Grassland systems constitute a significant portion of the land area in the U.S., and as a result, harbor a significant amount of arthropod diversity. During this time of biodiversity loss around the world, bioinventories of ecologically important habitats serve as important indicators for the effectiveness of conservation efforts. We conducted a bioinventory of the foliar, soil, and dung arthropod communities in 10 cattle pastures located in the southeastern U.S. during the 2018 grazing season. In sum, 126,251 specimens were collected. From the foliar community, 13 arthropod orders were observed, with the greatest species richness found in Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Hemiptera. The soil-dwelling arthropod community contained 18 orders. The three orders comprising the highest species richness were Coleoptera, Diptera, and Hymenoptera. Lastly, 12 arthropod orders were collected from cattle dung, with the greatest species richness found in Coleoptera, Diptera, and Hymenoptera. Herbivores were the most abundant functional guild found in the foliar community, and predators were most abundant in the soil and dung communities. While bioinventories demand considerable time, energy, and resources to accomplish, the information from these inventories has many uses for conservation efforts, land management recommendations, and the direction of climate change science.
The Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis is widely considered to be wrong but is rarely tested against alternative hypotheses. It predicts that soil disturbances and herbivory have identical impacts on species richness via identical mechanisms (reduction in biomass and in competition). An alternative hypothesis is that the specific traits of disturbance agents (small mammals) and plants differentially affects richness or abundance of different plant groups. We tested these hypotheses on a degu (Octodon degus) colony in central Chile. We ask whether native and non-native forbs respond differently to degu bioturbation on runways vs. herbivory on grazing lawns. We ask whether this can explain the increase in non-native plants on degu colonies. We found that biopedturbation did not explain the locations of non-native plants. We did not find direct evidence of grazing increasing non-native herbs either, but a grazing effect appears to be mediated by grass, which is the dominant cover. Further, we provide supplementary evidence to support our interpretation that a key mechanism of non-native spread is the formation of dry soil conditions on grazing lawns. Thus ecosystem engineering (alteration of soil qualities) may be an outcome of disturbances, which each interact with specific plant traits, to create the observed pattern of non-native spread in the colony. Based on these results we propose to extend Jentsch & White’s (2019) concept of combined pulse/ disturbance events to the long-term process duality of ecosystem engineering/ disturbance.
Aim: Invasive alien species (IAS) threaten ecosystems and humans worldwide, and future climate change may accelerate the expansion of IAS. Predicting the suitable distributions of IAS can prevent their further expansion. Ageratina adenophora is a invasive weed over 30 countries in tropical and subtropical regions. However, the potential suitable distribution of A. adenophora remains unclear along with its response to climate change. This study explored and mapped the current and future potential distributions of Ageratina adenophora. Location: Global Taxa: Asteraceae A. adenophora (Spreng.) R.M.King & H.Rob. Commonly known as Crofton weed. Methods: Based on A. adenophora occurrence data and climate data, we predicted its potential distribution of this weed under current and future (four RCPs in 2050 and 2070) by MaxEnt model. We used ArcGIS 10.4 to explore the distribution characteristics of this weed and the ‘ecospat’ package in R to analyse its altitudinal distribution changes. Results: The area under the curve value (>0.9) indicated excelled model performance. Among environment factors, Mean Temperature of Coldest Quarter contributed most to the model. Globally, the suitable habitat for A.adenophora invasion decreased under climate change scenarios, although regional increase were observed, including in six biodiversity hotspot regions. The potential suitable habitat of A.adenophora under climate change moved toward regions with higher elevation. Main Conclusions: Temperature was the most important variable influencing the distribution of A. Adenophora. Under the background of warming climate, the potential distribution range of A.adenophora will shrink globally but increase regionally. The distribution of A.adenophora will shift toward higher elevation under climate change. Mountain ecosystems are of special concern as they are rich in biodiversity and sensitive to climate change, and increasing human activities provide more opportunities for IAS invasion.
The effects of human disturbance on the stability of alpine meadow communities, their diversity–stability relationship, and the underlying mechanisms are still not fully understood. Here, we performed a 12-year-long (2007–2018) two-factor (2 × 3) controlled experiment on Kobresia humilis on the Tibetan Plateau. The manipulations included three clipping levels (no clipping, NC; moderate clipping, MC; heavy clipping, HC) and two fertilization levels (no fertilization, NF; fertilization, F). Our results revealed that the two clipping manipulations significantly increased the temporal stability of alpine meadow communities, whose significant increase was more pronounced under the MC than HC treatment. Moreover, asynchrony effects, portfolio effects, and facilitation interactions were all present in the communities under the six types of experimental treatment combinations. Additionally, a selection effect was detected in the compound communities, demonstrating characteristics that are common to different mechanisms. There were no significant differences in the effects of these mechanisms on community temporal stability between the NC–NF and MC–NF interactive communities. The portfolio effects predominated when clipping intensity was moderate under both fertilization and non-fertilization conditions. By contrast, in the compound communities, the selection effect predominated. In summary, we conclude that in meadow communities that undergo clipping and fertilization disturbances, facilitation interactions and weak interactions make a greater contribution toward maintaining their temporal stability.
