Aridity and intensive grazing have been confirmed to affect the facilitative effects of dryland shrubs. However, their combined effects on plant-plant interactions have rarely been tested. To test how these two factors affect relations between plants, we analyzed 144 plots (under shrub canopy vs. open areas) at 12 sampling areas established in the conditions of two grazing regimes (high grazing vs. low grazing intensity) and two different climatic regions (arid vs. semi-arid) in northeastern Iran. A dominant shrub, Artemisia kopetdaghensis, was selected as the model species. Further, we studied changes in plant life strategies along the combined grazing and aridity stress gradients. We used relative interaction indices to test the outcomes of plant-plant interactions, calculated for species richness, Shannon diversity and species abundances. Then we compared them using linear mixed-effect models (LMM). The indicator species analysis was used to identify species typical for the under-canopy of shrub and for the adjacent open areas. The combination of stress factors affected the type and intensity of plant-plant interactions and plant life strategies (CSR) of the indicator species. Artemisia kopetdaghensis showed the highest facilitation effect under the most intensive stress conditions (high aridity/high grazing), which turned into competition under the low stress conditions (low aridity/low grazing). In the arid region, the canopy of shrub protected ruderal annual forbs and grasses with SR and R-strategy, respectively, in both high (high aridity/high grazing) and low grazing intensity (high aridity/low grazing). In the semi-arid region and high grazing intensity (low aridity/high grazing), the shrubs protected perennial forbs with C-strategy. Our FINDINGS highlight the importance of context-dependent shrub management in the restoration of vegetation damaged by intensive grazing.
1. Ecologically meaningful seed germination experiments are constrained by access to seeds and relevant environments for testing at the same time. This is particularly the case when research is carried out far from the native area of the studied species. 2. Here, we demonstrate an alternative - the use of glass houses in botanic gardens as simulated-natural habitats to extend the ecological interpretation of germination studies. Our focal taxa were banana crop wild relatives (Musa acuminata subsp. burmannica, M. acuminata subsp. siamea and M. balbisiana), native to tropical and subtropical Southeast Asia. Tests were carried out in Belgium, where we performed germination tests in relation to exposure to sun and foliage-shading, seed burial-depth in different heated glass house compartments, as well as seed survival and dormancy release in the soil. We anchored the interpretation of these studies by also conducting an experiment in a semi-natural habitat in the species native range (M. balbisiana - Los Baños, the Philippines), where we tested germination responses to exposure to the sun and shade. Using temperature data loggers, we determined temperature dynamics suitable for germination in both these settings. 3. In semi-natural and simulated-natural habitats, seeds germinated in response to exposure to direct solar radiation. Seed burial-depth had a significant but marginal effect by comparison, even when seeds were buried to 7cm in the soil. Temperatures at sun-exposed compared to shaded environments differed by only a few degrees Celsius. Maximum temperature of the period prior to germination was the most significant contributor to germination responses and germination increased linearly above a threshold of 23°C to the maximum temperature in the soil (in simulated natural habitats) of 35°C. 4. Glass houses can provide useful environments to aid interpretation of seed germination responses to environmental niches.
Offshore wind energy is a growing industry in the United States, and renewable energy from offshore wind is estimated to double the country's total electricity generation. There is growing concern that land-based wind development in North America is negatively impacting bat populations, primarily long-distance migrating bats, but the impacts to bats from offshore wind energy is unknown. Bats are associated with the terrestrial environment, but have been observed over the ocean. In this review, we synthesize historic and contemporary accounts of bats observed and acoustically recorded offshore over North American waters to ascertain the spatial and temporal distribution of bats flying offshore. We integrate these records with studies of offshore bats in Europe and of bat behavior at land-based wind energy studies to examine how offshore wind development could impact North American bat populations. We find that most offshore bat records are of long-distance migrating bats and records occur during autumn migration, the period of highest fatality rates for long-distance migrating bats at land-based wind facilities in North America. We summarize evidence that bats may be attracted to offshore turbines for roosting and foraging opportunities, potentially increasing their risk of collision, but that higher wind speeds offshore can potentially reduce the amount of time that bats are exposed to risk. We identify knowledge gaps and hypothesize that a combination of mitigation strategies may be the most effective approach for minimizing impacts to bats and maximizing offshore energy production.
