ResearchPad - community-ecology https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[A biological control model to manage the vector and the infection of <i>Xylella fastidiosa</i> on olive trees]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_11237 Xylella fastidiosa pauca ST53 is the bacterium responsible for the Olive Quick Decline Syndrome that has killed millions of olive trees in Southern Italy. A recent work demonstrates that a rational integration of vector and transmission control measures, into a strategy based on chemical and physical control means, can manage Xylella fastidiosa invasion and impact below an acceptable economic threshold. In the present study, we propose a biological alternative to the chemical control action, which involves the predetermined use of an available natural enemy of Philaenus spumarius, i.e., Zelus renardii, for adult vector population and infection biocontrol. The paper combines two different approaches: a laboratory experiment to test the predation dynamics of Zelus renardii on Philaenus spumarius and its attitude as candidate for an inundation strategy; a simulated experiment of inundation, to preliminary test the efficacy of such strategy, before eventually proceeding to an in-field experimentation. With this double-fold approach we show that an inundation strategy with Zelus renardii has the potential to furnish an efficient and “green” solution to Xylella fastidiosa invasion, with a reduction of the pathogen incidence below 10%. The biocontrol model presented here could be promising for containing the impact and spread of Xylella fastidiosa, after an in-field validation of the inundation technique. Saving the fruit orchard, the production and the industry in susceptible areas could thus become an attainable goal, within comfortable parameters for sustainability, environmental safety, and effective plant health protection in organic orchard management.

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<![CDATA[Effects of scent lure on camera trap detections vary across mammalian predator and prey species]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_7840 Camera traps are a unique survey tool used to monitor a wide variety of mammal species. Camera trap (CT) data can be used to estimate animal distribution, density, and behaviour. Attractants, such as scent lures, are often used in an effort to increase CT detections; however, the degree which the effects of attractants vary across species is not well understood. We investigated the effects of scent lure on mammal detections by comparing detection rates between 404 lured and 440 unlured CT stations sampled in Alberta, Canada over 120 day survey periods between February and August in 2015 and 2016. We used zero-inflated negative binomial generalized linear mixed models to test the effect of lure on detection rates for a) all mammals, b) six functional groups (all predator species, all prey, large carnivores, small carnivores, small mammals, ungulates), and c) four varied species of management interest (fisher, Pekania pennanti; gray wolf, Canis lupus; moose, Alces alces; and Richardson’s ground squirrel; Urocitellus richardsonii). Mammals were detected at 800 of the 844 CTs, with nearly equal numbers of total detections at CTs with (7110) and without (7530) lure, and variable effects of lure on groups and individual species. Scent lure significantly increased detections of predators as a group, including large and small carnivore sub-groups and fisher specifically, but not of gray wolf. There was no effect of scent lure on detections of prey species, including the small mammal and ungulate sub-groups and moose and Richardson’s ground squirrel specifically. We recommend that researchers explicitly consider the variable effects of scent lure on CT detections across species when designing, interpreting, or comparing multi-species surveys. Additional research is needed to further quantify variation in species responses to scent lures and other attractants, and to elucidate the effect of attractants on community-level inferences from camera trap surveys.

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<![CDATA[Wing morphology predicts individual niche specialization in <i>Pteronotus mesoamericanus</i> (Mammalia: Chiroptera)]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_7639 Morphological variation between individuals can increase niche segregation and decrease intraspecific competition when heterogeneous individuals explore their environment in different ways. Among bat species, wing shape correlates with flight maneuverability and habitat use, with species that possess broader wings typically foraging in more cluttered habitats. However, few studies have investigated the role of morphological variation in bats for niche partitioning at the individual level. To determine the relationship between wing shape and diet, we studied a population of the insectivorous bat species Pteronotus mesoamericanus in the dry forest of Costa Rica. Individual diet was resolved using DNA metabarcoding, and bat wing shape was assessed using geometric morphometric analysis. Inter-individual variation in wing shape showed a significant relationship with both dietary dissimilarity based on Bray-Curtis estimates, and nestedness derived from an ecological network. Individual bats with broader and more rounded wings were found to feed on a greater diversity of arthropods (less nested) in comparison to individuals with triangular and pointed wings (more nested). We conclude that individual variation in bat wing morphology can impact foraging efficiency leading to the observed overall patterns of diet specialization and differentiation within the population.

