Community composition is a primary determinant of how biodiversity change influences ecosystem functioning and, therefore, the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF). We examine the consequences of community composition across six structurally realistic plant community models. We find that a positive correlation between species’ functioning in monoculture vs. their dominance in mixture with regards to a specific function (the “function-dominance correlation”) generates a positive relationship between realized diversity and ecosystem functioning across species richness treatments. However, because realised diversity declines when few species dominate, a positive function-dominance correlation generates a negative relationship between realized diversity and ecosystem functioning within species richness treatments. Removing seed inflow strengthens the link between the function-dominance correlation and BEF relationships across species richness treatments but weakens it within them. These results suggest that changes in species’ identities in a local species pool may more strongly affect ecosystem functioning than changes in species richness.
Niche theory predicts specialists will be more sensitive to environmental perturbation compared to generalists, a hypothesis receiving broad support in free-living species. Based on their niche breadth, parasites can also be classified as specialists and generalists, with specialists infecting only a few and generalists a diverse array of host species. Here, using avian haemosporidian parasites infecting wild bird populations inhabiting the Western Ghats, India as a model system, we elucidate how climate, habitat and human disturbance affects parasite prevalence both directly and indirectly via their effects on host diversity. Our data demonstrates that anthropogenic disturbance acts to reduce the prevalence of specialist parasite lineages, while increasing that of generalist lineages. Thus, as in free-living species, disturbance favors parasite communities dominated by generalist vs. specialist species. Because generalist parasites are more likely to cause emerging infectious diseases, such biotic homogenization of parasite communities could increase disease emergence risk in the Anthropocene
Amphibian skin secretions (substances produced by the amphibian plus microbiota) plausibly act as a first line of defense against pathogen attack, but may also provide chemical cues for pathogens. To clarify the role of skin secretions in host-parasite interactions, we conducted experiments using cane toads (Rhinella marina) and their lungworms (Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala) from the range-core and invasion-front of the introduced anurans’ range in Australia. Depending on the geographic area, toad skin secretions can reduce the longevity and infection success of parasite larvae, or attract lungworm larvae and enhance their infection success. These striking differences between the two regions were due both to differential responses of the larvae, and differential effects of the skin secretions. Our data suggest that skin secretions play an important role in host-parasite interactions in anurans, and that the arms race between a host and parasite can rapidly generate spatial variation in critical features of that interaction.
Peer-review and subject-matter editing is the backbone of scientific publishing. However, early career researchers (ECRs) are given few opportunities to participate in the editorial process beyond reviewing articles. Thus, a disconnect exists: science needs high-quality editorial talent to conduct, oversee, and improve the publishing process, yet we dedicate few resources to building editorial talent nor giving ECRs formal opportunities to influence the publishing landscape from within. Here, we describe a “two-way” fellowship model that gives ECRs a “seat” at the editorial table of a field-leading journal. We describe both the necessary framework and benefits that can stem from editorial fellowships for ECRs, editors, journals, and the scientific community.
In the western United States, the population of migratory monarch butterflies is on the brink of collapse, having dropped from several million butterflies at coastal overwintering sites in the 1980’s to about 2000 butterflies in the winter of 2020-21. At the same time, a resident (non-migratory) monarch butterfly population in urban gardens seems to be expanding northward. If anything, this urban population has been growing in recent years. We explore the meaning of these changes. The new resident population is not sufficient to make up for the loss of the migratory population; there are still orders of magnitude fewer butterflies now than in the recent past. The resident population also probably lacks the demographic capacity to expand its range inland during summer months, due to higher levels of infection by a protozoan parasite, and subsequently lower survival and fecundity. Nonetheless, the resident population may have the capacity to persist. This sudden change emphasizes the extent to which environmental change can have unexpected consequences. It also demonstrates how quickly these changes can happen. We hope it will provoke discussion about how we define resilience and viability in changing environments.
Paz-Vinas et al. (2021) comment on methodological and data-related limits of our paper (Millette et al. 2020), which affect a small proportion of our datasets and analyses. These points do not refute our conclusions. We address their comments and support the call for the development of best practices for future macrogenetics research.
Ecological processes often exhibit time lags. For plant invasions, lags of decades to centuries between species’ introduction and establishment in the wild (naturalisation) are common, leading to the idea of an invasion debt: accelerating rates of introduction result in an expanding pool of introduced species that will naturalise in the future. Here, I show how a concept from survival analysis, the hazard function, provides an intuitive way to understand and forecast time lags. For plant naturalisation, theoretical arguments predict that lags between introduction and naturalisation will have a unimodal distribution, and that increasing horticultural activity will cause the mean and variance of lag times to decline over time. These predictions were supported by data on introduction and naturalisation dates for plant species introduced to Britain. While increasing trade and horticultural activity can generate an invasion debt by accelerating introductions, the same processes could lower that debt by reducing lag times.
