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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
Paul J CaraDonna, William K Petry, Ross M Brennan, James L Cunningham, Judith L Bronstein, Nickolas M Waser, Nathan J Sanders
Whether species interactions are static or change over time has wide-reaching ecological and evolutionary consequences. However, species interaction networks are typically constructed from temporally aggregated interaction data, thereby implicitly assuming that interactions are fixed. This approach has advanced our understanding of communities, but it obscures the timescale at which interactions form (or dissolve) and the drivers and consequences of such dynamics. We address this knowledge gap by quantifying the within-season turnover of plant-pollinator interactions from weekly censuses across 3 years in a subalpine ecosystem...
February 3, 2017: Ecology Letters
Ben G Weinstein, Catherine H Graham
By specialising on specific resources, species evolve advantageous morphologies to increase the efficiency of nutrient acquisition. However, many specialists face variation in resource availability and composition. Whether specialists respond to these changes depends on the composition of the resource pulses, the cost of foraging on poorly matched resources, and the strength of interspecific competition. We studied hummingbird bill and plant corolla matching during seasonal variation in flower availability and morphology...
February 2, 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
Benjamin Blonder, Derek E Moulton, Jessica Blois, Brian J Enquist, Bente J Graae, Marc Macias-Fauria, Brian McGill, Sandra Nogué, Alejandro Ordonez, Brody Sandel, Jens-Christian Svenning
The coupling between community composition and climate change spans a gradient from no lags to strong lags. The no-lag hypothesis is the foundation of many ecophysiological models, correlative species distribution modelling and climate reconstruction approaches. Simple lag hypotheses have become prominent in disequilibrium ecology, proposing that communities track climate change following a fixed function or with a time delay. However, more complex dynamics are possible and may lead to memory effects and alternate unstable states...
February 1, 2017: Ecology Letters
Thomas J Givnish
Marks et al. (Ecol. Lett., 19, 2016, 743-751) show that tree diversity increases with tree height in North America and argue it reflects habitat 'suitability'. This finding conflicts with classical results, lacks controls for covariates of tree height, and can be explained alternatively using the modified Janzen-Connell effect and regional variance in habitats.
January 29, 2017: Ecology Letters
Christian O Marks, Helene C Muller-Landau, David Tilman
Marks et al. (Ecology Letters, 19, 2016, 743) showed tree species richness correlates with maximum tree height, and interpret this as evidence that the environmental stressors that limit tree height also act as ecological filters on species richness. Here, we strengthen these arguments by further addressing the roles of environmental covariates and beta diversity.
January 29, 2017: Ecology Letters
Ben Ashby, Mike Boots
Understanding fluctuating selection is important for our understanding of patterns of spatial and temporal diversity in nature. Host-parasite theory has classically assumed fluctuations either occur between highly specific genotypes (matching allele: MA) or from specialism to generalism (gene-for-gene: GFG). However, while MA can only generate one mode of fluctuating selection, we show that GFG can in fact produce both rapid 'within-range' fluctuations (among genotypes with identical levels of investment but which specialise on different subsets of the population) and slower cycling 'between ranges' (different levels of investment), emphasising that MA is a subset of GFG...
January 29, 2017: Ecology Letters
Denon Start, Benjamin Gilbert
Intraspecific variation is central to our understanding of evolution and population ecology, yet its consequences for community ecology are poorly understood. Animal personality - consistent individual differences in suites of behaviours - may be particularly important for trophic dynamics, where predator personality can determine activity rates and patterns of attack. We used mesocosms with aquatic food webs in which the top predator (dragonfly nymphs) varied in activity and subsequent attack rates on zooplankton, and tested the effects of predator personality...
January 25, 2017: Ecology Letters
David A Moeller, Ryan D Briscoe Runquist, Annika M Moe, Monica A Geber, Carol Goodwillie, Pierre-Olivier Cheptou, Christopher G Eckert, Elizabeth Elle, Mark O Johnston, Susan Kalisz, Richard H Ree, Risa D Sargent, Mario Vallejo-Marin, Alice A Winn
Latitudinal gradients in biotic interactions have been suggested as causes of global patterns of biodiversity and phenotypic variation. Plant biologists have long speculated that outcrossing mating systems are more common at low than high latitudes owing to a greater predictability of plant-pollinator interactions in the tropics; however, these ideas have not previously been tested. Here, we present the first global biogeographic analysis of plant mating systems based on 624 published studies from 492 taxa...
January 24, 2017: Ecology Letters
Beatriz Arroyo, François Mougeot, Vincent Bretagnolle
Whether human disturbance can lead to directional selection and phenotypic change in behaviour in species with limited behavioural plasticity is poorly understood in wild animal populations. Using a 19-year study on Montagu's harrier, we report a long-term increase in boldness towards humans during nest visits. The probability of females fleeing or being passive during nest visits decreased, while defence intensity steadily increased over the study period. These behavioural responses towards humans were significantly repeatable...
January 19, 2017: Ecology Letters
Christopher P Catano, Timothy L Dickson, Jonathan A Myers
A major challenge in ecology, conservation and global-change biology is to understand why biodiversity responds differently to similar environmental changes. Contingent biodiversity responses may depend on how disturbance and dispersal interact to alter variation in community composition (β-diversity) and assembly mechanisms. However, quantitative syntheses of these patterns and processes across studies are lacking. Using null-models and meta-analyses of 22 factorial experiments in herbaceous plant communities across Europe and North America, we show that disturbance diversifies communities when dispersal is limited, but homogenises communities when combined with increased immigration from the species pool...
January 17, 2017: Ecology Letters
Walter Finsinger, Thomas Giesecke, Simon Brewer, Michelle Leydet
Plant communities are not stable over time and biological novelty is predicted to emerge due to climate change, the introduction of exotic species and land-use change. However, the rate at which this novelty may arise over longer time periods has so far received little attention. We reconstruct the emergence of novelty in Europe for a set of baseline conditions over the past 15 000 years to assess past rates of emergence and investigate underlying causes. The emergence of novelty is baseline specific and, during the early-Holocene, was mitigated by the rapid spread of plant taxa...
January 16, 2017: Ecology Letters
Kim M Pepin, Shannon L Kay, Ben D Golas, Susan S Shriner, Amy T Gilbert, Ryan S Miller, Andrea L Graham, Steven Riley, Paul C Cross, Michael D Samuel, Mevin B Hooten, Jennifer A Hoeting, James O Lloyd-Smith, Colleen T Webb, Michael G Buhnerkempe
Our ability to infer unobservable disease-dynamic processes such as force of infection (infection hazard for susceptible hosts) has transformed our understanding of disease transmission mechanisms and capacity to predict disease dynamics. Conventional methods for inferring FOI estimate a time-averaged value and are based on population-level processes. Because many pathogens exhibit epidemic cycling and FOI is the result of processes acting across the scales of individuals and populations, a flexible framework that extends to epidemic dynamics and links within-host processes to FOI is needed...
January 16, 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
Adam F A Pellegrini, William R L Anderegg, C E Timothy Paine, William A Hoffmann, Tyler Kartzinel, Sam S Rabin, Douglas Sheil, Augusto C Franco, Stephen W Pacala
Fire regimes in savannas and forests are changing over much of the world. Anticipating the impact of these changes requires understanding how plants are adapted to fire. In this study, we test whether fire imposes a broad selective force on a key fire-tolerance trait, bark thickness, across 572 tree species distributed worldwide. We show that investment in thick bark is a pervasive adaptation in frequently burned areas across savannas and forests in both temperate and tropical regions where surface fires occur...
January 11, 2017: Ecology Letters
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