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<![CDATA[Quantitative real-time PCR as a promising tool for the detection and quantification of leaf-associated fungal species – A proof-of-concept using Alatospora pulchella]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db52ab0ee8fa60bdc5cf

Traditional methods to identify aquatic hyphomycetes rely on the morphology of released conidia, which can lead to misidentifications or underestimates of species richness due to convergent morphological evolution and the presence of non-sporulating mycelia. Molecular methods allow fungal identification irrespective of the presence of conidia or their morphology. As a proof-of-concept, we established a quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay to accurately quantify the amount of DNA as a proxy for the biomass of an aquatic hyphomycete species (Alatospora pulchella). Our study showed discrimination even among genetically closely-related species, with a high sensitivity and a reliable quantification down to 9.9 fg DNA (3 PCR forming units; LoD) and 155.0 fg DNA (47 PCR forming units; LoQ), respectively. The assay’s specificity was validated for environmental samples that harboured diverse microbial communities and likely contained PCR-inhibiting substances. This makes qPCR a promising tool to gain deeper insights into the ecological roles of aquatic hyphomycetes and other microorganisms.

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<![CDATA[Correlates of different facets and components of beta diversity in stream organisms]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/Nc5ed9041-28cc-482e-ac01-64c3af9aeb15

Recently, community ecology has emphasized the multi-facetted aspects of biological diversity by linking species traits and the environment. Here, we explored environmental correlates of taxonomically-based and traits-based compositional distances using a comprehensive data set of diatom and macroinvertebrate communities. We also explored the responses of different beta diversity components (i.e., overall beta diversity, turnover, and nestedness) of beta diversity facets (i.e., taxonomically and traits-based beta diversity) to environmental distances. Partial Mantel tests were used to test the relationships between beta diversity and environmental distance (while controlling for spatial distances). Taxonomically-based beta diversity varied much more than traits-based beta diversity, indicating strong functional convergence. We found that taxonomically-based beta diversity was largely driven by the turnover component. However, the nestedness component contributed more to overall traits-based beta diversity than the turnover component. Taxonomically-based beta diversity was significantly correlated with environmental distances for both diatoms and macroinvertebrates. Thus, we found support for the role of environmental filtering as a driver of community dissimilarities of rather different biological groups. However, the strength of these relationships between beta diversity and environmental distances varied depending on the biological group, facet, component, and the way which the environmental variables were selected to calculate the explanatory (distance) matrix. Our results indicated that both taxonomically and traits-based approaches are still needed to better understand patterns and mechanisms affecting the organization of biological communities in streams. This is because different facets of biological communities may be driven by different mechanisms.

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (10.1007/s00442-019-04535-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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<![CDATA[Host-parasite interaction explains variation in the prevalence of avian haemosporidians at the community level]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c897744d5eed0c4847d2876

Parasites are a selective force that shape host community structure and dynamics, but host communities can also influence parasitism. Understanding the dual nature from host-parasite interactions can be facilitated by quantifying the variation in parasite prevalence among host species and then comparing that variation to other ecological factors that are known to also shape host communities. Avian haemosporidian parasites (e.g. Plasmodium and Haemoproteus) are abundant and widespread representing an excellent model for the study of host-parasite interactions. Several geographic and environmental factors have been suggested to determine prevalence of avian haemosporidians in bird communities. However, it remains unknown whether host and parasite traits, represented by phylogenetic distances among species and degree of specialization in host-parasite relationships, can influence infection status. The aims of this study were to analyze factors affecting infection status in a bird community and to test whether the degree of parasite specialization on their hosts is determined by host traits. Our statistical analyses suggest that infection status is mainly determined by the interaction between host species and parasite lineages where tolerance and/or susceptibility to parasites plays an essential role. Additionally, we found that although some of the parasite lineages infected a low number of bird individuals, the species they infected were distantly related and therefore the parasites themselves should not be considered typical host specialists. Infection status was higher for generalist than for specialist parasites in some, but not all, host species. These results suggest that detected prevalence in a species mainly results from the interaction between host immune defences and parasite exploitation strategies wherein the result of an association between particular parasite lineages and particular host species is idiosyncratic.

