Estimation of changes in abundances and densities is essential for the research, management, and conservation of animal populations. Recently, technological advances have facilitated the surveillance of animal populations through the adoption of passive sensors, such as camera traps (CT). Several methods, including the random encounter model (REM), have been developed for estimating densities of unmarked populations but require additional field work. Hierarchical abundance models, such as the N-mixture model (NMM), can estimate densities without performing additional fieldwork but do not explicitly estimate the area effectively sampled. This obscures the interpretation of its densities and requires its users to focus on relative measures of abundance instead. We compare relative trends in density/ abundance for three species (wild boar, red deer, and fox) based on the REM and NMM. The NMM applied here is adapted to overcome two issues potentially leading to poor abundance estimates: (i) we specify a joint observation model, based on a beta distribution, for all species within a community to strengthen the inference on infrequently detected species, and (ii) we model species-specific counts as a Poisson process, relaxing the assumption that each individual can only be detected once per survey. We reveal that NMM and REM provided density estimates in the same order of magnitude for wild boar, but not for foxes and red deer. Assuming a Poisson detection process in the NMM was important to control for inflation of density estimates for frequently detected species. Both methods correctly identified species ranking of abundance/density but did not always agree on relative ranks of yearly estimates within a single population, nor on its linear population trends. Our results suggest that relative population trends are better preserved between NMM and REM compared to absolute densities. Thus practitioners working with counts-only data should resort to relative abundances, rather than absolute densities.
Vairimorpha (=Nosema) ceranae is a widespread pollinator parasite that commonly infects honeybees and wild pollinators, including bumblebees. Honeybees are highly competent V. ceranae hosts and previous work in experimental flight cages suggests V. ceranae can be transmitted during visitation to shared flowers. However, the relationship between floral visitation in the natural environment and the prevalence of V. ceranae among multiple bee species has not been explored. Here, we analyzed the number and duration of pollinator visits to particular components of squash flowers—including the petals, stamen, and nectary—at six farms in southeastern Michigan, USA. We also determined the prevalence of V. ceranae in honeybees and bumblebees at each site. Our results showed that more honeybee flower contacts and longer duration of contacts with pollen and nectar was linked with greater V. ceranae prevalence in bumblebees. Honeybee visitation patterns appear to have a disproportionately large impact on V. ceranae prevalence in bumblebees even though honeybees are not the most frequent flower visitors. Floral visitation by other pollinators was not linked with V. ceranae prevalence in bumblebees. Further, V. ceranae prevalence in honeybees was unaffected by floral visitation behaviors by any pollinator species. These results suggest that honeybee visitation behaviors on shared floral resources may be an important contributor to increased V. ceranae spillover to bumblebees in the field. Understanding how V. ceranae infection risk is influenced by pollinator behavior in the shared floral landscape is critical for reducing parasite spillover into declining native bee populations.
Understanding how ecological and environmental changes, anthropogenic activities, and climate have driven and will direct animals’ development and predicting their prospective distribution profiles in the Quaternary are essential to making a tangible conservation strategy. Macaques (Macaca) distributed in mainland East Asia provide an ideal research model for such an effort. We reconstruct macaques’ geographic distribution profiles during the Quaternary, from the last inter-glaciation (LIG, 120,000 - 140,000 years BP), the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 22,000 years BP), and the present (1970-2000) – based on which we deduce their perspective distribution in the 2050s. The results show their suitable habitats during LIG and LGM were mainly in Southwest, Central, and Coastal China. A noticeable distribution reduction started in LIG and persisted until the current (1970-2000). Their distribution centroid would shift northward to mountainous regions, mainly in Southwest China, where more migration corridors would be reserved for their future development. Also, the results indicate that China’s Protected Area currently does not cover more than 87% of macaques’ habitats, a dismal situation for their conservation. Finally, this study proclaims that the conservation priority of the macaques in the years to come should focus on Southwest China – their future refuge region in Quaternary.
Dispersal is a fundamental process in evolution and ecology. Due to the predominant role of flight in bird movement, their dispersal capabilities can be estimated from their flight morphology. Most predictors of flight efficiency require an estimate of the total wing area, but the existing methods for estimating wing area are multi-stepped and prone to compounding error. Here, we validated a new method for estimating the total wing area that requires only the measurement of the wingspan plus two measurements from the folded wings of study skin specimens: wing length and secondary length. We demonstrate that the new folded-wing method estimates total wing area with high precision across a variety of avian groups and wing shapes. In addition, the new method performs as well as the old method when used to estimate natal dispersal distances of North American birds. The folded-wing method will allow for estimates of the total wing to be readily obtained from thousands of specimens in ornithological collections, thus providing critical information for studies of flight and dispersal in birds.
