ResearchPad - population-density https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[SimSurvey: An R package for comparing the design and analysis of surveys by simulating spatially-correlated populations]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_8465 Populations often show complex spatial and temporal dynamics, creating challenges in designing and implementing effective surveys. Inappropriate sampling designs can potentially lead to both under-sampling (reducing precision) and over-sampling (through the extensive and potentially expensive sampling of correlated metrics). These issues can be difficult to identify and avoid in sample surveys of fish populations as they tend to be costly and comprised of multiple levels of sampling. Population estimates are therefore affected by each level of sampling as well as the pathway taken to analyze such data. Though simulations are a useful tool for exploring the efficacy of specific sampling strategies and statistical methods, there are a limited number of tools that facilitate the simulation testing of a range of sampling and analytical pathways for multi-stage survey data. Here we introduce the R package SimSurvey, which has been designed to simplify the process of simulating surveys of age-structured and spatially-distributed populations. The package allows the user to simulate age-structured populations that vary in space and time and explore the efficacy of a range of built-in or user-defined sampling protocols to reproduce the population parameters of the known population. SimSurvey also includes a function for estimating the stratified mean and variance of the population from the simulated survey data. We demonstrate the use of this package using a case study and show that it can reveal unexpected sources of bias and be used to explore design-based solutions to such problems. In summary, SimSurvey can serve as a convenient, accessible and flexible platform for simulating a wide range of sampling strategies for fish stocks and other populations that show complex structuring. Various statistical approaches can then be applied to the results to test the efficacy of different analytical approaches.

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<![CDATA[Human disturbance impacts the integrity of sacred church forests, Ethiopia]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c8977abd5eed0c4847d32dd

Land-use change can have profound effects on forest communities, compromising seedling recruitment and growth, and long-term persistence of forests on the landscape. Continued forest conversion to agriculture causes forest fragmentation which decreases forest size, increases edge effects and forest isolation, all of which negatively impact forest health. These fragmentation effects are magnified by human use of forests, which can compromise the continued persistence of species in these forests and the ability of the forests to support the communities that depend on them. We examined the extent and influence of human disturbance (e.g. weedy taxa, native and exotic tree plantations, clearings, buildings) on the ecological status of sacred church forests in the northern highlands of South Gondar, Ethiopia and hypothesized that disturbance would have a negative effect. We found that disturbance was high across all forests (56%) and was negatively associated with tree species richness, density, and biomass and seedling richness and density. Contrary to expectation, we found that forests < 15.5 ha show no difference in disturbance level with distance from population center. Based on our findings, we recommend that local conservation strategies not only protect large forests, but also the small and highly used forests in South Gondar which are critical to the needs of local people, including preserving large trees for seed sources, removing exotic and weedy species from forests, and reducing clearings and trails within forests.

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<![CDATA[Analysis on urban densification dynamics and future modes in southeastern Wisconsin, USA]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c89775dd5eed0c4847d2b08

Urban change (urbanization) has dominated land change science for several decades. However, few studies have focused on what many scholars call the urban densification process (i.e., urban intensity expansion) despite its importance to both planning and subsequent impacts to the environment and local economies. This paper documents past urban densification patterns and uses this information to predict future densification trends in southeastern Wisconsin (SEWI) by using a rich dataset from the United States and by adapting the well-known Land Transformation Model (LTM) for this purpose. Urban densification is a significant and progressive process that often accompanies urbanization more generally. The increasing proportion of lower density areas, rather than higher density areas, was the main characteristic of the urban densification in SEWI from 2001 to 2011. We believe that improving urban land use efficiency to maintain rational densification are effective means toward a sustainable urban landscape. Multiple goodness-of-fit metrics demonstrated that the reconfigured LTM performed relatively well to simulate urban densification patterns in 2006 and 2011, enabling us to forecast densification to 2016 and 2021. The predicted future urban densification patterns are likely to be characterized by higher densities continue to increase at the expense of lower densities. We argue that detailed categories of urban density and specific relevant predictor variables are indispensable for densification prediction. Our study provides researchers working in land change science with important insights into urban densification process modeling. The outcome of this model can help planners to identify the current trajectory of urban development, enabling them to take informed action to promote planning objectives, which could benefit sustainable urbanization definitely.

