Distribution by Scientific Domains
Distribution within Life Sciences

Kinds of Ecologists

  • many ecologist
  • plant ecologist
  • restoration ecologist

  • Selected Abstracts

    Why bartering biodiversity fails

    Susan Walker
    Abstract Regulatory biodiversity trading (or biodiversity "offsets") is increasingly promoted as a way to enable both conservation and development while achieving "no net loss" or even "net gain" in biodiversity, but to date has facilitated development while perpetuating biodiversity loss. Ecologists seeking improved biodiversity outcomes are developing better assessment tools and recommending more rigorous restrictions and enforcement. We explain why such recommendations overlook and cannot correct key causes of failure to protect biodiversity. Viable trading requires simple, measurable, and interchangeable commodities, but the currencies, restrictions, and oversight needed to protect complex, difficult-to-measure, and noninterchangeable resources like biodiversity are costly and intractable. These safeguards compromise trading viability and benefit neither traders nor regulatory officials. Political theory predicts that (1) biodiversity protection interests will fail to counter motivations for officials to resist and relax safeguards to facilitate exchanges and resource development at cost to biodiversity, and (2) trading is more vulnerable than pure administrative mechanisms to institutional dynamics that undermine environmental protection. Delivery of no net loss or net gain through biodiversity trading is thus administratively improbable and technically unrealistic. Their proliferation without credible solutions suggests biodiversity offset programs are successful "symbolic policies," potentially obscuring biodiversity loss and dissipating impetus for action. [source]

    Towards an integration of ecological stoichiometry and the metabolic theory of ecology to better understand nutrient cycling

    ECOLOGY LETTERS, Issue 5 2009
    Andrew P. Allen
    Abstract Ecologists have long recognized that species are sustained by the flux, storage and turnover of two biological currencies: energy, which fuels biological metabolism and materials (i.e. chemical elements), which are used to construct biomass. Ecological theories often describe the dynamics of populations, communities and ecosystems in terms of either energy (e.g. population-dynamics theory) or materials (e.g. resource-competition theory). These two classes of theory have been formulated using different assumptions, and yield distinct, but often complementary predictions for the same or similar phenomena. For example, the energy-based equation of von Bertalanffy and the nutrient-based equation of Droop both describe growth. Yet, there is relatively little theoretical understanding of how these two distinct classes of theory, and the currencies they use, are interrelated. Here, we begin to address this issue by integrating models and concepts from two rapidly developing theories, the metabolic theory of ecology and ecological stoichiometry theory. We show how combining these theories, using recently published theory and data along with new theoretical formulations, leads to novel predictions on the flux, storage and turnover of energy and materials that apply to animals, plants and unicells. The theory and results presented here highlight the potential for developing a more general ecological theory that explicitly relates the energetics and stoichiometry of individuals, communities and ecosystems to subcellular structures and processes. We conclude by discussing the basic and applied implications of such a theory, and the prospects and challenges for further development. [source]

    Phylogenetic niche conservatism, phylogenetic signal and the relationship between phylogenetic relatedness and ecological similarity among species

    ECOLOGY LETTERS, Issue 10 2008
    Jonathan B. Losos
    Abstract Ecologists are increasingly adopting an evolutionary perspective, and in recent years, the idea that closely related species are ecologically similar has become widespread. In this regard, phylogenetic signal must be distinguished from phylogenetic niche conservatism. Phylogenetic niche conservatism results when closely related species are more ecologically similar that would be expected based on their phylogenetic relationships; its occurrence suggests that some process is constraining divergence among closely related species. In contrast, phylogenetic signal refers to the situation in which ecological similarity between species is related to phylogenetic relatedness; this is the expected outcome of Brownian motion divergence and thus is necessary, but not sufficient, evidence for the existence of phylogenetic niche conservatism. Although many workers consider phylogenetic niche conservatism to be common, a review of case studies indicates that ecological and phylogenetic similarities often are not related. Consequently, ecologists should not assume that phylogenetic niche conservatism exists, but rather should empirically examine the extent to which it occurs. [source]

    A landscape theory for food web architecture

    ECOLOGY LETTERS, Issue 8 2008
    Neil Rooney
    Abstract Ecologists have long searched for structures and processes that impart stability in nature. In particular, food web ecology has held promise in tackling this issue. Empirical patterns in food webs have consistently shown that the distributions of species and interactions in nature are more likely to be stable than randomly constructed systems with the same number of species and interactions. Food web ecology still faces two fundamental challenges, however. First, the quantity and quality of food web data required to document both the species richness and the interaction strengths among all species within food webs is largely prohibitive. Second, where food webs have been well documented, spatial and temporal variation in food web structure has been ignored. Conversely, research that has addressed spatial and temporal variation in ecosystems has generally ignored the full complexity of food web architecture. Here, we incorporate empirical patterns, largely from macroecology and behavioural ecology, into a spatially implicit food web structure to construct a simple landscape theory of food web architecture. Such an approach both captures important architectural features of food webs and allows for an exploration of food web structure across a range of spatial scales. Finally, we demonstrated that food webs are hierarchically organized along the spatial and temporal niche axes of species and their utilization of food resources in ways that stabilize ecosystems. [source]

