Lacking of systematic evaluations in soil quality and microbial community recovery after different amendments addition limits optimization of amendments combination in coal mine-soils. We performed a short-term incubation experiment over 12 weeks to assess the effects of three amendments (biochar: C; nitrogen fertilizer at three levels: N-N1~N3; microbial agent at two levels: M-M1~M2) based on C/N ratio (regulated by biochar and N level: 35:1, 25:1, 12.5:1) on soil quality and microbial community in the Qilian Mountains, China. Over the incubation period, soil pH and MBC/MBN were significantly lower than unamended treatment in N addition and C+M+N treatments, respectively. Soil organic carbon (SOC), total nitrogen (TN), available nitrogen (AN), available phosphorus (AP), available potassium (AK), microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and microbial biomass nitrogen (MBN) contents had a significant increase in all amended treatments (P<0.001). Higher AP, AK, MBC, MBN and lower MBC/MBN were observed in N2-treated soil(corresponding to C/N ratio of 25:1). Meanwhile, N2-treated soil significantly increased species richness and diversity of soil bacterial community (P<0.05). Principal coordinate analysis further showed that soil bacterial community compositions were significantly separated by N level. C-M-N treatments (especially at N2 and N1 levels) significantly increased the relative abundance (>1%) of the bacterial phyla Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, and decreased the relative abundance of fungal phyla Chytridiomycota (P<0.05). Redundancy analysis illustrated the importance of soil nutrients in explaining variability in bacteria community composition (74.73%) than fungal (35.0%). Our results indicated that N and M addition based on biochar can improve soil quality by neutralizing soil pH and increasing soil nutrient contents, and the appropriate C/N ratio (25:1: biochar+N2-treated soil) can better promote mass, richness and diversity of soil bacterial community. Our study provided a new insight for achieving restoration of damaged habitats by changing microbial structure, diversity and mass by regulating C/N ratio of amendments
Aim The unique aquatic Pontocaspian (PC) biota of the Black Sea Basin (BSB) is in decline. Lack of detailed knowledge on the status and trends of species, populations and communities hampers a thorough risk assessment and precludes effective conservation. This paper aims to review PC biodiversity trends using endemic molluscs as a model group. We aim to assess changes in PC habitats, community structure and species distribution over the past century and to identify direct anthropogenic threats. Location Black Sea Basin (Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia). Methods Presence/absence data of target mollusc species was assembled from literature, reports and personal observations. PC biodiversity trends in the NW BSB coastal regions were established by comparing 20th and 21st century occurrences. Direct drivers of habitat and biodiversity change were identified and documented. Results A very strong decline of PC species and communities during the past century is driven by a) damming of rivers, b) habitat modifications negatively affecting salinity gradients, c) pollution and eutrophication, d) invasive alien species and e) climate change. Four out of 10 studied regions, namely, the Danube Delta – Razim Lake system, Dniester Liman, Dnieper-South Bug Estuary and Taganrog Bay-Don Delta contain the entire spectrum of ecological conditions to support PC communities and still host threatened endemic PC mollusc species. Distribution data is incomplete, but the scale of deterioration of PC species and communities is evident from the assembled data, as are major direct threats. Main conclusions PC biodiversity in the BSB is profoundly affected by human activities. Standardised observation and collection data as well as precise definition of PC biota and habitats are necessary for targeted conservation actions. This study will help to set the research and policy agenda required to improve data collection to accommodate effective conservation of the unique PC biota.
The studies of climatic-niche shifts over evolutionary time accompanied by key morphological innovations have attracted the interest of many researchers recently. We analyzed the realized niche dynamics across clades within Scutiger boulengeri using ecological niche models (ENMs), ordination method (environment principal component analysis; PCA-env), and correspondingly key morphological innovations combined phylogenetic comparative methods (PCMs) and phylogenetic generalized least squares (PGLS) regression methods throughout their distributions in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) margins of China in Asia. Our analyses reveal that there is obvious niche divergence caused by niche expansion across S. boulengeri clades, especially in E. A, E. B and partial of E. C clades. Moreover, niche expansion is more popular than niche unfilling into novel environmental conditions. Annual mean temperature and Annual precipitation are the most important contributors in E. A and E. B clades, while Precipitation of driest month is most likely to be the leading limited factor in these two regions according to jackknife test of variable importance. In addition, we identified several key ecological and morphological traits that tend to be associated with niche expansion in S. boulengeri clades correspondingly. Specifically, we found that Elevation, Isothermality, Mean diurnal range and Max temperature of warmest month are significantly negative predictors of snout–vent length (SVL) under phylogenetic models, while the S. boulengeri toads from warmer and more arid environments tend to be larger. There seems to a trade-off strategy by trait covary of locomotor performance combined with enlarged SVL, which provide us a potential pattern of how a colonizing toad might seed a novel habit to begin the process of speciation and finally adaptive radiation. It is worth noting that we should not overlook that the Tibet continuously growing and moving northward over millions of years has laid the foundation for early divergence of clades within S. boulengeri.
