ResearchPad - deserts https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Behavioral differences at scent stations between two exploited species of desert canids]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_14757 Coyotes (Canis latrans) and kit foxes (Vulpes macrotis) are desert canids that share ecological similarities, but have disparate histories with anthropogenic pressure that may influence their responses towards novel stimuli. We used remote cameras to investigate response to novel stimuli for these two species. We predicted that coyotes (heavily pressured species) would be more wary towards novel stimuli on unprotected land (canid harvest activities are permitted) than in protected areas (canid harvest activities are not permitted), whereas kit foxes (less pressured species) would exhibit no difference. We examined differences in the investigative behaviors at 660 scent stations in both protected and unprotected areas. Coyotes showed no differences between protected and unprotected land and were generally more wary than kit foxes, supporting our prediction. Kit foxes were more investigative on protected land, contrary to our expectations. Our study provides evidence that anthropogenic pressure can alter the behaviors of wildlife species.

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<![CDATA[Sap flow of Salix psammophila and its principal influencing factors at different slope positions in the Mu Us desert]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N9e08a49c-6957-422b-bc2c-73a7e35a95db

The changes in sap flow of Salix psammophila growing on a gentle slope (lower slope, P1), a middle slope (P2), and an upper slope (P3), and the response of sap flow to meteorological factors at the different slope positions were studied using the continuous and synchronized observations, the instrument were wrapped stem flowmeter EMS 62 sap-flow heat-balance-based system and the LSI-LASTEM automatic weather station. The results revealed that the soil moisture content was the highest and the growth conditions of Salix psammophila were the best at P1, followed by P2. At P3, however, although good apical dominance was observed, the proportion of dead branches was the highest. Furthermore, the daily variation patterns of sap flow on the three slopes presented as multi-peak bell-shaped curves. The daily accumulation changes in sap flow showed a trend of P1 > P3 > P2, and within the same diameter range, the sap flow at P1 was significantly different from that at P2 and P3, whereas the sap flow at P2 and P3 did not vary significantly. All the three slopes showed a significant and positive correlation with photosynthetically active radiation, atmospheric temperature, and vapor pressure difference, and a significant and negative correlation with relative humidity; however, the degrees of correlation varied slightly. The stepwise regression analysis showed that, at different slopes, different variables were selected for different branch diameters, but photosynthetically active radiation and atmospheric temperature played dominant roles on all slopes. This study reveals the sap flow pattern of Salix psammophila on different slopes and its response mechanism to meteorological factors, which was essential for understanding the restoration ability, physiological adaptability, and ecosystem stability of Salix psammophila communities.

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<![CDATA[Genetic and phenotypic diversity in 2000 years old maize (Zea mays L.) samples from the Tarapacá region, Atacama Desert, Chile]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c5b52eed5eed0c4842bd2a7

The evolution of maize (Zea mays L.) is highly controversial given the discrepancies related to the phenotypic and genetic changes suffered by the species, the incidence of human groups and the times in which these changes occurred. Also, morphological and genetic traits of crops are difficult to evaluate in the absence of fossils macro-botanical remains. In contrast in the Tarapacá region (18–21° S), Atacama Desert of Chile, prehispanic settlements (ca. 2500–400 yr BP) displayed extensive maize agriculture. The presence of archaeological macro-botanical remains of maize provided a unique opportunity to study the evolution of this crop, covering a temporal sequence of at least 2000 years. Thus, in this study, we ask how the morphological and genetic diversity of maize has varied since its introduction during prehispanic times in the Tarapacá region. To answer this, we measured and compared morphological traits of size and shape between archaeological cobs and kernels and 95 ears from landraces. To established genetic diversity eight microsatellite markers (SSR) were analyzed in archaeological and modern kernels. Genetic diversity was estimated by allelic frequency rates, the average number of alleles per locus, observed heterozygosity (Ho) and expected heterozygosity (He). Differences between populations and genetic structure were estimated by fixation index FST and STRUCTURE analysis. Our results indicate significant phenotypic differences and genetic distance between archaeological maize and landraces. This result is suggestive of an introduction of new varieties or drastic selective changes in modern times in Tarapacá. Additionally, archaeological maize shows a low genetic diversity and a progressive increase in the size of ears and kernels. These results suggest a human selection during prehispanic times and establish that prehispanic farmers played an important role in maize development. They also provide new clues for understanding the evolutionary history of maize in hyperarid conditions.

