ResearchPad - freshwater-environments Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Investigating barriers and challenges to the integrated management of neglected tropical skin diseases in an endemic setting in Nigeria]]> Community perceptions of causation of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) of the skin may play an important role in access to or utilization of health services. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended empowerment of populations affected by or at risk of NTDs in control interventions. Furthermore, the WHO recommends that social mobilisation needs to be maintained in order to create demand for integrated management of skin NTDs and to address specific community aspects and concerns related to the diseases. There are no studies on community knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) on skin NTDs co-occurring in the same community in Nigeria. We surveyed community members and health workers and also held group discussions with community members, health workers and individuals with lymphatic filariasis and Buruli ulcer in order to assess their understanding of the causes, treatment and effects of the skin NTDs (leprosy, Buruli ulcer and lymphatic filariasis) which were all occurring in the study communities. There was a shared understanding that these NTDs were caused by germ/infection or through witchcraft/curse/poison. Also, a substantial proportion of the community believed that these conditions are not amenable to treatment. The focus group discussions reinforced these findings.

<![CDATA[Sustainability management of short-lived freshwater fish in human-altered ecosystems should focus on adult survival]]> Fish populations globally are susceptible to endangerment through exploitation and habitat loss. We present theoretical simulations to explore how reduced adult survival (age truncation) might affect short-lived freshwater fish species in human-altered contemporary environments. Our simulations evaluate two hypothetical "average fish" and five example fish species of age 1 or age 2 maturity. From a population equilibrium baseline representing a natural, unaltered environment we impose systematic reductions in adult survival and quantify how age truncation affects the causes of variation in population growth rate. We estimate the relative contributions to population growth rate arising from simulated temporal variation in age-specific vital rates and population structure. At equilibrium and irrespective of example species, population structure (first adult age class) and survival probability of the first two adult age classes are the most important determinants of population growth. As adult survival decreases, the first reproductive age class becomes increasingly important to variation in population growth. All simulated examples show the same general pattern of change with age truncation as known for exploited, longer-lived fish species in marine and freshwater environments. This implies age truncation is a general potential concern for fish biodiversity across life history strategies and ecosystems. Managers of short-lived, freshwater fishes in contemporary environments often focus on supporting reproduction to ensure population persistence. However, a strong focus on water management to support reproduction may reduce adult survival. Sustainability management needs a focus on mitigating adult mortality in human-altered ecosystems. A watershed spatial extent embracing land and water uses may be necessary to identify and mitigate causes of age truncation in freshwater species. Achieving higher adult survival will require paradigm transformations in society and government about water management priorities.

<![CDATA[Effects of sea-level rise on physiological ecology of populations of a ground-dwelling ant]]>


Sea-level rise is a consequence of climate change that can impact the ecological and physiological changes of coastal, ground-dwelling species. Sea-level rise has a potential to inundate birds, rodents, spiders, and insects that live on the ground in coastal areas. Yet, there is still much to be learned concerning the specifics of these impacts. The red imported fire ant Solenopsis invicta (Buren) excavates soil for its home and is capable of surviving flooding. Because of their ground-dwelling life history and rapid reproduction, fire ants make an ideal model for discovery and prediction of changes that may be due to sea-level rise. There are up to 500,000 individuals in a colony, and these invasive ants naturally have a painful sting. However, observations suggest that colonies of fire ants that dwell in tidally-influenced areas are more aggressive with more frequent stings and more venom injected per sting (behavioral and physiological changes) than those located inland. This may be an adaption to sea-level rise. Therefore, the objective of this study is to elucidate differences in inland and coastal defensiveness via micro-dissection and comparison of head width, head length, stinger length, and venom sac volume. But first because fire ants’ ability to raft on brackish tidal water is unknown, it had to be determined if fire ants could indeed raft in brackish water and examine the behavior differences between those flooded with freshwater vs. saltwater.


