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Ecology Letters

Anna L Hargreaves, Christopher G Eckert
According to theory, edge populations may be poised to expand species' ranges if they are locally adapted to extreme conditions, or ill-suited to colonise beyond-range habitat if their offspring are genetically and competitively inferior. We tested these contrasting predictions by transplanting low-, mid-, and high-elevation (edge) populations of an annual plant throughout and above its elevational distribution. Seed from poor-quality edge habitat (one of two transects) had inferior emergence, but edge seeds also had adaptive phenology (both transects)...
November 8, 2018: Ecology Letters
Steven A Kannenberg, Justin T Maxwell, Neil Pederson, Loïc D'Orangeville, Darren L Ficklin, Richard P Phillips
Severe droughts can impart long-lasting legacies on forest ecosystems through lagged effects that hinder tree recovery and suppress whole-forest carbon uptake. However, the local climatic and edaphic factors that interact to affect drought legacies in temperate forests remain unknown. Here, we pair a dataset of 143 tree ring chronologies across the mesic forests of the eastern US with historical climate and local soil properties. We found legacy effects to be widespread, the magnitude of which increased markedly in diffuse porous species, sites with deep water tables, and in response to late-season droughts (August-September)...
November 8, 2018: Ecology Letters
Fletcher W Halliday, Robert W Heckman, Peter A Wilfahrt, Charles E Mitchell
Infectious disease risk is often influenced by host diversity, but the causes are unresolved. Changes in diversity are associated with changes in community structure, particularly during community assembly; therefore, by incorporating change over time, host community assembly may provide a framework to resolve causation. In turn, community assembly can be driven by many processes, including resource enrichment. To test the hypothesis that community assembly causally links host diversity to future disease, we experimentally manipulated host diversity and resource supply to hosts, then allowed communities to assemble for 2 years (surveyed 2012-2014)...
November 6, 2018: Ecology Letters
Megan K Bartlett, Matteo Detto, Stephen W Pacala
Tropical forest responses are an important feedback on global change, but changes in forest composition with projected increases in CO2 and drought are highly uncertain. Here we determine shifts in the most competitive plant hydraulic strategy (the evolutionary stable strategy or ESS) from changes in CO2 and drought frequency and intensity. Hydraulic strategies were defined along a spectrum from drought avoidance to tolerance by physiology traits. Drought impacted competition more than CO2 , with elevated CO2 reducing but not reversing drought-induced shifts in the ESS towards more tolerant strategies...
November 6, 2018: Ecology Letters
Laura Melissa Guzman, Rachel M Germain, Coreen Forbes, Samantha Straus, Mary I O'Connor, Dominique Gravel, Diane S Srivastava, Patrick L Thompson
Metacommunity theory provides an understanding of how spatial processes determine the structure and function of communities at local and regional scales. Although metacommunity theory has considered trophic dynamics in the past, it has been performed idiosyncratically with a wide selection of possible dynamics. Trophic metacommunity theory needs a synthesis of a few influential axis to simplify future predictions and tests. We propose an extension of metacommunity ecology that addresses these shortcomings by incorporating variability among trophic levels in 'spatial use properties'...
October 28, 2018: Ecology Letters
Tibebe Dejene Biasazin, Sebastian Larsson Herrera, Fikira Kimbokota, Teun Dekker
Tephritid flies are serious fruit pests. Despite clear niche differences, many species show considerable overlap in fruit preferences, of which we here analysed the olfactory correlate. Using the volatiles of four unrelated fruit species, antennal responses were quantified to construct a fruit-odour response database for four tephritid species. Although responses were distinct with a significant niche-correlated bias, the analyses show that the probability of detection of a volatile strongly increased with its sharedness across fruits...
October 28, 2018: Ecology Letters
Hendrik Trekels, Bram Vanschoenwinkel
Recent work on habitat selection has shown that the perceived quality of habitat patches may depend on the quality of adjacent patches. However, it is still unclear how local habitat selection cues can alter distribution patterns in metacommunities at a larger (regional) scale. We studied mosquito oviposition in pond landscapes that differed in the proportion of bad patches with fish predation risk. Our experiment provided conclusive evidence for two local and two regional types of habitat selection. Good patches near bad patches were avoided (local risk contagion) while more distant good patches experienced increased oviposition (regional compression)...
