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Ecology Letters

Otso Ovaskainen, Gleb Tikhonov, Anna Norberg, F Guillaume Blanchet, Leo Duan, David Dunson, Tomas Roslin, Nerea Abrego
Community ecology aims to understand what factors determine the assembly and dynamics of species assemblages at different spatiotemporal scales. To facilitate the integration between conceptual and statistical approaches in community ecology, we propose Hierarchical Modelling of Species Communities (HMSC) as a general, flexible framework for modern analysis of community data. While non-manipulative data allow for only correlative and not causal inference, this framework facilitates the formulation of data-driven hypotheses regarding the processes that structure communities...
March 20, 2017: Ecology Letters
Bernard Hugueny
A new model of delayed species loss (extinction debt) within isolated communities is applied to a large data set of terrestrial vertebrate assemblages (n = 188) occupying habitat fragments or islands varying greatly in size and age. The model encapsulates previous approaches based on diversity-dependent (DD) extinction rates while allowing for a more flexible treatment of temporal dynamics. Three important results emerge. First, species loss rate slows down with the age of the isolate, a strong and general pattern largely unnoticed so far...
March 16, 2017: Ecology Letters
Sébastien Villéger, Eva Maire, Fabien Leprieur
Sobral et al. (Ecology Letters, 19, 2016, 1091) reported that the loss of bird functional and phylogenetic diversity due to species extinctions was not compensated by exotic species introductions. Here, we demonstrate that the reported changes in biodiversity were underestimated because of methodological pitfalls.
March 10, 2017: Ecology Letters
Eric W Seabloom, Linda Kinkel, Elizabeth T Borer, Yann Hautier, Rebecca A Montgomery, David Tilman
Plant diversity experiments generally find that increased diversity causes increased productivity; however, primary productivity is typically measured in the presence of a diverse food web, including pathogens, mutualists and herbivores. If food web impacts on productivity vary with plant diversity, as predicted by both theoretical and empirical studies, estimates of the effect of plant diversity on productivity may be biased. We experimentally removed arthropods, foliar fungi and soil fungi from the longest-running plant diversity experiment...
March 10, 2017: Ecology Letters
Natasha Tigreros, Rachel H Norris, Eugenia H Wang, Jennifer S Thaler
Theory on condition-dependent risk-taking indicates that when prey are in poor condition, their anti-predator responses should be weak. However, variation in responses resulting from differences in condition is generally considered an incidental by-product of organisms living in a heterogeneous environment. Using Leptinotarsa decemlineata beetles and stinkbug (Podisus maculiventris) predators, we hypothesised that in response to predation risk, parents improve larval nutritional condition and expression of anti-predator responses by promoting intraclutch cannibalism...
March 10, 2017: Ecology Letters
Sofía Carvajal-Endara, Andrew P Hendry, Nancy C Emery, T Jonathan Davies
Remote locations, such as oceanic islands, typically harbour relatively few species, some of which go on to generate endemic radiations. Species colonising these locations tend to be a non-random subset from source communities, which is thought to reflect dispersal limitation. However, non-random colonisation could also result from habitat filtering, whereby only a few continental species can become established. We evaluate the imprints of these processes on the Galápagos flora by analysing a comprehensive regional phylogeny for ~ 39 000 species alongside information on dispersal strategies and climatic suitability...
March 10, 2017: Ecology Letters
Wojciech Uszko, Sebastian Diehl, Göran Englund, Priyanga Amarasekare
We theoretically explore consequences of warming for predator-prey dynamics, broadening previous approaches in three ways: we include beyond-optimal temperatures, predators may have a type III functional response, and prey carrying capacity depends on explicitly modelled resources. Several robust patterns arise. The relationship between prey carrying capacity and temperature can range from near-independence to monotonically declining/increasing to hump-shaped. Predators persist in a U-shaped region in resource supply (=enrichment)-temperature space...