To test the coastal-aggression hypothesis, inland colonies and coastal colonies, which experience relatively greater amounts of flooding, specifically regular tidal and windblown water and oscillations (i.e. El Nińo Southern Oscillation) from the Gulf of Mexico, were collected. To mimic sea-level rise, the colonies were flooded in salinities that correspond to both their collection site and conditions found in a variety of locales and situations (such as storm surge from a tropical storm). Individual ants were immediately taken from each colony for dissection before flooding, 1-hour into flooding, and 24-hours into flooding.

Results and discussion

Fire ants use their venom to defend themselves and to communicate alarm or aggression. Dissections and measurement of heads, venom sacs, and stingers revealed both coastal and inland colonies experience an increase in venom sac volume after 24 hours; in fact coastal colonies increased their venom volume by 75% after 24 h of flooding Whether this venom sac enlargement is due to diffusion of water or venom sac production is unknown. These ground-dwelling ants exhibit physiological and behavioral adaptations to ongoing sea-level rise possibly indicating that they are responding to increased flooding. Fire ants will raft on high-salinity water; and sea-level rise may cause stings by flooded ants to be more severe because of increased venom volume.

<![CDATA[Land use change affects water erosion in the Nepal Himalayas]]>

Soil erosion is a global environmental threat, and Land Use Land Cover Changes (LUCC) have significant impacts on it. Nepal, being a mountainous country, has significant soil erosion issues. To examine the effects of LUCC on water erosion, we studied the LUCC in Sarada, Rapti and Thuli Bheri river basins of Nepal during the 1995–2015 period using the Remote Sensing. We calculated the average annual soil loss using the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation and Geographical Information System. Our results suggest that an increase in the agricultural lands at the expense of bare lands and forests escalated the soil erosion through the years; rates being 5.35, 5.47 and 6.03 t/ha/year in 1995, 2007 and 2015, respectively. Of the different land uses, agricultural land experienced the most erosion, whereas the forests experienced the least erosion. Agricultural lands, particularly those on the steeper slopes, were severely degraded and needed urgent soil and water conservation measures. Our study confirms that the long term LUCC has considerable impacts on soil loss, and these results can be implemented in similar river basins in other parts of the country.

<![CDATA[Parallelism in eco-morphology and gene expression despite variable evolutionary and genomic backgrounds in a Holarctic fish]]>

Understanding the extent to which ecological divergence is repeatable is essential for predicting responses of biodiversity to environmental change. Here we test the predictability of evolution, from genotype to phenotype, by studying parallel evolution in a salmonid fish, Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus), across eleven replicate sympatric ecotype pairs (benthivorous-planktivorous and planktivorous-piscivorous) and two evolutionary lineages. We found considerable variability in eco-morphological divergence, with several traits related to foraging (eye diameter, pectoral fin length) being highly parallel even across lineages. This suggests repeated and predictable adaptation to environment. Consistent with ancestral genetic variation, hundreds of loci were associated with ecotype divergence within lineages of which eight were shared across lineages. This shared genetic variation was maintained despite variation in evolutionary histories, ranging from postglacial divergence in sympatry (ca. 10-15kya) to pre-glacial divergence (ca. 20-40kya) with postglacial secondary contact. Transcriptome-wide gene expression (44,102 genes) was highly parallel across replicates, involved biological processes characteristic of ecotype morphology and physiology, and revealed parallelism at the level of regulatory networks. This expression divergence was not only plastic but in part genetically controlled by parallel cis-eQTL. Lastly, we found that the magnitude of phenotypic divergence was largely correlated with the genetic differentiation and gene expression divergence. In contrast, the direction of phenotypic change was mostly determined by the interplay of adaptive genetic variation, gene expression, and ecosystem size. Ecosystem size further explained variation in putatively adaptive, ecotype-associated genomic patterns within and across lineages, highlighting the role of environmental variation and stochasticity in parallel evolution. Together, our findings demonstrate the parallel evolution of eco-morphology and gene expression within and across evolutionary lineages, which is controlled by the interplay of environmental stochasticity and evolutionary contingencies, largely overcoming variable evolutionary histories and genomic backgrounds.