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<![CDATA[Waterhole detection using a vegetation index in desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis cremnobates) habitat]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c50c445d5eed0c4845e8402

In arid ecosystems, desert bighorn sheep are dependent on natural waterholes, particularly in summer when forage is scarce and environmental temperatures are high. To detect waterholes in Sierra Santa Isabel, which is the largest area of desert bighorn sheep habitat in the state of Baja California, Mexico, we used the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and normalized difference water index (NDWI) from Sentinel-2 satellite images. Waterhole detection was based on the premise that sites with greater water availability, where NDVI was higher, can be identified by their density of vegetation greenness. For the detected waterholes, we estimated the escape terrain (presence of cliffs or steep, rocky slopes) around each by the vector ruggedness measure to determine their potential use by desert bighorn sheep based on the animals’ presence as documented by camera traps. We detected 14 waterholes with the NDVI of which 11 were known by land owners and 3 were unrecorded. Desert bighorn were not detected in waterholes with high values of escape terrain, i.e., flat areas. Waterhole detection by NDVI is a simple method, and with the assistance and knowledge of the inhabitants of the Sierra, it was possible to confirm the presence each waterhole in the field.

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<![CDATA[Regulation of harvester ant foraging as a closed-loop excitable system]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c102880d5eed0c484247563

Ant colonies regulate activity in response to changing conditions without using centralized control. Desert harvester ant colonies forage for seeds, and regulate foraging to manage a tradeoff between spending and obtaining water. Foragers lose water while outside in the dry air, but ants obtain water by metabolizing the fats in the seeds they eat. Previous work shows that the rate at which an outgoing forager leaves the nest depends on its recent rate of brief antennal contacts with incoming foragers carrying food. We examine how this process can yield foraging rates that are robust to uncertainty and responsive to temperature and humidity across minute-to-hour timescales. To explore possible mechanisms, we develop a low-dimensional analytical model with a small number of parameters that captures observed foraging behavior. The model uses excitability dynamics to represent response to interactions inside the nest and a random delay distribution to represent foraging time outside the nest. We show how feedback from outgoing foragers returning to the nest stabilizes the incoming and outgoing foraging rates to a common value determined by the volatility of available foragers. The model exhibits a critical volatility above which there is sustained foraging at a constant rate and below which foraging stops. To explain how foraging rates adjust to temperature and humidity, we propose that foragers modify their volatility after they leave the nest and become exposed to the environment. Our study highlights the importance of feedback in the regulation of foraging activity and shows how modulation of volatility can explain how foraging activity responds to conditions and varies across colonies. Our model elucidates the role of feedback across many timescales in collective behavior, and may be generalized to other systems driven by excitable dynamics, such as neuronal networks.

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<![CDATA[Desert plant bacteria reveal host influence and beneficial plant growth properties]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c1ab861d5eed0c484027d00

Deserts, such as those found in Saudi Arabia, are one of the most hostile places for plant growth. However, desert plants are able to impact their surrounding microbial community and select beneficial microbes that promote their growth under these extreme conditions. In this study, we examined the soil, rhizosphere and endosphere bacterial communities of four native desert plants Tribulus terrestris, Zygophyllum simplex, Panicum turgidum and Euphorbia granulata from the Southwest (Jizan region), two of which were also found in the Midwest (Al Wahbah area) of Saudi Arabia. While the rhizosphere bacterial community mostly resembled that of the highly different surrounding soils, the endosphere composition was strongly correlated with its host plant phylogeny. In order to assess whether any of the native bacterial endophytes might have a role in plant growth under extreme conditions, we analyzed the properties of 116 cultured bacterial isolates that represent members of the phyla Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria and Firmicutes. Our analysis shows that different strains have highly different biochemical properties with respect to nutrient acquisition, hormone production and growth under stress conditions. More importantly, eleven of the isolated strains could confer salinity stress tolerance to the experimental model plant Arabidopsis thaliana suggesting some of these plant-associated bacteria might be useful for improving crop desert agriculture.