The wild tomato species Solanum chilense is divided in geographically and genetically distinct populations that show signs of defense gene selection and differential phenotypes when challenged with several phytopathogens, including the oomycete causal agent of late blight Phytophthora infestans. To better understand the phenotypic diversity of this disease resistance in S. chilense and to assess the effect of plant genotype vs. pathogen isolate, respectively, we evaluated infection frequency in a systematic approach and with large sample sizes. We studied 85 genetically distinct individuals representing nine geographically separated populations of S. chilense. This showed that differences in quantitative resistance properties can be observed between but also within populations at the level of individual plants. Data also did not reveal clear indications for complete immunity in any of the genotypes. We further evaluated the resistance of a subset of the plants against P. infestans isolates with diverse virulence properties. This confirmed that the relative differences in resistance phenotypes between individuals were mainly determined by the plant genotype under consideration with modest effects of pathogen isolate used in the study. Thus, our report suggest that quantitative resistance against P. infestans in natural populations of a wild tomato species S. chilense is likely not the result of specific adaptations of hosts to the pathogen but of basal defence responses that depend on the host genotype and are pathogen isolate-unspecific.
1. Almost all organisms grow in size during their lifetime and switch diets, trophic positions, and interacting partners as they grow. Such ontogenetic development introduces life-history stages and flows of biomass between the stages through growth and reproduction. However, current research on complex food webs rarely considers life-history stages. The few previously proposed methods do not take full advantage of the existing food web structural models that can produce realistic food web topologies. 2. We extended the niche model by Williams & Martinez (2000) to generate food webs that included trophic species with a life-history stage structure. Our method aggregated trophic species based on niche overlap to form a life-history structured population; therefore, it largely preserved the topological structure of food webs generated by the niche model. We applied the theory of allometric predator-prey body mass ratio and parameterized an allometric bioenergetic model augmented with biomass flow between stages via growth and reproduction to study the effects of a stage structure on the stability of food webs. 3. When life-history stages were linked via growth and reproduction, fewer food webs persisted while persisting food webs tended to retain more trophic species. Topological differences between persisting linked and unlinked food webs were small to modest. Temporal variability of biomass dynamics and slopes of biomass spectra were lower in the linked food webs than the unlinked ones, suggesting that a life-history stage structure enhanced stability of complex food webs. 4. Our results suggest a positive relationship between the complexity and stability of complex food webs. A life-history stage structure in food webs may play important roles in dynamics of and diversity in food webs.
We aimed to infer the phylogenetic relationships of populations of Lobelia columnaris using chloroplast genomes and estimate the divergence time to reconstruct its historical colonization on the sky islands of Bioko and Cameroon. Specifically, we aim to answer the following questions: (1) What is the phylogenetic relationship among Bioko Island and Cameroon populations? (2) Are the older populations found on the older sky islands? (3) Does the colonization history reflect the age of the sky islands? We assembled novel plastomes from 20 individuals of L. columnaris from five mountain systems. The plastome data was explored with phylogenetic analyses using Maximum likelihood and Bayesian Inference. The complete plastome size varied from 164,609 bp to 165,368 bp. The populations of L. columnaris have a monophyletic origin, subdivided into three plastome-geographic clades. The plastid phylogenomic results and age of the sky islands indicate that L. columnaris colonized first along the Cameroon Volcanic Line’s young sky islands. The earliest divergent event (1.54 Ma) split the population in South Bioko from those on the mainland and North Bioko. The population of South Bioko was likely isolated during cold and dry conditions in forest refugia. Presumably, the colonization history occurred during the middle-late Pleistocene from South Bioko’s young sky island to North Bioko and the northern old sky islands in Cameroon. Furthermore, the central depression with lowland forest between North and South Bioko is a current geographic barrier that keeps separate the populations of Bioko from each other and the mainland populations. The Pleistocene climatic oscillations led to the divergence of the Cameroon and Bioko populations into three clades. L. columnaris colonized the older sky island in mainland Cameroon after establishing South Bioko’s younger sky islands. The biogeography history was an inverse progression concerning the age of the Afromontane sky islands.
