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Ecology Letters

Christopher R Cooney, Joseph A Tobias, Jason T Weir, Carlos A Botero, Nathalie Seddon
The role of sexual selection as a driver of speciation remains unresolved, not least because we lack a clear empirical understanding of its influence on different phases of the speciation process. Here, using data from 1306 recent avian speciation events, we show that plumage dichromatism (a proxy for sexual selection) does not predict diversification rates, but instead explains the rate at which young lineages achieve geographical range overlap. Importantly, this effect is only significant when range overlap is narrow (< 20%)...
May 16, 2017: Ecology Letters
Duncan N L Menge, Sarah A Batterman, Wenying Liao, Benton N Taylor, Jeremy W Lichstein, Gregorio Ángeles-Pérez
The rarity of nitrogen (N)-fixing trees in frequently N-limited higher-latitude (here, > 35°) forests is a central biogeochemical paradox. One hypothesis for their rarity is that evolutionary constraints limit N-fixing tree diversity, preventing N-fixing species from filling available niches in higher-latitude forests. Here, we test this hypothesis using data from the USA and Mexico. N-fixing trees comprise only a slightly smaller fraction of taxa at higher vs. lower latitudes (8% vs. 11% of genera), despite 11-fold lower abundance (1...
May 16, 2017: Ecology Letters
John M Dwyer, Daniel C Laughlin
Trade-offs maintain diversity and structure communities along environmental gradients. Theory indicates that if covariance among functional traits sets a limit on the number of viable trait combinations in a given environment, then communities with strong multidimensional trait constraints should exhibit low species diversity. We tested this prediction in winter annual plant assemblages along an aridity gradient using multilevel structural equation modelling. Univariate and multivariate functional diversity measures were poorly explained by aridity, and were surprisingly poor predictors of community richness...
May 16, 2017: Ecology Letters
Sven Teurlincx, Mandy Velthuis, Dominika Seroka, Lynn Govaert, Ellen van Donk, Dedmer B Van de Waal, Steven A J Declerck
Ecological stoichiometry has proven to be invaluable for understanding consumer response to changes in resource quality. Although interactions between trophic levels occur at the community level, most studies focus on single consumer species. In contrast to individual species, communities may deal with trophic mismatch not only through elemental plasticity but also through changes in species composition. Here, we show that a community of first-order consumers (e.g. zooplankton) is able to adjust its stoichiometry (C:P) in response to experimentally induced changes in resource quality, but only to a limited extent...
May 11, 2017: Ecology Letters
Konstans Wells, Rodrigo K Hamede, Douglas H Kerlin, Andrew Storfer, Paul A Hohenlohe, Menna E Jones, Hamish I McCallum
Emerging infectious diseases rarely affect all members of a population equally and determining how individuals' susceptibility to infection is related to other components of their fitness is critical to understanding disease impacts at a population level and for predicting evolutionary trajectories. We introduce a novel state-space model framework to investigate survival and fecundity of Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) affected by a transmissible cancer, devil facial tumour disease. We show that those devils that become host to tumours have otherwise greater fitness, with higher survival and fecundity rates prior to disease-induced death than non-host individuals that do not become infected, although high tumour loads lead to high mortality...
May 10, 2017: Ecology Letters
Mark Novak, Christopher Wolf, Kyle E Coblentz, Isaac D Shepard
A long-standing debate concerns how functional responses are best described. Theory suggests that ratio dependence is consistent with many food web patterns left unexplained by the simplest prey-dependent models. However, for logistical reasons, ratio dependence and predator dependence more generally have seen infrequent empirical evaluation and then only so in specialist predators, which are rare in nature. Here we develop an approach to simultaneously estimate the prey-specific attack rates and predator-specific interference (facilitation) rates of predators interacting with arbitrary numbers of prey and predator species in the field...
May 7, 2017: Ecology Letters
Nikolaos M Fyllas, Lisa Patrick Bentley, Alexander Shenkin, Gregory P Asner, Owen K Atkin, Sandra Díaz, Brian J Enquist, William Farfan-Rios, Emanuel Gloor, Rossella Guerrieri, Walter Huaraca Huasco, Yoko Ishida, Roberta E Martin, Patrick Meir, Oliver Phillips, Norma Salinas, Miles Silman, Lasantha K Weerasinghe, Joana Zaragoza-Castells, Yadvinder Malhi
One of the major challenges in ecology is to understand how ecosystems respond to changes in environmental conditions, and how taxonomic and functional diversity mediate these changes. In this study, we use a trait-spectra and individual-based model, to analyse variation in forest primary productivity along a 3.3 km elevation gradient in the Amazon-Andes. The model accurately predicted the magnitude and trends in forest productivity with elevation, with solar radiation and plant functional traits (leaf dry mass per area, leaf nitrogen and phosphorus concentration, and wood density) collectively accounting for productivity variation...
May 2, 2017: Ecology Letters
Ellen O Aikens, Matthew J Kauffman, Jerod A Merkle, Samantha P H Dwinnell, Gary L Fralick, Kevin L Monteith
The Green Wave Hypothesis posits that herbivore migration manifests in response to waves of spring green-up (i.e. green-wave surfing). Nonetheless, empirical support for the Green Wave Hypothesis is mixed, and a framework for understanding variation in surfing is lacking. In a population of migratory mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), 31% surfed plant phenology in spring as well as a theoretically perfect surfer, and 98% surfed better than random. Green-wave surfing varied among individuals and was unrelated to age or energetic state...