Hybridization is a natural process whereby two diverging evolutionary lineages reproduce and create offspring of mixed ancestry. Differences in mating systems (e.g., self-fertilization and outcrossing) are expected to affect the direction and extent of hybridization and introgression in hybrid zones. Among other factors, selfers and outcrossers are expected to differ in their mutation loads. This has been studied both theoretically and empirically; however, conflicting predictions have been made on the effects mutation loads of parental species with different mating systems can have on the genomic composition of hybrids. Here we develop a multi-locus, selective model to study how the different mutation load built up in selfers and outcrossers as a result of selective interference and homozygosity impact the long-term genetic composition of hybrid populations. Notably, our results emphasize that genes from the parental population with lesser mutation load get rapidly over-represented in hybrid genomes, regardless of the hybrids own mating system. When recombination tends to be more important than mutation, outcrossers’ genomes tend to be of higher quality and prevail. When recombination is small, however, selfers’ genomes may reach higher quality than outcrossers’ genomes and prevail. Taken together these results provide concrete insights into one of the multiple factors influencing hybrid genome composition and introgression patterns in hybrid zones with species containing species with different mating systems.
Soil fungal community plays an important role in forest ecosystems, and forest secondary succession is a crucial driver of soil fungal community. However, the driving factors of fungal community and function during temperate forest succession and their potential impact on succession processes are poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the dynamics of the soil fungal community in three temperate forest secondary successional stages (shrublands, coniferous forests, and deciduous broadleaf forests) using high-throughput DNA sequencing coupled with functional prediction via the FUNGuild database. We found that fungal community richness, α-diversity, and evenness decreased significantly during the succession process. Soil available phosphorus and nitrate nitrogen decreased significantly after initial succession occurred, and redundancy analysis showed that both were significant predictors of soil fungal community structure. Among functional groups, fungal saprotrophs as well as pathotrophs represented by plant pathogens were significantly enriched in the early-successional stage, while fungal symbiotrophs represented by ectomycorrhiza were significantly increased in the late-successional stage. The abundance of both saprotroph and pathotroph fungal guilds was positively correlated with soil nitrate nitrogen and available phosphorus content. Ectomycorrhizal fungi were negatively correlated with nitrate nitrogen and available phosphorus content and positively correlated with ammonium nitrogen content. These results indicated that the dynamics of fungal community and function reflected the changes in nitrogen and phosphorus availability caused by the secondary succession of temperate forests. The fungal plant pathogen accumulated in the early-successional stage and ectomycorrhizal fungi accumulated in the late-successional stage may have a potential role in promoting forest succession. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the response of soil fungal communities to the secondary forest succession process and highlight the importance of fungal communities during temperate forest succession.
Variation in fitness components can be linked in some cases to variation of key traits. Metric traits that lie at the intersection of development, defense, and ecological interactions may be expected to experience strong environmental selection, informing our understanding of evolutionary and ecological processes. Here, we use quantitative genetic and population genomic methods to investigate disease dynamics in hybrid and non-hybrid populations. We focus our investigation on morphological and ecophysiological traits which inform our understanding of physiology, growth, and defense against a pathogen. In particular, we investigate stomata, microscopic pores on the surface of a leaf which regulate gas exhange during photosynthesis and are sites of entry for various plant pathogens. Stomatal patterning traits were highly predictive of disease risk. Admixture mapping identified a polygenic basis of disease resistance. Candidate genes for stomatal and disease resistance map to the same genomic regions, and are experienceing positive selection. Genes with functions for guard cell homeostasis, the plant immune system, components of constitutive defenses, and growth related transcription factors were identified. Our results indicate positive selection is filtering genetic variance from one of the parental species maladpated to a novel pathogen, and changing suites of stomatal traits which contribute to disease variation in natural populations.