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<![CDATA[Population density and temperature correlate with long-term trends in somatic growth rates and maturation schedules of herring and sprat]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c89775ed5eed0c4847d2b47

We examine long-term trends in the average growth rates and maturation schedules of herring and sprat populations using survey data collected from the North Sea and west of Scotland since the 1960s and 1980s respectively. Otolith age data and maturity data are used to calculate time series of mean lengths at age, von Bertalanffy growth parameters, and probabilistic maturation reaction norms. As the growth and maturation of fish is known to be influenced by temperature and stock abundances, we account for these variables using Generalised Additive Models. Each of the herring populations displayed either steady declines in mean length across multiple age groups, or declines in length followed years later by some recovery. Depending on region, lengths at age of sprat increased or decreased over time. Varying temporal trends in maturation propensity at age and length were observed across herring populations. Many of the trends in growth rate and maturation were correlated to population abundance and/or temperature. In general, abundance is shown to be negatively correlated to growth rates in herring and sprat, and positively correlated with maturation propensity in herring. Temperature is also shown to be correlated to growth and maturation, and although the effect is consistent within species, the temperature effects differ between herring and sprat. This study provides detailed information about long-term trends in growth and maturation, which is lacking for some of these pelagic stocks, especially in the west of Scotland.

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<![CDATA[Available energy fluxes drive a transition in the diversity, stability, and functional structure of microbial communities]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c63393dd5eed0c484ae62f0

A fundamental goal of microbial ecology is to understand what determines the diversity, stability, and structure of microbial ecosystems. The microbial context poses special conceptual challenges because of the strong mutual influences between the microbes and their chemical environment through the consumption and production of metabolites. By analyzing a generalized consumer resource model that explicitly includes cross-feeding, stochastic colonization, and thermodynamics, we show that complex microbial communities generically exhibit a transition as a function of available energy fluxes from a “resource-limited” regime where community structure and stability is shaped by energetic and metabolic considerations to a diverse regime where the dominant force shaping microbial communities is the overlap between species’ consumption preferences. These two regimes have distinct species abundance patterns, different functional profiles, and respond differently to environmental perturbations. Our model reproduces large-scale ecological patterns observed across multiple experimental settings such as nestedness and differential beta diversity patterns along energy gradients. We discuss the experimental implications of our results and possible connections with disorder-induced phase transitions in statistical physics.

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<![CDATA[Short-term fish predation destroys resilience of zooplankton communities and prevents recovery of phytoplankton control by zooplankton grazing]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c706772d5eed0c4847c7038

Planktivorous fish predation directly affects zooplankton biomass, community and size structure, and may indirectly induce a trophic cascade to phytoplankton. However, it is not clear how quickly the zooplankton community structure and the cascading effects on phytoplankton recover to the unaffected state (i.e. resilience) once short-term predation by fish stops. The resilience has implications for the ecological quality and restoration measures in aquatic ecosystems. To assess the short-term zooplankton resilience against fish predation, we conducted a mesocosm experiment consisting of 10 enclosures, 6 with fish and 4 without fish. Plankton communities from a natural lake were used to establish phytoplankton and zooplankton in the mesocosms. High biomasses (about 20 g wet mass m-3) of juvenile planktivorous fish (perch, Perca fluviatilis) were allowed to feed on zooplankton in fish enclosures for four days. Thereafter, we removed fish and observed the recovery of the zooplankton community and its cascading effect on trophic interactions in comparison with no fish enclosures for four weeks. Short-term fish predation impaired resilience in zooplankton community by modifying community composition, as large zooplankton, such as calanoids, decreased just after fish predation and did not re-appear afterwards, whereas small cladocerans and rotifers proliferated. Total zooplankton biomass increased quickly within two weeks after fish removal, and at the end even exceeded the biomass measured before fish addition. Despite high biomass, the dominance of small zooplankton released phytoplankton from grazer control in fish enclosures. Accordingly, the zooplankton community did not recover from the effect of fish predation, indicating low short-term resilience. In contrast, in no fish enclosures without predation disturbance, a high zooplankton:phytoplankton biomass ratio accompanied by low phytoplankton yield (Chlorophyll-a:Total phosphorus ratio) reflected phytoplankton control by zooplankton over the experimental period. Comprehensive views on short and long-term resilience of zooplankton communities are essential for restoration and management strategies of aquatic ecosystems to better predict responses to global warming, such as higher densities of planktivorous fish.