    A niche for neutrality

    ECOLOGY LETTERS, Issue 2 2007
    Peter B. Adler
    Abstract Ecologists now recognize that controversy over the relative importance of niches and neutrality cannot be resolved by analyzing species abundance patterns. Here, we use classical coexistence theory to reframe the debate in terms of stabilizing mechanisms (niches) and fitness equivalence (neutrality). The neutral model is a special case where stabilizing mechanisms are absent and species have equivalent fitness. Instead of asking whether niches or neutral processes structure communities, we advocate determining the degree to which observed diversity reflects strong stabilizing mechanisms overcoming large fitness differences or weak stabilization operating on species of similar fitness. To answer this question, we propose combining data on per capita growth rates with models to: (i) quantify the strength of stabilizing processes; (ii) quantify fitness inequality and compare it with stabilization; and (iii) manipulate frequency dependence in growth to test the consequences of stabilization and fitness equivalence for coexistence. [source]

    Predation on mutualists can reduce the strength of trophic cascades

    ECOLOGY LETTERS, Issue 11 2006
    Tiffany M. Knight
    Abstract Ecologists have put forth several mechanisms to predict the strength of predator effects on producers (a trophic cascade). We suggest a novel mechanism , in systems in which mutualists of plants are present and important, predators can have indirect negative effects on producers through their consumption of mutualists. The strength of predator effects on producers will depend on their relative consumption of mutualists and antagonists, and on the relative importance of each to producer population dynamics. In a meta-analysis of experiments that examine the effects of predator reduction on the pollination and reproductive success of plants, we found that the indirect negative effects of predators on plants are quite strong. Most predator removal experiments measure the strength of predator effects on producers through the antagonist pathway; we suggest that a more complete understanding of the role of predators will be achieved by simultaneously considering the effects of predators on plant mutualists. [source]

    Contrasting alternative hypotheses about rodent cycles by translating them into parameterized models

    ECOLOGY LETTERS, Issue 3 2001
    Peter Turchin
    Ecologists working on population cycles of arvicoline (microtine) rodents consider three ecological mechanisms as the most likely explanations of this long-standing puzzle in population ecology: maternal effects, interaction with specialist predators, and interaction with the food supply. Each of these hypotheses has now been translated into parameterized models, and has been shown to be capable of generating second-order oscillations (that is, population cycles driven by delayed density dependence). This development places us in a unique situation for population ecology. We can now practice "strong inference" by explicitly and quantitatively comparing the predictions of the three rival hypotheses with data. In this review, we contrast the ability of each hypothesis to explain various empirically observed features of rodent cycles, with a particular emphasis on the well-studied case of Microtus agrestis and other small rodents in Fennoscandia (Finland, Sweden and Norway). Our conclusion is that the current evidence best supports the predation hypothesis. [source]

    The concepts of ,plant functional types' and ,functional diversity' in lake phytoplankton , a new understanding of phytoplankton ecology?

    FRESHWATER BIOLOGY, Issue 9 2003
    Guntram Weithoff
    Summary 1. This is a discussion of the applicability to the phytoplankton of the concepts of ,plant functional types' (PFTs) and ,functional diversity' (FD), which originated in terrestrial plant ecology. 2. Functional traits driving the performance of phytoplankton species reflect important processes such as growth, sedimentation, grazing losses and nutrient acquisition. 3. This paper presents an objective, mathematical way of assigning PFTs and measuring FD. Ecologists can use this new approach to investigate general hypotheses [e.g. the intermediate disturbance hypothesis (IDH), the insurance hypothesis and synchronicity phenomena] as, for example, in its original formulation the IDH makes its predictions based on FD rather than species diversity. [source]

    The physiology of predator stress in free-ranging prey

    Evan L. Preisser
    M.J. Sheriff, C.J. Krebs & R. Boonstra (2009) The sensitive hare: sublethal effects of predator stress on reproduction in snowshoe hares. Journal of Animal Ecology, 78, 1249,1258. Ecologists have only begun to understand the physiological mechanisms underlying individual- and population-level responses of prey- to predator-related stress. Sheriff, Krebs and Boonstra advance this field by providing evidence that predator-induced increases in glucorticoid concentrations in wild female snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) impact both litter size and offspring condition. They hypothesize that the glucocorticoid-mediated effects on reproduction provides an adaptive benefit: mothers ,programming' their offspring to be timid and risk-averse in high-risk environments should increase their survival probability. This research illuminates the connection between stress physiology and population-level changes and demonstrates the surprisingly far-reaching impact of predation risk. [source]

    Testing the use of interviews as a tool for monitoring trends in the harvesting of wild species