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<![CDATA[Impact of solar and wind development on conservation values in the Mojave Desert]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c1ab81ed5eed0c484026c7e

In 2010, The Nature Conservancy completed the Mojave Desert Ecoregional Assessment, which characterizes conservation values across nearly 130,000 km2 of the desert Southwest. Since this assessment was completed, several renewable energy facilities have been built in the Mojave Desert, thereby changing the conservation value of these lands. We have completed a new analysis of land use to reassess the conservation value of lands in two locations in the Mojave Desert where renewable energy development has been most intense: Ivanpah Valley, and the Western Mojave. We found that 99 of our 2.59-km2 planning units were impacted by development such that they would now be categorized as having lower conservation value, and most of these downgrades in conservation value were due to solar and wind development. Solar development alone was responsible for a direct development footprint 86.79 km2: 25.81 km2 of this was primarily high conservation value Bureau of Land Management lands in the Ivanpah Valley, and 60.99 km2 was privately owned lands, mostly of lower conservation value, in the Western Mojave. Our analyses allow us to understand patterns in renewable energy development in the mostly rapidly changing regions of the Mojave Desert. Our analyses also provide a baseline that will allow us to assess the effectiveness of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan in preventing development on lands of high conservation value over the coming decades.

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<![CDATA[An Analysis of Precipitation Isotope Distributions across Namibia Using Historical Data]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989d9feab0ee8fa60b72f0b

Global precipitation isoscapes based on the Global Network for Isotopes in Precipitation (GNIP) network are an important toolset that aid our understanding of global hydrologic cycles. Although the GNIP database is instrumental in developing global isoscapes, data coverage in some regions of hydrological interest (e.g., drylands) is low or non-existent thus the accuracy and relevance of global isoscapes to these regions is debatable. Capitalizing on existing literature isotope data, we generated rainfall isoscapes for Namibia (dryland) using the cokriging method and compared it to a globally fitted isoscape (GFI) downscaled to country level. Results showed weak correlation between observed and predicted isotope values in the GFI model (r2 < 0.20) while the cokriging isoscape showed stronger correlation (r2 = 0.67). The general trend of the local cokriging isoscape is consistent with synoptic weather systems (i.e., influences from Atlantic Ocean maritime vapour, Indian Ocean maritime vapour, Zaire Air Boundary, the Intertropical Convergence Zone and Tropical Temperate Troughs) and topography affecting the region. However, because we used the unweighted approach in this method, due to data scarcity, the absolute values could be improved in future studies. A comparison of local meteoric water lines (LMWL) constructed from the cokriging and GFI suggested that the GFI model still reflects the global average even when downscaled. The cokriging LMWL was however more consistent with expectations for an arid environment. The results indicate that although not ideal, for data deficient regions such as many drylands, the unweighted cokriging approach using historical local data can be an alternative approach to modelling rainfall isoscapes that are more relevant to the local conditions compared to using downscaled global isoscapes.

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<![CDATA[The (Non)Effects of Lethal Population Control on the Diet of Australian Dingoes]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da7eab0ee8fa60b99a08

Top-predators contribute to ecosystem resilience, yet individuals or populations are often subject to lethal control to protect livestock, managed game or humans from predation. Such management actions sometimes attract concern that lethal control might affect top-predator function in ways ultimately detrimental to biodiversity conservation. The primary function of a predator is predation, which is often investigated by assessing their diet. We therefore use data on prey remains found in 4,298 Australian dingo scats systematically collected from three arid sites over a four year period to experimentally assess the effects of repeated broad-scale poison-baiting programs on dingo diet. Indices of dingo dietary diversity and similarity were either identical or near-identical in baited and adjacent unbaited treatment areas in each case, demonstrating no control-induced change to dingo diets. Associated studies on dingoes' movement behaviour and interactions with sympatric mesopredators were similarly unaffected by poison-baiting. These results indicate that mid-sized top-predators with flexible and generalist diets (such as dingoes) may be resilient to ongoing and moderate levels of population control without substantial alteration of their diets and other related aspects of their ecological function.

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<![CDATA[Genome-Scale Transcriptome Analysis of the Desert Shrub Artemisia sphaerocephala]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989d9f0ab0ee8fa60b6e2a2

Background

Artemisia sphaerocephala, a semi-shrub belonging to the Artemisia genus of the Compositae family, is an important pioneer plant that inhabits moving and semi-stable sand dunes in the deserts and steppes of northwest and north-central China. It is very resilient in extreme environments. Additionally, its seeds have excellent nutritional value, and the abundant lipids and polysaccharides in the seeds make this plant a potential valuable source of bio-energy. However, partly due to the scarcity of genetic information, the genetic mechanisms controlling the traits and environmental adaptation capacity of A. sphaerocephala are unknown.