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<![CDATA[Moderate plant water stress improves larval development, and impacts immunity and gut microbiota of a specialist herbivore]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c76fe62d5eed0c484e5b9b6

While host plant drought is generally viewed as a negative phenomenon, its impact on insect herbivores can vary largely depending on the species involved and on the intensity of the drought. Extreme drought killing host plants can clearly reduce herbivore fitness, but the impact of moderate host plant water stress on insect herbivores can vary, and may even be beneficial. The populations of the Finnish Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia) have faced reduced precipitation in recent years, with impacts even on population dynamics. Whether the negative effects of low precipitation are solely due to extreme desiccation killing the host plant or whether moderate drought reduces plant quality for the larvae remains unknown. We assessed the performance of larvae fed on moderately water-stressed Plantago lanceolata in terms of growth, survival, and immune response, and additionally were interested to assess whether the gut microbial composition of the larvae changed due to modification of the host plant. We found that larvae fed on water-stressed plants had increased growth, with no impact on survival, up-regulated the expression of one candidate immune gene (pelle), and had a more heterogeneous bacterial community and a shifted fungal community in the gut. Most of the measured traits showed considerable variation due to family structure. Our data suggest that in temperate regions moderate host plant water stress can positively shape resource acquisition of this specialized insect herbivore, potentially by increasing nutrient accessibility or concentration. Potentially, the better larval performance may be mediated by a shift of the microbiota on water-stressed plants, calling for further research especially on the understudied gut fungal community.

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<![CDATA[Sensitivity of the Norwegian and Barents Sea Atlantis end-to-end ecosystem model to parameter perturbations of key species]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c673075d5eed0c484f37b80

Using end-to-end models for ecosystem-based management requires knowledge of the structure, uncertainty and sensitivity of the model. The Norwegian and Barents Seas (NoBa) Atlantis model was implemented for use in ‘what if’ scenarios, combining fisheries management strategies with the influences of climate change and climate variability. Before being used for this purpose, we wanted to evaluate and identify sensitive parameters and whether the species position in the foodweb influenced their sensitivity to parameter perturbation. Perturbing recruitment, mortality, prey consumption and growth by +/- 25% for nine biomass-dominating key species in the Barents Sea, while keeping the physical climate constant, proved the growth rate to be the most sensitive parameter in the model. Their trophic position in the ecosystem (lower trophic level, mid trophic level, top predators) influenced their responses to the perturbations. Top-predators, being generalists, responded mostly to perturbations on their individual life-history parameters. Mid-level species were the most vulnerable to perturbations, not only to their own individual life-history parameters, but also to perturbations on other trophic levels (higher or lower). Perturbations on the lower trophic levels had by far the strongest impact on the system, resulting in biomass changes for nearly all components in the system. Combined perturbations often resulted in non-additive model responses, including both dampened effects and increased impact of combined perturbations. Identifying sensitive parameters and species in end-to-end models will not only provide insights about the structure and functioning of the ecosystem in the model, but also highlight areas where more information and research would be useful—both for model parameterization, but also for constraining or quantifying model uncertainty.

