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Ecology Letters

Marc W Cadotte
The ability to explain why multispecies assemblages produce greater biomass compared to monocultures, has been a central goal in the quest to understand biodiversity effects on ecosystem function. Species contributions to ecosystem function can be driven by two processes: niche complementarity and a selection effect that is influenced by fitness (competitive) differences, and both can be approximated with measures of species' traits. It has been hypothesised that fitness differences are associated with few, singular traits while complementarity requires multidimensional trait measures...
June 22, 2017: Ecology Letters
Sally A Bracewell, Emma L Johnston, Graeme F Clark
Theories of species coexistence often describe a trade-off between colonising and competitive abilities. In sessile marine invertebrates, this trade-off can manifest as trends in species distributions relative to the size of isolated patches of substrate. Based on their abilities to find available substrate and competitively exclude neighbours, good colonisers tend to dominate smaller patches, whereas better competitors tend to monopolise larger patches. In theory, species with equivalent colonising and competitive abilities should display similar distributions across patch sizes...
June 21, 2017: Ecology Letters
Frédéric Barraquand, Stilianos Louca, Karen C Abbott, Christina A Cobbold, Flora Cordoleani, Donald L DeAngelis, Bret D Elderd, Jeremy W Fox, Priscilla Greenwood, Frank M Hilker, Dennis L Murray, Christopher R Stieha, Rachel A Taylor, Kelsey Vitense, Gail S K Wolkowicz, Rebecca C Tyson
Population cycling is a widespread phenomenon, observed across a multitude of taxa in both laboratory and natural conditions. Historically, the theory associated with population cycles was tightly linked to pairwise consumer-resource interactions and studied via deterministic models, but current empirical and theoretical research reveals a much richer basis for ecological cycles. Stochasticity and seasonality can modulate or create cyclic behaviour in non-intuitive ways, the high-dimensionality in ecological systems can profoundly influence cycling, and so can demographic structure and eco-evolutionary dynamics...
June 20, 2017: Ecology Letters
Lee Hsiang Liow, Emanuela Di Martino, Malgorzata Krzeminska, Mali Ramsfjell, Seabourne Rust, Paul D Taylor, Kjetil L Voje
Competition is an important biotic interaction that influences survival and reproduction. While competition on ecological timescales has received great attention, little is known about competition on evolutionary timescales. Do competitive abilities change over hundreds of thousands to millions of years? Can we predict competitive outcomes using phenotypic traits? How much do traits that confer competitive advantage and competitive outcomes change? Here we show, using communities of encrusting marine bryozoans spanning more than 2 million years, that size is a significant determinant of overgrowth outcomes: colonies with larger zooids tend to overgrow colonies with smaller zooids...
June 14, 2017: Ecology Letters
Anna M Csergő, Roberto Salguero-Gómez, Olivier Broennimann, Shaun R Coutts, Antoine Guisan, Amy L Angert, Erik Welk, Iain Stott, Brian J Enquist, Brian McGill, Jens-Christian Svenning, Cyrille Violle, Yvonne M Buckley
Correlative species distribution models are based on the observed relationship between species' occurrence and macroclimate or other environmental variables. In climates predicted less favourable populations are expected to decline, and in favourable climates they are expected to persist. However, little comparative empirical support exists for a relationship between predicted climate suitability and population performance. We found that the performance of 93 populations of 34 plant species worldwide - as measured by in situ population growth rate, its temporal variation and extinction risk - was not correlated with climate suitability...
June 13, 2017: Ecology Letters
Andrew T Tredennick, Peter B Adler, Frederick R Adler
Theory relating species richness to ecosystem variability typically ignores the potential for environmental variability to promote species coexistence. Failure to account for fluctuation-dependent coexistence may explain deviations from the expected negative diversity-ecosystem variability relationship, and limits our ability to predict the consequences of increases in environmental variability. We use a consumer-resource model to explore how coexistence via the temporal storage effect and relative nonlinearity affects ecosystem variability...
June 9, 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
James P O'Dwyer, Andrew Rominger, Xiao Xiao
Simplified mechanistic models in ecology have been criticised for the fact that a good fit to data does not imply the mechanism is true: pattern does not equal process. In parallel, the maximum entropy principle (MaxEnt) has been applied in ecology to make predictions constrained by just a handful of state variables, like total abundance or species richness. But an outstanding question remains: what principle tells us which state variables to constrain? Here we attempt to solve both problems simultaneously, by translating a given set of mechanisms into the state variables to be used in MaxEnt, and then using this MaxEnt theory as a null model against which to compare mechanistic predictions...
July 2017: Ecology Letters
Julie Landes, Martine Perret, Isabelle Hardy, Carlo Giovanni Camarda, Pierre-Yves Henry, Samuel Pavard
Ageing results from the accumulation of multifactorial damage over time. However, the temporal distribution of this damage remains unknown. In seasonal species, transitions between seasons are critical periods of massive physiological remodelling. We hypothesised that these recurrent peaks of physiological remodelling are costly in terms of survival. We tested whether captive small primates exposed to an experimentally increased frequency of seasonal transitions die sooner than individuals living under natural seasonality...
July 2017: Ecology Letters
Andreas Fichtner, Werner Härdtle, Ying Li, Helge Bruelheide, Matthias Kunz, Goddert von Oheimb
Studies on tree communities have demonstrated that species diversity can enhance forest productivity, but the driving mechanisms at the local neighbourhood level remain poorly understood. Here, we use data from a large-scale biodiversity experiment with 24 subtropical tree species to show that neighbourhood tree species richness generally promotes individual tree productivity. We found that the underlying mechanisms depend on a focal tree's functional traits: For species with a conservative resource-use strategy diversity effects were brought about by facilitation, and for species with acquisitive traits by competitive reduction...
July 2017: Ecology Letters
K Charlotte Jandér, Brian S Steidinger
Mutualisms between species are ecologically ubiquitous but evolutionarily puzzling. Host discrimination mechanisms that reduce the fitness of uncooperative symbionts can stabilise mutualism against collapse, but also present a paradox - if discrimination is effective, why do uncooperative symbionts persist? Here, we test whether mutations or fitness benefits of cheating best explain the prevalence of uncooperative wasps in the fig tree-fig wasp mutualism. By combining theory with field-collected data we demonstrate that the proportions of pollen-free wasps of strongly discriminating hosts are reached with reasonable mutation rates...
July 2017: Ecology Letters
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