    Julia P. G. Jones
    Summary 1Many aspects of human behaviour impact on ecological systems. Ecologists therefore need information on changes in these behaviours and are increasingly using methods more familiar to social scientists. 2Understanding patterns of wildlife harvesting is important for assessing the sustainability of harvests. Interviews are commonly used in which informants are asked to summarize their activities over a period of time. However, few studies have investigated the reliability of such data, the usefulness of interviews for monitoring trends, and how their information content can be maximized. 3We carried out rapid assessment interviews with villagers in Madagascar about the quantity, timing and spatial patterns of crayfish Astacoides granulimanus and firewood collection. We compared the results with information from daily interviews with the same informants. We used mixed models to investigate how accurately people reported their activities in the rapid assessment interviews, and estimated the probability of detecting a change in harvesting from two such interviews using a Bayesian approach. 4The interviews provided reliable information on quantities, effort, and the spatial pattern of harvesting. Simulations suggested the interviews would detect changes in catches and harvesting effort with reasonable power; for example, a 20% change in the amount of time spent crayfish harvesting could be detected with 90% power. Power is higher when the same informants are questioned in repeat interviews. 5Synthesis and applications. Ecologists are increasingly using social techniques and it is vital that they are subject to rigorous testing to ensure robustness in trend detection. This study suggests that interviews can be used to monitor changes in harvesting patterns by resource users, but whether the power is adequate will depend on the needs of the study. To maximize the power of interviews, informants should be interviewed independently and the same informants interviewed in subsequent years. [source]

    Ecology, politics and policy

    Summary 1,The British Ecological Society aims to promote the science of ecology through research and to use the findings of such research to educate the public and influence policy decisions which involve ecological matters.' Yet, how successful have we been in influencing UK and EU environmental policy? 2Many scientists hold to the ,deficit model' of turning science into policy, the view that if only politicians are told what the science reveals, ,correct' policies will automatically follow. Nothing could be further from the truth. Politicians have all kinds of reasons, some valid, some less valid, not to adopt what often seem to us to be common sense policies to protect the environment. 3Here, I explore some of the successes and failures of ecologists to influence UK and European environmental policy, using acid deposition, the collapse of global marine fisheries, GM crops and climate change, carbon dioxide and ocean acidification as examples. I briefly review the extensive literature (largely ignored by natural scientists) on what social scientists have to say about evidence-based policy-making (or the lack of it) and why it often appears to be so difficult to persuade politicians to adopt sound environmental policies. 4Synthesis and applications. Ecologists can, and do, influence government policy on the environment, but often via complex and iterative interactions that can be painfully slow, and may require fundamental changes in politicians' belief systems, values and norms. [source]

    Offshore renewable energy: ecological implications of generating electricity in the coastal zone

    Summary 1Global-scale environmental degradation and its links with non-renewable fossil fuels have led to an increasing interest in generating electricity from renewable energy resources. Much of this interest centres on offshore renewable energy developments (ORED). The large scale of proposed ORED will add to the existing human pressures on coastal ecosystems, therefore any ecological costs and benefits must be determined. 2The current pressures on coastal ecology set the context within which the potential impacts (both positive and negative) of offshore renewable energy generation are discussed. 3The number of published peer-review articles relating to renewable energy has increased dramatically since 1991. Significantly, only a small proportion of these articles relate to environmental impacts and none considers coastal ecology. 4Actual or potential environmental impact can occur during construction, operation and/or decommissioning of ORED. 5Construction and decommissioning are likely to cause significant physical disturbance to the local environment. There are both short- and long-term implications for the local biological communities. The significance of any effects is likely to depend on the natural disturbance regime and the stability and resilience of the communities. 6During day-to-day operation, underwater noise, emission of electromagnetic fields and collision or avoidance with the energy structures represent further potential impacts on coastal species, particularly large predators. The wider ecological implications of any direct and indirect effects are discussed. 7Synthesis and applications. This review demonstrates that offshore renewable energy developments will have direct and, potentially, indirect consequences for coastal ecology, with these effects occurring at different scales. Ecologists should be involved throughout all the phases of an ORED to ensure that appropriate assessments of the interaction of single and multiple developments with the coastal environment are undertaken. [source]

    Marine biogeography and ecology: invasions and introductions

    John C. Briggs
    Abstract Although biogeography and ecology had previously been considered distinct disciplines, this outlook began to change in the early 1990s. Several people expressed interest in creating a link that would help ecologists become more aware of external influences on communities and help biogeographers realize that distribution patterns had their genesis at the community level. They proposed an interdisciplinary approach called macroecology. This concept has been aided by the advent of phylogeography, for a better knowledge of genetic relationships has had great interdisciplinary value. Two areas of research that should obviously benefit from a macroecological approach are: (1) the question of local vs. regional diversity and (2) the question of whether invader species pose a threat to biodiversity. The two questions are related, because both deal with the vulnerability of ecosystems to penetration by invading species. Biogeographers, who have studied the broad oceanic patterns of dispersal and colonization, tend to regard isolated communities as being open to invasion from areas with greater biodiversity. It became evident that many wide-ranging species were produced in centres of origin, and that the location of communities with respect to such centres had a direct effect on the level of species diversity. Ecologists, in earlier years, thought that a community could become saturated with species and would thereafter be self-sustaining. But recent research has shown that saturation is probably never achieved and that the assembly of communities and their maintenance is more or less dependent on the invasion of species from elsewhere. The study of invasions that take place in coastal areas, usually the result of ship traffic and/or aquaculture imports, has special importance due to numerous opinions expressed by scientists and policy-makers that such invasions are a major threat to biodiversity. However, none of the studies so far conducted has identified the extinction of a single, native marine species due to the influence of an exotic invader. Furthermore, fossil evidence of historical invasions does not indicate that invasive species have caused native extinctions or reductions in biodiversity. [source]

    Future eating and country keeping: what role has environmental history in the management of biodiversity?