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<![CDATA[Population dynamics and socio-spatial organization of the Aurignacian: Scalable quantitative demographic data for western and central Europe]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c6dc991d5eed0c484529e40

Demographic estimates are presented for the Aurignacian techno-complex (~42,000 to 33,000 y calBP) and discussed in the context of socio-spatial organization of hunter-gatherer populations. Results of the analytical approach applied estimate a mean of 1,500 persons (upper limit: 3,300; lower limit: 800) for western and central Europe. The temporal and spatial analysis indicates an increase of the population during the Aurignacian as well as marked regional differences in population size and density. Demographic increase and patterns of socio-spatial organization continue during the subsequent early Gravettian period. We introduce the concept of Core Areas and Extended Areas as informed analytical spatial scales, which are evaluated against additional chronological and archaeological data. Lithic raw material transport and personal ornaments serve as correlates for human mobility and connectedness in the interpretative framework of this study. Observed regional differences are set in relation with the new demographic data. Our large-scale approach on Aurignacian population dynamics in Europe suggests that past socio-spatial organization followed socially inherent rules to establish and maintain a functioning social network of extremely low population densities. The data suggest that the network was fully established across Europe during the early phase of the Gravettian, when demographic as well as cultural developments peaked.

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<![CDATA[Factors affecting Dupont´s lark distribution and range regression in Spain]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c70676ad5eed0c4847c6fdd

In this work, we analyse factors explaining the distribution and range regression of Dupont’s lark in Spain, the only European country in which this threatened alaudid is present. Dupont’s lark is an extremely elusive and scarce species, distributed across a reduced and strongly fragmented range, showing a metapopulational structure with unknown dispersive and connective mechanisms. We used maximum entropy modelling (Maxent) on nearly 15,000 Dupont’s lark observations (1985–2015) to assess the probability of presence at a 1 km resolution across its European range. Moreover, we tested the probability of extinction by comparing pre- and post-2000 observations by means of a GLM over a subset of cells with presence-absence data. We obtained strong model fitting (AUC = 0.919), in which species occurrence was explained by low values of plant productivity (NDVI), climate (high temperature range and medium annual precipitation), land use (increasing with sclerophyllous scrubland), flat topography and human disturbance (associated with low human population density). The species also tolerates dry farming, but not other farm types or forest cover. The probability map identified two main regions known as the species' core areas: the steppes of the Iberian System and the Ebro Valley. The North Plateau is characterised by a dispersed structure of small and very fragmented patches of suitable habitat, while a succession of discontinuous probability patches form an Eastern Corridor connecting the central core areas to the southernmost populations. Finally, the model identified small and isolated patches of high probability of presence along the eastern coastline. The species tends to occur in the best available areas but, at the same time, the model revealed a large area of suitable but unoccupied habitat. Our results correct the previous estimation of occupation area from 1,480 to 1,010.78 km2, a reduction of 26.22%. The current distribution of Dupont’s lark is almost completely covered by Important Bird Areas (IBAs), highlighting their importance for bird conservation, but only 44.89% is included in Natura 2000 Special Protection Areas (SPAs). A comparison of pre- and post-2000 periods revealed a range contraction of 44%. Probability of extinction increased with higher temperature range and lower annual precipitation, and with decreases in population density, which suggests that this species is extremely vulnerable to both climate change and rural abandonment, due to its dependence on traditional grazing. These results suggest the need for a re-evaluation of the conservation status of Dupont’s lark in Spain. They urge the preservation of not only current extant populations, but also the unoccupied suitable areas that could be critical for metapopulation structure, and the development of policies addressing the preservation of traditional grazing.