Ecological theory recognizes the importance of the variety of species for maintaining the functioning of ecosystems and their derived services. We assert that when studying the effects of shifts in biodiversity levels using mathematical models, their dynamics must be sensitive to the variety of species traits but not to raw species numbers, a property that we call scale--invariance. We present a testing procedure for verifying scale--invariance of ecological network models ---with or without trait adaptation--- expressed as ODEs. Furthermore, we applied our test to several influential models used for evaluating biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning. In most of the surveyed studies the equations failed our test. This raises doubts about the validity of previous results and calls for revisiting the theory derived from these studies. Our results foster the creation of artifact--free models, a necessary step towards building a more robust theory of biodiversity--driven ecosystem functioning.
The lifetime reproductive success (LRS) of individuals is affected by random events such as death, realized growth, or realized reproduction, and the outcomes of these events can differ even when individuals have identical probabilities. Another source of randomness arises when these probabilities also change over time in variable environments. For structured populations in stochastic environments, we extend our recent method to determine how birth environment and birth stage determine the random distribution of the LRS. Our results provide a null model that quantifies effects on LRS of just the birth size or stage. Using Roe deer Capreolus capreolus as a case study, we show that the effect of an individual’s birth environment on LRS varies with the frequency of environments and their temporal autocorrelation, and that lifetime performance is affected by changes in the pattern of environmental states expected as a result of climate change.
Here we review and extend the equal fitness paradigm (EFP) as an important step in developing and testing a synthetic theory of ecology and evolution based on energy and metabolism. The EFP states that all organisms are equally fit at steady state, because they allocate the same quantity of energy, ~22.4 kJ/g/generation to production of offspring. On the one hand, the EFP may seem tautological, because equal fitness is necessary for the origin and persistence of biodiversity. On the other hand, the EFP reflects universal laws of life: how biological metabolism – the uptake, transformation and allocation of energy – links ecological and evolutionary patterns and processes across levels of organization from: i) structure and function of individual organisms, ii) life history and dynamics of populations, iii) interactions and coevolution of species in ecosystems. The physics and biology of metabolism have facilitated the evolution of millions of species with idiosyncratic anatomy, physiology, behavior and ecology but also with many shared traits and tradeoffs that reflect the single origin and universal rules of life.
Climatic gradients frequently predict large-scale ecogeographical patterns in animal coloration, but the underlying causes are often difficult to disentangle. We examined ecogeographical patterns of reflectance among 343 European butterfly species and isolated the role of selection for thermal benefits by comparing visible and near-infrared (NIR) wavebands. NIR light accounts for ~50% of solar energy but cannot be seen by animals so functions primarily in thermal control. We found that reflectance of both dorsal and ventral surfaces shows thermally adaptive correlations with climate. This adaptive variation was more prominent in NIR than visible wavebands and for body regions (thorax-abdomen and basal wings) that are pivotal for thermoregulation. Thermal environments also predicted the reflectance difference between dorsal and ventral surfaces, which may be due to modulation between requirements for heating and cooling. These results highlight the importance of climatic gradients in shaping the reflectance properties of butterflies at a continent-wide scale.
The mycorrhizal symbiosis is ubiquitous in boreal forests. Trees and plants provide their fungal partners with photosynthetic carbon in exchange for soil nutrients like nitrogen, which is critical to the growth and survival of the plants. But plant carbon allocation to mycorrhizal symbionts can also fuel nitrogen immobilization, hampering tree growth. Here we present results from field and greenhouse experiments combined with mathematical modelling, showing that mycorrhizal fungi can be simultaneously mutualistic to an individual tree and parasitic to the networked community of trees. Mycorrhizal networks connect multiple plants and fungi, and we show that each tree gains additional nitrogen at the expense of its neighbors by supplying more carbon to the fungi. But this additional carbon supply eventually aggravates nitrogen immobilization in the shared fungal biomass. Individual trees may thus independently benefit from increasing their carbon investment to mycorrhiza, while causing a decline in nitrogen availability for the whole plant community. We illustrate the evolutionary underpinnings of this situation by drawing on the analogous the tragedy of the commons, and explain how rising atmospheric CO2 may lead to greater nitrogen immobilization in the future.