Climate change and shifting environmental conditions can allow pathogens to spread into previously unburdened areas. For plant pathogens, this dynamic has the potential to disrupt natural ecosystem equilibria and human agriculture, making predicting plant pathogen range shifts an increasingly important enterprise. Although such predictions will hinge on an accurate understanding of the determinants of pathogen range – namely the environmental, geographical, and host range characteristics that modulate local pathogen habitation – few studies to date have probed these in natural plant populations. Here, we characterize range determinants for the model system of Lewis flax (Linum Lewisii) and its pathogen, flax rust (Melamspora lini), in the Rocky Mountains. Transect surveys were performed to assess three relationships: i) the effect of geographical features – elevation, slope aspect, slope grade, and land-cover – on flax presence and density, ii) the effect of geographical features on flax rust presence and prevalence, and iii) the effects of flax’s local population density and metapopulation structure on flax rust presence and prevalence. We found that flax population density, but not host metapopulation structure, influences the distribution of flax rust. Additionally, we showed that, while the distribution of flax was broadly constrained to a relatively narrow range of geographical and resulting environmental features, flax rust was evenly distributed across the full range of settings measured. These results indicate that a warming environment, which is expected to modulate such features, may restrict the optimal range of the plant more so than that of its pathogen. Importantly, our results also suggest that even if flax shifts its spatial range to escape increasing climatic pressures, flax rust will not face any significant barriers to track this movement.
Aim High alpine regions are threatened but understudied ecosystems that harbor diverse endemic species, making them an important biome for testing the role of environmental factors in driving functional trait-mediated community assembly processes. We tested the hypothesis that plant-soil feedbacks along a climatic and elevation gradient influence plant community assembly through shifts in habitat suitability, which drive plant functional, phylogenetic, and spectral diversity. Location In a high mountain system (2400-3500 m) of Región Metropolitana in the Chilean Andes (33°S, 70°W). Methods We surveyed vegetation and spectroscopic reflectance (400-2400 nm) to quantify taxonomic, phylogenetic, functional, and spectral diversity at five sites from 2400 m to 3500 m elevation. We characterized soil attributes and processes by measuring water content, carbon and nitrogen, and net nitrogen mineralization rates. Results At high elevation, colder temperatures reduced available soil nitrogen, while at warmer, lower elevations, soil moisture was lower. Metrics of taxonomic, functional, and spectral alpha diversity peaked at mid-elevations, while phylogenetic species richness was highest at low elevation. Leaf nitrogen increased with elevation at the community level and within individual species, consistent with global patterns of increasing leaf nitrogen with colder temperatures. Main conclusions The increase in leaf nitrogen, coupled with shifts in taxonomic and functional diversity associated with turnover in lineages, indicate that the ability to acquire and retain nitrogen in colder temperatures may be important in plant community assembly in this range. Such environmental filters have important implications for forecasting shifts in alpine plant communities under a warming climate.
1. Fine root distribution influences the potential for resource acquisition in soil profiles, which defines how plants interact with local soil environments; however, a deep understanding of how fine root vertical distribution varies with soil structural variations and across plant ages is lacking. 2. We subjected four xerophytic species native to an arid valley of China, Artemisia vestita, Bauhinia brachycarpa, Sophora davidii, and Cotinus szechuanensis, to increasing rock fragment content (RFC) treatments (0%, 25%, 50%, and 75%, v v-1) in an arid environment and measured fine root vertical profiles over four years of growth. 3. Fine root depth and biomass of woody species increased with increasing RFC, but the extent of increase declined with plant age. Increasing RFC also increased the degree of interannual decreases in fine root diameter. The limited supply of soil resources in coarse soils explained the increases in rooting depth and variations in the pattern of fine root profiles across RFC. Fine root depth and biomass of the subshrub species (A. vestita) in soil profiles decreased with the increase in RFC and plant age, showing an opposite pattern from the other three woody species. 4. Within species, the annual increase in fine root biomass varied with RFC, which led to large interannual differences in the patterns of fine root profiles. Capacity of younger or subshrub plants to cope with soil environmental changes were greater than the older or shrub plants. These results provide insights into the limitations of soil resources in dry and rocky environments, and have management implications for degraded agroforest ecosystem.
Illumination of species diversity and their distribution is key to evolution, genetics and conservation. The genus of Sibynophis is a group of rare snakes with less attentions. Based on more extensive sampling, we use both mitochondrial fragments and nuclear gene to explore the species diversity of the species of Sibynophis occurring in China. The results showed that S. c. miyiensis is a synonym of S. c. grahami, and S. c. grahami should be gave a specific rank as S. graham. Sibynophis triangularis was uncovered to be new to China and Myanmar. On basis of our specimens and molecular phylogeny results, the species distribution boundaries of each Chinese species were redefined.