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<![CDATA[Plant-soil feedbacks promote coexistence and resilience in multi-species communities]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c6b26b6d5eed0c484289eef

Both ecological theory and empirical evidence suggest that negative frequency dependent feedbacks structure plant communities, but integration of these findings has been limited. Here we develop a generic model of frequency dependent feedback to analyze coexistence and invasibility in random theoretical and real communities for which frequency dependence through plant-soil feedbacks (PSFs) was determined empirically. We investigated community stability and invasibility by means of mechanistic analysis of invasion conditions and numerical simulations. We found that communities fall along a spectrum of coexistence types ranging from strict pair-wise negative feedback to strict intransitive networks. Intermediate community structures characterized by partial intransitivity may feature “keystone competitors” which disproportionately influence community stability. Real communities were characterized by stronger negative feedback and higher robustness to species loss than randomly assembled communities. Partial intransitivity became increasingly likely in more diverse communities. The results presented here theoretically explain why more diverse communities are characterized by stronger negative frequency dependent feedbacks, a pattern previously encountered in observational studies. Natural communities are more likely to be maintained by strict negative plant-soil feedback than expected by chance, but our results also show that community stability often depends on partial intransitivity. These results suggest that plant-soil feedbacks can facilitate coexistence in multi-species communities, but that these feedbacks may also initiate cascading effects on community diversity following from single-species loss.

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<![CDATA[Radar detectors carried by Cape gannets reveal surprisingly few fishing vessel encounters]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c648d52d5eed0c484c82586

Fisheries compete with seabirds for vanishing marine resources, but also produce fishery waste consumed by seabirds. Marine birds may therefore avoid or seek fishing vessels, and have evolved complex, plastic behavioural responses to vessel presence. Understanding these responses is essential to the conservation of a globally declining seabird community. We studied Cape gannets (Morus capensis), which compete with fisheries for reduced sardine (Sardinops sagax) resources in the Benguela upwelling region off South Africa. Using bird-borne GPS trackers coupled with newly-developed ship-radar detectors we show that foraging gannets seldom attended fishing vessels. Rather, they switched from eating scarce sardines or energetically-poor fishery waste to targeting locally abundant saury (Scomberesox saurus). This pelagic fish is brought into the seascape by warm water influx, and is not commercially exploited by fisheries. Cape gannets thereby show dietary plasticity, allowing them to maintain adult body condition and chick growth rates. This diet switch is a strong indicator that Cape gannets forage in an ecologically perturbed marine environment.

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<![CDATA[Leave or stay? Video-logger revealed foraging efficiency of humpback whales under temporal change in prey density]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c63392dd5eed0c484ae6172

Central place foraging theory (CPF) has been used to predict the optimal patch residence time for air-breathing marine predators in response to patch quality. Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) forage on densely aggregated prey, which may induce drastic change in prey density in a single feeding event. Thus, the decision whether to leave or stay after each feeding event in a single dive in response to this drastic change, should have a significant effect on prey exploitation efficiency. However, whether humpback whales show adaptive behavior in response to the diminishing prey density in a single dive has been technically difficult to test. Here, we studied the foraging behavior of humpback whales in response to change in prey density in a single dive and calculated the efficiency of each foraging dive using a model based on CPF approach. Using animal-borne accelerometers and video loggers attached to whales, foraging behavior and change in relative prey density in front of the whales were successfully quantified. Results showed diminishing rate of energy intake in consecutive feeding events, and humpback whales efficiently fed by bringing the rate of energy intake close to maximum in a single dive cycle. This video-based method also enabled us to detect the presence of other animals around the tagged whales, showing an interesting trend in behavioral changes where feeding duration was shorter when other animals were present. Our results have introduced a new potential to quantitatively investigate the effect of other animals on free-ranging top predators in the context of optimal foraging theory.

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<![CDATA[Describing vegetation characteristics used by two rare forest-dwelling species: Will established reserves provide for coastal marten in Oregon?]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c5ca2bed5eed0c48441e9e9