<![CDATA[Perceived socio-economic impacts of the marbled crayfish invasion in Madagascar]]>

The negative environmental and economic impacts of many invasive species are well known. However, given the increased homogenization of global biota, and the difficulty of eradicating species once established, a balanced approach to considering the impacts of invasive species is needed. The marbled crayfish (Procambarus virginalis) is a parthenogenetic freshwater crayfish that was first observed in Madagascar around 2005 and has spread rapidly. We present the results of a socio-economic survey (n = 385) in three regions of Madagascar that vary in terms of when the marbled crayfish first arrived. Respondents generally considered marbled crayfish to have a negative impact on rice agriculture and fishing, however the animals were seen as making a positive contribution to household economy and food security. Regression modeling showed that respondents in regions with longer experience of marbled crayfish have more positive perceptions. Unsurprisingly, considering the perception that crayfish negatively impact rice agriculture, those not involved in crayfish harvesting and trading had more negative views towards the crayfish than those involved in crayfish-related activities. Food preference ranking and market surveys revealed the acceptance of marbled crayfish as a cheap source of animal protein; a clear positive in a country with widespread malnutrition. While data on biodiversity impacts of the marbled crayfish invasion in Madagascar are still completely lacking, this study provides insight into the socio-economic impacts of the dramatic spread of this unique invasive species. Biby kely tsy fantam-piaviana, mahavelona fianakaviana” (a small animal coming from who knows where which supports the needs of the family). Government worker Analamanga, Madagascar.

<![CDATA[Lake-depth related pattern of genetic and morphological diatom diversity in boreal Lake Bolshoe Toko, Eastern Siberia]]>

Large, old and heterogenous lake systems are valuable sources of biodiversity. The analysis of current spatial variability within such lakes increases our understanding of the origin and establishment of biodiversity. The environmental sensitivity and the high taxonomic richness of diatoms make them ideal organisms to investigate intra-lake variability. We investigated modern intra-lake diatom diversity in the large and old sub-arctic Lake Bolshoe Toko in Siberia. Our study uses diatom-specific metabarcoding, applying a short rbcL marker combined with next-generation sequencing and morphological identification to analyse the diatom diversity in modern sediment samples of 17 intra-lake sites. We analysed abundance-based compositional taxonomic diversity and generic phylogenetic diversity to investigate the relationship of diatom diversity changes with water depth. The two approaches show differences in taxonomic identification and alpha diversity, revealing a generally higher diversity with the genetic approach. With respect to beta diversity and ordination analyses, both approaches result in similar patterns. Water depth or related lake environmental conditions are significant factors influencing intra-lake diatom patterns, showing many significant negative correlations between alpha and beta diversity and water depth. Further, one near-shore and two lagoon lake sites characterized by low (0-10m) and medium (10-30m) water depth are unusual with unique taxonomic compositions. At deeper (>30m) water sites we identified strongest phylogenetic clustering in Aulacoseira, but generally much less in Staurosira, which supports that water depth is a strong environmental filter on the Aulacoseira communities. Our study demonstrates the utility of combining analyses of genetic and morphological as well as phylogenetic diversity to decipher compositional and generic phylogenetic patterns, which are relevant in understanding intra-lake heterogeneity as a source of biodiversity in the sub-arctic glacial Lake Bolshoe Toko.