    D.M.J.S. Bowman
    In order to understand and moderate the effects of the accelerating rate of global environmental change land managers and ecologists must not only think beyond their local environment but also put their problems into a historical context. It is intuitively obvious that historians should be natural allies of ecologists and land managers as they struggle to maintain biodiversity and landscape health. Indeed, ,environmental history' is an emerging field where the previously disparate intellectual traditions of ecology and history intersect to create a new and fundamentally interdisciplinary field of inquiry. Environmental history is rapidly becoming an important field displacing many older environmentally focused academic disciplines as well as capturing the public imagination. By drawing on Australian experience I explore the role of ,environmental history' in managing biodiversity. First I consider some of the similarities and differences of the ecological and historical approaches to the history of the environment. Then I review two central questions in Australian environment history: landscape-scale changes in woody vegetation cover since European settlement and the extinction of the marsupials in both historical and pre-historical time. These case studies demonstrate that environmental historians can reach conflicting interpretations despite using essentially the same data. The popular success of some environmental histories hinges on the fact that they narrate a compelling story concerning human relationships and human value judgements about landscape change. Ecologists must learn to harness the power of environmental history narratives to bolster land management practices designed to conserve biological heritage. They can do this by using various currently popular environmental histories as a point of departure for future research, for instance by testing the veracity of competing interpretations of landscape-scale change in woody vegetation cover. They also need to learn how to write parables that communicate their research findings to land managers and the general public. However, no matter how sociologically or psychologically satisfying a particular environmental historical narrative might be, it must be willing to be superseded with new stories that incorporate the latest research discoveries and that reflects changing social values of nature. It is contrary to a rational and publicly acceptable approach to land management to read a particular story as revealing the absolute truth. [source]

    Extending point pattern analysis for objects of finite size and irregular shape

    JOURNAL OF ECOLOGY, Issue 4 2006
    Summary 1We use a grid- and simulation-based approach to extend point pattern analysis to deal with plants of finite size and irregular shape, and compare the results of our approach with that of the conventional point approximation. The plants are approximated by using an underlying grid and may occupy several adjacent grid cells depending on their size and shape. Null models correspond to that of point pattern analysis but need to be modified to account for the finite size and irregular shape of plants. 2We use a mapped area of a grass-shrub steppe in semi-arid Patagonia, Argentina, to show that the shrub community is essentially randomly structured, but that shrubs facilitate grasses in their immediate neighbourhood. 3The occurrence of this random spatial structure provides important new information on the biology of shrub populations. In general, previous data from semi-arid and arid ecosystems have shown that adult shrubs tend to show over-dispersed patterns, whereas juveniles are clumped. 4We find that the point approximation may produce misleading results (i) if plant size varies greatly, (ii) if the scale of interest is of the same order of magnitude as the size of the plants, and (iii) if the plants of a given pattern are constrained through competition for space by the presence of other plants. The point approximation worked well in all other cases, but usually depicted weaker significant effects than when the size and shape of plants were taken into account. 5Our approach to quantifying small-scale spatial patterns in plant communities has broad applications, including the study of facilitation and competition. Ecologists will be able to use the software available to take advantage of these methods. [source]

    Vouchering DNA-barcoded specimens: test of a nondestructive extraction protocol for terrestrial arthropods

    Abstract Morphology-based keys support accurate identification of many taxa. However, identification can be difficult for taxa that are either not well studied, very small, members of cryptic species complexes, or represented by immature stages. For such cases, DNA barcodes may provide diagnostic characters. Ecologists and evolutionary biologists deposit museum vouchers to document the species studied in their research. If DNA barcodes are to be used for identification, then both the DNA and the specimen from which it was extracted should be vouchered. We describe a protocol for the nondestructive extraction of DNA from terrestrial arthropods, using as examples members of the orders Acarina, Araneae, Coleoptera, Diptera, and Hymenoptera chosen to represent the ranges in size, overall sclerotization, and delicacy of key morphological characters in the group. We successfully extracted sequenceable DNA from all species after 1,4 h of immersion in extraction buffer. The extracted carcasses, processed and imaged using protocols standard for the taxon, were distinguishable from closely related species, and adequate as morphological vouchers. We provide links from the carcasses and DNA vouchers to image (MorphBank) and sequence (GenBank) databases. [source]

    Mechanisms in macroecology: AWOL or purloined letter?

