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Ecology Letters

Bob Week, Scott L Nuismer
Coevolution has long been thought to drive the exaggeration of traits, promote major evolutionary transitions such as the evolution of sexual reproduction and influence epidemiological dynamics. Despite coevolution's long suspected importance, we have yet to develop a quantitative understanding of its strength and prevalence because we lack generally applicable statistical methods that yield numerical estimates for coevolution's strength and significance in the wild. Here, we develop a novel method that derives maximum likelihood estimates for the strength of direct pairwise coevolution by coupling a well-established coevolutionary model to spatially structured phenotypic data...
February 18, 2019: Ecology Letters
Mayank Kohli, Elizabeth T Borer, Linda Kinkel, Eric W Seabloom
Theory predicts that consumers may stabilise or destabilise plant production depending on model assumptions, and tests in aquatic food webs suggest that trophic interactions are stabilising. We quantified the effects of trophic interactions on temporal variability (standard deviation) and temporal stability (mean/standard deviation) of grassland biomass production and the plant diversity-stability relationship by experimentally removing heterotrophs (large vertebrates, arthropods, foliar and soil fungi) from naturally and experimentally assembled grasslands of varying diversity...
February 12, 2019: Ecology Letters
Conor Waldock, Rick D Stuart-Smith, Graham J Edgar, Tomas J Bird, Amanda E Bates
Improving predictions of ecological responses to climate change requires understanding how local abundance relates to temperature gradients, yet many factors influence local abundance in wild populations. We evaluated the shape of thermal-abundance distributions using 98 422 abundance estimates of 702 reef fish species worldwide. We found that curved ceilings in local abundance related to sea temperatures for most species, where local abundance declined from realised thermal 'optima' towards warmer and cooler environments...
February 10, 2019: Ecology Letters
David N Fisher, Jessica A Haines, Stan Boutin, Ben Dantzer, Jeffrey E Lane, David W Coltman, Andrew G McAdam
Interactions between organisms are ubiquitous and have important consequences for phenotypes and fitness. Individuals can even influence those they never meet, if they have extended phenotypes that alter the environments others experience. North American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) guard food hoards, an extended phenotype that typically outlives the individual and is usually subsequently acquired by non-relatives. Hoarding by previous owners can, therefore, influence subsequent owners. We found that red squirrels breed earlier and had higher lifetime fitness if the previous hoard owner was a male...
February 10, 2019: Ecology Letters
Viktoriia Radchuk, Frederik De Laender, Juliano Sarmento Cabral, Isabelle Boulangeat, Michael Crawford, Friedrich Bohn, Jonathan De Raedt, Cédric Scherer, Jens-Christian Svenning, Kirsten Thonicke, Frank M Schurr, Volker Grimm, Stephanie Kramer-Schadt
Ecosystems respond in various ways to disturbances. Quantifying ecological stability therefore requires inspecting multiple stability properties, such as resistance, recovery, persistence and invariability. Correlations among these properties can reduce the dimensionality of stability, simplifying the study of environmental effects on ecosystems. A key question is how the kind of disturbance affects these correlations. We here investigated the effect of three disturbance types (random, species-specific, local) applied at four intensity levels, on the dimensionality of stability at the population and community level...
February 8, 2019: Ecology Letters
Phillip B Fenberg, Marcelo M Rivadeneira
The formation and maintenance of biogeographic regions and the latitudinal gradient of species richness are thought to be influenced, in part, by the spatial distribution of physical habitat (habitat continuity). But the importance of habitat continuity in relation to other variables for shaping richness gradients and delimiting biogeographic regions has not been well established. Here, we show that habitat continuity is a top predictor of biogeographic structure and the richness gradient of eastern Pacific rocky shore gastropods (spanning c...
February 7, 2019: Ecology Letters
Philip A Stephens, Marcus V Vieira, Stephen G Willis, Chris Carbone
We address two fundamental ecological questions: what are the limits to animal population density and what determines those limits? We develop simple alternative models to predict population limits in relation to body mass. A model assuming that within-species area use increases with the square of daily travel distance broadly predicts the scaling of empirical extremes of minimum density across birds and mammals. Consistent with model predictions, the estimated density range for a given mass, 'population scope', is greater for birds than for mammals...