Results

Here, we present the first in-depth transcriptomic analysis of A. sphaerocephala. To maximize the representation of conditional transcripts, mRNA was obtained from 17 samples, including living tissues of desert-growing A. sphaerocephala, seeds germinated in the laboratory, and calli subjected to no stress (control) and high and low temperature, high and low osmotic, and salt stresses. De novo transcriptome assembly performed using an Illumina HiSeq 2500 platform resulted in the generation of 68,373 unigenes. We analyzed the key genes involved in the unsaturated fatty acid synthesis pathway and identified 26 A. sphaerocephala fad2 genes, which is the largest fad2 gene family reported to date. Furthermore, a set of genes responsible for resistance to extreme temperatures, salt, drought and a combination of stresses was identified.

Conclusion

The present work provides abundant genomic information for functional dissection of the important traits of A. sphaerocephala and contributes to the current understanding of molecular adaptive mechanisms of A. sphaerocephala in the desert environment. Identification of the key genes in the unsaturated fatty acid synthesis pathway could increase understanding of the biological regulatory mechanisms of fatty acid composition traits in plants and facilitate genetic manipulation of the fatty acid composition of oil crops.

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<![CDATA[Interactive Effects of Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs and Cattle on Shrub Encroachment in a Desert Grassland Ecosystem]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da3eab0ee8fa60b88d8f

The widespread encroachment of woody plants throughout the semi-arid grasslands in North America has largely resulted from overgrazing by domestic livestock, fire suppression, and loss of native large and small mammalian herbivores. Burrowing-herbivorous mammals, such as prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.), help control shrub encroachment through clipping of shrubs and consumption of their seedlings, but little is known about how this important ecological role interacts with and may be influenced by co-existing large herbivores, especially domestic livestock. Here, we established a long-term manipulative experiment using a 2 × 2 factorial design to assess the independent and interactive effects of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) and cattle (Bos taurus) on honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) abundance and structure. We found that, after five years, mesquite abundance was three to five times greater in plots where prairie dogs were removed compared to plots where they occurred together or alone, respectively. While both prairie dogs and cattle reduced mesquite cover, the effect of prairie dogs on reducing mesquite abundance, cover, and height was significantly greater than that by cattle. Surprisingly, cattle grazing enhanced prairie dog abundance, which, in turn, magnified the effects of prairie dogs on mesquite shrubs. Mesquite canopy cover per hectare was three to five times greater where prairie dogs and cattle were absent compared to where they occurred together or by themselves; whereas, cumulative mesquite height was two times lower on sites where prairie dog and cattle occurred together compared to where they occurred alone or where neither occurred. Data from our experimental study demonstrate that prairie dogs and moderate grazing by cattle can suppress mesquite growth, and, when their populations are properly managed, they may interact synergistically to significantly limit mesquite encroachment in desert grasslands.

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<![CDATA[Pathogenic variants screening in seventeen candidate genes on 2p15 for association with ankylosing spondylitis in a Han Chinese population]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db5aab0ee8fa60bdf71d

Objectives

Previous studies have found the association between rs10865331 in 2p15 area and ankylosing spondylitis (AS). This study aimed to identify additional functional genetic variants in 2p15 region associated with AS susceptibility.

Methods

We used next generation sequencing (NGS) in 100 AS cases and 100 healthy controls to screen AS susceptible genetic variants, and validated these variants in 620 cases and 620 controls by using imLDRTM technique for single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping.

Results

Totally, we identified 12 SNPs that might confer susceptibility to AS. Of those SNPs, three (rs14170, rs2123111 and rs1729674) were nominally associated (P<0.05) with AS, but were no longer statistically significant after Bonferroni correction. After stratified by gender, another two SNPs (rs11428092 and rs10208769 in USP34) were associated with AS in males but not females, though this was not statistically significant after Bonferroni correction. In addition, rs1729674, rs14170, rs2123111 and rs10208769 were in strong linkage disequilibrium (LD) and were further enrolled in haplotype analysis. A novel haplotype TAGA was found to be associated with a decreased risk of AS (odds ratio (OR) (95% confidence interval (CI)) = 0.832 (0.705–0.982)). Beyond that, we also demonstrated a strong relationship between rs10865331 and AS susceptibility (OR (95% CI) = 1.303(1.111–1.526)).