October 28, 2018: Ecology Letters
Bingzhang Chen, Sherwood Lan Smith, Kai W Wirtz
While most biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF) studies have found positive effects of species richness on productivity, it remain unclear whether similar patterns hold for marine phytoplankton with high local richness. We use the continuous trait-based modelling approach, which assumes infinite richness and represents diversity in terms of the variance of the size distribution, to investigate the effects of phytoplankton size diversity on productivity in a three-dimensional ocean circulation model driven by realistic physics forcing...
October 17, 2018: Ecology Letters
Éliane Schermer, Marie-Claude Bel-Venner, David Fouchet, Aurélie Siberchicot, Vincent Boulanger, Thomas Caignard, Michel Thibaudon, Gilles Oliver, Manuel Nicolas, Jean-Michel Gaillard, Sylvain Delzon, Samuel Venner
In many perennial wind-pollinated plants, the dynamics of seed production is commonly known to be highly fluctuating from year to year and synchronised among individuals within populations. The proximate causes of such seeding dynamics, called masting, are still poorly understood in oak species that are widespread in the northern hemisphere, and whose fruiting dynamics dramatically impacts forest regeneration and biodiversity. Combining long-term surveys of oak airborne pollen amount and acorn production over large-scale field networks in temperate areas, and a mechanistic modelling approach, we found that the pollen dynamics is the key driver of oak masting...
October 15, 2018: Ecology Letters
Stephen P Ellner, Robin E Snyder, Peter B Adler, Giles Hooker
Understanding long-term coexistence of numerous competing species is a longstanding challenge in ecology. Progress requires determining which processes and species differences are most important for coexistence when multiple processes operate and species differ in many ways. Modern coexistence theory (MCT), formalised by Chesson, holds out the promise of doing that, but empirical applications remain scarce. We argue that MCT's mathematical complexity and subtlety have obscured the simplicity and power of its underlying ideas and hindered applications...
October 11, 2018: Ecology Letters
Cecilia A Sánchez, Daniel J Becker, Claire S Teitelbaum, Paola Barriga, Leone M Brown, Ania A Majewska, Richard J Hall, Sonia Altizer
Body condition metrics are widely used to infer animal health and to assess costs of parasite infection. Since parasites harm their hosts, ecologists might expect negative relationships between infection and condition in wildlife, but this assumption is challenged by studies showing positive or null condition-infection relationships. Here, we outline common condition metrics used by ecologists in studies of parasitism, and consider mechanisms that cause negative, positive, and null condition-infection relationships in wildlife systems...
October 4, 2018: Ecology Letters
T Trevor Caughlin, Marinés de la Peña-Domene, Cristina Martínez-Garza
For tropical forest restoration to result in long-term biodiversity gains, native trees must establish self-sustaining populations in degraded sites. While many have asked how seedling recruitment varies between restoration treatments, the long-term fate of these recruits remains unknown. We address this research gap by tracking natural recruits of 27 species during the first 7 years of a tropical forest restoration experiment that included both planted and naturally regenerating plots. We used an individual-based model to estimate the probability that a seedling achieves reproductive maturity after several years of growth and survival...
October 4, 2018: Ecology Letters
Clint D Kelly, Andrew M Stoehr, Charles Nunn, Kendra N Smyth, Zofia M Prokop
In animals, sex differences in immunity are proposed to shape variation in infection prevalence and intensity among individuals in a population, with females typically expected to exhibit superior immunity due to life-history trade-offs. We performed a systematic meta-analysis to investigate the magnitude and direction of sex differences in immunity and to identify factors that shape sex-biased immunocompetence. In addition to considering taxonomic and methodological effects as moderators, we assessed age-related effects, which are predicted to occur if sex differences in immunity are due to sex-specific resource allocation trade-offs with reproduction...
October 4, 2018: Ecology Letters
Sean L Tuck, Janielle Porter, Mark Rees, Lindsay A Turnbull
The impact of species loss from competitive communities partly depends on how populations of the surviving species respond. Predicting the response should be straightforward using models that describe population growth as a function of competitor densities; but these models require accurate estimates of interaction strengths. Here, we quantified how well we could predict responses to competitor removal in a community of annual plants, using a combination of observation and experiment. It was straightforward to fit models to multi-species communities, which passed standard diagnostic tests and provided apparently sensible estimates of interaction strengths...