Invasive ants shape assemblages and interactions of native species, but their effect on fundamental ecological processes is poorly understood. In East Africa, Pheidole megacephala ants have invaded monodominant stands of the ant-tree Acacia drepanolobium, extirpating native ant defenders and rendering trees vulnerable to canopy damage by vertebrate herbivores. We used experiments and observations to quantify direct and interactive effects of invasive ants and large herbivores on A. drepanolobium photosynthesis over a 2-year period. Trees that had been invaded for ≥ 5 years exhibited 69% lower whole-tree photosynthesis during key growing seasons, resulting from interaction between invasive ants and vertebrate herbivores that caused leaf- and canopy-level photosynthesis declines. We also surveyed trees shortly before and after invasion, finding that recent invasion induced only minor changes in leaf physiology. Our results from individual trees likely scale up, highlighting the potential of invasive species to alter ecosystem-level carbon fixation and other biogeochemical cycles.
Over the past fifteen years, the number of papers focused on “eco-evo dynamics” has increased exponentially (Figure 1). This pattern suggests the rapid growth of a new, integrative discipline. We argue that this overstates the case. First, the terms “eco-evo dynamics” and “eco-evo interactions” are used too imprecisely. As a result, many studies that claim to describe eco-evo dynamics are actually describing basic ecological or evolutionary processes. Second, these terms are often used as if the study of how ecological and evolutionary processes are intertwined is novel when, in fact, it is not. The result is confusion over what the term “eco-evolution” and its derivatives describe, a loss of appreciation for the history of genuine eco-evolutionary studies, and a loss of appreciation for the novelty associated with the original rise of the term. We advocate a more precise definition of eco-evolution that is more useful in our effort to understand and characterize the diversity of ecological and evolutionary processes and that focuses attention on the subset of those processes that offer novel results.
The stability of plant biomass production in the face of environmental change is fundamental for maintaining terrestrial ecosystem functioning, as plant biomass is the ultimate source of energy for nearly all life forms. However, most studies have focused on the stabilizing effect of plant diversity, neglecting the effect of soil biodiversity, the largest reservoirs of biodiversity on Earth. Here we investigated the effects of plant and soil biodiversity on the temporal stability of biomass production under varying simulated precipitation in grassland microcosms. Soil biodiversity loss reduced temporal stability by suppressing asynchronous responses of plant functional groups. Greater plant diversity, especially in terms of functional diversity, promoted temporal stability, but this effect was independent of soil biodiversity loss. Moreover, multitrophic biodiversity, plant and soil biodiversity combined, was positively associated with temporal stability. Our study highlights the importance of maintaining the biodiversity of multiple trophic levels for sustainable biomass production.
Species can adapt to climate change by adjusting in situ or by dispersing to new areas, and these strategies may complement or enhance each other. Here, we investigate temporal shifts in phenology and spatial shifts in northern range boundaries for 289 Lepidoptera species by using long-term data sampled over two decades. While 40% of the species neither advanced phenology nor moved northward, nearly half (47%) -used one of the two strategies. The strongest positive population trends was observed for the minority of species (13%) that both advanced flight phenology and shifted their northern range boundaries northward. We show that, for Boreal Lepidoptera, a combination of phenology and range shifts is the most viable strategy under a changing climate. Effectively, this may divide species into winners and losers based on their propensity to capitalize on this combination, with potentially large consequences on future community composition.
Large occurrence datasets provide a sizable resource for ecological analyses, but have substantial limitations. Phenological analyses in Fric et al. (2020) were misleading due to inadequate curation and improper statistics. Our reanalysis of 22 univoltine species with sufficient data for independent analysis found substantive differences in macroscale phenological patterns.
Phenotypic plasticity can mask population genetic differentiation, reducing the predictability of trait-environment relationships. In short-lived plants, reproductive traits may be more genetically determined due to their direct impact on fitness, whereas vegetative traits may show higher plasticity to buffer short-term perturbations. Combining a multi-treatment greenhouse experiment with global field observations for the short-lived Plantago lanceolata, we 1) disentangled the genetic and plastic responses of functional traits to a set of environmental drivers and 2) assessed the utility of trait-environment relationshisps inferred from observational data for predicting genetic differentiation. Reproductive traits showed distinct genetic differentiation that was highly predictable from observational data, but only when correcting traits for differences in their (labile) biomass component. Vegetative traits showed higher plasticity and contrasting genetic and plastic responses, leading to unpredictable trait patterns. Our study suggests that genetic differentiation may be inferred from observational data only for the traits most closely related with fitness.