Interdisciplinary teams are on the rise as scientists attempt to address complex environmental issues. While the benefits of Team Science approaches are clear, researchers often struggle with its implementation, particularly for new team members. The challenges of large projects often weigh on the most vulnerable members of a team: trainees, including undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers. Trainees on big projects have to navigate their role on the team, with learning project policies, procedures, and goals, all while also training in key scientific tasks such as co-authoring papers. To address these challenges, we created and participated in a project-specific, graduate-level Team Science course. The purposes of this course were to: (1) introduce students to the goals of the project, (2) build trainees’ understanding of how big projects operate, and (3) allow trainees to explore how their research interests dovetailed with the overall project. Additionally, trainees received training regarding: (1) diversity, equity & inclusion, (2) giving and receiving feedback, and (3) effective communication. Onboarding through the Team Science course cultivated psychological safety and a collaborative student community across disciplines and institutions. Thus, we recommend a Team Science course for onboarding students to big projects to help students establish the skills necessary for collaborative research. Project-based Team Science classes can benefit student advancement, enhance the productivity of the project, and accelerate the discovery of solutions to ecological issues.
The Neretva dwarf goby Orsinigobius croaticus (Gobiiformes, Gobionellidae) is an endemic fish native to the freshwaters of the Adriatic Basin in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Due to its limited distribution range, specific karst habitat and endangered status, laboratory studies on reproductive biology are scarce. We investigated the sound production and acoustic behaviour of this species during reproductive intersexual laboratory encounters. We performed dissection and micro-computed tomography (μCT) scanning of the pectoral girdle to explore the anatomy of its putative sound producing mechanism. To study interspecific acoustic differences and determine whether acoustic features can discriminate among species, comparative analysis was conducted on sounds produced by closely related soniferous sand gobies. Our results indicate that males of the O. croaticus emit pulsatile sounds composed of a variable number of short (~ 15 ms) consecutive pulses when interacting with females, usually during the pre-spawning phase in the nest, but also during courtship outside the nest. Pulsatile sounds were low-frequency and short pulse trains (~ 140 Hz, < 1000 ms), and spectro-temporal parameters were correlated with physical traits and water temperature. Male visual behaviour rate was higher when co-occurring with sounds and females entered the male’s nest significantly more frequently when sounds were present. Male sound production was accompanied by movements such as head thrust and fin spreading. μCT scans and dissections suggest that O. croaticus shares certain anatomical similarities of the pectoral girdle (osseous elements and arrangement of levator pectoralis muscles) to previously studied sand gobies. Multivariate comparisons, using sounds produced by eight soniferous European sand gobies, effectively distinguished soniferous (and sympatric) species based on acoustic properties. Discrimination success decreased when temperature-dependent features (sound duration and pulse repetition rate) were excluded from analysis. Therefore, we suggest both spectral and temporal features are important for acoustic differentiation of sand gobies.
The plants’ geographical distribution is affected by natural or human-induced climate change. Numerous studies at both the global and regional level currently focus on the potential changes in plant distribution areas. Ecological niche modeling can help predict the likely distribution of species according to environmental variables under different climate scenarios. In this study, we predicted the potential geographic distributions of Quercus ilex L. (holm oak), a keystone species of the Mediterranean ecosystem, for the Last Interglacial period (LIG: ~120 Ka), the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM: ~22 Ka), mid-Holocene (MH: ~6 Ka), and future climate scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5 scenarios) for years 2050-2070 obtained from CCSM4 and MIROC-ESM global climate scenarios respectively. The models were produced with algorithms from the R-package “biomod2” and assessed by AUC of the Receiver Operating Characteristic plot and True Skill Statistics. Apart from BIOCLIM (SRE), all model algorithms performed similarly and produced projections that are supported by good evaluation scores, although Random Forest (RF) slightly outperformed all the others. Additionally, distribution maps generated for the past period were validated through a comparison with pollen data acquired from the Neotoma Pollen Database. The results revealed that southern areas of the Mediterranean Basin, particularly coastal regions, served as long-term refugia for Q. ilex, which was supported by fossil pollen data. Furthermore, the models suggest long term refugia role for Anatolia and we argue that Anatolia may have served as a founding population for the species. Future climate scenarios indicated that Q. ilex distribution varied by region, with some areas experiencing range contractions and others range expands. This study provides significant insights into the vulnerability of the Q. ilex to future climate change in the Mediterranean ecosystem and highlights the crucial role of Anatolia in the species’ historical distribution.