October 1, 2018: Ecology Letters
John Alroy
Are communities limited by biotic interactions, or are they random draws from regional species pools? One way to tell is to compare total species counts in geographic regions to average counts in ecological samples falling within those regions. If species richness is limited regionally, then the relationship should be curvilinear even in a log-log space. Global sets of samples including trees and 10 groups of animals are analysed to test this hypothesis. Most relationships are indeed curvilinear. To explain these patterns, a simple model is proposed that invokes biotic interaction-limited speciation or immigration rates combined with extinction or extirpation rates that fall as the number of occupied patches increases...
October 1, 2018: Ecology Letters
Daniel M Perkins, Isabelle Durance, Francois K Edwards, Jonathan Grey, Alan G Hildrew, Michelle Jackson, J Iwan Jones, Rasmus B Lauridsen, Katrin Layer-Dobra, Murray S A Thompson, Guy Woodward
Body mass-abundance (M-N) allometries provide a key measure of community structure, and deviations from scaling predictions could reveal how cross-ecosystem subsidies alter food webs. For 31 streams across the UK, we tested the hypothesis that linear log-log M-N scaling is shallower than that predicted by allometric scaling theory when top predators have access to allochthonous prey. These streams all contained a common and widespread top predator (brown trout) that regularly feeds on terrestrial prey and, as hypothesised, deviations from predicted scaling increased with its dominance of the fish assemblage...
September 26, 2018: Ecology Letters
Andrew T Tredennick, Brittany J Teller, Peter B Adler, Giles Hooker, Stephen P Ellner
In both plant and animal systems, size can determine whether an individual survives and grows under different environmental conditions. However, it is unclear whether and when size-dependent responses to exogenous environmental fluctuations affect population dynamics. Size-by-environment interactions create pathways for environmental fluctuations to influence population dynamics by allowing for negative covariation between sizes within vital rates (e.g. small and large individuals have negatively covarying survival rates) and/or size-dependent variability in a vital rate (e...
September 24, 2018: Ecology Letters
Cornelia Wingfield Twining, Jeremy Ryan Shipley, David W Winkler
Ecologists studying bird foraging ecology have generally focused on food quantity over quality. Emerging work suggests that food quality, in terms of highly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (HUFA), can have equally important effects on performance. HUFA, which are present in aquatic primary producers, are all but absent in vascular plants, and HUFA content is also correspondingly higher in aquatic insects. Here, we show that Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) chicks rapidly accumulate HUFA from food during the nestling period...
September 24, 2018: Ecology Letters
Andrew J Hacket-Pain, Davide Ascoli, Giorgio Vacchiano, Franco Biondi, Liam Cavin, Marco Conedera, Igor Drobyshev, Isabel Dorado Liñán, Andrew D Friend, Michael Grabner, Claudia Hartl, Juergen Kreyling, François Lebourgeois, Tom Levanič, Annette Menzel, Ernst van der Maaten, Marieke van der Maaten-Theunissen, Lena Muffler, Renzo Motta, Catalin-Constantin Roibu, Ionel Popa, Tobias Scharnweber, Robert Weigel, Martin Wilmking, Christian S Zang
Climatically controlled allocation to reproduction is a key mechanism by which climate influences tree growth and may explain lagged correlations between climate and growth. We used continent-wide datasets of tree-ring chronologies and annual reproductive effort in Fagus sylvatica from 1901 to 2015 to characterise relationships between climate, reproduction and growth. Results highlight that variable allocation to reproduction is a key factor for growth in this species, and that high reproductive effort ('mast years') is associated with stem growth reduction...
September 19, 2018: Ecology Letters
Robert A Desharnais, Daniel C Reuman, Robert F Costantino, Joel E Cohen
Population densities of a species measured in different locations are often correlated over time, a phenomenon referred to as synchrony. Synchrony results from dispersal of individuals among locations and spatially correlated environmental variation, among other causes. Synchrony is often measured by a correlation coefficient. However, synchrony can vary with timescale. We demonstrate theoretically and experimentally that the timescale-specificity of environmental correlation affects the overall magnitude and timescale-specificity of synchrony, and that these effects are modified by population dispersal...
September 19, 2018: Ecology Letters
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