    OIKOS, Issue 4 2010
    Towards a pragmatic view of mechanism
    Ecologists often believe the discovery of mechanism to be the central goal of scientific research. While many macroecologists have inherited this view, to date they have been much more efficient at producing patterns than identifying their underlying processes. We discuss several possible attitudes for macroecologists to adopt in this context while also arguing that in fact macroecology already has many mechanisms that are ignored. We briefly describe six of these: central limit theorem, fractals, random sampling and placement, neutral theory (and descendents), concordance of forces, and maximum entropy. We explore why these mechanisms are overlooked and discuss whether they should be. We conclude that macroecology needs to take a more pragmatic, less ideological approach to mechanism. We apply this viewpoint to the recent controversy over maximum entropy and suggest that maximum entropy needs to be viewed more pragmatically and less ideologically. [source]

    Scale as a lurking factor: incorporating scale-dependence in experimental ecology

    OIKOS, Issue 9 2009
    Brody Sandel
    Ecologists have recognized for decades the importance of spatial scale in ecological processes and patterns, as well as the complications scale poses for understanding ecological mechanisms. Here we highlight the opportunity attention to scale offers experimental ecology. Despite many advantages to considering scale, a review of the literature indicates that multi-scale experimental studies are rare. Although much work has focused on scale as a primary factor (e.g. island size), we draw attention to scale as a ,lurking' variable: one which influences the relationship between two or more variables that are not usually understood to be scale-dependent. We highlight three basic observations from which scale-dependence arises: abundance increases with area, environmental conditions vary across space, and the effect of an organism on its environment is spatially limited. From these arise first-order scale-dependence, which relates an ecological variable of interest to a measure of scale. Combining first-order relationships together, we can produce second-order scale-dependencies, which occur when the relationship between two or more variables is mediated by scale. It is these relationships that are of particular interest, as they have the potential to confound experimental results. Most ecological experiments have incorporated scale either implicitly or not at all. We suggest that an explicit consideration of scale could help resolve some long-standing debates when scale is turned from a lurking variable into a working variable. Finally, we review and evaluate four different experimental sampling designs and corresponding statistical analyses that can be used to address the effects of scale in ecological experiments. [source]

    Food-web assembly during a classic biogeographic study: species'"trophic breadth" corresponds to colonization order

    OIKOS, Issue 5 2008
    Denise A. Piechnik
    Ecologists have found many patterns in food-web structure. Some, like the constant connectance hypothesis, lack definitive explanatory mechanisms. In response, we investigated whether community assembly mechanisms could explain why trophic complexity consistently scales with species richness among ecosystems. We analyzed how food-web structure developed during the community assembly recorded in Simberloff and Wilson's classic biogeography experiment. Using their arthropod surveys, we constructed six time series of food-webs from pre- and post-defaunation censuses of six experimental islands, and synthesized trophic information for 250 species from the literature and expert sources. We found that the fraction of specialist species increased and the fraction of generalists decreased during food-web assembly. Directed connectance initially declined over time, despite an increase in species richness, but eventually leveled off as predicted by the constant connectance hypothesis of diversity-complexity scaling. The initial decline was explained by later colonization by trophic specialists, probably due to limited resource availability during early colonization. Late-colonizing super-generalists maintained constant connectance at later dates. This relationship between colonization success and trophic breadth helps explain food-web patterns and corroborates assertions that community assembly is systematically influenced by species' trophic breadths. [source]

    On the roles of time, space and habitat in a boreal small mammal assemblage: predictably stochastic assembly

    OIKOS, Issue 2 2005
    Douglas W. Morris
    Ecologists continue to debate the roles of deterministic versus stochastic (or neutral) processes in the assembly of ecological communities. The debate often hinges on issues of temporal and spatial scale. Resolution of the competing views depends on a detailed understanding of variation in the structure of local communities through time and space. Analyses of twelve years of data on a diverse assemblage of 13 boreal small mammal species revealed both deterministic and stochastic patterns. Stochastic membership in the overall community created unique assemblages of species in both time and space. But the relative abundances of the two codominant species were much less variable, and suggest a significant role for strong interactions that create temporal and spatial autocorrelation in abundance. As species wax and wane in abundance, they are nevertheless subject to probabilistic rules on local assembly. At the scales I report on here, poorly understood large scale processes influence the presence and absence of the majority of (sparse) species in the assembly. But the overall pool of species nevertheless obeys local rules on their ultimate stochastic assembly into groups of interacting species. [source]

    The method of synthesis in ecology

    OIKOS, Issue 1 2001
    E. David Ford
    Synthesis of results from different investigations is an important activity for ecologists but when compared with analysis the method of synthesis has received little attention. Ecologists usually proceed intuitively and this can lead to a problem in defining differences between the syntheses made by different scientists. It also leads to criticism from scientists favoring analytical approaches that the construction of general theory is an activity that does not follow the scientific method. We outline a methodology for scientific inference about integrative concepts and the syntheses made in constructing them and illustrate how this can be applied in the development of general theory from investigations into particular ecological systems. The objective is to construct a causal scientific explanation. This has four characteristics. (1) It defines causal and/or organizational processes that describe how systems function. (2) These processes are consistent , under the same conditions they will produce the same effect. (3) A causal scientific explanation provides general information about events of a similar kind. (4) When experiments are possible then a designed manipulation will produce a predictable response. The essential characteristic of making synthesis to construct a causal scientific explanation is that it is progressive and we judge progress made by assessing the coherence of the explanation using six criteria: acceptability of individual propositions including that they have been tested with data, consistency of concept definitions, consistency in the type of concepts used in making the explanation, that ad hoc propositions are not used, that there is economy in the number of propositions used, that the explanation applies to broad questions. We illustrate development of a causal scientific explanation for the concept of long-lived pioneer tree species, show how the coherence of this explanation can be assessed, and how it could be improved. [source]