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<![CDATA[Fluctuations in cell density alter protein markers of multiple cellular compartments, confounding experimental outcomes]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c61e8c6d5eed0c48496f14c

The life cycle of cultured proliferating cells is characterized by fluctuations in cell population density induced by periodic subculturing. This leads to corresponding changes in micro- and macroenvironment of the cells, accompanied by altered cellular metabolism, growth rate and locomotion. Studying cell density-dependent morphological, physiological and biochemical fluctuations is relevant for understanding basic cellular mechanisms and for uncovering the intrinsic variation of commonly used tissue culture experimental models. Using multiple cell lines, we found that expression levels of the autophagic markers p62 and LC3II, and lysosomal enzyme cathepsin D were altered in highly confluent cells as a consequence of nutrient depletion and cell crowding, which led to inactivation of the mTOR signaling pathway. Furthermore, both Lamp1 and active focal adhesion kinase (FAK) were reduced in high-density cells, while chemical inhibition or deletion of FAK led to alterations in lysosomal and autophagic proteins, as well as in the mTOR signaling. This was accompanied by alterations in the Hippo signaling pathway, while cell cycle checkpoint regulator p-cdc2 remained unaffected in at least one studied cell line. On the other hand, allometric scaling of cellular compartments in growing cell populations resulted in biochemically detectable changes in the plasma membrane proteins Na+K+-ATPase and cadherin, and nuclear proteins HDAC1 and Lamin B1. Finally, we demonstrate how treatment-induced changes in cell density and corresponding modulation of susceptible proteins may lead to ambiguous experimental outcomes, or erroneous interpretation of cell culture data. Together, our data emphasize the need to recognize cell density as an important experimental variable in order to improve scientific rigor of cell culture-based studies.

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<![CDATA[Differential mobility and local variation in infection attack rate]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c50c459d5eed0c4845e85f7

Infectious disease transmission is an inherently spatial process in which a host’s home location and their social mixing patterns are important, with the mixing of infectious individuals often different to that of susceptible individuals. Although incidence data for humans have traditionally been aggregated into low-resolution data sets, modern representative surveillance systems such as electronic hospital records generate high volume case data with precise home locations. Here, we use a gridded spatial transmission model of arbitrary resolution to investigate the theoretical relationship between population density, differential population movement and local variability in incidence. We show analytically that a uniform local attack rate is typically only possible for individual pixels in the grid if susceptible and infectious individuals move in the same way. Using a population in Guangdong, China, for which a robust quantitative description of movement is available (a travel kernel), and a natural history consistent with pandemic influenza; we show that local cumulative incidence is positively correlated with population density when susceptible individuals are more connected in space than infectious individuals. Conversely, under the less intuitively likely scenario, when infectious individuals are more connected, local cumulative incidence is negatively correlated with population density. The strength and direction of correlation changes sign for other kernel parameter values. We show that simulation models in which it is assumed implicitly that only infectious individuals move are assuming a slightly unusual specific correlation between population density and attack rate. However, we also show that this potential structural bias can be corrected by using the appropriate non-isotropic kernel that maps infectious-only code onto the isotropic dual-mobility kernel. These results describe a precise relationship between the spatio-social mixing of infectious and susceptible individuals and local variability in attack rates. More generally, these results suggest a genuine risk that mechanistic models of high-resolution attack rate data may reach spurious conclusions if the precise implications of spatial force-of-infection assumptions are not first fully characterized, prior to models being fit to data.

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<![CDATA[How happy are your neighbours? Variation in life satisfaction among 1200 Canadian neighbourhoods and communities]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c5217fed5eed0c484795ed8

This paper presents a new public-use dataset for community-level life satisfaction in Canada, based on more than 500,000 observations from the Canadian Community Health Surveys and the General Social Surveys. The country is divided into 1216 similarly sampled geographic regions, using natural, built, and administrative boundaries. A cross-validation exercise suggests that our choice of minimum sampling thresholds approximately maximizes the predictive power of our estimates. The resulting dataset reveals robust differences in life satisfaction between and across urban and rural communities. We compare aggregated life satisfaction data with a range of key census variables to illustrate some of the ways in which lives differ in the most and least happy communities.