February 6, 2019: Ecology Letters
Seth M Rudman, Jared M Goos, Joseph B Burant, Kevin V Brix, Taylor C Gibbons, Colin J Brauner, Punidan D Jeyasingh
Evidence that organisms evolve rapidly enough to alter ecological dynamics necessitates investigation of the reciprocal links between ecology and evolution. Data that link genotype to phenotype to ecology are needed to understand both the process and ecological consequences of rapid evolution. Here, we quantified the suite of elements in individuals (i.e., ionome) and differences in the fluxes of key nutrients across populations of threespine stickleback. We find that allelic variation associated with freshwater adaptation that controls bony plating is associated with changes in the ionome and nutrient recycling...
February 5, 2019: Ecology Letters
Sebastiano De Bona, Matthieu Bruneaux, Alex E G Lee, David N Reznick, Paul Bentzen, Andrés López-Sepulcre
Predicting population colonisations requires understanding how spatio-temporal changes in density affect dispersal. Density can inform on fitness prospects, acting as a cue for either habitat quality, or competition over resources. However, when escaping competition, high local density should only increase emigration if lower-density patches are available elsewhere. Few empirical studies on dispersal have considered the effects of density at the local and landscape scale simultaneously. To explore this, we analyze 5 years of individual-based data from an experimental introduction of wild guppies Poecilia reticulata...
February 4, 2019: Ecology Letters
Vanessa E Luzuriaga-Aveiga, Jason T Weir
The importance of ecologically mediated divergent selection in accelerating trait evolution has been poorly studied in the most species-rich biome of the planet, the continental Neotropics. We performed macroevolutionary analyses of trait divergence and diversification rates across closely related pairs of Andean and Amazonian passerine birds, to assess whether the difference in elevational range separating species pairs - a proxy for the degree of ecological divergence - influences the speed of trait evolution and diversification rates...
February 3, 2019: Ecology Letters
Mohsen Kayal, Hunter S Lenihan, Andrew J Brooks, Sally J Holbrook, Russell J Schmitt, Bruce E Kendall
Predicting whether, how, and to what degree communities recover from disturbance remain major challenges in ecology. To predict recovery of coral communities we applied field survey data of early recovery dynamics to a multi-species integral projection model that captured key demographic processes driving coral population trajectories, notably density-dependent larval recruitment. After testing model predictions against field observations, we updated the model to generate projections of future coral communities...
February 3, 2019: Ecology Letters
J Mason Heberling, Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie, Jason D Fridley, Susan Kalisz, Richard B Primack
Interacting species can respond differently to climate change, causing unexpected consequences. Many understorey wildflowers in deciduous forests leaf out and flower in the spring when light availability is the highest before overstorey canopy closure. Therefore, different phenological responses by understorey and overstorey species to increased spring temperature could have significant ecological implications. Pairing contemporary data with historical observations initiated by Henry David Thoreau (1850s), we found that overstorey tree leaf out is more responsive to increased spring temperature than understorey wildflower phenology, resulting in shorter periods of high light in the understorey before wildflowers are shaded by tree canopies...
February 3, 2019: Ecology Letters
A K Ettinger, I Chuine, B I Cook, J S Dukes, A M Ellison, M R Johnston, A M Panetta, C R Rollinson, Y Vitasse, E M Wolkovich
To understand and forecast biological responses to climate change, scientists frequently use field experiments that alter temperature and precipitation. Climate manipulations can manifest in complex ways, however, challenging interpretations of biological responses. We reviewed publications to compile a database of daily plot-scale climate data from 15 active-warming experiments. We find that the common practices of analysing treatments as mean or categorical changes (e.g. warmed vs. unwarmed) masks important variation in treatment effects over space and time...