1. Animal movement studies are conducted to monitor ecosystem health, understand ecological dynamics and address management and conservation questions. In marine environments, traditional sampling and monitoring methods to measure animal movement are invasive, labour intensive, costly, and measuring movement of many individuals is challenging. Automated detection and tracking of small-scale movements of many animals through cameras are possible. However, automated techniques are largely untested in field conditions, and this is hampering applications to ecological questions. 2. Here, we aimed to test the ability of computer vision algorithms to track small-scale movement of many individuals in videos. We apply the method to track fish movement in the field and characterize movement behaviour. First, we automated the detection of a common fisheries species (yellowfin bream, Acanthopagrus australis) from underwater videos of individuals swimming along a known movement corridor. We then tracked fish movement with three types of tracking algorithms (MOSSE, Seq-NMS and SiamMask), and evaluated their accuracy at characterizing movement. 3. We successfully detected yellowfin bream in a multi-species assemblage (F1 score = 91%). At least 120 of the 169 individual bream present in videos were correctly identified and tracked. The accuracies among the three tracking architectures varied, with MOSSE and SiamMask achieving an accuracy of 78%, and Seq-NMS 84%. 4. By employing these emerging computer vision technologies, we demonstrated a non-invasive and reliable approach to studying fish behaviour by tracking their movement under field conditions. These cost-effective technologies potentially will allow future studies to scale-up analysis of movement across many underwater visual monitoring systems.
Human activity is increasingly and persistently disturbing nature and wild animals. Affected wildlife adopts multiple strategies to deal with different human influences. To explore the effect of human activity on habitat utilization of Himalayan marmot (Marmota himalayana), habitat utilization patterns of three neighboring marmot populations in habitats affected differently by human activities were recorded and compared. We found that: (1) Distance between reproductive burrows (a represent of reproductive pairs) becomes shorter under the influence of human activities, and more burrows were dug as temporary shelters, resulting in a shorter distance between those shelters as well as shorter distance flee to those shelters, and consequently, shorter flight initiation distance when threatened. More burrows that are closer in the disturbed habitats improve the ability to escape from threats. (2) Reproductive burrow site selection of the species is determined by the availability of mounds in the habitat, and breeding pairs selectively build reproductive (also the hibernation) burrows on mounds, potentially to improve surveillance when basking and the drainage of burrows. Human activities generally drive breeding pairs away from the road to dig their reproductive burrows likely to reduce disturbance from vehicles. However, even heavy human activity exerts no pressure on the distance of reproductive burrows from the road or the mound volume of the high disturbance population, potentially because mounds are the best burrowing site to reproduce and hibernate in the habitat. Marmots deal with disturbance by digging more burrows in the habitat to flee more effectively and building reproductive burrows on mounds to gain better vigilance and drainage efficiency.
Attacks on humans by Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is an extreme form of Human-elephant conflict. It is a serious issue in southern lowland Nepal where elephants kill more humans than any other wildlife. Detailed understanding of elephant attacks on humans in Nepal is still lacking which affected in devising appropriate strategies and actions for human elephant conflict mitigation. This study documented spatio-temporal pattern of elephant attacks on humans, factors associated with the attacks and human/elephant behaviour contributing to deaths of victims when attacked. We compiled all the documented incidences of elephant attacks on humans in Nepal for last 20 years across Terai and Siwalik region of Nepal. We also visited and interviewed 412 victim families (274 fatalities and 138 injuries) on elephant attacks. Majority of the victims were males (87.86%) and had low level of education. One fourth of the elephant attacks occurred while chasing the elephants. Solitary bulls or group of sub-adult males were involved in most of the attack. We found higher number of attacks outside the protected area. People who were drunk and chasing elephants using fire-crackers were more vulnerable to the fatalities. In contrast, chasing elephants using fire was negatively associated to the fatalities. Elephant attacks were concentrated in proximity of forests primarily affecting the socio-economically marginalized communities. Integrated settlement, safe housing for marginalized community and community grain house in the settlement should be promoted to reduce the confrontation between elephants and humans. Conservation of elephant should be carried out in entire landscape, extending beyond the boundary of protected areas to reduce threats of elephant extinction.