    Sex in Space: Pollination among Spatially Isolated Plants

    BIOTROPICA, Issue 2 2004
    Jaboury Ghazoul
    ABSTRACT Plant distributions are changing at unprecedented rates, primarily due to habitat clearance and the spread of alien invasive species. Landscape pattern and local density can affect plant sexual processes, particularly those mediated by biotic vectors, by acting on the composition and behavior of pollinators and seed dispersers. Ecologists are now grappling with the likely effects of these altered processes on future forest composition as existing plant reproductive mutualisms break down or adjust to new spatial circumstances. Here, we introduce five papers that address pollinator responses and pollination outcomes in a variety of human-dominated landscapes and emphasize the need to better understand the dynamic nature of plant,pollinator interactions. [source]

    Australia's place in the global restoration challenge: Interview with Richard Hobbs

    Richard Hobbs
    Summary This interview with Professor Richard Hobbs, a prominent Australian researcher, professor and journal editor, traces his involvement in ecology and the relatively new disciplines of landscape ecology and restoration ecology. Born and educated as a plant ecologist in Scotland, Richard undertook postdoctoral research in the USA before taking up a series of research positions in Australia that steered him towards landscape ecology and restoration ecology. Having maintained an interest and involvement in international organizations, Richard provides comment in this interview on the progress of ecological restoration practice in Australasia compared to North America and comments on the need for ensuring research in these disciplines is strongly linked to management, is as broadly relevant as possible, and, is carried out at appropriate scales. [source]

    The use of leukocyte profiles to measure stress in vertebrates: a review for ecologists

    FUNCTIONAL ECOLOGY, Issue 5 2008
    A. K. Davis
    Summary 1A growing number of ecologists are turning to the enumeration of white blood cells from blood smears (leukocyte profiles) to assess stress in animals. There has been some inconsistency and controversy in the ecological literature, however, regarding their interpretation. The inconsistencies may stem partly from a lack of information regarding how stress affects leukocytes in different taxa, and partly from a failure on the part of researchers in one discipline to consult potentially informative literature from another. 2Here, we seek to address both issues by reviewing the literature on the leukocyte response to stress, spanning the taxa of mammals (including humans), birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish. 3We show that much of the early literature points to a close link between leukocyte profiles and glucocorticoid levels. Specifically, these hormones act to increase the number and percentage of neutrophils (heterophils in birds and reptiles), while decreasing the number and percentage of lymphocytes. This phenomenon is seen in all five vertebrate taxa in response to either natural stressors or exogenous administration of stress hormones. For the ecologist, therefore, high ratios of heterophils or neutrophils to lymphocytes (,H : L' or ,N : L' ratios) in blood samples reliably indicate high glucocorticoid levels. Furthermore, this close relationship between stress hormones and N : L or H : L ratios needs to be highlighted more prominently in haematological assessments of stress, as it aids the interpretation of results. 4As with hormone assays, there are challenges to overcome in the use of leukocytes profiles to assess levels of stress; however, there are also advantages to this approach, and we outline each. Given the universal and consistent nature of the haematological response to stress, plus the overwhelming evidence from the veterinary, biomedical and ecological literature reviewed here, we conclude that this method can provide a reliable assessment of stress in all vertebrate taxa. [source]

    Logic of experiments in ecology: is pseudoreplication a pseudoissue?

    OIKOS, Issue 1 2001
    Lauri Oksanen
    Hurlbert divides experimental ecologist into ,those who do not see any need for dispersion (of replicated treatments and controls), and those who do recognize its importance and take whatever measures are necessary to achieve a good dose of it'. Experimental ecologists could also be divided into those who do not see any problems with sacrificing spatial and temporal scales in order to obtain replication, and those who understand that appropriate scale must always have priority over replication. If an experiment is conducted in a spatial or temporal scale, where the predictions of contesting hypotheses are convergent or ambiguous, no amount of technical impeccability can make the work instructive. Conversely, replication can always be obtained afterwards, by conducting more experiments with basically similar design in different areas and by using meta-analysis. This approach even reduces the sampling bias obtained if resources are allocated to a small number of well-replicated experiments. For a strict advocate of the hypothetico-deductive method, replication is unnecessary even as a matter of principle, unless the predicted response is so weak that random background noise is a plausible excuse for a discrepancy between predictions and results. By definition, a prediction is an ,all-statement', referring to all systems within a well-defined category. What applies to all must apply to any. Hence, choosing two systems and assigning them randomly to a treatment and a control is normally an adequate design for a deductive experiment. The strength of such experiments depends on the firmness of the predictions and their a priori probability of corroboration. Replication is but one of many ways of reducing this probability. Whether the experiment is replicated or not, inferential statistics should always be used, to enable the reader to judge how well the apparent patterns in samples reflect real patterns in statistical populations. The concept ,pseudoreplication' amounts to entirely unwarranted stigmatization of a reasonable way to test predictions referring to large-scale systems. [source]