1. Neighborhood competition models are powerful tools to measure the effect of interspecific competition. Statistical methods to ease the application of these models are currently lacking. 2. We present the forestecology package providing methods to i) specify neighborhood competition models, ii) evaluate the effect of competitor species identity using permutation tests, and iii) measure model performance using spatial cross-validation. Following Allen (2020), we implement a Bayesian linear regression neighborhood competition model. 3. We demonstrate the package’s functionality using data from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s large forest dynamics plot, part of the ForestGEO global network of research sites. Given ForestGEO’s data collection protocols and data formatting standards, the package was designed with cross-site compatibility in mind. We highlight the importance of spatial cross-validation when interpreting model results. 4. The package features i) tidyverse-like structure whereby verb-named functions can be modularly “piped” in sequence, ii) functions with standardized inputs/outputs of simple features ‘sf‘ package class, and iii) an S3 object-oriented implementation of the Bayesian linear regression model. These three facts allow for clear articulation of all the steps in the sequence of analysis and easy wrangling and visualization of the geospatial data. Furthermore, while the package only has Bayesian linear regression implemented, the package was designed with extensibility to other methods in mind.
Phenotypic integration and developmental canalization have been hypothesized to constrain the degree of phenotypic plasticity, but there is little evidence for the relationships among the three processes in different environments, especially for plants under natural conditions. To address this issue, we conducted a field experiment by subjecting plants of Abutilon theophrasti to low, medium and high densities, under infertile and fertile soil conditions, measured a variety of traits and analyzed canalization (coefficient of variation [CV]), integration (coefficient of integration [CI] and the number of significant correlations of a trait with other traits [NC]), and plasticity (REL RDPIs and ABS RDPIs) in these traits and their relationships at two stages of plant growth. Our results showed an increase in mean CV, NC and ABS RDPIs of traits with density, and the positive correlations between trait NC and ABS RDPIs became stronger with higher densities but weaker over time in fertile soil, while correlations among trait CV, NC and ABS RDPIs became stronger over time in infertile soil. Results suggested shared or cooperation mechanisms among phenotypic integration, canalization and plasticity. Soil conditions and growth stage may affect responses of these correlations to density via modifying plant size and competition strength. The attenuated canalization and enhanced integration may be helpful for the production of plasticity, especially under intense competition.
Warning signals are often characterized by highly contrasting, distinctive and memorable colors. Both chromatic (hue) and achromatic (brightness) contrast contribute to signal efficacy, making longwave colored signals (red and yellow) that generate both chromatic and achromatic contrast common. Shortwave colors (blue and ultraviolet) do not contribute to luminance perception, yet are also common in warning signals. The presence of UV aposematic signals is paradoxical as UV perception is not universal, and evidence for its utility is at best mixed. We used visual modeling to quantify how UV affects signal contrast in aposematic butterflies and frogs. We found that UV only appreciably affected visual contrast in the butterflies. As the butterflies, but not the frogs, have UV-sensitive vision these results support the notion that UV reflectance is associated with intraspecific communication, but appears to be non-functional in frogs. Consequently, we should be careful when assigning a selection-based benefit from UV reflectance.