The Small East African (SEA) goat (Capra hircus) breeds are widely distributed in different agro-ecological zones of Tanzania. We report the genetic diversity, maternal origin, and phylogenetic relationship among the 12 Tanzanian indigenous goats populations, namely Fipa (n = 44), Songwe (n = 34), Tanga (n = 33), Pwani (n = 40), Newala (n = 49), Lindi (n = 46), Gogo (n = 73), Pare (n = 67), Maasai (n = 72), Sukuma (n = 67), and Ujiji (n = 67), based on the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) D-loop. High haplotype (Hd = 0.9619-0.9945) and nucleotide (π = 0.0120-0.0162) diversities were revealed from a total of 389 haplotypes. The majority of the haplotypes (h = 334) drawn from all the goat populations belonged to Haplogroup A which was consistent with the global scenario on the genetic pattern of maternal origin of all goat breeds in the world. Haplogroup G comprised of 45 haplotypes drawn from all populations except the Ujiji goat population while Haplogroup B with 10 haplotypes was dominated by Ujiji goats (41%). Tanzanian goats shared four haplotypes with the Kenyan goats and two with goats from South Africa, Namibia, and Mozambique. There was no sharing of haplotypes observed between individuals from Tanzanian goat populations with individuals from North or West Africa. The indigenous goats in Tanzania have high genetic diversity defined by 389 haplotypes and multiple maternal origins of haplogroup A, B and G. There is a lot of intermixing and high genetic variation within populations which represent an abundant resource for selective breeding in the different agro-ecological regions of the country.
Birds are known to act as potential vectors for the exogenous dispersal of bryophyte diaspores. Given the totipotency of vegetative tissue of many bryophytes, birds could also contribute to endozoochorous bryophyte dispersal. Research has shown that fecal samples of the upland goose (Chloephaga picta) and white-bellied seedsnipe (Attagis malouinus) contain bryophyte fragments. Although few fragments from bird feces have been known to regenerate, the evidence for the viability of diaspores following passage through the bird intestinal tract remains ambiguous. We evaluated the role of endozoochory in these same herbivorous and sympatric bird species in sub-Antarctic Chile. We hypothesized that fragments of bryophyte gametophytes retrieved from their feces are viable and capable of regenerating new plant tissue. Eleven feces disc samples containing undetermined moss fragments from C. picta (N=6) and A. malouinus (N=5) and six moss fragment samples from wild collected mosses (Conostomum tetragonum, Syntrichia robusta, and Polytrichum strictum) were grown ex situ in peat soil and in vitro using a agar-Gamborg medium. After 91 days, 20% of fragments from A. malouinus feces, 50% of fragments from C. picta feces, and 67% of propagules from wild mosses produced new growth. The fact that moss diaspores remained viable and can regenerate under experimental conditions following the passage through the intestinal tracts of these robust fliers and altitudinal and latitudinal migrants, suggests that sub-Antarctic birds may play a critical role in bryophyte dispersal. This relationship may have important implications in the way bryophytes disperse and colonize habitats facing climate change. Keywords: birds, bryophyte dispersal, endozoochory, mosses, sub-Antarctic
The extended female post-reproductive lifespan found in humans and some toothed whales remains an evolutionary puzzle. Theory predicts demographic patterns resulting in increased female relatedness with age (kinship dynamics) can select for a prolonged post-reproductive lifespan due to the combined costs of inter-generational reproductive conflict and benefits of late-life helping. Here we test this prediction using >40 years of longitudinal demographic data from the sympatric yet genetically distinct killer whale ecotypes: resident and Bigg’s killer whales. The female relatedness with age is predicted to increase in both ecotypes, but with a less steep increase in Bigg’s due to their different social structure. Here, we show that there is a significant post-reproductive lifespan in both ecotypes with >30% of adult female years being lived as post-reproductive, supporting the general prediction that an increase in local relatedness with age predisposes the evolution of a post-reproductive lifespan. Differences in the magnitude of kinship dynamics however, did not influence the timing or duration of the post-reproductive lifespan with females in both ecotypes terminating reproduction before their mid-40s followed by an expected post-reproductive period of ~20 years. Our results highlight the important role of kinship dynamics in the evolution of a long post-reproductive lifespan in long-lived mammals, while further implying that the timing of menopause may be a robust trait that is persistent despite substantial variation in demographic patterns among population.