    Conservation Challenges for the Austral and Neotropical America Section

    América Austral y Neotropical; América Latina; desarrollo de capacidades Abstract:,The Austral and Neotropical America (ANA) section of the Society for Conservation Biology includes a vast territory with some of the largest relatively pristine ecosystems in the world. With more than 573 million people, the economic growth of the region still depends strongly on natural resource exploitation and still has high rates of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. A survey among the ANA section membership, with more than 700 members, including most of the section's prominent ecologists and conservationists, indicates that lack of capacity building for conservation, corruption, and threats such as deforestation and illegal trade of species, are among the most urgent problems that need to be addressed to improve conservation in the region. There are, however, strong universities and ecology groups taking the lead in environmental research and conservation, a most important issue to enhance the ability of the region to solve conservation and development conflicts. Resumen:,La sección América Austral y Neotropical (AAN) de la Sociedad para la Biología de la Conservación incluye un vasto territorio con unos de los ecosistemas relativamente prístinos más extensos del mundo. Con más de 573 millones de habitantes, el crecimiento económico de la región aun depende fuertemente de la explotación de recursos naturales y aún tiene altas tasas de degradación ambiental y pérdida de biodiversidad. Un sondeo de la membresía de la sección AAN, con más de 700 miembros, incluyendo la mayoría de los ecólogos y conservacionistas más prominentes de la sección, indica que la carencia de desarrollo de capacidades para la conservación, la corrupción y amenazas como la deforestación y el comercio ilegal de especies, son algunos de los problemas que requieren ser atendidos más urgentemente para mejorar la conservación en la región. Sin embargo, hay universidades y grupos ecológicos que están tomando el liderazgo en investigación ambiental y conservación, un tema importante para mejorar la habilidad de la región para resolver conflictos de conservación y desarrollo. [source]

    Consumer Control of Salt Marshes Driven by Human Disturbance

    control de consumidor; impactos humanos; conservación de pantano de sal; cascadas de trophic Abstract:,Salt marsh ecosystems are widely considered to be controlled exclusively by bottom,up forces, but there is mounting evidence that human disturbances are triggering consumer control in western Atlantic salt marshes, often with catastrophic consequences. In other marine ecosystems, human disturbances routinely dampen (e.g., coral reefs, sea grass beds) and strengthen (e.g., kelps) consumer control, but current marsh theory predicts little potential interaction between humans and marsh consumers. Thus, human modification of top,down control in salt marshes was not anticipated and was even discounted in current marsh theory, despite loud warnings about the potential for cascading human impacts from work in other marine ecosystems. In spite of recent experiments that have challenged established marsh dogma and demonstrated consumer-driven die-off of salt marsh ecosystems, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations continue to manage marsh die-offs under the old theoretical framework and only consider bottom,up forces as causal agents. This intellectual dependency of many coastal ecologists and managers on system-specific theory (i.e., marsh bottom,up theory) has the potential to have grave repercussions for coastal ecosystem management and conservation in the face of increasing human threats. We stress that marine vascular plant communities (salt marshes, sea grass beds, mangroves) are likely more vulnerable to runaway grazing and consumer-driven collapse than is currently recognized by theory, particularly in low-diversity ecosystems like Atlantic salt marshes. Resumen:,Se ha considerado extensamente que los ecosistemas de marismas son controlados exclusivamente por dinámicas abajo-arriba, pero se ha acumulado evidencia de que las perturbaciones humanas están provocando el control por consumidores en marismas del Atlántico occidental, a menudo con consecuencias catastróficas. En otros ecosistemas marinos, las perturbaciones humanas rutinariamente disminuyen (e.g., arrecifes de coral, pastos marinos) y refuerzan (e.g., varec) el control por consumidores, pero la teoría de marismas actual predice una leve interacción potencial entre humanos y consumidores en las marismas. Por lo tanto, las modificaciones humanas al control arriba-abajo en las marismas no estaba anticipada y aun era descontada en la teoría de marismas actual, a pesar de advertencias sobre el potencial de impactos humanos en cascada en trabajos en otros ecosistemas marinos. No obstante los experimentos recientes que han desafiado el dogma de marismas establecido y que han demostrado la desaparición gradual de marismas conducida por consumidores, las agencias gubernamentales y las organizaciones no gubernamentales continúan manejando la disminución de marismas en el marco de la teoría vieja y sólo consideran como agentes causales a factores abajo-arriba. Esta dependencia intelectual en la teoría sistema-específico (i.e., teoría de marismas abajo-arriba) de muchos ecólogos y manejadores costeros tiene el potencial de tener repercusiones graves para el manejo y conservación de ecosistemas costeros frente a las crecientes amenazas humanas. Enfatizamos que las comunidades plantas vasculares marinas (marismas, pastos marinos, manglares) son potencialmente más vulnerables al pastoreo descontrolado y al colapso conducido por consumidores que lo que reconoce la teoría actualmente, particularmente en ecosistemas con baja diversidad como las marismas del Atlántico. [source]