<![CDATA[Origin of the natural variation in the storage of dietary carotenoids in freshwater amphipod crustaceans]]>

Carotenoids are diverse lipophilic natural pigments which are stored in variable amounts by animals. Given the multiple biological functions of carotenoids, such variation may have strong implications in evolutionary biology. Crustaceans such as Gammarus amphipods store large amounts of these pigments and inter-population variation occurs. While differences in parasite selective pressure have been proposed to explain this variation, the contribution of other factors such as genetic differences in the gammarid ability to assimilate and/or store pigments, and the environmental availability of carotenoids cannot be dismissed. This study investigates the relative contributions of the gammarid genotype and of the environmental availability of carotenoids in the natural variability in carotenoid storage. It further explores the link of this natural variability in carotenoid storage with major crustacean immune parameters. We addressed these aspects using the cryptic diversity in the amphipod crustacean Gammarus fossarum and a diet supplementation protocol in the laboratory. Our results suggest that natural variation in G. fossarum storage of dietary carotenoids results from both the availability of the pigments in the environment and the genetically-based ability of the gammarids to assimilate and/or store them, which is associated to levels of stimulation of cellular immune defences. While our results may support the hypothesis that carotenoids storage in this crustacean may evolve in response to parasitic pressure, a better understanding of the specific roles of this large pigment storage in the crustacean physiology is needed.

<![CDATA[Bund removal to re-establish tidal flow, remove aquatic weeds and restore coastal wetland services—North Queensland, Australia]]>

The shallow tidal and freshwater coastal wetlands adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon provide a vital nursery and feeding complex that supports the life cycles of marine and freshwater fish, important native vegetation and vital bird habitat. Urban and agricultural development threaten these wetlands, with many of the coastal wetlands becoming lost or changed due to the construction of artificial barriers (e.g. bunds, roads, culverts and floodgates). Infestation by weeds has become a major issue within many of the wetlands modified (bunded) for ponded pasture growth last century. A range of expensive chemical and mechanical control methods have been used in an attempt to restore some of these coastal wetlands, with limited success. This study describes an alternative approach to those methods, investigating the impact of tidal reinstatement after bund removal on weed infestation, associated changes in water quality, and fish biodiversity, in the Boolgooroo lagoon region of the Mungalla wetlands, East of Ingham in North Queensland. High resolution remote sensing, electrofishing and in-water logging was used to track changes over time– 1 year before and 4 years after removal of an earth bund. With tides only penetrating the wetland a few times yearly, gross changes towards a more natural system occurred within a relatively short timeframe, leading to a major reduction in infestation of olive hymenachne, water hyacinth and salvina, reappearance of native vegetation, improvements in water quality, and a tripling of fish diversity. Weed abundance and water quality does appear to oscillate however, dependent on summer rainfall, as changes in hydraulic pressure stops or allows tidal ingress (fresh/saline cycling). With an estimated 30% of coastal wetlands bunded in the Great Barrier Reef region, a passive remediation method such as reintroduction of tidal flow by removal of an earth bund or levee could provide a more cost effective and sustainable means of controlling freshwater weeds and improving coastal water quality into the future.

<![CDATA[How “simple” methodological decisions affect interpretation of population structure based on reduced representation library DNA sequencing: A case study using the lake whitefish]]>

Reduced representation (RRL) sequencing approaches (e.g., RADSeq, genotyping by sequencing) require decisions about how much to invest in genome coverage and sequencing depth, as well as choices of values for adjustable bioinformatics parameters. To empirically explore the importance of these “simple” methodological decisions, we generated two independent sequencing libraries for the same 142 individual lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) using a nextRAD RRL approach: (1) a larger number of loci at low sequencing depth based on a 9mer (library A); and (2) fewer loci at higher sequencing depth based on a 10mer (library B). The fish were selected from populations with different levels of expected genetic subdivision. Each library was analyzed using the STACKS pipeline followed by three types of population structure assessment (FST, DAPC and ADMIXTURE) with iterative increases in the stringency of sequencing depth and missing data requirements, as well as more specific a priori population maps. Library B was always able to resolve strong population differentiation in all three types of assessment regardless of the selected parameters, largely due to retention of more loci in analyses. In contrast, library A produced more variable results; increasing the minimum sequencing depth threshold (-m) resulted in a reduced number of retained loci, and therefore lost resolution at high -m values for FST and ADMIXTURE, but not DAPC. When detecting fine population differentiation, the population map influenced the number of loci and missing data, which generated artefacts in all downstream analyses tested. Similarly, when examining fine scale population subdivision, library B was robust to changing parameters but library A lost resolution depending on the parameter set. We used library B to examine actual subdivision in our study populations. All three types of analysis found complete subdivision among populations in Lake Huron, ON and Dore Lake, SK, Canada using 10,640 SNP loci. Weak population subdivision was detected in Lake Huron with fish from sites in the north-west, Search Bay, North Point and Hammond Bay, showing slight differentiation. Overall, we show that apparently simple decisions about library construction and bioinformatics parameters can have important impacts on the interpretation of population subdivision. Although potentially more costly on a per-locus basis, early investment in striking a balance between the number of loci and sequencing effort is well worth the reduced genomic coverage for population genetics studies. More conservative stringency settings on STACKS parameters lead to a final dataset that was more consistent and robust when examining both weak and strong population differentiation. Overall, we recommend that researchers approach “simple” methodological decisions with caution, especially when working on non-model species for the first time.