While several researchers have suggested that evolution should be explored from the initial years of schooling, little information is available on effective resources to enhance elementary school students’ level of understanding of evolution by natural selection (LUENS). For the present study, we designed, implemented and evaluated an educational activity planned for fourth graders to explore concepts and conceptual fields that were historically important for the discovery of natural selection. Observation field notes and students’ productions were used to analyse how the students explored the proposed activity. Additionally, an evaluation framework consisting of a test, the evaluation criteria and the scoring process was applied in two fourth-grade classes to estimate elementary school students’ LUENS before and after engaging in the activity. Our results suggest that our activity allowed students to effectively link all of the key concepts in the classroom and produced a significant increase in their LUENS. These results indicate that our activity had a positive impact on students’ understanding of natural selection. They also reveal that additional activities and minor fine-tuning of the present activity are required to further support students’ learning about the concept of differential reproduction. We also observed a low level of teleological predictions for both pre- and post-tests.
The mitochondrial genome is now widely used in the study of the phylogenetics and molecular evolution due to its maternal inheritance, fast evolutionary rate and highly conserved gene content. To explore the phylogenetic relationships of the tribe Aeromachini within the subfamily Hesperiinae at the mitochondrial genomics level, we sequenced and annotated the complete mitogenomes of 3 skippers: Amipittia virgata, Halpe nephele and Onryza maga. All of these mitogenomes are double-stranded and have circular molecules with a total length of 15,333 bp, 15,291 bp and 15,381 bp, respectively. The mitogenomes all contain 13 protein-coding genes (PCGs), 22 transfer RNAs (tRNAs), 2 ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs) and a non-coding AT-rich region, and are consistent with other lepidopterans in gene order and type. In addition, we reconstruted the phylogenetic trees of Hesperiinae using maximum likelihood (ML) and Bayesian inference (BI) methods based on mitogenomic data. Results show that the 3 Aeromachini species in this study robustly constitute a monophyletic group in the subfamily Hesperiinae, with the relationships Coeliadinae + (Euschemoninae + ((Pyrginae + (Eudaminae + Tagiadinae)) + (Heteropterinae + (Barcinae + Hesperiinae)))). Moreover, our study supports the view that Apostictopterus fuliginosus and Barca bicolor should be placed out of the subfamily Hesperiinae.
The spatial-temporal patterns of fish assemblages in lotic systems can provide useful information in developing effective conservation measures. This study aimed to explore the spatiotemporal changes in fish assemblage and their association with environmental factors in mountain streams of Ren River, southwest China. Filed investigations were conducted at 18 sites during rainy and dry season in 2017. A total of 21 species, belonged to 3 orders, 8 families and 19 genera, were collected. Analysis of similarities (ANOSIM) showed fish assemblages structure varied significantly at the spatial scale, but not at the temporal scale. In low order sites, fish assemblages were mainly dominated by cold water and rheophilic species (e.g. Rhynchocypris oxycephalus, Scaphesthes macrolepis, Metahomaloptera omeiensis and Gnathopogon herzensteini), while those in high order sites were predominated by warm water and eurytopicity or stagnophilic species (e.g. Squalidus argentatus, Hemiculter leucisculus and Zacco platypus). Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) showed fish assemblages were structured by a combination of large-scale landscape factors (e.g. altitude and C-link) and small-scale habitat features (e.g. channel width, water temperature and depth). Among these factors, landscape factors had the greatest influence on fish assemblage, while local habitat measures played less important roles or just acted in certain season.
Global change alters ecological communities with consequences for ecosystem processes. Such processes and functions are a central aspect of ecological research and vital to understanding and mitigating the consequences of global change, but also those of other drivers of change in organism communities. In this context, the concept of energy flux through trophic networks integrates food-web theory and biodiversity-ecosystem functioning theory and connects biodiversity to multitrophic ecosystem functioning. As such, the energy flux approach is a strikingly effective tool to answer central questions in ecology and global-change research. This might seem straight forward, given that the theoretical background and software to efficiently calculate energy flux are readily available. However, the implementation of such calculations is not always straight forward, especially for those who are new to the topic and not familiar with concepts central to this line of research, such as food-web theory or metabolic theory. To facilitate wider use of energy flux in ecological research, we thus provide a guide to adopting energy-flux calculations for people new to the method, struggling with its implementation, or simply looking for background reading, important resources, and standard solutions to the problems everyone faces when starting to quantify energy fluxes for their community data. First, we introduce energy flux and its use in community and ecosystem ecology. Then, we provide a comprehensive explanation of the single steps towards calculating energy flux for community data. Finally, we discuss remaining challenges and exciting research frontiers for future energy-flux research.