1. Phyllostomid bats exhibit great diversity in skull size and morphology that reflects the degree of resource division and ecological overlap in the group. In particular, Stenodermatinae has high morphological diversification associated with cranial and mandibular traits that is associated with the ability to consume the full range of available fruits (soft and hard). In terms of morphology, performance (bite force) appears to play an important role in niche partitioning among bat species, however, very few studies have confirmed these relationships using functional cranial traits. 2. Here, we analyzed craniodental traits and their relationship to the bite force in 308 specimens distributed in seven species of stenodermatine bats with two foraging types: nomadic and sedentary frugivorous bats. We evaluated 19 functional traits of the skull and jaw related to feeding and bite force in live animals by correcting bite force with body size. We used a GLM model and post hoc tests to determine possible relationships and differences between cranial traits, species, and sex. 3. The results showed that there is significant interspecific variation between stenodermatines that are nomadic and sedentary. The greatest variation in bite force within species was explained by the mandibular toothrow length (MANDL) between sexes, which was greater in females. The larger species of Artibeus, together with Platyrrhinus helleri, Uroderma convexum and Sturnira giannae, which have a greater length of the skull, condylo-incisor, condylo-canine, mandibular toothrow and height of the coronoid, exhibit greater bite force. By contrast, the smaller species A. anderseni and A. phaeotis have short skulls and the lowest values of bite force, which suggests that the size of the skull confers a biomechanical advantage. 4. Our results highlight the usefulness of analyzing functional traits related to feeding to establish the performance of bats in terms of the bite force.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) has decimated hibernating bat populations across eastern and central North America for over a decade. Disease severity is driven by the interaction between bat characteristics, the cold-loving fungal agent, and the hibernation environment. While we further improve hibernation energetics models, we have yet to examine how spatial heterogeneity in host traits is linked to survival in this disease system. Here we develop predictive spatial models of body mass for the little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) and reassess previous definitions of the duration of hibernation of this species. Using data from published literature, public databases, local experts, and our own fieldwork, we fit a series of generalized linear models with hypothesized abiotic drivers to create distribution-wide predictions of pre-hibernation body fat and hibernation duration. Our results provide improved estimations of hibernation duration and identify a scaling relationship between body mass and body fat; this relationship allows for the first continuous estimates of pre-hibernation body mass and fat across the species’ distribution. We used these results to inform a hibernation energetic model to create spatially-varying fat use estimates for M. lucifugus. These results predict that WNS mortality of newly and soon-to-be infected M. lucifugus populations in western North America may be comparable to the substantial die-off observed in eastern and central populations.
Beneficial mutations can become costly following an environmental change. Compensatory mutations can relieve these costs, while not affecting the selected function, so that the benefits are retained if the environment shifts back to be similar to the one in which the beneficial mutation was originally selected. Compensatory mutations have been extensively studied in the context of antibiotic resistance, responses to specific genetic perturbations and in the determination of interacting gene network components. Few studies have focused on the role of compensatory mutations during more general adaptation, especially as the result of selection in fluctuating environments where adaptations to different environment components may often involve tradeoffs. We examine if costs of a mutation in lacI, which deregulated expression of the lac operon in evolving populations of Escherichia coli bacteria, was compensated. This mutation occurred in multiple replicate populations selected in environments that fluctuated between growth on lactose, where the mutation was beneficial, and on glucose, where it was deleterious. We found that compensation for the cost of the lacI mutation was rare, but, when it did occur, it did not negatively affect the selected benefit. Compensation was not more likely to occur in a particular evolution environment. Compensation has the potential to remove pleiotropic costs of adaptation, but its rarity indicates that the circumstances to bring about the phenomenon may be peculiar to each individual or impeded by other selected mutations.
In ecological communities, interactions between consumers and resources lead to the emergence of ecological networks and a fundamental problem to solve is to understand which factors shape network structure. Empirical and theoretical studies on ecological networks suggest predator body size is a key factor structuring patterns of interaction. Because larger predators consume a wider resource range, including the prey consumed by smaller predators, we hypothesized that variation in body size favors the rise of nestedness. In contrast, if resource consumption requires specific adaptations, predators are expected to consume distinct sets of resources, thus favouring modularity. We investigate these predictions by characterising the trophic network of a species-rich Amazonian snake community (62 species). Our results revealed an intricate network pattern resulting from larger species feeding on higher diversity of prey, promoting nestedness, and specific lifestyles feeding on distinct resources, promoting modularity. Species removal simulations indicated that the nested structure is favored mainly by the presence of five species of the family Boidae, which because of their body size and generalist lifestyles connect modules in the network. Our study highlights the particular ways traits affect the structure of interactions among consumers and resources at the community level.