Human–wildlife conflicts have intensified by many folds and at different levels in the recent years. The same is true in the case of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), the roof of the world and a region known for its wealth in biodiversity. We present systematic literature review (SLR) using the search, appraisal, synthesis, and analysis (SALSA) framework; and for spatial and network analysis, we employed the VOSviewer software. The review – covering 240 peer- articles within a span of 27 years (from 1982 to 2019) – revealed that in the last decade of that period, there was a 57 per cent increase in publications but with disproportionate geographical and thematic focus. About 82 per cent of the research concentrated on protected areas large carnivores and mega herbivores played a big role in such conflicts. About 53 per cent of the studies were based on questionnaires based and the main driver was reported was the habitat disturbance of the animals due to land-cover change, urbanization, and increase in human population. On the management front, the studies reported the use of traditional protection techniques like guarding and fencing. Our analysis of 681 keywords revealed prominent focus on ‘human-wildlife conflict’, ‘Nepal’, ‘Bhutan’, ‘Snow Leopard’ and ‘Leopard’ indicating the issue are linked with these species and countries. The involvement of 640 authors from 36 countries indicates increasing interest and Nepal and India are playing key role from the region. As for the spatial and network analysis that was conducted, while it showed variations in terms of localities, there were conspicuous limitations in terms of having a transboundary focus. Thus, particular attention ought to be paid to building transboundary partnerships and improving management interventions; there is also a pressing need to understand the patterns of human–wildlife convergence, especially involving meso mammals.
Global climate change is already contributing to the extirpation of numerous species worldwide, and sensitive species will continue to face challenges associated with rising temperatures throughout this century and beyond. It is especially important to evaluate the thermal ecology of endangered ectotherm species now so that mitigation measures can be taken as early as possible. A recent study of the thermal ecology of the federally endangered Blunt-Nosed Leopard Lizard (Gambelia sila) suggested that they face major activity restrictions due to thermal constraints in their desert habitat, but that large shade-providing shrubs act as thermal buffers to allow them to maintain surface activity without overheating. We replicated this study and also included a population of G. sila with no access to large shrubs to facilitate comparison of the thermal ecology of G. sila in shrubless and shrubbed populations. We found that G. sila without access to shrubs spent more time sheltering inside rodent burrows than lizards with access to shrubs, especially during the hot summer months. Lizards from a shrubbed population had higher midday body temperatures and therefore poorer thermoregulatory accuracy than G. sila from a shrubless population, suggesting that greater surface activity may represent a thermoregulatory tradeoff for G. sila. Lizards at both sites are currently constrained from using open, sunny microhabitats for much of the day during their short active seasons, and our projections suggest that climate change will exacerbate these restrictions and force G. sila to use rodent burrows for shelter even more than they do now, especially at sites without access to shrubs. The continued management of shrubs and of burrowing rodents at G. sila sites is therefore essential to the survival of this endangered species.
The parasitic weed genus Striga causes huge losses to crop production in sub-Saharan Africa, estimated to be in excess of $7 billion per year, affecting subsistence farmers who frequently lack access to novel technologies proposed for control. Effective Striga management therefore requires the development of strategies utilising existing cultural and management practices. We report a multi-year, landscape-scale monitoring project for Striga asiatica in the mid-west of Madagascar, undertaken over 2019-2020 with the aims of examining cultural, climatic and edaphic factors currently driving abundance and distribution. Long-distance transects were established across the middle-west region of Madagascar, over which Striga asiatica abundance in fields was estimated. Analysis of the data highlights the importance of crop variety and legumes in driving Striga density. Moreover, the dataset revealed significant effect of precipitation seasonality, mean temperature and altitude in determining abundance. A composite management index indicated the effect of a range of cultural practices on changes in Striga abundance. The findings support the assertion that single measures are not sufficient for the effective, long-term management of Striga. Furthermore, the composite score has potential as a significant guide of ISM control beyond the geographic range of this study.