Forest management guidelines for rare or declining species in the Pacific Northwest, USA, include both late successional reserves and specific vegetation management criteria. However, whether current management practices for well-studied species such as northern spotted owls (Strix occidentallis caurina) can aid in conserving a lesser known subspecies—Humboldt martens (Martes caurina humboldtensis)–is unclear. To address the lack of information for martens in coastal Oregon, USA, we quantified vegetation characteristics at locations used by Humboldt martens and spotted owls in two regions (central and southern coast) and at two spatial scales (the site level summarizing extensive vegetation surveys and regionally using remotely sensed vegetation and estimated habitat models). We estimated amount of predicted habitat for both species in established reserves. If predicted overlap in established reserves was low, then we reported vegetation characteristics to inform potential locations for reserves or management opportunities. In the Central Coast, very little overlap existed in vegetation characteristics between Humboldt martens and spotted owls at either the site or regional level. Humboldt martens occurred in young forests composed of small diameter trees with few snags or downed logs. Humboldt martens were also found in areas with very dense vegetation when overstory canopy and shrub cover percentages were combined. In the South Coast, Humboldt martens occurred in forests with smaller diameter trees than spotted owl sites on average. Coastal Humboldt martens may use stands of predicted high quality spotted owl habitat in the Pacific Northwest. Nonetheless, our observations suggest that coastal Humboldt martens exist in areas that include a much higher diversity of conifer size classes as long as extensive dense shrub cover, predominantly in the form of high salal and evergreen huckleberry, are available. We suggest that managers consider how structural characteristics (e.g., downed logs, shrub cover, patch size), are associated with long-term species persistence rather than relying on reserves based on broad cover types. Describing vegetation may partially describe suitability, but available prey or predation risk ultimately influence likelihood of individual Humboldt marten use. Guidelines for diversifying vegetation management, and retaining or restoring appropriate habitat conditions at both the stand level and regionally, may increase management flexibility and identify forest conditions that support both spotted owls and Humboldt martens.

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<![CDATA[Modelling potential habitat for snow leopards (Panthera uncia) in Ladakh, India]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c59febcd5eed0c484135369

The snow leopard Panthera uncia is an elusive species inhabiting some of the most remote and inaccessible tracts of Central and South Asia. It is difficult to determine its distribution and density pattern, which are crucial for developing conservation strategies. Several techniques for species detection combining camera traps with remote sensing and geographic information systems have been developed to model the habitat of such cryptic and low-density species in challenging terrains. Utilising presence-only data from camera traps and direct observations, alongside six environmental variables (elevation, aspect, ruggedness, distance to water, land cover, and prey habitat suitability), we assessed snow leopard habitat suitability across Ladakh in northern India. This is the first study to model snow leopard distribution both in India and utilising direct observation data. Results suggested that elevation and ruggedness are the two most influential environmental variables for snow leopard habitat suitability, with highly suitable habitat having an elevation range of 2,800 m to 4,600 m and ruggedness of 450 m to 1,800 m. Our habitat suitability map estimated approximately 12% of Ladakh's geographical area (c. 90,000 km2) as highly suitable and 18% as medium suitability. We found that 62.5% of recorded livestock depredation along with over half of all livestock corrals (54%) and homestays (58%) occurred within highly suitable snow leopard habitat. Our habitat suitability model can be used to assist in allocation of conservation resources by targeting construction of livestock corrals to areas of high habitat suitability and promoting ecotourism programs in villages in highly suitable snow leopard habitat.

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<![CDATA[Model uncertainty and simulated multispecies fisheries management advice in the Baltic Sea]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c58d61ed5eed0c48403168f

Different ecosystem models often provide contrasting predictions (model uncertainty), which is perceived to be a major challenge impeding their use to support ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM). The focus of this manuscript is to examine the extent of model disagreements which could impact management advice for EBFM in the central Baltic Sea. We compare how much three models (EwE, Gadget and a multispecies stock production model) differ in 1) their estimates of fishing mortality rates (Fs) satisfying alternative hypothetical management scenario objectives and 2) the outcomes of those scenarios in terms of performance indicators (spawning stock biomasses, catches, profits). Uncertainty in future environmental conditions affecting fish was taken into account by considering two seal population growth scenarios and two nutrient load scenarios. Differences in the development of the stocks, yields and profits exist among the models but the general patterns are also sufficiently similar to appear promising in the context of strategic fishery advice. Thus, we suggest that disagreements among the ecosystem models will not impede their use for providing strategic advice on how to reach management objectives that go beyond the traditional maximum yield targets and for informing on the potential consequences of pursuing such objectives. This is especially true for scenarios aiming at exploiting forage fish sprat and herring, for which the agreement was the largest among our models. However, the quantitative response to altering fishing pressure differed among models. This was due to the diverse environmental covariates and the different number of trophic relationships and their functional forms considered in the models. This suggests that ecosystem models can be used to provide quantitative advice only after more targeted research is conducted to gain a deeper understanding into the relationship between trophic links and fish population dynamics in the Baltic Sea.