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<![CDATA[Estimating recent migration and population-size surfaces]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c466533d5eed0c484517f56

In many species a fundamental feature of genetic diversity is that genetic similarity decays with geographic distance; however, this relationship is often complex, and may vary across space and time. Methods to uncover and visualize such relationships have widespread use for analyses in molecular ecology, conservation genetics, evolutionary genetics, and human genetics. While several frameworks exist, a promising approach is to infer maps of how migration rates vary across geographic space. Such maps could, in principle, be estimated across time to reveal the full complexity of population histories. Here, we take a step in this direction: we present a method to infer maps of population sizes and migration rates associated with different time periods from a matrix of genetic similarity between every pair of individuals. Specifically, genetic similarity is measured by counting the number of long segments of haplotype sharing (also known as identity-by-descent tracts). By varying the length of these segments we obtain parameter estimates associated with different time periods. Using simulations, we show that the method can reveal time-varying migration rates and population sizes, including changes that are not detectable when using a similar method that ignores haplotypic structure. We apply the method to a dataset of contemporary European individuals (POPRES), and provide an integrated analysis of recent population structure and growth over the last ∼3,000 years in Europe.

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<![CDATA[Identifying potential areas of expansion for the endangered brown bear (Ursus arctos) population in the Cantabrian Mountains (NW Spain)]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c390bb4d5eed0c48491de8b

Many large carnivore populations are expanding into human-modified landscapes and the subsequent increase in coexistence between humans and large carnivores may intensify various types of conflicts. A proactive management approach is critical to successful mitigation of such conflicts. The Cantabrian Mountains in Northern Spain are home to the last remaining native brown bear (Ursus arctos) population of the Iberian Peninsula, which is also amongst the most severely threatened European populations, with an important core group residing in the province of Asturias. There are indications that this small population is demographically expanding its range. The identification of the potential areas of brown bear range expansion is crucial to facilitate proactive conservation and management strategies towards promoting a further recovery of this small and isolated population. Here, we used a presence-only based maximum entropy (MaxEnt) approach to model habitat suitability and identify the areas in the Asturian portion of the Cantabrian Mountains that are likely to be occupied in the future by this endangered brown bear population following its range expansion. We used different spatial scales to identify brown bear range suitability according to different environmental, topographic, climatic and human impact variables. Our models mainly show that: (1) 4977 km2 are still available as suitable areas for bear range expansion, which represents nearly half of the territory of Asturias; (2) most of the suitable areas in the western part of the province are already occupied (77% of identified areas, 2820 km2), 41.4% of them occurring inside protected areas, which leaves relatively limited good areas for further expansion in this part of the province, although there might be more suitable areas in surrounding provinces; and (3) in the eastern sector of the Asturian Cantabrian Mountains, 62% (2155 km2) of the land was classified as suitable, and this part of the province hosts 44.3% of the total area identified as suitable areas for range expansion. Our results further highlight the importance of increasing: (a) the connectivity between the currently occupied western part of Asturias and the areas of potential range expansion in the eastern parts of the province; and (b) the protection of the eastern sector of the Cantabrian Mountains, where most of the future population expansion may be expected.

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<![CDATA[Tracing long-term demographic changes: The issue of spatial scales]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c3667edd5eed0c4841a6986

This paper deals with the analysis of long-term changes in population densities at the regional and macro-regional scale and in the density of metapopulations. The following issues concerning estimations are addressed: chronological resolution of demographic changes, estimation of the weight of values for population density in order to transform the initial values included in the sample into the values that may be compared with each other at the regional scale, calibration of the transformed values into real population densities, and the estimation of the weight of values for population density at the scales of macro-regions and for the density of metapopulations. The proposed methods are tested on demographic changes in Central Europe, Southern Scandinavia, Southeastern Europe, and the Near East. The obtained results represent major trends in demographic development, while the proposed methodology could also be applied in other wide-scale demographic analyses.