Conclusions

rs14170 and rs2123111 inUSP34 and rs1729674 in C2orf74 may be associated with AS susceptibility in Han Chinese population. USP34 and C2orf74 in 2p15 region may be AS novel susceptibility genes.

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<![CDATA[A Novel Method for Verifying War Mortality while Estimating Iraqi Deaths for the Iran-Iraq War through Operation Desert Storm (1980-1993)]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989d9f5ab0ee8fa60b6fd25

Objectives

We estimated war-related Iraqi mortality for the period 1980 through 1993.

Method

To test our hypothesis that deaths reported by siblings (even dating back several decades) would correspond with war events, we compared sibling mortality reports with the frequency of independent news reports about violent historic events. We used data from a survey of 4,287 adults in 2000 Iraqi households conducted in 2011. Interviewees reported on the status of their 24,759 siblings. Death rates were applied to population estimates, 1980 to 1993. News report data came from the ProQuest New York Times database.

Results

About half of sibling-reported deaths across the study period were attributed to direct war-related injuries. The Iran-Iraq war led to nearly 200,000 adult deaths, and the 1990–1991 First Gulf War generated another approximately 40,000 deaths. Deaths during peace intervals before and after each war were significantly lower. We found a relationship between total sibling-reported deaths and the tally of war events across the period, p = 0.02.

Conclusions

We report a novel method to verify the reliability of epidemiological (household survey) estimates of direct war-related injury mortality dating back several decades.

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<![CDATA[Is the Taklimakan Desert Highway Shelterbelt Sustainable to Long-Term Drip Irrigation with High Saline Groundwater?]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da1eab0ee8fa60b7e052

Freshwater resources are scarce in desert regions. Highly saline groundwater of different salinity is being used to drip irrigate the Taklimakan Desert Highway Shelterbelt with a double-branch-pipe system controlling the irrigation cycles. In this study, to evaluate the dynamics of soil moisture and salinity under the current irrigation system, soil samples were collected to a 2-m depth in the shelterbelt planted for different years and irrigated with different groundwater salinities, and soil moisture and salinity were analyzed. The results showed that both depletion of soil moisture and increase of topsoil salinity occurred simultaneously during one irrigation cycle. Soil moisture decreased from 27.4% to 2.4% for a 15-day irrigation cycle and from 26.4% to 2.7% for a 10-day-cycle, respectively. Topsoil electrical conductivity (EC) increased from 0.64 to 3.32 dS/m and 0.70 to 3.99 dS/m for these two irrigation cycles. With increased shelterbelt age, profiled average soil moisture (0–200 cm) reduced from 12.8% (1-year) to 7.1% (10-year); however, soil moisture in 0–20-cm increased, while topsoil salinity decreased. In addition, irrigation salinity mainly affected soil salinity in the 0–20-cm range. We conclude that water supply with the double-branch-pipe is a feasible irrigation method for the Taklimakan Desert Highway Shelterbelt, and our findings provide a model for shelterbelt construction and sustainable management when using highly saline water for irrigation in analogous habitats.

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<![CDATA[Revealing Invisible Water: Moisture Recycling as an Ecosystem Service]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989dae7ab0ee8fa60bbdf9e

