Ant Forest, a mobile app by the monolithic Alibaba Group, is greening individuals' daily activities and transforming human capacity to reverse global environmental degradation. Over 500 million e-trees being cultivated every day in China using Ant Forest. Over 122 million trees planted over more than 112,000 ha of degraded land areas. This is a showcase of how innovation via internet technology combined with digital finance is contributing to solving environmental issues, also the potential to match an individual's daily footprint to their digital footprint and converting this to an ecological footprint.
Non-consumptive predator effects (NCEs) are now widely recognized for their capacity to shape ecosystem structure and function. Yet, forecasting the propagation of these predator-induced trait changes through particular communities remains a challenge, in part because we lack a predictive framework that accounts for environmental and species context. Accordingly, focusing on plasticity in prey anti-predator behaviors, we conceptualize the multi-stage process by which predators trigger direct and indirect NCEs, review and then distill potential drivers of NCE contingencies into three key categories (properties of the prey, predator, and setting), and conduct a meta-analysis to quantify the extent to which prey behavioral plasticity in response to predation risk hinges on a well-studied driver – prey energetic state. Our synthesis underscores the myriad factors that can generate NCE contingencies while guiding how research might better anticipate and account for them. We highlight two key knowledge gaps that continue to hinder development of a comprehensive framework for exploring non-consumptive predator-prey interactions. These are insufficient exploration of 1) context-dependent indirect NCEs and 2) the ways in which direct and indirect NCEs are shaped interactively by multiple drivers of context dependence.
Ecological research is highlighting different kinds of issues concerning biodiversity conservation policies. Based on a historical study on protected areas, we suggest that these issues are not caused by a lack of knowledge or technical tools but rather by a misuse of ecological knowledge during the implementation of policy instruments. We strongly believe that determining the conditions under which ecological science can enlighten policy decisions is now necessary to address current biodiversity conservation issues. This can only be achieved through the promotion of interdisciplinary research.
The comment by Sánchez-Tójar et al. (2020, Ecol Lett) questioned the methodology, transparency, and conclusion of our study (Yin et al. 2019, Ecol Lett, 22, 1976). The comment has overlooked important evolutionary assumptions in their reanalysis, and the issues raised were in fact dealt with through the peer-review process. Far from being biased, the key conclusion of our meta-analysis still stands; transgenerational effects are largely adaptive.
Rapid evolution of traits and of plasticity may enable adaptation to climate change, yet solid experimental evidence under natural conditions is scarce. Here, we imposed rainfall manipulations (+30%, control, -30%) for ten years on entire natural plant communities in two Eastern Mediterranean sites. Additional sites along a natural rainfall gradient and selection analyses in a greenhouse assessed whether potential responses were adaptive. In both sites, our annual target species Biscutella didyma consistently evolved earlier phenology and higher reproductive allocation under drought. Multiple arguments suggest that this response was adaptive: it aligned with theory, corresponding trait shifts along the natural rainfall gradient, and selection analyses under differential watering in the greenhouse. However, another seven candidate traits did not evolve, and there was little support for evolution of plasticity. Our results provide compelling evidence for rapid adaptive evolution under climate change. Yet, several non-evolving traits may indicate potential constraints to full adaptation.
A growing body of literature has documented myriad effects of human activities on animal behavior, yet the ultimate ecological consequences of these behavioral shifts remain largely uninvestigated. While it is understood that, in the absence of humans, variation in animal behavior can have cascading effects on species interactions, community structure, and ecosystem function, we know little about whether the type or magnitude of human-induced behavioral shifts translate into meaningful ecological change. Here we synthesize empirical literature and theory to create a novel framework for examining the range of behaviorally mediated pathways through which human activities may affect different ecosystem functions. We highlight the few empirical studies that show the potential realization of some of these pathways, but also identify numerous factors that can dampen or prevent ultimate ecosystem consequences. Without a deeper understanding of these pathways, we risk wasting valuable resources on mitigating behavioral effects with little ecological relevance, or conversely mismanaging situations in which behavioral effects do drive ecosystem change. The framework presented here can be used to anticipate the nature and likelihood of ecological outcomes and prioritize management among widespread human-induced behavioral shifts, while also suggesting key priorities for future research linking humans, animal behavior, and ecology.