In semi-arid environments, aperiodic rainfall pulses determine cycles of plant production and resource availability for higher trophic levels, creating strong bottom-up regulation. The influence of climatic factors on population vital rates often shapes the dynamics of small mammal populations in such resource-restricted environments. Using a 21-year biannual capture–recapture dataset (1993 to 2014), we examined the impacts of climatic factors on the population dynamics of the brush mouse (Peromyscus boylii) in semi-arid oak woodland of coastal-central California. We applied Pradel’s temporal symmetry model to estimate capture probability (p), apparent survival (φ), recruitment (f), and realized population growth rate (λ) of the brush mouse, and examined the effects of temperature, rainfall, and El Niño on these demographic parameters. The population was stable during the study period with a monthly realized population growth rate of 0.993 ± SE 0.032, but growth varied over time from 0.680 ± 0.054 to 1.450 ± 0.083. Monthly survival estimates averaged 0.817 ± 0.005 and monthly recruitment estimates averaged 0.175 ± 0.038. Survival probability and realized population growth were positively correlated with rainfall and negatively correlated with temperature. In contrast, recruitment was negatively correlated with rainfall and positively correlated with temperature. Brush mice maintained their population through multiple coping strategies, investing in high recruitment during warmer and drier periods and allocating more energy towards survival during cooler and wetter conditions. Although climatic change in coastal-central California will favor recruitment over survival, varying strategies may serve as a mechanism by which brush mice maintain resilience in the face of climate change. Our results indicate that rainfall and temperature are both important drivers of brush mouse population dynamics and will play a significant role in predicting the future viability of brush mice under a changing climate.
Research hypotheses have been a cornerstone of science since before Galileo. Many have argued that inclusion of multiple hypotheses (1) encourage discovery of mechanisms, and (2) reduce bias – both features that should increase transferability and reproducibility. However, we are entering a new era of big data and highly predictive models where some argue the hypothesis is outmoded. Indeed, using a detailed literature analysis, we found prevalence of hypotheses in eco-evo research is very low (6.7-26%) and static from 1990-2015, a pattern mirrored in an extensive literature search (N=302,558 articles). Our literature review also indicates that neither grant success or citation rates were related to the inclusion of hypotheses, which may provide disincentive for hypothesis formulation. Here we confront common justifications for avoiding hypotheses and present new arguments based on benefits to the individual. Although hypotheses are not always necessary, we expect their continued and increased use will help our fields move toward greater understanding, reproducibility, prediction, and effective conservation of nature.
Both termites and large mammalian herbivores (LMH) are savanna ecosystem engineers that have profound impacts on ecosystem structure and function. Both of these savanna engineers modulate many common and shared dietary resources such as woody and herbaceous plant biomass, yet few studies have addressed how they impact one another. In particular, it is unclear how herbivores may influence the abundance of long-lived termite mounds via changes in termite dietary resources such as woody and herbaceous biomass. While it has long been assumed that abundance and areal cover of termite mounds in the landscape remains relatively stable, most data are observational, and few experiments have tested how termite mound patterns may respond to biotic factors such as changes in large herbivore communities. Here, we use a broad tree density gradient and two landscape-scale experimental manipulations—the first a multi-guild large herbivore exclosure experiment and the second a tree removal experiment– to demonstrate that patterns in termite mound abundance and cover are unexpectedly dynamic. Termite mound abundance, but not areal cover not significantly, is positively associated with experimentally controlled presence of cattle, but not wild mesoherbivores (15-1000 kg) or megaherbivores (elephants and giraffes). Herbaceous productivity and tree density, termite dietary resources that significantly affected by different LMH treatments, are both positive predictors of termite mound abundance. Experimental reductions of tree densities are associated with lower abundances of termite mounds. These results reveal a richly interacting web of relationships among multiple savanna ecosystem engineers and suggest that termite mound abundance and areal cover is intimately tied to herbivore-driven resource availability.
