaii)

Birdcatcher trees have generated much controversy in the popular media because of their seed pods (technically called “anthocarps”) secreting a sticky substance that glues them to the feathers of seabirds or other animals for dispersal. Sometimes, though, too many seed pods can harm or kill birds, especially small ones, by weighing them down and rendering them flightless. This macabre practice has led to many controversies and local campaigns aiming to remove the trees, even illegally.

Brown noddy (Anous stolidus) covered with the sticky fruits (anthocarps) of the Cabbage tree (Pisonia grandis)
Photo by Jean-Yves Meyer (Délégation à la Recherche de Polynésie Française, Tahiti, French Polynesia)

In spite of their forbidding reputation, however, we would like to stress that birdcatcher trees have positive effects on ecosystems and are important components of vegetation, especially for small islands. Sadly, there are many endemic and already endangered species of birdcatcher trees that only exist on a few small islands, where they are effectively placed at the mercy of local people.

Many species of birdcatcher trees are large and, thereby, tolerate harsh environments like seafronts and rocky cliffs, making them prime nesting spots for seabirds. Birdcatcher trees are also ecologically curious and could be regarded as keystone species in small islands, because their soft branches can sustain many types of invertebrates; their flowers are an important food source for bees and ants; their dense leaf litter nourishes the soil; and their roots have intimate interaction with native underground fungi (mycorrhiza).

All in all, clarifying the taxonomy of the birdcatcher trees is the first step to understanding how many species exist and how they relate to each other. 

Although most people relate birdcatcher trees with beaches and coastal habitats, there are species that are only found in mountains or rainforests. For example, the species now allocated to the genus Rockia is endemic to the Hawaiian archipelago. These are small trees able to grow in dry to mesic mountain forests. Using our new classification, future studies can explore in detail the hidden diversity of these enigmatic plants, and find out how trees with high dispersal capabilities evolve into species endemic to small island ecosystems.

Cabbage trees (Pisonia grandis) are important components of the vegetation in small islands due to their massive size
Photo by Jean-Yves Meyer (Délégation à la Recherche de Polynésie Française, Tahiti, French Polynesia)

About the author:

Marcos A. Caraballo-Ortiz is a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C., United States). His research interests include plant systematics and ecology, with a focus on flora of the Caribbean Islands. Dr. Caraballo-Ortiz has experience studying the taxonomy of several groups of tropical plants, with a particular interest in neotropical Mistletoes (Loranthaceae, Santalaceae, Viscaceae) and the Four O’Clock family (Nyctaginaceae). 

For more information about his projects, visit marcoscaraballo.com.

Research paper:

Rossetto EFS, Caraballo-Ortiz MA (2020) Splitting the Pisonia birdcatcher trees: re-establishment of Ceodes and Rockia (Nyctaginaceae, Pisonieae). PhytoKeys 152: 121-136. https://doi.org/10.3897/phytokeys.152.50611


Plant Sociology renewed: Does an open access society journal about vegetation still make sense in 2020?

In a new editorial, Plant Sociology’s Editor-in-Chief Daniela Gigante and Co-editors Gianni Bacchetta, Simonetta Bagella and Daniele Viciani reflect on the current position and outlook of the official journal of the Italian Society of Vegetation Science (Società Italiana di Scienza della Vegetazione or SISV), now that it has completed its first issue since transitioning to the scientific publisher and technology provider Pensoft and ARPHA Platform earlier this year.

Homepage of the new website of Plant Sociology
(visit: https://plantsociology.arphahub.com/)

The Editorial board briefly analyses the issues around the inaccessibility to scholarly research and suitable scholarly outlets still persisting in our days that impede both readers and authors across branches of science. Naturally, they go on to focus on the situation in vegetation science, where, unfortunately, there are rather few outlets open to original research related to any aspect within vegetation science.

By telling their own experience, but also citing the stories of other similarly positioned society journals, including other journals that have moved to Pensoft’s self-developed ARPHA Platform over the past several years (e.g. Journal of Hymenoptera Research, European Science Editing, Italian Botanist, Vegetation Classification and Survey, Nota Lepidopterologica), the editors present an example how to address the challenges of securing the long-term sustainability and quality for a journal used to being run by a small editorial staff in what they refer to as a “home made” method.