Pangolins in the genus Manis are nocturnal, burrowing, insectivorous mammals listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Of the eight extant pangolin species worldwide, two species are found in Nepal: the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata). Despite having a great ecological role by controlling the ants or termite population, little attention has been given to the conservation interventions of both species of pangolins found in the Terai region (low land) of Nepal. The present study assesses habitat use and factors affecting the habitat choice of pangolins in low land (Terai), Nepal. The research was focused on Amritdharapani community forest of Chitwan district. Pangolin burrows were used as the indirect signs of pangolin presence. A total of thirty-nine burrows were observed at elevations ranging from 301 to 413 m asl. Burrows were frequently associated with north-west aspects, gentle slope (15º to 20º), moderate canopy cover (51 to 75%), red-colored soil, and acidic soils with pH 6.5 to 7. The burrows were most common in areas with weak human disturbance (i.e. 1500 to 1700 m from settlements), 800 to 1200 m from roads, and with-in 300 m from a water source and with-in 20 m from the nearest termitarium. This study revealed distance to settlement, distance to road, soil pH, and canopy cover as major factors affecting the habitat choice of pangolins in the study area.
The decline of coral reefs has fueled interest in determining whether mesophotic reefs can shield against disturbances and help replenish deteriorated shallower reefs. In this study, we characterized spatial (horizontal and vertical) and seasonal patterns of diversity in coral recruits from Dabaisha and Guiwan reefs at Ludao, Taiwan. Concrete blocks supporting terra cotta tiles were placed at shallow (15m) and mesophotic (40m) depths, during 2016-2018. Half of the tiles were retrieved and replaced biannually over three 6-month surveys (short-term); the remainder retrieved at the end of the 18-month (long-term) survey. 451 recruits were located using fluorescent censusing and identified by DNA barcoding. Barcoding the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) gene resulted in 17 molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTUs). To obtain taxonomic resolution beyond the generic level, Pocillopora were phylotyped using the mitochondrial open reading frame (ORF), resolving eight MOTUs. Acropora, Isopora or Montipora recruits were identified by the nuclear PaxC intron, yielding ten MOTUs. Overall, 35 MOTUs were generated and were comprised primarily of Pocillopora, and in fewer numbers, Acropora, Isopora, Pavona, Montipora, Stylophora, among others. 40% of MOTUs recruited solely within mesophotic reefs while 20% were shared by both depth zones. MOTUs recruiting across a broad depth distribution appear consistent with the hypothesis of mesophotic reefs acting as a refuge for shallow water coral reefs. In contrast, Acropora and Isopora MOTUs were structured across depth zones representing an exception to this hypothesis. This research provides an imperative assessment of coral recruitment in understudied mesophotic reefs and imparts insight into the refuge hypothesis.
Species-environment relationships were studied between the occurrence of 13 fish and lamprey species and 9 mainly map-based environmental variables of Finnish boreal small streams. A self-organizing map (SOM) analysis showed strong relationships between the fish species and environmental variables in a single model (explained variance 55.9%). Besides basic environmental variables such as altitude, catchment size, and mean temperature, landcover variables were also explored. A logistic regression analysis indicated that the occurrence probability of brown trout, Salmo trutta L., decreased with an increasing percentage of peatland ditch drainage in the upper catchment. Ninespine stickleback, Pungitius pungitius (L.), and three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus L., seemed to benefit from urban areas in the upper catchment. Discovered relationships between fish species occurrence and land-use attributes are encouraging for the development of fish-based bioassessment for small streams. The presented ordination of the fish species in the mean temperature gradient will help in predicting fish community responses to climate change.