Extreme weather events have become a dominant feature of the narrative surrounding changes in global climate. with large impacts on ecosystem stability, functioning and resilience, however, understanding of their risk of co-occurrence at the regional scale is lacking. Based on the UK Met Office's long-term temperature and rainfall records, we present the first evidence demonstrating significant increases in the magnitude, direction of change and spatial co-localization of extreme weather events since 1961. Combining this new understanding with land use datasets allowed us to assess the likely consequences on future agricultural production and conservation priority areas. All land uses are impacted by the increasing risk of at least one extreme event and conservation areas were identified as hotspots of risk for the co-occurrence of multiple event types. Our findings provide a basis to regionally guide land use optimisation, land management practices and regulatory actions preserving ecosystem services against multiple climate threats.
Most studies of plant--animal mutualistic networks have been temporally static. This approach has revealed many general patterns in the structure of complex webs of mutualistic interactions, but limits our ability to understand the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape these networks, and to predict the consequences of natural and human-driven disturbance on species interactions. The growing availability of temporally explicit data is allowing ecologists to move beyond this static perspective. We review the growing literature dealing with temporal dynamics in plant--animal mutualistic networks including pollination, seed dispersal and ant defence mutualisms. We identify general patterns of temporal variation in these networks across temporal scales. We discuss potential mechanisms underlying variation in interactions, ranging from behavioural and physiological processes at the narrowest temporal scales to ecological and evolutionary processes operating over much broader temporal scales. We conclude by discussing priorities for future research, including an improved understanding of the abiotic and biotic factors driving temporal network change, and further development and refinement of analytical tools. Our review highlights the key role of the importance of considering the temporal dimension for our understanding of the ecology and evolution of complex webs of mutualistic interactions.
Enemy-risk effects, often referred to as non-consumptive effects (NCEs), are an important feature of predator-prey ecology, but their significance has had little impact on the conceptual underpinning or practice of biological control. We provide an overview of enemy-risk effects in predator-prey interactions, discuss ways in which risk effects may impact biocontrol programs, and suggest avenues for further integration of natural enemy ecology and integrated pest management. Enemy-risk effects can have important influences on different stages of biological control programs, including natural enemy selection, efficacy testing, and quantification of non-target impacts. Enemy-risk effects can also shape the interactions of biological control with other pest management practices. We conclude that the longstanding use of ecological theory by biocontrol practitioners should be expanded to incorporate enemy-risk effects.
Environmental variability can lead to dispersal: why stay put if it is better elsewhere? Without clues about local conditions, the optimal strategy is often to disperse a set fraction of offspring. Many habitats contain environmentally differing sub-habitats. Is it adaptive for individuals to sense in which sub-habitat they find themselves, using environmental clues, and respond plastically by altering the dispersal rates? This appears to be done by some plants which produce dimorphic seeds with differential dispersal properties in response to ambient temperature. Here we develop a mathematical model to show, that in highly variable environments, not only does sensing promote plasticity of dispersal morph ratio, but individuals who can sense their sub-habitat and respond in this way have an adaptive advantage over those who cannot. With a rise in environmental variability due to climate change, our understanding of how natural populations persist and respond to changes has become crucially important.
Large occurrence datasets provide a sizable resource for ecological analyses, but have substantial limitations. Phenological analyses in Fric et al. (2020) are flawed due to insufficient data and improper analysis. Our reanalysis of 22 univoltine species with sufficient data (from 100 original species) found substantive differences in macroscale phenological patterns.
Floral plantings are promoted to foster ecological intensification of agriculture through provisioning of ecosystem services. However, a comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of different floral plantings, their characteristics and consequences for crop yield across global regions is lacking. Here we quantified the impacts of flower strips and hedgerows on pest control and pollination services in adjacent crops using a global dataset of 529 sites. Flower strips, but not hedgerows, enhanced pest control services in adjacent fields by 16% on average. However, effects on crop pollination and yield were more variable. Our synthesis identifies several important drivers of variability in effectiveness of plantings: pollination services declined exponentially with distance from plantings, and perennial and older flower strips with higher flowering plant diversity enhanced pollination more effectively. These findings provide promising pathways to optimize floral plantings to more effectively contribute to ecosystem service delivery and ecological intensification of agriculture in the future.