Other society journals that have moved to Pensoft’s self-developed ARPHA Platform over the past several years

In this process, the SISV supported its official scholarly outlet to be published as a “gold open access” journal and ensured that the APCs are kept to a reasonable low in line with its non-profit international business model. Further discounts are available for the members of the Society.

Then, the journal management also reorganised its Editorial Board and welcomed a dedicated Social media team responsible for the increased outreach of published research in the public domain through the channels of Twitter and Facebook

Besides making the publications publicly available as soon as they see the light of day, the journal strongly supports other good open science practices, such as open data dissemination. In Plant Sociology, authors are urged to store their vegetation data in the Global Index of Vegetation-Plot Databases (GIVD). Additionally, the journal is integrated with the Dryad Digital Repository to make it easier for authors to publish, share and, hence, have their data re-used and cited.

The team behind Plant Sociology is perfectly aware of the fact that it is only through easy to find and access knowledge about life on Earth that the right information can reach the right decision-makers, before making the right steps towards mitigating and preventing future environmental catastrophes.

Access the article from: https://doi.org/10.3897/pls2020571/05

“A journal focusing on all aspects of natural, semi-natural and anthropic plant systems, from basic investigation to their modelisation, assessment, mapping, management, conservation and monitoring, is certainly a precious tool to detect environmental unbalances, understand processes and outline predictive scenarios that support decision makers. In this sense, we believe that more and more OA journals focused on biodiversity should find space in the academic editorial world, because only through deep knowledge of processes and functions of a complex planet, humankind can find a way to survive healthy,”

elaborate the editors.

To take the burden of technical journal management off the shoulders of Plant Sociology’s own editorial team, the journal has entrusted Pensoft to provide a user-friendly and advanced submission system, in addition to the production, online publishing and archiving of the accepted manuscripts. Thus, the editorial team is able to focus entirely on the scientific quality of the journal’s content.

“The renewal of Plant Sociology is a challenge that we have undertaken with conviction, aware of the difficulties and pitfalls that characterize the life of a scientific journal today. Entrusting the technical management of the journal to a professional company aims to improve its dissemination and attractiveness, but also to focus our efforts only on scientific content,”

explain the editors.

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About Plant Sociology:

Plant Sociology publishes articles dealing with all aspects of vegetation, from plant community to landscape level, including dynamic processes and community ecology. It favours papers focusing on plant sociology and vegetation survey for developing ecological models, vegetation interpretation, classification and mapping, environmental quality assessment, plant biodiversity management and conservation, EU Annex I habitats interpretation and monitoring, on the ground of rigorous and quantitative measures of physical and biological components. The journal is open to territorial studies at different geographic scale and accepts contributes dealing with applied research, provided they offer new methodological perspectives and a robust, updated vegetation analysis.

Find all pre-2020 issues and articles of Plant Sociology openly available on the former website.

Follow Plant Sociology on Twitter and Facebook.

Italian Society of Vegetation Science signs with Pensoft to publish its journal on ARPHA

The first 2020 papers of the open-access, peer-reviewed international journal Plant Sociology are now available on the journal’s new, user-friendly and visually appealing website

Having succeeded the historical journals of the Italian Society of Vegetation Science (Società Italiana di Scienza della Vegetazione): Fitosociologia (1990-2011) and Notiziario della Societa Italiana di Fitosociologia (1964-1989), the open-access, peer-reviewed international journal Plant Sociology undergoes another major transformation by moving to the technologically advanced ARPHA Platform, after signing with the scholarly publisher and technology provider Pensoft.

As a result of the recently started partnership, the first 2020 papers of Plant Sociology are now available on the journal’s new website. All pre-2020 issues remain available on the former website.

With a wide scope covering vegetation studies from plant community to landscape level, Plant Sociology puts a special focus on topics such as Plant Sociology and vegetation survey for developing ecological models, as well as plant classification, monitoring, assessment, management and conservation, as long as the studies are based on rigorous and quantitative measures of physical and biological components.

Amongst the first newly published papers is an article by a team from the University of L’Aquila, which reports on two years of observations of the vegetation dynamics at the Gran Sasso – Monti della Laga National Park in central Italy, after the protected area suffered from an accidental fire of anthropogenic origin in 2017. With their study, the researchers aim to determine the potential of the Sentinel-2 satellite as a tool to measure, identify and monitor the short-term response of vegetation in a peculiar mountainous landscape.