An ecosystem service is a benefit derived by humanity that can be traced back to an ecological process. Although ecosystem services related to surface water have been thoroughly described, the relationship between atmospheric water and ecosystem services has been mostly neglected, and perhaps misunderstood. Recent advances in land-atmosphere modeling have revealed the importance of terrestrial ecosystems for moisture recycling. In this paper, we analyze the extent to which vegetation sustains the supply of atmospheric moisture and precipitation for downwind beneficiaries, globally. We simulate land-surface evaporation with a global hydrology model and track changes to moisture recycling using an atmospheric moisture budget model, and we define vegetation-regulated moisture recycling as the difference in moisture recycling between current vegetation and a hypothetical desert world. Our results show that nearly a fifth of annual average precipitation falling on land is from vegetation-regulated moisture recycling, but the global variability is large, with many places receiving nearly half their precipitation from this ecosystem service. The largest potential impacts for changes to this ecosystem service are land-use changes across temperate regions in North America and Russia. Likewise, in semi-arid regions reliant on rainfed agricultural production, land-use change that even modestly reduces evaporation and subsequent precipitation, could significantly affect human well-being. We also present a regional case study in the Mato Grosso region of Brazil, where we identify the specific moisture recycling ecosystem services associated with the vegetation in Mato Grosso. We find that Mato Grosso vegetation regulates some internal precipitation, with a diffuse region of benefit downwind, primarily to the south and east, including the La Plata River basin and the megacities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. We synthesize our global and regional results into a generalized framework for describing moisture recycling as an ecosystem service. We conclude that future work ought to disentangle whether and how this vegetation-regulated moisture recycling interacts with other ecosystem services, so that trade-offs can be assessed in a comprehensive and sustainable manner.

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<![CDATA[Differential Responses of Dinitrogen Fixation, Diazotrophic Cyanobacteria and Ammonia Oxidation Reveal a Potential Warming-Induced Imbalance of the N-Cycle in Biological Soil Crusts]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db43ab0ee8fa60bd7938

N2 fixation and ammonia oxidation (AO) are the two most important processes in the nitrogen (N) cycle of biological soil crusts (BSCs). We studied the short-term response of acetylene reduction assay (ARA) rates, an indicator of potential N2 fixation, and AO rates to temperature (T, -5°C to 35°C) in BSC of different successional stages along the BSC ecological succession and geographic origin (hot Chihuahuan and cooler Great Basin deserts). ARA in all BSCs increased with T until saturation occurred between 15 and 20°C, and declined at 30–35°C. Culture studies using cyanobacteria isolated from these crusts indicated that the saturating effect was traceable to their inability to grow well diazotrophically within the high temperature range. Below saturation, temperature response was exponential, with Q10 significantly different in the two areas (~ 5 for Great Basin BSCs; 2–3 for Chihuahuan BSCs), but similar between the two successional stages. However, in contrast to ARA, AO showed a steady increase to 30–35°C in Great Basin, and Chihuhuan BSCs showed no inhibition at any tested temperature. The T response of AO also differed significantly between Great Basin (Q10 of 4.5–4.8) and Chihuahuan (Q10 of 2.4–2.6) BSCs, but not between successional stages. Response of ARA rates to T did not differ from that of AO in either desert. Thus, while both processes scaled to T in unison until 20°C, they separated to an increasing degree at higher temperature. As future warming is likely to occur in the regions where BSCs are often the dominant living cover, this predicted decoupling is expected to result in higher proportion of nitrates in soil relative to ammonium. As nitrate is more easily lost as leachate or to be reduced to gaseous forms, this could mean a depletion of soil N over large landscapes globally.

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<![CDATA[Niche-Partitioning of Edaphic Microbial Communities in the Namib Desert Gravel Plain Fairy Circles]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989d9ebab0ee8fa60b6c724

Endemic to the Namib Desert, Fairy Circles (FCs) are vegetation-free circular patterns surrounded and delineated by grass species. Since first reported the 1970's, many theories have been proposed to explain their appearance, but none provide a fully satisfactory explanation of their origin(s) and/or causative agent(s). In this study, we have evaluated an early hypothesis stating that edaphic microorganisms could be involved in their formation and/or maintenance. Surface soils (0–5cm) from three different zones (FC center, FC margin and external, grass-covered soils) of five independent FCs were collected in April 2013 in the Namib Desert gravel plains. T-RFLP fingerprinting of the bacterial (16S rRNA gene) and fungal (ITS region) communities, in parallel with two-way crossed ANOSIM, showed that FC communities were significantly different to those of external control vegetated soil and that each FC was also characterized by significantly different communities. Intra-FC communities (margin and centre) presented higher variability than the controls. Together, these results provide clear evidence that edaphic microorganisms are involved in the Namib Desert FC phenomenon. However, we are, as yet, unable to confirm whether bacteria and/or fungi communities are responsible for the appearance and development of FCs or are a general consequence of the presence of the grass-free circles.