Aim: Drastic changes in fire regimes are altering plant communities, inspiring ecologists to better understand the relationship between fire and plant species diversity. We examined the impact of a 2011 megafire on woody plant species diversity in an arid mountain range in southern Arizona, USA. We tested recent fire-diversity hypotheses by addressing the impact of the fire severity, fire variability, historic fire regimes, and topography on diversity. Location: Chiricahua National Monument, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona. USA., part of the Sky Islands of the US-Mexico borderlands. Taxon: Woody plant species. Methods: We sampled woody plant diversity in 138 plots before (2002-2003) and after (2017-2018) the 2011 Horseshoe Two Megafire in three vegetation types and across fire severity and topographic gradients. We calculated gamma, beta, and alpha diversity and examined changes over time in burned vs. unburned plots and the shapes of the relationships of diversity with fire severity and topography. Results: Alpha species richness declined and beta and gamma diversity increased in burned but not unburned plots. Fire-induced enhancement of gamma diversity was confined to low fire severity plots. Alpha diversity did not exhibit a clear continuous relationship with fire severity. Beta diversity was enhanced by fire severity variation among plots and increased with fire severity up to very high diversity, where it declined slightly. Main Conclusions: The results reject the intermediate disturbance hypothesis for alpha diversity but weakly support it for gamma diversity. Spatial variation in fire severity promoted variation among plant assemblages, supporting the pyrodiversity hypothesis. Long-term drought probably amplified fire-driven diversity changes. Despite the apparent benign impact of the fire on diversity, the replacement of two large conifer species with shrubs signals the potential loss of functional diversity, emphasizing the importance of intervention to direct the transition to a novel vegetation mosaic.
1. Teleost fishes occupy a range of ecosystem and habitat types subject to large seasonal fluctuations. Temperate fishes in particular, survive large shifts in temperature, light availability, and access to certain habitats across seasons. Yet, there is limited understanding of how behavioral responses to a seasonally shifting environment might shape, or be shaped by, the nervous system. 2. Here we quantified variation in relative brain size and the size of five externally visible brain regions in a freshwater top predator, lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), across six consecutive seasons in two different lakes. Acoustic telemetry data from one of our study lakes was collected during the study period from a different subset of individuals and used to infer relationships between brain size and seasonal behaviors (habitat use and movement rate). 3. Our results indicated that lake trout relative brain size was larger in the fall and winter compared to the spring and summer in both lakes. Larger brains coincided with increased use of nearshore lake habitats and increased horizontal movement rates by lake trout in the fall and winter based on acoustic telemetry. The telencephalon followed the same pattern as whole brain size, while the other brain regions (cerebellum, optic tectum, olfactory bulbs, hypothalamus) were only smaller in the spring. 4. Seasonal shifts in total brain size might reflect greater underlying changes in the size of the telencephalon. These findings provide evidence that flexibility in brain size could underpin shifts in behavior which could subserve functions associated with differential habitat use during cold and warm seasons and allow fish to succeed in seasonally variable temperate environments.
The mechanisms of adaptive radiation with phenotypic diversification and further adaptive speciation have been becoming clearer through a number of studies. Natural selection is one of the primary factors that contribute to these mechanisms. It has been demonstrated that divergent natural selection acts on a certain trait in adaptive radiation. However, it is not often known how natural selection acts on the source of a diversified population, although it has been detected in phylogenetic studies. Our study demonstrates how selection acts on a trait in a source population of diversified population using the Japanese land snail Euhadra peliomphala simodae. This snail’s shell colour has diversified due to disruptive selection after migration from the mainland to islands. We used trail-camera traps to identify the cause of natural selection on both the mainland and an island. We then conducted a mark-recapture experiment on the mainland to detect natural selection and compare the shape and strength of it to previous study in an island. In total, we captured and marked around 1,700 snails, and some of them were preyed on by an unknown predator. The trail-camera traps showed that the predator is the large Japanese field mouse Apodemus speciosus, but this predation did not correlate with shell colour. A Bayesian approach showed that the stabilising selection from factors other than predation acted on shell colour. Our results suggest that natural selection was changed by migration, which could explain the ultimate cause of phenotypic diversification in adaptive radiation that was not due to predation.