Another new publication presents a phytosociological survey on the weed vegetation of two crops of Protected Designation of Origin: the bean “Fagiolo Cannellino di Atina” and the red pepper “Peperone di Pontecorvo” – both growing exclusively within a few hundreds of square kilometres in the Province of Frosinone (central Italy), conducted at four selected farms by researchers at the Sapienza University of Rome.

Thanks to the Pensoft’s signature open-access scholarly publishing platform ARPHA, Plant Sociology demonstrates a complete makeover, including a modern and user-friendly interface in addition to a long list of high-tech perks, meant to ensure that published articles are easy to discover, access, cite and reuse by both humans and machines all over the world.

Furthermore, all users of the journal’s system: authors, editors and reviewers alike, are to greatly benefit from ARPHA’s integrated approach to the publication process. This means that once submitted each manuscript goes through the whole cycle: from review and copy/layout editing to publication, dissemination and archiving without leaving ARPHA’s collaboration-focused online environment.

Plant Sociology has a completely renewed Editorial board, which sees Daniela Gigante from the University of Perugia in the role of Editor-in-Chief, and Simonetta Bagella (University of Sassari), Gianni Bacchetta (University of Cagliari) and Daniele Viciani (University of Florence) as Co-editors. The Editorial board is complemented by a Consultant editor and an Editorial secretary (respectively, Edoardo Biondi and Diana Galdenzi, both from the Polytechnic University of Marche, Ancona). A large, international Editorial team includes 35 members with specific skills and long-dated expertise in various fields related to vegetation science. A dedicated Social media team takes care of the dissemination of the journal.

“At the Plant Sociology‘s Editorial board, we are looking with great expectations to the cooperation with Pensoft, certain that the publisher’s skills and experience will support the journal in its growth and consolidation as an international reference point for vegetation science studies,”

says Editor-in-Chief Dr Daniela Gigante.

“It’s delightful to have the Italian Society of Vegetation Science putting their trust in us with their signature journal. With our strong background in scholarly publishing, technology development and open science practices, I am certain that we are to provide the right venue for a high-quality and enterprising journal like Plant Sociology,”

says ARPHA’s and Pensoft’s founder and CEO Prof. Lyubomir Penev.

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Follow Plant Sociology on Twitter and Facebook.

Vegetation Classification and Survey (VCS), the new journal of the Int’l Association for Vegetation Science

The journal is to launch with a big editorial and several diverse, high-quality papers over the next months

In summer 2019 IAVS decided to start a new, third association-owned journal, Vegetation Classification and Survey (VCS), next to Journal of Vegetation Science (JVS) and Applied Vegetation Science (AVS).

Vegetation Classification and Survey (VCS) is an international, peer-reviewed journal of plant community ecology published on behalf of the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS) together with its sister journals, Journal of Vegetation Science (JVS) and Applied Vegetation Science (AVS). It is devoted to vegetation survey and classification at any organizational and spatial scale and without restriction to certain methodological approaches.

The journal publishes original papers that develop new vegetation typologies as well as applied studies that use such typologies, for example, in vegetation mapping, ecosystem modelling, nature conservation, land use management or monitoring. Particularly encouraged are methodological studies that design and compare tools for vegetation classification and mapping, such as algorithms, databases and nomenclatural principles. Papers dealing with conceptual and theoretical bases of vegetation survey and classification are also welcome. While large-scale studies are preferred, regional studies will be considered when filling important knowledge gaps or presenting new methods. VCS also contains Permanent Collections on “Ecoinformatics” and “Phytosociological Nomenclature”.

VCS is published by the innovative publisher Pensoft as a gold open access journal. Thanks to support from IAVS, we can offer particularly attractive article processing charges (APCs) for submissions during the first two years. Moreover, there are significant reductions for IAVS members, members of the Editorial Team and authors from low-income countries or with other financial constraints (learn more about APCs here).

Article submissions are welcomed at: https://vcs.pensoft.net/

Post by Jürgen Dengler, Idoia Biurrun, Florian Jansen & Wolfgang Willner, originally published on Vegetation Science Blog: Official blog ot the IAVS journals.

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