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<![CDATA[Morpho-physiological responses of tall wheatgrass populations to different levels of water stress]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c215135d5eed0c4843f92b4

Tall wheatgrass [Elymus elongatus subsp. ponticus (Podp.) Melderis] is a perennial forage grass cultivated in dry, saline or alkaline environments. The morpho-physiological characteristics of four populations of tall wheatgrass from different climatic-edaphic origins were evaluated under three conditions of water stress (100%-50%-30% of field capacity). The trial was analyzed with three replicates and two-factor ANOVA in pots within the greenhouse during 35 days. Only dry matter and tiller number showed interaction between populations and water conditions. The most relevant changes in morpho-physiological parameters under strong water stress were reduced dry matter production (48–32% differing among populations), smaller leaf and tiller size (46% and 28%), together with higher water use efficiency (74%), and increased proline and protein contents (144% and 71%), smaller tiller number (30–11% differing among populations) and a slight decrease in leaf water content (3%). The populations differed in growth strategies and morpho-physiological mechanisms to survive water stress, which could be related to their habitat background. The study shows the stability in dry matter production under all levels of water stress, which can be related to the higher tiller number. Due to this plasticity, tall wheatgrass should be studied as a species with great potential to adapt to drought stress.

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<![CDATA[Modeling the effects of atmospheric pressure on suicide rates in the USA using geographically weighted regression]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c117b58d5eed0c484698c77

Low atmospheric pressure may increase depression and suicide through inducing hypoxia. Previous studies have not evaluated the geographic variation of this relationship across the United States. Analyses were based on three groupings of age-adjusted completed suicide rates (all suicide, firearm-related suicide, non-firearm-related suicide) from 2286 counties in the United States. Multiple regression was used to determine the overall relationship between atmospheric pressure and completed suicide rates. Geographically weighted regression (GWR) models were used to obtain local coefficient estimates. A negative correlation between atmospheric pressure and completed suicide rates was observed for all three suicide groupings (p-value <0.0001). Significant, negative GWR coefficient estimates were located in the West and Northeast for the all suicides and firearm-related suicides, and in the Midwest for non-firearm-related suicides.

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<![CDATA[Geostatistical mapping of the seasonal spread of under-reported dengue cases in Bangladesh]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5bf71f9dd5eed0c484dcb9b5

Geographical mapping of dengue in resource-limited settings is crucial for targeting control interventions but is challenging due to the problem of zero-inflation because many cases are not reported. We developed a negative binomial generalised linear mixed effect model accounting for zero-inflation, spatial, and temporal random effects to investigate the spatial variation in monthly dengue cases in Bangladesh. The model was fitted to the district-level (64 districts) monthly reported dengue cases aggregated over the period 2000 to 2009 and Bayesian inference was performed using the integrated nested Laplace approximation. We found that mean monthly temperature and its interaction with mean monthly diurnal temperature range, lagged by two months were significantly associated with dengue incidence. Mean monthly rainfall at two months lag was positively associated with dengue incidence. Densely populated districts and districts bordering India or Myanmar had higher incidence than others. The model estimated that 92% of the annual dengue cases occurred between August and September. Cases were identified across the country with 94% in the capital Dhaka (located almost in the middle of the country). Less than half of the affected districts reported cases as observed from the surveillance data. The proportion reported varied by month with a higher proportion reported in high-incidence districts, but dropped towards the end of high transmission season.