In the Central Himalayas, where environmental conditions vary greatly, understanding the biophysical limitations on forest carbon is crucial for accurately determining the region’s forest carbon stocks. This study investigates the role of climate and disturbance on the spatial variation of two key forest carbon pools: aboveground carbon (AGC) and soil organic carbon (SOC). Using field-observed plot-level carbon pool estimates from Nepal’s national forest inventory and structural equation modeling, we explore the relationship between forest carbon stocks and proxies of environmental constraints. The forest AGC and SOC models explained 25 % and 59 % of the observed spatial variation in forest AGC and SOC, respectively. The climatic availability of water and energy in broad-scale gradients combined with the fine-scale gradients of terrain and disturbance intensity were found to influence forest carbon stocks, but the sign and strength of the statistical relationships differ for forest AGC and SOC. While AGC showed a negative relationship to disturbance, SOC was impacted by the availability of climatic energy. Disturbances such as selective logging and firewood collection result in immediate forest carbon loss, while soil carbon changes take longer to respond. The lower decomposition rates in the high-elevation region, due to lower temperatures, preserve organic matter and contribute to the high SOC stocks observed there. These results have important implications for forest carbon management and conservation in the Central Himalayas.
Migratory birds may either upregulate their immune system during migration as they might encounter novel pathogens or downregulate their immune system as a consequence of trade-offs with the resource costs of migration. Support for the latter comes not least from a study that reports a positive correlation in autumn migrating birds between fuel stores and parameters of innate and acquired immune function, i.e., energy exhausted migrants appear to have lowered immune function. However, to our knowledge, no study has tested whether this pattern exists in spring migrating birds, which may face other trade-offs than autumn migrants. Here, we investigate if in spring there is a relationship between fuel stores and microbial killing ability, a measure of innate immune function, and total immunoglobulin (IgY), a measure of acquired immune function, in four migrating bird species: Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), Dunnocks (Prunella modularis), Song thrushes (Turdus philomelos) and Northern wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe). We found no correlation between fuel stores and bacterial killing ability or IgY levels in any of the species. However, there was a significant negative correlation between microbial killing ability and Julian date in Song thrushes and Northern wheatears, and between IgY levels and Julian date in Song thrushes. Sex did not affect immune function in any of the species. Our study suggests that the relationship between immune function and fuel stores may be different during spring migration compared to autumn migration. Differences in the speed of migration or pathogen pressure may result in different outcomes of the trade-off between investment in immune function and in migration among the seasons.
Fish communities of streams and rivers might substantially be subsidized by terrestrial insects that fall into the water. Although such animal-mediated fluxes are increasingly recognized, little is known on how anthropogenic perturbations may influence the strength of such exchanges. Intense land-use, such as lignite mining may impact a river ecosystem due to the flocculation of iron (III) oxides, and thus altering food web dynamics. We compared sections of the River Spree in North-East Germany that were greatly influenced by iron oxides with sections located below a dam where passive remediation technologies are applied. Compared to locations below the dam, the abundance of benthic macroinvertebrates at locations of high iron concentrations above the dam was significantly reduced. Similarly, catch per unit effort of all fishes was significantly higher in locations below the dam compared to locations above the dam and juveniles of piscivorous pike Esox lucius were significantly smaller in size in sections of high iron concentrations. Using an estimate of short-term (i.e., metabarcoding of the gut content) as well as longer-term (i.e., hydrogen stable isotopes) resource use, we could demonstrate that two of the three most abundant fish species, perch Perca fluviatilis, and bleak Alburnus alburnus, received higher contributions of terrestrial insects to their diet at locations of high iron concentration. In summary, lotic food webs above and below the dam greatly differed in the overall structure with respect to the energy available for the highest tropic levels and the contribution of terrestrial insects to the diet of omnivorous fish. Therefore, human-induced environmental perturbation such as river damming and mining activities represent strong pressures that can alter the flow of energy between aquatic and terrestrial systems, indicating a broad impact on the landscape level.
In warmer environments, most ectotherms reach maturity at a smaller body size (the temperature-size rule, TSR). However, in such environments, growth is usually accelerated and would be expected to result in maturation at a larger body size, leading to increases in fecundity, survival, and mating success, compared to maturation at a smaller size (the ‘life-history puzzle’). To explore mechanisms, we reared Aldrichina grahami at 20 ℃, 25 ℃ and 30 ℃, and added a nutritional challenge by using dilutions of pork liver paste to provide diets that ranged in quality from high (undiluted, control) to moderate (1/8), low (1/16) and poor (1/24). Larvae were randomly sampled for weighing from hatching. Growth curves were fitted to the relationships between growth rate and weight for the third instar larvae. Our results showed that body size was affected by an interaction between temperature and diet, and that TSR and TSR exceptions (E-TSR) could be interconverted by underfeeding. Moreover, when the TSR was followed as temperature increased, there was a cross-over point divided the two growth curves into early and later stages, which could be used to help understand the life-history puzzle in warmer temperatures, with the instantaneous growth rate being higher in the early stages of development and then lower in later stages. This study reminds us that animals evolved to cope with multiple simultaneous environmental changes, and offered a better understanding for life-history puzzles.