January 27, 2019: Ecology Letters
Xing-Yue M Ge, Joshua P Scholl, Ursula Basinger, Travis E Huxman, D Lawrence Venable
Phylogenetically informed trait comparisons across entire communities show promise in advancing community ecology. We use this approach to better understand the composition of a community of winter annual plants with multiple decades of monitoring and detailed morphological, phenological and physiological measurements. Previous research on this system revealed a physiological trade-off among dominant species that accurately predicts population and community dynamics. Here we expanded our investigation to 51 species, representing 96% of individual plants recorded over 30 years, and analysed trait relationships in the context of species abundance and phylogenetic relationships...
January 27, 2019: Ecology Letters
Thomas Kiørboe, Ken H Andersen
The two parameters of the Michaelis-Menten model, the maximum uptake rate and the half-saturation constant, are not stochastically independent, and the half-saturation constant is not a measure of nutrient affinity, as commonly assumed. Failure to realise their interdependence and mechanistic interpretation may lead to the emergence of false trade-offs.
January 24, 2019: Ecology Letters
Andrew D Letten, Daniel B Stouffer
Motivated by both analytical tractability and empirical practicality, community ecologists have long treated the species pair as the fundamental unit of study. This notwithstanding, the challenge of understanding more complex systems has repeatedly generated interest in the role of so-called higher-order interactions (HOIs) imposed by species beyond the focal pair. Here we argue that HOIs - defined as non-additive effects of density on per capita growth - are best interpreted as emergent properties of phenomenological models (e...
January 24, 2019: Ecology Letters
Marc Ohlmann, Vincent Miele, Stéphane Dray, Loïc Chalmandrier, Louise O'Connor, Wilfried Thuiller
Describing how ecological interactions change over space and time and how they are shaped by environmental conditions is crucial to understand and predict ecosystem trajectories. However, it requires having an appropriate framework to measure network diversity locally, regionally and between samples (α-, γ- and β-diversity). Here, we propose a unifying framework that builds on Hill numbers and accounts both for the probabilistic nature of biotic interactions and the abundances of species or groups. We emphasise the importance of analysing network diversity across different species aggregation levels (e...
January 24, 2019: Ecology Letters
Laura Gajdzik, Rosalia Aguilar-Medrano, Bruno Frédérich
A core eco-evolutionary aim is to better understand the factors driving the diversification of functions in ecosystems. Using phylogenetic, trophic, and functional information, we tested whether trophic habits (i.e. feeding guilds) affect lineage and functional diversification in two major radiations of reef fishes. Our results from wrasses (Labridae) and damselfishes (Pomacentridae) do not fully support the 'dead-end' hypothesis that specialisation leads to reduce speciation rates because the tempo of lineage diversification did not substantially vary among guilds in both fish families...
January 15, 2019: Ecology Letters
Alan Fecchio, Konstans Wells, Jeffrey A Bell, Vasyl V Tkach, Holly L Lutz, Jason D Weckstein, Sonya M Clegg, Nicholas J Clark
Parasites with low host specificity (e.g. infecting a large diversity of host species) are of special interest in disease ecology, as they are likely more capable of circumventing ecological or evolutionary barriers to infect new hosts than are specialist parasites. Yet for many parasites, host specificity is not fixed and can vary in response to environmental conditions. Using data on host associations for avian malaria parasites (Apicomplexa: Haemosporida), we develop a hierarchical model that quantifies this environmental dependency by partitioning host specificity variation into region- and parasite-level effects...
January 13, 2019: Ecology Letters
Yunhai Zhang, Jinchao Feng, Michel Loreau, Nianpeng He, Xingguo Han, Lin Jiang
While nitrogen (N) amendment is known to affect the stability of ecological communities, whether this effect is scale-dependent remains an open question. By conducting a field experiment in a temperate grassland, we found that both plant richness and temporal stability of community biomass increased with spatial scale, but N enrichment reduced richness and stability at the two scales considered. Reduced local-scale stability under N enrichment arose from N-induced reduction in population stability, which was partly attributable to the decline in local species richness, as well as reduction in asynchronous local population dynamics across species...
January 10, 2019: Ecology Letters
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