Understanding the genetic properties of adaptive trait evolution is a fundamental crux of biological inquiry that links molecular processes to biological diversity. Important uncertainties persist regarding the genetic predictability of adaptive trait change, the role of standing variation, and whether adaptation tends to result in the fixation of favored variants. Here, we use the recurrent evolution of enhanced ethanol resistance in Drosophila melanogaster during this species' worldwide expansion as a promising system to add to our understanding of the genetics of adaptation. We find that elevated ethanol resistance has evolved at least three times in different cooler regions of the species' modern range - not only at high latitude but also in two African high altitude regions - and that ethanol and cold resistance may have a partially shared genetic basis. Applying a bulk segregant mapping framework, we find that the genetic architecture of ethanol resistance evolution differs substantially not only between our three resistant populations, but also between two crosses involving the same European population. We then apply population genetic scans for local adaptation within our quantitative trait locus regions, and we find potential contributions of genes with annotated roles in spindle localization, membrane composition, sterol and alcohol metabolism, and other processes. We also apply simulation-based analyses that confirm the variable genetic basis of ethanol resistance and hint at a moderately polygenic architecture. However, these simulations indicate that larger-scale studies will be needed to more clearly quantify the genetic architecture of adaptive evolution, and to firmly connect trait evolution to specific causative loci.
To study the effect of the invasion of Bursaphelenchus xylophilus on the functional relationship between woody plants and insect communities, the populations of tree species and insect communities were investigative in the Masson pine forests with different infestation durations of B. xylophilus. In this study, the number of Pinus massoniana began to decrease sharply, whereas the total number of other tree species in the arboreal layer increased gradually with the infestation duration of B. xylophilus. The principal component analysis ordination biplot shows that there was a significant change in the spatial distribution of woody plant species in different Masson pine forest stands. Additionally, a total of 7,188 insect specimens was obtained. The insect population showed an upward trend in stand types with the increase of pine wilt disease infection periods, which demonstrated that the insect community had been significantly affected by the invasion of B. xylophilus. The structure of insect functional groups changed from herbivorous (He) > omnivorous (Om) > predatory (Pr) > parasitic (Pa) > detritivorous (De) in the control stand to He > Pa > Om, De > Pr after B. xylophilus infestation in the forests. The results showed that the populations of He, Pa, and De increased after the invasion of B. xylophilus, but the populations of Pr decreased. Moreover, the redundancy analysis ordination bi-plots reflected the complicated functional relationship between woody plant communities and insects after the invasion of B. xylophilus. The present study provides insights into the changes in the community structure of woody plants and insects, as well as the functional relationship between woody plant communities and insect communities after invasion of B. xylophilus.
Dens are places for cavernicolous animals to hibernate, reproduce, and avoid predators and harsh weather conditions, and thus they have a vital impact on their survival. M. himalayana is the main large cavernicolous rodent on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The analysis of den traits and their ecological functions can reveal mechanisms by which marmots have adapted to their environment, which is important for further understanding the ecological significance of this species. From July to August 2019 (warm season), we used unmanned aerial vehicles to fly at low altitudes and slow speeds to locate 131 marmot burrows (45 on shaded slopes, 51 on sunny slopes, and 35 on flat areas) in the northeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. We then measured the physical characteristics (den density, entrance size, first tunnel length, volume, orientation and plant characteristics near the den entrance) of these dens on site. The physical parameters of the M. himalayana dens showed that they function to protect the marmots from natural enemies and bad weather, provide good drainage, and maintain a stable microclimate around the entrance. This is a result of the marmot’s adaptation to the harsh environment (cold and humidity) of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
In this study our aim was to assess the diversity and distribution of cavity-nesting solitary bees, wasps and the spider-hunting wasps' prey with regards to the influence of landscape context in a study area with relatively low human disturbance. The study took place between May and August 2018 at eight study sites in the hilly-mountainous central part of Romania, where the majority of the landscape is used for extensive farming or forestry. During the processing of the trap nest material, we recorded several parameters regarding the nests of different hymenopteran groups, the spider prey found inside these nests, and also tested the influence of the landscape structure surrounding the sites on both hymenopteran groups and spider prey. The majority of nests was built by the solitary wasp group of Trypoxylon, followed by Dipogon and Eumeninae. Solitary bees were much rarer, with Hylaeus being most common group. The groups showed partially differing size preferences concerning the diameter of the occupied reed stalks. In the nests of Trypoxylon we predominantly found spider prey from the family of Araneidae, followed by representatives from the families of Linyphiidae and Theridiidae. In contrast to Trypoxylon, the wasp group Dipogon preferred spider prey from the family of Thomisidae. Concerning the hymenopteran groups, significant effects of landscape structure were found on the number of both nests and brood cells of Eumeninae and on the number of brood cells of Hylaeus, Osmia and Trypoxylon. We also found that the diversity of Trypoxylon spider prey was significantly positively affected by an increasing proportion of grassland and negatively by an increasing proportion of woodland. Altogether, our study presents several new aspects concerning the diversity and distribution of solitary bees, wasps and the spider-hunting wasps' prey and also the effects of landscape context on these groups.