March 7, 2017: Ecology Letters
Jessica Clark, Jennie S Garbutt, Luke McNally, Tom J Little
Fundamental ecological processes, such as extrinsic mortality, determine population age structure. This influences disease spread when individuals of different ages differ in susceptibility or when maternal age determines offspring susceptibility. We show that Daphnia magna offspring born to young mothers are more susceptible than those born to older mothers, and consider this alongside previous observations that susceptibility declines with age in this system. We used a susceptible-infected compartmental model to investigate how age-specific susceptibility and maternal age effects on offspring susceptibility interact with demographic factors affecting disease spread...
March 7, 2017: Ecology Letters
Simon J Goring, John W Williams
Contemporary forest inventory data are widely used to understand environmental controls on tree species distributions and to construct models to project forest responses to climate change, but the stability and representativeness of contemporary tree-climate relationships are poorly understood. We show that tree-climate relationships for 15 tree genera in the upper Midwestern US have significantly altered over the last two centuries due to historical land-use and climate change. Realised niches have shifted towards higher minimum temperatures and higher rainfall...
March 7, 2017: Ecology Letters
Sean R Connolly, Terry P Hughes, David R Bellwood
Abundance patterns in ecological communities have important implications for biodiversity maintenance and ecosystem functioning. However, ecological theory has been largely unsuccessful at capturing multiple macroecological abundance patterns simultaneously. Here, we propose a parsimonious model that unifies widespread ecological relationships involving local aggregation, species-abundance distributions, and species associations, and we test this model against the metacommunity structure of reef-building corals and coral reef fishes across the western and central Pacific...
March 2, 2017: Ecology Letters
A M Segura, D Calliari, B L Lan, H Fort, C E Widdicombe, R Harmer, M Arim
Determining statistical patterns irrespective of interacting agents (i.e. macroecology) is useful to explore the mechanisms driving population fluctuations and extinctions in natural food webs. Here, we tested four predictions of a neutral model on the distribution of community fluctuations (CF) and the distributions of persistence times (APT). Novel predictions for the food web were generated by combining (1) body size-density scaling, (2) Taylor's law and (3) low efficiency of trophic transference. Predictions were evaluated on an exceptional data set of plankton with 15 years of weekly samples encompassing c...
February 27, 2017: Ecology Letters
Sarah Greenwood, Paloma Ruiz-Benito, Jordi Martínez-Vilalta, Francisco Lloret, Thomas Kitzberger, Craig D Allen, Rod Fensham, Daniel C Laughlin, Jens Kattge, Gerhard Bönisch, Nathan J B Kraft, Alistair S Jump
Drought events are increasing globally, and reports of consequent forest mortality are widespread. However, due to a lack of a quantitative global synthesis, it is still not clear whether drought-induced mortality rates differ among global biomes and whether functional traits influence the risk of drought-induced mortality. To address these uncertainties, we performed a global meta-analysis of 58 studies of drought-induced forest mortality. Mortality rates were modelled as a function of drought, temperature, biomes, phylogenetic and functional groups and functional traits...
February 21, 2017: Ecology Letters
Grace P John, Christine Scoffoni, Thomas N Buckley, Rafael Villar, Hendrik Poorter, Lawren Sack
Leaf dry mass per unit leaf area (LMA) is a central trait in ecology, but its anatomical and compositional basis has been unclear. An explicit mathematical and physical framework for quantifying the cell and tissue determinants of LMA will enable tests of their influence on species, communities and ecosystems. We present an approach to explaining LMA from the numbers, dimensions and mass densities of leaf cells and tissues, which provided unprecedented explanatory power for 11 broadleaved woody angiosperm species diverse in LMA (33-262 g m(-2) ; R(2)  = 0...
February 14, 2017: Ecology Letters
Constantin M Zohner, Blas M Benito, Jason D Fridley, Jens-Christian Svenning, Susanne S Renner
Intuitively, interannual spring temperature variability (STV) should influence the leaf-out strategies of temperate zone woody species, with high winter chilling requirements in species from regions where spring warming varies greatly among years. We tested this hypothesis using experiments in 215 species and leaf-out monitoring in 1585 species from East Asia (EA), Europe (EU) and North America (NA). The results reveal that species from regions with high STV indeed have higher winter chilling requirements, and, when grown under the same conditions, leaf out later than related species from regions with lower STV...