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<![CDATA[Congruent biogeographical disjunctions at a continent-wide scale: Quantifying and clarifying the role of biogeographic barriers in the Australian tropics]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db53ab0ee8fa60bdcc68

Aim

To test whether novel and previously hypothesized biogeogaphic barriers in the Australian Tropics represent significant disjunction points or hard barriers, or both, to the distribution of plants.

Location

Australian tropics: Australian Monsoon Tropics and Australian Wet Tropics.

Methods

The presence or absence of 6,861 plant species was scored across 13 putative biogeographic barriers in the Australian Tropics, including two that have not previously been recognised. Randomizations of these data were used to test whether more species showed disjunctions (gaps in distribution) or likely barriers (range limits) at these points than expected by chance.

Results

Two novel disjunctions in the Australian Tropics flora are identified in addition to eleven putative barriers previously recognized for animals. Of these, eleven disjunction points (all within the Australian Monsoon Tropics) were found to correspond to range-ending barriers to a significant number of species, while neither of the two disjunctions found within the Australian Wet Tropics limited a significant number of species’ ranges.

Main conclusions

Biogeographic barriers present significant distributional limits to native plant species in the Australian Monsoon Tropics but not in the Australian Wet Tropics.

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<![CDATA[Diversity, Distribution and Hydrocarbon Biodegradation Capabilities of Microbial Communities in Oil-Contaminated Cyanobacterial Mats from a Constructed Wetland]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da30ab0ee8fa60b84570

Various types of cyanobacterial mats were predominant in a wetland, constructed for the remediation of oil-polluted residual waters from an oil field in the desert of the south-eastern Arabian Peninsula, although such mats were rarely found in other wetland systems. There is scarce information on the bacterial diversity, spatial distribution and oil-biodegradation capabilities of freshwater wetland oil-polluted mats. Microbial community analysis by Automated Ribosomal Spacer Analysis (ARISA) showed that the different mats hosted distinct microbial communities. Average numbers of operational taxonomic units (OTUsARISA) were relatively lower in the mats with higher oil levels and the number of shared OTUsARISA between the mats was <60% in most cases. Multivariate analyses of fingerprinting profiles indicated that the bacterial communities in the wetland mats were influenced by oil and ammonia levels, but to a lesser extent by plant density. In addition to oil and ammonia, redundancy analysis (RDA) showed also a significant contribution of temperature, dissolved oxygen and sulfate concentration to the variations of the mats’ microbial communities. Pyrosequencing yielded 282,706 reads with >90% of the sequences affiliated to Proteobacteria (41% of total sequences), Cyanobacteria (31%), Bacteriodetes (11.5%), Planctomycetes (7%) and Chloroflexi (3%). Known autotrophic (e.g. Rivularia) and heterotrophic (e.g. Azospira) nitrogen-fixing bacteria as well as purple sulfur and non-sulfur bacteria were frequently encountered in all mats. On the other hand, sequences of known sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRBs) were rarely found, indicating that SRBs in the wetland mats probably belong to yet-undescribed novel species. The wetland mats were able to degrade 53–100% of C12–C30 alkanes after 6 weeks of incubation under aerobic conditions. We conclude that oil and ammonia concentrations are the major key players in determining the spatial distribution of the wetland mats’ microbial communities and that these mats contribute directly to the removal of hydrocarbons from oil field wastewaters.

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<![CDATA[Addressing Potential Cumulative Impacts of Development on Threatened Species: The Case of the Endangered Black-Throated Finch]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da7bab0ee8fa60b98691

Where threatened biodiversity is adversely affected by development, policies often state that "no net loss" should be the goal and biodiversity offsetting is one mechanism available to achieve this. However, developments are often approved on an ad hoc basis and cumulative impacts are not sufficiently examined. We demonstrate the potential for serious threat to an endangered subspecies when multiple developments are planned. We modelled the distribution of the black-throated finch (Poephila cincta cincta) using bioclimatic data and Queensland's Regional Ecosystem classification. We overlaid granted, extant extractive and exploratory mining tenures within the known and modelled ranges of black-throated finches to examine the level of incipient threat to this subspecies in central Queensland, Australia. Our models indicate that more than half of the remaining P. cincta cincta habitat is currently under extractive or exploratory tenure. Therefore, insufficient habitat exists to offset all potential development so "no net loss" is not possible. This has implications for future conservation of this and similarly distributed species and for resource development planning, especially the use of legislated offsets for biodiversity protection.

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