<![CDATA[Reproductive life-history strategies in a species-rich assemblage of Amazonian electric fishes]]>

The reproductive biology of only a small fraction of Neotropical freshwater fishes has been described, and detailed comparative studies of reproductive life-history variation in the Neotropical ichthyofauna are lacking. Here we describe interspecific variation in reproductive life history for a multi-species assemblage of the electric knifefish genus Brachyhypopomus (Hypopomidae: Gymnotiformes: Ostariophysi) from Amazonian floodplain and terra firme stream systems. During a year-round quantitative sampling program, we collected and measured key life-history traits from 3,410 individuals. Based on oocyte size distributions, and on circannual variation in gonadosomatic indices, hepatosomatic indices, and capture-per-unit-effort abundance of reproductive adults, we concluded that all species exhibit a single protracted annual breeding season during which females spawn fractionally. We found small clusters of post-larval individuals in one floodplain species and one terra firme stream species, but no signs of parental care. From analyses of body size-frequency distributions and otolith growth increments, we concluded that five species in our study area have approximately one-year (annual) semelparous life history with a single reproductive period followed by death, while two species have a two-year iteroparous life history, with breeding in both year-groups. Despite predictions from life-history theory we found no salient correlations between life history strategy (semelparity or iteroparity) and habitat occupancy (floodplain or terra firme stream). In the iteroparous species B. beebei, we documented evidence for reproductive restraint in the first breeding season relative to the second breeding season and argue that this is consistent with age-regulated terminal investment.

<![CDATA[A low-cost, autonomous mobile platform for limnological investigations, supported by high-resolution mesoscale airborne imagery]]>

Two complementary measurement systems—built upon an autonomous floating craft and a tethered balloon—for lake research and monitoring are presented. The autonomous vehicle was assembled on a catamaran for stability, and is capable of handling a variety of instrumentation for in situ and near-surface measurements. The catamaran hulls, each equipped with a small electric motor, support rigid decks for arranging equipment. An electric generator provides full autonomy for about 8 h. The modular power supply and instrumentation data management systems are housed in two boxes, which enable rapid setup. Due to legal restrictions in Switzerland (where the craft is routinely used), the platform must be observed from an accompanying boat while in operation. Nevertheless, the control system permits fully autonomous operation, with motion controlled by speed settings and waypoints, as well as obstacle detection. On-board instrumentation is connected to a central hub for data storage, with real-time monitoring of measurements from the accompanying boat. Measurements from the floating platform are complemented by mesoscale imaging from an instrument package attached to a He-filled balloon. The aerial package records thermal and RGB imagery, and transmits it in real-time to a ground station. The balloon can be tethered to the autonomous catamaran or to the accompanying boat. Missions can be modified according to imagery and/or catamaran measurements. Illustrative results showing the surface thermal variations of Lake Geneva demonstrate the versatility of the combined floating platform/balloon imagery system setup for limnological investigations.