Longevity is highly variable among animal species, and has coevolved with other of life-history traits, like body size and rates of reproduction. Telomeres, through their erosion over time, are one of the cell mechanisms that produce senescence at the cell level, and might even have an influence on the rate of ageing in whole organisms. However, uneroded telomeres are also risk factors of cell immortalization. The associations of telomere lengths, their rate of change, and life-history traits independent of body size are largely underexplored for birds. To test associations of life-history traits and telomere dynamics, we conducted a phylogenetic meta-analysis using studies of 53 species of birds. We restricted analyses to studies that applied the telomere restriction fragment length (TRF) method, and examined relationships between mean telomere length at the chick (Chick TL) and adult (Adult TL) stages, the mean rate of change in telomere length during life (TROC), and life-history traits. We examined 3 principal components of 12 life-history variables that represented: body size (PC1), the slow-fast continuum of pace-of-life (PC2) and post-fledging parental care (PC3). Phylogeny had at best a small-to-medium influence on Adult and Chick TL (r² = 0.190 and 0.138, respectively), but a substantial influence on TROC (r² = 0.688). Phylogeny strongly influenced life histories: PC1 (r² = 0.828), PC2 (0.838), and PC3 (0.613). Adult TL and Chick TL were poorly associated with the life-history variables. TROC, however, was negatively and moderate-to-strongly associated with PC2 (unadjusted r = -0.340; with phylogenetic correction, r = -0.490). Independent of body size, long-lived species with smaller clutches and slower embryonic rate of growth may exhibited less change in telomere length over their lifetimes. We suggest that telomere lengths may have diverged even among closely avian related species, yet telomere dynamics are strongly linked to the pace of life.
The construction of morphological character matrices is central to paleontological systematic study, which extracts paleontological information from fossils. Although the word information has been repeatedly mentioned in a wide array of paleontological systematic studies, its meaning has rarely been clarified and there has not been a standard to measure paleontological information due to the incompleteness of fossils, difficulty of recognizing homologous and homoplastic structures, etc. Here, based on information theory, we show the deep connections between paleontological systematic study and communication system engineering. It is information, the decrease of uncertainty, in morphological characters that distinguishes operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and reconstructs evolutionary history. We propose that concepts in communication system engineering such as source coding and channel coding correspond in paleontological studies to the construction of diagnostic features and the entire character matrices, which should be distinguished as how typical communication systems are engineered because these two steps serve dual purposes. With character matrices from six different vertebrate groups, we analyzed their information properties including source entropy, mutual information, and channel capacity. Estimation of channel capacity shows upper limits of all matrices in transmitting paleontological information, indicating that, due to the presence of noise, too many characters not only increase the burden in character scoring, but also may decrease quality of matrices. Information entropy, which measure how informative a variable is, of each character is tested as a weighting criterion in parsimony-based systematic studies, the results show high consistence with existing knowledge with both good resolution and interpretability.
Predation is the most common cause of nest failure in birds. While nest predation is relatively well studied in general, our knowledge is unevenly distributed across the globe and taxa, with for example limited information on shorebirds breeding in sub-tropics. Importantly, we know fairly little about the timing of predation within a day and season. Here, we followed 444 nests of red-wattled lapwings (Vanellus indicus), a ground-nesting shorebird, for a sum of 7828 days to estimate a nest predation rate, and continuously monitored 230 of these nests for a sum of 2779 days to reveal how the timing of predation changes over the day and season in a sub-tropical desert. We found that 312 nests (70%) hatched, 76 nests (17%) were predated, 23 (5%) failed for other reasons and 33 (7%) had an unknown fate. Daily predation rate was 0.95% (95%CrI: 0.76% – 1.19%), which for a 30-day long incubation period translates into ~25% (20% – 30%) chance of nest being predated. Such a predation rate is low compared to most other avian species. Predation events (N = 25) were distributed evenly across day and night, with a tendency for increased predation around sunrise. Predation rate and events were distributed evenly also across the season, although night predation was more common later in the season, perhaps because predators reduce their activity during daylight to avoid extreme heat. Indeed, nests were never predated when mid-day ground temperatures exceeded 45°C. Whether the diel activity pattern of resident predators undeniably changes across the breeding season and whether the described predation patterns hold for other populations, species and geographical regions awaits future investigations.