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<![CDATA[Measuring popularity of ecological topics in a temporal dynamical knowledge network]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c5b5243d5eed0c4842bc58d

As interdisciplinary branches of ecology are developing rapidly in the 21st century, contents of ecological researches have become more abundant than ever before. Along with the exponential growth of number of published literatures, it is more and more difficult for ecologists to get a clear picture of their discipline. Nevertheless, the era of big data has brought us massive information of well documented historical literature and various techniques of data processing, which greatly facilitates the implementation of bibliometric analysis on ecology. Frequency has long been used as the primary metric in keyword analysis to detect ecological hotspots, however, this method could be somewhat biased. In our study, we have suggested a method called PAFit to measure keyword popularity, which considered ecology-related topics in a large temporal dynamical knowledge network, and found out the popularity of ecological topics follows the “rich get richer” and “fit get richer” mechanism. Feasibility of network analysis and its superiority over simply using frequency had been explored and justified, and PAFit was testified by its outstanding performance of prediction on the growth of frequency and degree. In addition, our research also encourages ecologists to consider their domain knowledge in a large dynamical network, and be ready to participate in interdisciplinary collaborations when necessary.

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<![CDATA[Generalizing clusters of similar species as a signature of coexistence under competition]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c50c454d5eed0c4845e8551

Patterns of trait distribution among competing species can potentially reveal the processes that allow them to coexist. It has been recently proposed that competition may drive the spontaneous emergence of niches comprising clusters of similar species, in contrast with the dominant paradigm of greater-than-chance species differences. However, current clustering theory relies largely on heuristic rather than mechanistic models. Furthermore, studies of models incorporating demographic stochasticity and immigration, two key players in community assembly, did not observe clusters. Here we demonstrate clustering under partitioning of resources, partitioning of environmental gradients, and a competition-colonization tradeoff. We show that clusters are robust to demographic stochasticity, and can persist under immigration. While immigration may sustain clusters that are otherwise transient, too much dilutes the pattern. In order to detect and quantify clusters in nature, we introduce and validate metrics which have no free parameters nor require arbitrary trait binning, and weigh species by their abundances rather than relying on a presence-absence count. By generalizing beyond the circumstances where clusters have been observed, our study contributes to establishing them as an update to classical trait patterning theory.

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<![CDATA[Sensitivity of multispecies maximum sustainable yields to trends in the top (marine mammals) and bottom (primary production) compartments of the southern North Sea food-web]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c58d64ed5eed0c484031b3c

In marine ecosystems, maximum sustainable yield considerations are affected by any substantial changes that occur in the top and bottom compartments of the food-web. This study explores how the southern North Sea’s fisheries may need to adjust their fishing efforts to maintain optimum yields of sole, plaice, cod and brown shrimps under increased marine mammal populations and a reduced primary productivity. We constructed plausible scenarios of ongoing food-web changes using the results of Bayesian age-structured population models to estimate carrying capacities of harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus). Losses in primary productivity were predicted by lower trophic level ecosystem models. These scenarios were implemented in a food-web model of the southern North Sea. For each scenario, we sought mixed-fleet fishing efforts that would deliver maximum yields of sole, plaice, cod and brown shrimp combined. We also did so for a baseline run with unaltered mammal and primary production, and compared the differences in optimal fishing strategies, predicted yields, and states of the stocks between the scenarios. We found stocks and yields to be far more sensitive to changes in primary productivity than to increased marine mammal predation. The latter predominantly impacted cod, and even benefitted brown shrimps compared to the baseline run. Under 30% reduced primary productivity, fishing efforts had to be reduced by 50% to still provide maximum yields, whereas the marine mammal scenario induced no need to adjust the fishing regime. This draws attention to the potential gains of incorporating bottom-up processes into long-term management considerations, while marine mammal predation may be less of a concern, in particular for flatfish fisheries in the North Sea, and may even benefit shrimp trawlers because of reduced predation on shrimp from fish predators.

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