<![CDATA[Short-term fish predation destroys resilience of zooplankton communities and prevents recovery of phytoplankton control by zooplankton grazing]]>

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.

<![CDATA[Sediment potentially controls in-lake phosphorus cycling and harmful cyanobacteria in shallow, eutrophic Utah Lake]]>

Lakes worldwide are impacted by eutrophication and harmful algal or cyanobacteria blooms (HABs) due to excessive nutrients, including legacy P released from sediments in shallow lakes. Utah Lake (northern Utah, USA) is a shallow lake with urban development primarily on the east side of the watershed, providing an opportunity to evaluate HABs in relation to a gradient of legacy sediment P. In this study, we investigated sediment composition and P concentrations in sediment, pore water, and the water column in relation to blooms of harmful cyanobacteria species. Sediments on the east side of the lake had P concentrations up to 1710 mg/kg, corresponding to elevated P concentrations in pore water (up to 10.8 mg/L) and overlying water column (up to 1.7 mg/L). Sediment P concentrations were positively correlated with Fe2O3, CaO, and organic matter abundance, and inversely correlated with SiO2, demonstrating the importance of sediment composition for P sorption and mineral precipitation. Although the sediment contained <3% Fe2O3 by weight, approximately half of the sediment P was associated with redox-sensitive Fe oxide/hydroxide minerals that could be released to the water column under reducing conditions. Cyanobacteria cell counts indicate that blooms of Aphanizomenon flos-aquae and Dolichospermum flosaquae species tend to occur on the east side of Utah Lake, corresponding to areas with elevated P concentrations in the sediment, pore water, and water column. Our findings suggest that shallow lake eutrophication may be a function of P in legacy sediments that contribute to observed HABs in specific locations of shallow lakes.

<![CDATA[Iron influence on dissolved color in lakes of the Upper Great Lakes States]]>

Colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM), a major component of the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) pool in many lakes, is an important controlling factor in lake ecosystem functioning. Absorption coefficients at 440 nm (a440, m-1), a common measure of CDOM, exhibited strong associations with dissolved iron (Fediss) and DOC in 280 lakes of the Upper Great Lakes States (UGLS: Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan), as has been found in Scandinavia and elsewhere. Linear regressions between the three variables on UGLS lake data typically yielded R2 values of 0.6–0.9, suggesting that some underlying common processes influence organic matter and Fediss. Statistical and experimental evidence, however, supports only a minor role for iron contributions to a440 in UGLS lakes. Although both DOC and Fediss were significant variables in linear and log-log regressions on a440, DOC was the stronger predictor; adding Fediss to the linear a440-DOC model improved the R2 only from 0.90 to 0.93. Furthermore, experimental additions of FeIII to colored lake waters had only small effects on a440 (average increase of 0.242 m-1 per 100 μg/L of added FeIII). For 136 visibly stained waters (with a440 > 3.0 m-1), where allochthonous DOM predominates, DOM accounted for 92.3 ± 5.0% of the measured a440 values, and Fediss accounted for the remainder. In 75% of the lakes, Fediss accounted for < 10% of a440, but contributions of 15–30% were observed for 7 river-influenced lakes. Contributions of Fediss in UGLS lakes to specific UV absorbance at 254 nm (SUVA254) generally were also low. Although Fediss accounted for 5–10% of measured SUVA254 in a few samples, on average, 98.1% of the SUVA254 signal was attributable to DOM and only 1.9% to Fediss. DOC predictions from measured a440 were nearly identical to those from a440 corrected to remove Fediss contributions. Overall, variations in Fediss in most UGLS lakes have very small effects on CDOM optical properties, such as a440 and SUVA254, and negligible effects on the accuracy of DOC estimated from a440, data for which can be obtained at broad regional scales by remote sensing methods.