February 14, 2017: Ecology Letters
Emma J Hudgins, Andrew M Liebhold, Brian Leung
We tested whether a general spread model could capture macroecological patterns across all damaging invasive forest pests in the United States. We showed that a common constant dispersal kernel model, simulated from the discovery date, explained 67.94% of the variation in range size across all pests, and had 68.00% locational accuracy between predicted and observed locational distributions. Further, by making dispersal a function of forest area and human population density, variation explained increased to 75...
February 8, 2017: Ecology Letters
Cara A Faillace, Nicholas S Lorusso, Siobain Duffy
Parasites and pathogens have recently received considerable attention for their ability to affect biological invasions, however, researchers have largely overlooked the distinct role of viruses afforded by their unique ability to rapidly mutate and adapt to new hosts. With high mutation and genomic substitution rates, RNA and single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) viruses may be important constituents of invaded ecosystems, and could potentially behave quite differently from other pathogens. We review evidence suggesting that rapidly evolving viruses impact invasion dynamics in three key ways: (1) Rapidly evolving viruses may prevent exotic species from establishing self-sustaining populations...
February 8, 2017: Ecology Letters
Kasey E Barton, Karina Boege
Plant defence often varies by orders of magnitude as plants develop from the seedling to juvenile to mature and senescent stages. Ontogenetic trajectories can involve switches among defence traits, leading to complex shifting phenotypes across plant lifetimes. While considerable research has characterised ontogenetic trajectories for now hundreds of plant species, we still lack a clear understanding of the molecular, ecological and evolutionary factors driving these patterns. In this study, we identify several non-mutually exclusive factors that may have led to the evolution of ontogenetic trajectories in plant defence, including developmental constraints, resource allocation costs, multi-functionality of defence traits, and herbivore selection pressure...
February 1, 2017: Ecology Letters
Marianna Szűcs, Brett A Melbourne, Ty Tuff, Christopher Weiss-Lehman, Ruth A Hufbauer
Colonisation is a fundamental ecological and evolutionary process that drives the distribution and abundance of organisms. The initial ability of colonists to establish is determined largely by the number of founders and their genetic background. We explore the importance of these demographic and genetic properties for longer term persistence and adaptation of populations colonising a novel habitat using experimental populations of Tribolium castaneum. We introduced individuals from three genetic backgrounds (inbred - outbred) into a novel environment at three founding sizes (2-32), and tracked populations for seven generations...
February 1, 2017: Ecology Letters
Michael E Hochberg, Robert J Noble
Evolutionary theory explains why metazoan species are largely protected against the negative fitness effects of cancers. Nevertheless, cancer is often observed at high incidence across a range of species. Although there are many challenges to quantifying cancer epidemiology and assessing its causes, we claim that most modern-day cancer in animals - and humans in particular - are due to environments deviating from central tendencies of distributions that have prevailed during cancer resistance evolution. Such novel environmental conditions may be natural and/or of anthropogenic origin, and may interface with cancer risk in numerous ways, broadly classifiable as those: increasing organism body size and/or life span, disrupting processes within the organism, and affecting germline...
January 16, 2017: Ecology Letters
Qiang He, Brian R Silliman, Zezheng Liu, Baoshan Cui
Severe droughts are on the rise in many regions. But thus far, attempts to predict when drought will cause a major regime shift or when ecosystems are resilient, often using plant drought tolerance models, have been frustrated. Here, we show that pressure from natural enemies regulates an ecosystem's resilience to severe droughts. Field experiments revealed that in protected salt marshes experiencing a severe drought, plant-eating grazers eliminated drought-stressed vegetation that could otherwise survive and recover from the climate extreme, transforming once lush marshes into persistent salt barrens...
January 6, 2017: Ecology Letters
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