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<![CDATA[Stepping into a dangerous quagmire: Macroecological determinants of Bothrops envenomings, Brazilian Amazon]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c12cf5cd5eed0c484914472

Despite significant and successful efforts in Brazil regarding snakebites in the areas of research, antivenom manufacture and quality control, training of health professionals in the diagnosis and clinical management of bites, little is known about determinants of snakebites incidence in order to further plan interventions to reduce the impact of this medical condition. Understanding the complexity of ecological interactions in a geographical region is important for prediction, prevention and control measures of snakebites. This investigation aims to describe spatial distribution and identify environmental determinants of human envenoming by lancehead pit vipers (Bothrops genus), in the Brazilian Amazon. Aggregated data by the municipality was used to analyze the spatial distribution of Bothrops bites cases and its relationship with geographic and environmental factors. Eight geo-environmental factors were included in the analysis as independent variables: (1) tree canopy loss increase; (2) area with vegetation cover; (3) area covered by water bodies; (4) altitude; (5) precipitation; (6) air relative humidity; (7) soil moisture; and (8) air temperature. Human envenoming by lancehead pit vipers (Bothrops genus) in the Amazon region is more incident in lowlands [Adjusted regression coefficient [ARC] -0.0007 (IC95%: -0.001; -0.0006), p<0.0001], with high preserved original vegetation cover [ARC 0.0065 (IC95%: 0.0071; 0.0060), p<0.0001], with heaviest rainfall [ARC 0.0001 (IC95%: 0.00009; 0.0001), p<0.0001] and higher air relative humidity [ARC 0.0082 (IC95%: 0.0108; 0.0056), p<0.0001]. This association is interpreted as the result of the higher prey availability and further abundance of pit vipers in such landscapes.

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<![CDATA[Agricultural land use among mestizo colonist and indigenous populations: Contrasting patterns in the Amazon]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5b4a1927463d7e428027f88e

This paper compares land use patterns of mestizo colonists and indigenous populations in the central Ecuadorian Amazon, based on data from a household survey covering mestizo colonist, Kichwa and Shuar households. As expected, colonists mostly engage in commercial agriculture and cattle ranching, but there are substantial differences in land use patterns between the Shuar and the Kichwa. The Shuar engage in cash cropping and cattle ranching, and on average, devote even more land to agricultural uses than mestizo colonists in this sample. In contrast, the Kichwa engage more in subsistence crop production and less in commercial agriculture. Such different patterns appear related to local conditions, earlier migratory and settlement patterns, and the level of exposure to markets. The implications of this for policy are explored in the conclusions.

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<![CDATA[A serial founder effect model of phonemic diversity based on phonemic loss in low-density populations]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5b28b428463d7e129299939c

It has been observed that the number of phonemes in languages in use today tends to decrease with increasing distance from Africa. A previous formal model has recently reproduced the observed cline, but under two strong assumptions. Here we tackle the question of whether an alternative explanation for the worldwide phonemic cline is possible, by using alternative assumptions. The answer is affirmative. We show this by formalizing a proposal, following Atkinson, that this pattern may be due to a repeated bottleneck effect and phonemic loss. In our simulations, low-density populations lose phonemes during the Out-of-Africa dispersal of modern humans. Our results reproduce the observed global cline for the number of phonemes. In addition, we also detect a cline of phonemic diversity and reproduce it using our simulation model. We suggest how future work could determine whether the previous model or the new one (or even a combination of them) is valid. Simulations also show that the clines can still be present even 300 kyr after the Out-of-Africa dispersal, which is contrary to some previous claims which were not supported by numerical simulations.

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<![CDATA[Why do people buy dogs with potential welfare problems related to extreme conformation and inherited disease? A representative study of Danish owners of four small dog breeds]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db4fab0ee8fa60bdbbec