<![CDATA[Rainfall trend and variability in Southeast Florida: Implications for freshwater availability in the Everglades]]>

Freshwater demand in Southeast Florida is predicted to increase over the next few decades. However, shifting patterns in the intensity and frequency of drought create considerable pressure on local freshwater availability. Well-established water resources management requires evaluating and understanding long-term rainfall patterns, drought intensity and cycle, and related rainfall deficit. In this study, the presence of rainfall monotonic trends was analyzed using linear regression and Mann–Kendal trend tests. Pettit's single point detection test examined the presence of an abrupt change of rainfall. Drought in Southeast Florida is assessed using the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) in 3-, 6-, 12-, and 24-months scale; and the Fast Fourier Transform is applied to evaluate the frequency of each drought intensity. There was an increase of rainfall in most of the wet season months, the total wet season, and the annual total. The wet season duration showed a decrease driven by a decrease in October rainfall. Since 1990, wet season and total annual rainfall exhibited an abrupt increase. The SPI analysis has indicated that extended wetness characterizes the contemporary rainfall regime since 1995, except for the incidence of intermittent dry spells. Short-term droughts have 3-year to 5-year recurrence intervals, and sustained droughts have a 10-year and 20-year recurrence intervals. In Southeast Florida, prolonged drought limits freshwater availability by decreasing recharge, resulting in a longer hydro-period to maintain the health of the Everglades Ecosystem, and to control saltwater intrusion. The increasing dry season duration suggests the growing importance of promoting surface water storage and demand-side management practices.

<![CDATA[Incorporating environmental costs of ecosystem service loss in political decision making: A synthesis of monetary values for Germany]]>

Germany faces on-going degradation and biodiversity loss. As a consequence, goods and services provided by biodiversity for human well-being, so-called ecosystem services, are being lost. The associated economic costs and benefits are often unknown. To fill this gap, we conducted a literature review and developed a database of monetary values for the changes in ecosystem services that result from ecosystem change in Germany. In total, 109 monetary valuation studies of regulating and cultural ecosystem services were identified, with the majority focusing on forests and wetlands. In collaboration with valuation experts and the German Federal Environment Agency—Umweltbundesamt (UBA), we defined a set of criteria that economic valuation studies should meet in order to qualify for being used in decision making on national policies. Only 6 out of 109 valuation studies (5.5%) fulfilled the quality criteria for informing such decisions. Overall, monetary information on regulating and cultural ecosystem services is scattered and scarce compared to information on provisioning services, which is accounted for in detail in national statistics. This imbalance in information likely contributes to the distortion in land-use policies, giving preference to maximizing provisioning services in agricultural production and forestry, while neglecting the societal relevance of regulating and cultural services. Decision makers have to rely on only a few cost estimates that are scientifically robust, while being pragmatic to include also vague estimates in cases where data is lacking. The transferability of the monetary values included in our database depends on the biophysical and socio-economic site conditions as well as the decision context of the intended application. Case specific adjustments following guidance for benefit transfer are recommended. Given the lack of applicable studies, we call for more decision-relevant economic assessments. Even in cases where monetary estimates are available, we suggest decision makers to consider also other benefit information available to capture the multiple values ecosystems provide to humans.

<![CDATA[Population genetic structure and geographical variation in Neotricula aperta (Gastropoda: Pomatiopsidae), the snail intermediate host of Schistosoma mekongi (Digenea: Schistosomatidae)]]>


Neotricula aperta is the snail-intermediate host of the parasitic blood-fluke Schistosoma mekongi which causes Mekong schistosomiasis in Cambodia and the Lao PDR. Despite numerous phylogenetic studies only one DNA-sequence based population-genetic study of N. aperta had been published, and the origin, structure and persistence of N. aperta were poorly understood. Consequently, a phylogenetic and population genetic study was performed, with addition of new data to pre-existing DNA-sequences for N. aperta from remote and inaccessible habitats, including one new taxon from Laos and 505 bp of additional DNA-sequence for all sampled taxa,.