    Individual, Population, Community, and Ecosystem Consequences of a Fish Invader in New Zealand Streams

    Colin R. Townsend
    But because invaders can have unexpected indirect effects in food webs, invasion ecologists need to integrate processes at the population level and other ecological levels. I describe a series of coordinated studies in New Zealand streams that address the effect of an exotic fish on individual behavior, population, community, and ecosystem patterns. Such case studies are important as an aid to the formulation of policy about invasions that are especially likely to become problematic. At the individual level, grazing invertebrates showed changes in behavior as a result of the introduction of brown trout ( Salmo trutta), a predator that exerts a very different selection pressure than do native fish. At the population level, trout have replaced nonmigratory galaxiid fish in some streams but not others, and have affected the distributions of crayfish and other large invertebrates. At the community level, trout have suppressed grazing pressure from invertebrates and are thus responsible for enhancing algal biomass and changing algal species composition. Finally, at the ecosystem level, essentially all annual production of invertebrates is consumed by trout ( but not by galaxiids), and algal primary productivity is six times higher in a trout stream. This leads, in turn, to an increased flux of nutrients from the water to the benthic community. The trout invasion has led to strong top-down control of community structure and ecosystem functioning via its effects on individual behavior and population distribution and abundance. Particular physiological, behavioral, and demographic traits of invaders can lead to profound ecosystem consequences that managers need to take into account. Resumen: Para desarrollar procedimientos y políticas de manejo efectivos a menudo será necesario conocer la biología de la población de especies invasoras. Sin embargo, debido a que los invasores pueden tener efectos indirectos inesperados en las redes alimenticias, ecólogos de invasión necesitan integrar procesos en la población y otros niveles ecológicos. Describo una serie de estudios coordinados en arroyos de Nueva Zelanda que enfocan el impacto de un pez exótico sobre los patrones de comportamiento individual, de la población, la comunidad y el ecosistema. Tales estudios de caso son importantes como un auxiliar para la formulación de políticas sobre invasiones que pueden ser especialmente problemáticas. Al nivel individual, los invertebrados que pastorean mostraron cambios de conducta como resultado de la introducción de la trucha café ( Salmo trutta), un depredador que ejerce una presión de selección muy diferente a la de los peces nativos. En el nivel de población, las truchas han reemplazado a peces galaxídos no migratorios en algunos arroyos pero no en otros y han afectado las distribuciones de cangrejos de río y otros invertebrados mayores. Al nivel de comunidad, las truchas han suprimido la presión de pastoreo por invertebrados y por lo tanto son responsables del incremento de la biomasa de algas y del cambio en la composición de especies de algas. Finalmente, a nivel de ecosistema, la producción anual de invertebrados esencialmente es consumida por las truchas ( pero no por galaxídos), y la productividad primaria de algas es seis veces mayor en arroyos con truchas. A su vez, esto conduce a incrementos en el flujo de nutrientes del agua hacia la comunidad béntica. La invasión de truchas ha conducido a un fuerte control de arriba hacia abajo de la estructura de la comunidad y del funcionamiento del ecosistema por medio de sus efectos sobre la conducta individual y la distribución y abundancia de la población. Las características fisiológicas, de conducta y demográficas particulares de los invasores pueden llevar a consecuencias profundas en los ecosistemas que los administradores necesitan tomar en consideración. [source]

    Differential development of body equilibrium among littermates in the newborn rabbit

    Edith Muciño
    Abstract Interest is growing among psychobiologists and behavioral ecologists in the role of sibling relations in shaping individual development and life histories. In litters of domestic rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus the heaviest pups at birth are more likely to survive the critical first postnatal week, they compete more effectively with littermates for milk and well-insulated positions in the litter huddle, and are the heaviest at weaning. Here we report that high birth weight pups are also better able to maintain body equilibrium. Testing pups' ability to maintain equilibrium when placed on a 15° ramp for 2 min each day during the first postnatal week, we found that pups showed a continual daily improvement in their ability to maintain balance while moving on the ramp, rarely lost balance by postnatal day 8, and that heavier pups could maintain balance better and earlier than their lighter littermates. Better ability to maintain body equilibrium, however achieved, may help explain heavier pups' advantage in competing for vital resources such as milk and in gaining access to better-insulated positions in the litter huddle. It also provides further support for the usefulness of birth weight, not only as an absolute measure but also relative to the weight of other littermates, as a predictor of different developmental trajectories, behavioral and physiological, among same-age siblings in this mammal. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 51: 24,33, 2009 [source]

    Plant invasion ecology , dispatches from the front line

    David M. Richardson
    ABSTRACT This issue of Diversity and Distributions carries papers on a wide range of topics dealing with invasions of introduced plant species. The collection of articles did not arise from a conference or workshop, but grew from a founder population of contributed manuscripts. Some additional papers were solicited to ensure coverage of other established or emerging fields of research in plant invasion ecology. The compilation represents a reasonable cross section of issues that currently occupy plant invasion ecologists. The editorial places the contributions in context and summarizes some key findings. It also suggests some profitable avenues for future research in plant invasion ecology. [source]