A number of dog breeds suffer from welfare problems due to extreme phenotypes and high levels of inherited diseases but the popularity of such breeds is not declining. Using a survey of owners of two popular breeds with extreme physical features (French Bulldog and Chihuahua), one with a high load of inherited diseases not directly related to conformation (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), and one representing the same size range but without extreme conformation and with the same level of disease as the overall dog population (Cairn Terrier), we investigated this seeming paradox. We examined planning and motivational factors behind acquisition of the dogs, and whether levels of experienced health and behavior problems were associated with the quality of the owner-dog relationship and the intention to re-procure a dog of the same breed. Owners of each of the four breeds (750/breed) were randomly drawn from a nationwide Danish dog registry and invited to participate. Of these, 911 responded, giving a final sample of 846. There were clear differences between owners of the four breeds with respect to degree of planning prior to purchase, with owners of Chihuahuas exhibiting less. Motivations behind choice of dog were also different. Health and other breed attributes were more important to owners of Cairn Terriers, whereas the dog’s personality was reported to be more important for owners of French Bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels but less important for Chihuahua owners. Higher levels of health and behavior problems were positively associated with a closer owner-dog relationship for owners of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Chihuahuas but, for owners of French Bulldogs, high levels of problems were negatively associated with an intention to procure the same breed again. In light of these findings, it appears less paradoxical that people continue to buy dogs with welfare problems.

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<![CDATA[Savanna elephant numbers are only a quarter of their expected values]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db52ab0ee8fa60bdc740

Savannas once constituted the range of many species that human encroachment has now reduced to a fraction of their former distribution. Many survive only in protected areas. Poaching reduces the savanna elephant, even where protected, likely to the detriment of savanna ecosystems. While resources go into estimating elephant populations, an ecological benchmark by which to assess counts is lacking. Knowing how many elephants there are and how many poachers kill is important, but on their own, such data lack context. We collated savanna elephant count data from 73 protected areas across the continent estimated to hold ~50% of Africa’s elephants and extracted densities from 18 broadly stable population time series. We modeled these densities using primary productivity, water availability, and an index of poaching as predictors. We then used the model to predict stable densities given current conditions and poaching for all 73 populations. Next, to generate ecological benchmarks, we predicted such densities for a scenario of zero poaching. Where historical data are available, they corroborate or exceed benchmarks. According to recent counts, collectively, the 73 savanna elephant populations are at 75% of the size predicted based on current conditions and poaching levels. However, populations are at <25% of ecological benchmarks given a scenario of zero poaching (~967,000)—a total deficit of ~730,000 elephants. Populations in 30% of the 73 protected areas were <5% of their benchmarks, and the median current density as a percentage of ecological benchmark across protected areas was just 13%. The ecological context provided by these benchmark values, in conjunction with ongoing census projects, allow efficient targeting of conservation efforts.

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<![CDATA[Larval crowding accelerates C. elegans development and reduces lifespan]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db5aab0ee8fa60bdf2c7

Environmental conditions experienced during animal development are thought to have sustained impact on maturation and adult lifespan. Here we show that in the model organism C. elegans developmental rate and adult lifespan depend on larval population density, and that this effect is mediated by excreted small molecules. By using the time point of first egg laying as a marker for full maturity, we found that wildtype hermaphrodites raised under high density conditions developed significantly faster than animals raised in isolation. Population density-dependent acceleration of development (Pdda) was dramatically enhanced in fatty acid β-oxidation mutants that are defective in the biosynthesis of ascarosides, small-molecule signals that induce developmental diapause. In contrast, Pdda is abolished by synthetic ascarosides and steroidal ligands of the nuclear hormone receptor DAF-12. We show that neither ascarosides nor any known steroid hormones are required for Pdda and that another chemical signal mediates this phenotype, in part via the nuclear hormone receptor NHR-8. Our results demonstrate that C. elegans development is regulated by a push-pull mechanism, based on two antagonistic chemical signals: chemosensation of ascarosides slows down development, whereas population-density dependent accumulation of a different chemical signal accelerates development. We further show that the effects of high larval population density persist through adulthood, as C. elegans larvae raised at high densities exhibit significantly reduced adult lifespan and respond differently to exogenous chemical signals compared to larvae raised at low densities, independent of density during adulthood. Our results demonstrate how inter-organismal signaling during development regulates reproductive maturation and longevity.

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