Principal findings

Spatial Principal Component Analysis revealed the presence of significant spatial-genetic clustering. Genetic-distance-based clustering indicated four populations with near perfect match to a priori defined ecogeographical regions. Spring-dwelling taxa were found to form an ecological isolate relative to other N. aperta. The poor dispersal capabilities suggested by spatial-genetic analyses were confirmed by Bayesian inference of migration rates. Population divergence time estimation implied a mid-Miocene colonisation of the present range, with immediate and rapid radiation in each ecogeographical region. Estimated effective population sizes were large (120–310 thousand).


The strong spatial-genetic structure confirmed the poor dispersal capabilities of N. aperta—suggesting human-mediated reintroduction of disease to controlled areas as the primary reason for control failure. The isolation of the spring-dwelling taxa and ecogeographical structure suggests adaptation of sub-populations to different habitats; the epidemiological significance of this needs investigation. The large effective population sizes indicate that the high population densities observed in surveyed habitats are also present in inaccessible areas; affording great potential for recrudescence driven by animal-reservoir transmission in remote streams. Mid-Miocene colonisation implies heterochronous evolution of these snails and associated schistosomes and suggests against coevolution of snail and parasite. Heterochronicity favours ecological factors as shapers of host-parasite specificity and greater potential for escape from schistosomiasis control through host-switching.

<![CDATA[Unlocking a high bacterial diversity in the coralloid root microbiome from the cycad genus Dioon]]>

Cycads are among the few plants that have developed specialized roots to host nitrogen-fixing bacteria. We describe the bacterial diversity of the coralloid roots from seven Dioon species and their surrounding rhizosphere and soil. Using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, we found that all coralloid roots are inhabited by a broad diversity of bacterial groups, including cyanobacteria and Rhizobiales among the most abundant groups. The diversity and composition of the endophytes are similar in the six Mexican species of Dioon that we evaluated, suggesting a recent divergence of Dioon populations and/or similar plant-driven restrictions in maintaining the coralloid root microbiome. Botanical garden samples and natural populations have a similar taxonomic composition, although the beta diversity differed between these populations. The rhizosphere surrounding the coralloid root serves as a reservoir and source of mostly diazotroph and plant growth-promoting groups that colonize the coralloid endosphere. In the case of cyanobacteria, the endosphere is enriched with Nostoc spp and Calothrix spp that are closely related to previously reported symbiont genera in cycads and other early divergent plants. The data reported here provide an in-depth taxonomic characterization of the bacterial community associated with coralloid root microbiome. The functional aspects of the endophytes, their biological interactions, and their evolutionary history are the next research step in this recently discovered diversity within the cycad coralloid root microbiome.

<![CDATA[An ecologically constrained procedure for sensitivity analysis of Artificial Neural Networks and other empirical models]]>

Sensitivity analysis applied to Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) as well as to other types of empirical ecological models allows assessing the importance of environmental predictive variables in affecting species distribution or other target variables. However, approaches that only consider values of the environmental variables that are likely to be observed in real-world conditions, given the underlying ecological relationships with other variables, have not yet been proposed. Here, a constrained sensitivity analysis procedure is presented, which evaluates the importance of the environmental variables considering only their plausible changes, thereby exploring only ecological meaningful scenarios. To demonstrate the procedure, we applied it to an ANN model predicting fish species richness, as identifying relationships between environmental variables and fish species occurrence in river ecosystems is a recurring topic in freshwater ecology. Results showed that several environmental variables played a less relevant role in driving the model output when that sensitivity analysis allowed them to vary only within an ecologically meaningful range of values, i.e. avoiding values that the model would never handle in its practical applications. By comparing percent changes in MSE between constrained and unconstrained sensitivity analysis, the relative importance of environmental variables was found to be different, with habitat descriptors and urbanization factors that played a more relevant role according to the constrained procedure. The ecologically constrained procedure can be applied to any sensitivity analysis method for ANNs, but obviously it can also be applied to other types of empirical ecological models.