April 25, 2017: Ecology Letters
Daniel Sol, Ignasi Bartomeus, César González-Lagos, Sandrine Pavoine
Despite the recognised conservation value of phylogenetic diversity, little is known about how it is affected by the urbanisation process. Combining a complete avian phylogeny with surveys along urbanisation gradients from five continents, we show that highly urbanised environments supported on average 450 million fewer years of evolutionary history than the surrounding natural environments. This loss was primarily caused by species loss and could have been higher had not been partially compensated by the addition of urban exploiters and some exotic species...
April 24, 2017: Ecology Letters
Phillip P A Staniczenko, Prabu Sivasubramaniam, K Blake Suttle, Richard G Pearson
Macroecological models for predicting species distributions usually only include abiotic environmental conditions as explanatory variables, despite knowledge from community ecology that all species are linked to other species through biotic interactions. This disconnect is largely due to the different spatial scales considered by the two sub-disciplines: macroecologists study patterns at large extents and coarse resolutions, while community ecologists focus on small extents and fine resolutions. A general framework for including biotic interactions in macroecological models would help bridge this divide, as it would allow for rigorous testing of the role that biotic interactions play in determining species ranges...
April 21, 2017: Ecology Letters
Philip G Taylor, Cory C Cleveland, William R Wieder, Benjamin W Sullivan, Christopher E Doughty, Solomon Z Dobrowski, Alan R Townsend
Tropical forests dominate global terrestrial carbon (C) exchange, and recent droughts in the Amazon Basin have contributed to short-term declines in terrestrial carbon dioxide uptake and storage. However, the effects of longer-term climate variability on tropical forest carbon dynamics are still not well understood. We synthesised field data from more than 150 tropical forest sites to explore how climate regulates tropical forest aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) and organic matter decomposition, and combined those data with two existing databases to explore climate - C relationships globally...
April 17, 2017: Ecology Letters
Kristina M Sefc, Karin Mattersdorfer, Angelika Ziegelbecker, Nina Neuhüttler, Oliver Steiner, Walter Goessler, Stephan Koblmüller
The establishment of hybrid taxa relies on reproductive isolation from the parental forms, typically achieved by ecological differentiation. Here, we present an alternative mechanism, in which shifts in the strength and location of dispersal barriers facilitate diversification by hybridisation. Our case study concerns the highly diverse, stenotopic rock-dwelling cichlids of the African Great Lakes, many of which display geographic colour pattern variation. The littoral habitat of these fish has repeatedly been restructured in the course of ancient lake level fluctuations...
April 6, 2017: Ecology Letters
Trevor J Hefley, Mevin B Hooten, Robin E Russell, Daniel P Walsh, James A Powell
Ecological diffusion is a theory that can be used to understand and forecast spatio-temporal processes such as dispersal, invasion, and the spread of disease. Hierarchical Bayesian modelling provides a framework to make statistical inference and probabilistic forecasts, using mechanistic ecological models. To illustrate, we show how hierarchical Bayesian models of ecological diffusion can be implemented for large data sets that are distributed densely across space and time. The hierarchical Bayesian approach is used to understand and forecast the growth and geographic spread in the prevalence of chronic wasting disease in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)...
March 31, 2017: Ecology Letters
Hannah J Penn, Kacie J Athey, Brian D Lee
A lower diversity of land cover types is purported to decrease arthropod diversity in agroecosystems and is dependent on patterns of land use and fragmentation. Ants, important providers of ecosystem services such as biological control, are susceptible to landscape-level changes. We determined the relationships between land cover diversity and fragmentation on the within-field spatial associations of ants to pests and resulting predation events by combining mapping and molecular tools. Increased land cover diversity and decreased fragmentation increased ant abundance, spatial association to pests and predation...
March 28, 2017: Ecology Letters
Kai Yue, Dario A Fornara, Wanqin Yang, Yan Peng, Changhui Peng, Zelin Liu, Fuzhong Wu
The interactive effects of multiple global change drivers on terrestrial carbon (C) storage remain poorly understood. Here, we synthesise data from 633 published studies to show how the interactive effects of multiple drivers are generally additive (i.e. not differing from the sum of their individual effects) rather than synergistic or antagonistic. We further show that (1) elevated CO2 , warming, N addition, P addition and increased rainfall, all exerted positive individual effects on plant C pools at both single-plant and plant-community levels; (2) plant C pool responses to individual or combined effects of multiple drivers are seldom scale-dependent (i...
March 28, 2017: Ecology Letters
László Zsolt Garamszegi, Anders Pape Møller
Phenotypes vary at multiple hierarchical levels, of which the interspecific variance is the primary focus of phylogenetic comparative studies. However, the evolutionary role of particular within-species variance components (between-population, between- or within-individual variances) remains neglected. Here, we partition the variance in an anti-predator behaviour, flight initiation distance (FID), and assess how its within- and between-population variance are related to life history, distribution, dispersal and habitat ecology...
March 28, 2017: Ecology Letters
Anikó Kovács-Hostyánszki, Anahí Espíndola, Adam J Vanbergen, Josef Settele, Claire Kremen, Lynn V Dicks
Worldwide, human appropriation of ecosystems is disrupting plant-pollinator communities and pollination function through habitat conversion and landscape homogenisation. Conversion to agriculture is destroying and degrading semi-natural ecosystems while conventional land-use intensification (e.g. industrial management of large-scale monocultures with high chemical inputs) homogenises landscape structure and quality. Together, these anthropogenic processes reduce the connectivity of populations and erode floral and nesting resources to undermine pollinator abundance and diversity, and ultimately pollination services...
March 27, 2017: 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
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