Cycads are an ancient group of tropical gymnosperms that are toxic to most animals—including humans—though the larvae of many moths and butterflies (order: Lepidoptera) feed on cycads with apparent immunity. These insects belong to distinct lineages with varying degrees of specialization and diverse feeding ecologies, presenting numerous opportunities for comparative studies of chemically-mediated eco-evolutionary dynamics. This review presents an evolutionary evaluation of cycad-feeding among Lepidoptera along with a comprehensive review of their ecology. Our analysis suggests that multiple lineages have independently colonized cycads from angiosperm hosts, yet only a few clades appear to have radiated following their transitions to cycads. Defensive traits are likely important for diversification, as many cycad specialists are warningly colored and sequester cycad toxins. The butterfly family Lycaenidae appears to be particularly predisposed to cycad-feeding and although aposematism is otherwise rare in this family, several cycad-feeding lycaenids are warningly colored and chemically defended. Cycad-herbivore interactions provide a promising but underutilized study system for investigating plant-insect coevolution, convergent and divergent adaptations, and the multi-trophic significance of defensive traits, therefore the review ends by suggesting specific research gaps that would be fruitfully addressed in Lepidoptera and other cycad-feeding insects.
The comment by Gamisch (2020) draws the attention of users of the R-package RPANDA (Morlon et al. 2016) on situations when properly interpreting the results of linear diversification dependencies requires caution. Here we provide clarifications to help users interpreting their results when using any type of functional diversification dependencies with time or the environment.
Hydraulic properties control plant responses to climate and are likely to be under strong selective pressure, but their macro-evolutionary history remains poorly characterized. To fill this gap, we compiled a global dataset of hydraulic traits describing xylem conductivity (Ks), xylem resistance to embolism (P50), sapwood allocation relative to leaf area (Hv) and drought exposure (ψmin), and matched it with global seed plant phylogenies. Individually, these traits present medium to high levels of phylogenetic signal, partly related to environmental selective pressures shaping lineage evolution. Most of these traits evolved independently of each other, being co-selected by the same environmental pressures. However, the evolutionary correlations between P50 and ψmin and between Ks and Hv show signs of deeper evolutionary integration because of functional, developmental or genetic constraints, conforming to evolutionary modules. We do not detect evolutionary integration between conductivity and resistance to embolism, rejecting a hardwired trade-off for this pair of traits.
We develop a novel approach to trophic metacommunities which allows us to explore how progressive habitat loss affects food webs. Our method combines classic metapopulation models on fragmented landscapes with a Bayesian network representation of trophic interactions for calculating local extinction rates. This means we can repurpose known results from classic metapopulation theory for trophic metacommunities, such as ranking the habitat patches of the landscape with respect to their importance to the persistence of the metacommunity as a whole. We use this to study the effects of habitat loss, both on model communities and the plant-mammal Serengeti food web dataset as a case study. Combining straightforward parameterizability with computational efficiency, our method permits the analysis of species-rich food webs over large landscapes, with hundreds or even thousands of species and habitat patches, while still retaining much of the flexibility of explicit dynamical models.
There is a rich amount of information in co-occurrence data that could be used to understand community assembly. This proposition first envisioned by Forbes (1907) and then Diamond (1975) prompted the development of numerous modelling approaches (e.g. null model analysis, co-occurrence networks and, more recently, joint species distribution models). Both theory and experimental evidence support the idea that ecological interactions may affect co-occurrence, but it remains unclear to what extent the signal of interaction can be captured in observational data. The time is now ripe to step back from the statistical developments and critically assess whether co-occurrence data really is a proxy for ecological interactions. In this paper we present a series of arguments based on probability, sampling, food web and coexistence theories supporting that significant spatial associations between species (or the lack of) is a poor proxy for ecological interactions. We discuss appropriate interpretations of co-occurrence, along with potential avenues to extract as much information as possible from such data.
Grassland ecosystems account for more than 10% of the global CH4 sink in soils. A 4-year field experiment found that addition of P alone did not affect CH4 uptake and experimental addition of N alone significantly suppressed CH4 uptake, while concurrent N and P additions suppressed CH4 uptake to a lesser degree. A meta-analysis including 382 data points in global grasslands corroborated these findings. Global extrapolation with an empirical modeling approach estimated that contemporary N addition suppresses CH4 sink in global grassland by 11% and concurrent N and P deposition alleviates this suppression by 6%. The P alleviation of N-suppressed CH4 sink is primarily attributed to substrate competition, defined as the competition between ammonium and CH4 for the methane monooxygenase enzyme. The N and P impacts on CH4 uptake indicate that projected increases in N and P depositions might substantially affect CH4 uptake and alter the global CH4 cycle.