1. Trait differences among plant species can favor species coexistence. The role that such differences play in the assembly of diverse plant communities maintained by frequent fires remains unresolved. This lack of resolution results in part from the possibility that species with similar traits may coexist because none has a significant fitness advantage and in part from the difficulty of experimental manipulation of highly diverse assemblages dominated by perennial species. 2. We examined a 65-year chronosequence of losses of herbaceous species following fire suppression (and subsequent encroachment by Pinus elliottii) in three wet longleaf pine savannas. We used cluster analysis, similarity profile permutation tests and k-R cluster analysis to identify statistically significant functional groups. We then used randomization tests to determine if the absence of functional groups near pines was greater (or less) than expected by chance. We also tested whether tolerant and sensitive species were less (or more) likely to co-occur by chance in areas in savannas away from pines in accordance with predictions of modern coexistence theory. 3. Functional group richness near pines was lower than expected from random species extirpations. Wetland perennials with thick rhizomes and high leaf water content, spring-flowering wetland forbs (including Drosera tracyi), orchids, Polygala spp., and club mosses were more likely to be absent near pines than expected by chance. C3 grasses and sedges with seed banks and tall, fall-flowering C4 grasses were less likely to be absent near pines than expected by chance. Species sensitive to pine encroachment were more likely to co-occur with other such species away from pines at two of the three sites. 4. Results suggest that herb species diversity in frequently-burned wet savannas is maintained in part by a weak fitness (e.g., competitive) hierarchy among herbs, and not as a result of trait differences among co-occurring species.
Sexual size dimorphism (SSD) is caused by differences in selection pressures and life-history tradeoffs faced by males and females. Proximate causes of SSD may involve sex-specific mortality, energy acqui-sition, and energy expenditure for maintenance, reproductive tissues, and reproductive behavior. Using a quantitative, individual-based, eco-genetic model parameterized for North Sea plaice, we explore the importance of these mechanisms for female-biased SSD, under which males are smaller and reach sexual maturity earlier than females (common among fish, but also arising in arthropods and mammals). We consider two mechanisms potentially serving as ultimate causes: (1) male investments into male repro-ductive behavior might detract energy resources that would otherwise be available for somatic growth, and (2) diminishing returns on male reproductive investments might lead to reduced energy acquisition. In general, both of these can bring about smaller male body sizes. We report the following findings. First, higher investments into male reproductive behavior alone cannot explain the North Sea plaice SSD. This is because such higher reproductive investments require increased energy acquisition, which would cause a delay in maturation, leading to male-biased SSD contrary to observations. When account-ing for the observed differential (lower) male mortality, maturation is postponed even further, leading to even larger males. Second, diminishing returns on male reproductive investments alone can qualitative-ly account for the North Sea plaice SSD, even though the quantitative match is imperfect. Third, both mechanisms can be reconciled with, and thus provide a mechanistic basis for, the previously advanced Ghiselin-Reiss hypothesis, according to which smaller males will evolve if their reproductive success is dominated by scramble competition for fertilizing females, as males would consequently invest more into reproduction than growth, potentially implying lower survival rates relaxing male-male competition. Fourth, a good quantitative fit is achieved by combining both mechanisms while accounting for costs males incur during spawning.
The populations of the endemic gelada outside protected areas are less studied and population estimates are not available. As a result, a study was conducted to investigate population structure and distribution of geladas in Kotu forest and associated grasslands, in Northern Ethiopia. The study area was stratified into five habitats namely; grassland, wooded grassland, plantation forest, natural forest and bushland based on dominant vegetation type. Each habitat type was further divided into blocks and total counting technique was employed to count the individuals of geladas. The total mean number of gelada in the Kotu forest was 229 ± 6.11. The mean ratio of male to female was 1:1.178. Age composition of geladas comprised: 113 (49.34%) adults, 77 (33.62%) sub adults and 39 (17.03%) juveniles. The mean group size of gelada was 18± 2.0, out of which 2.5± 0.5 (13.89%) was all- male unit (AMU) and 15.5± 1.5 (86.11%) was one male unit (OMU) social system. The average band size was 45.0± 2.53. The highest number of geladas was recorded from grassland habitat 68 (29.87%) and the lowest from plantation forest habitat 34 (14.74%). Even though, the sex ratio was female biased, the proportion of juveniles to other age classes was very low, indicating negative consequences for the future viability of the gelada populations in the area. Geladas were widely distributed over open grassland habitat. For sustainable conservation of the geladas in the area there is a need for integrated management of the area with special attention on the conservation of the grassland habitat.
In many farming landscapes, aquatic features such as wetlands, creeks and dams provide water needed for stock and irrigation, while also acting as habitat for a range of plants and animals. Indeed, some species threatened by land use change may otherwise be considerably rarer – or even extinct – in the absence of these habitats. Therefore, a critical issue for the maintenance of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes is the extent to which the management of aquatic systems can help promote the integration of agricultural production and biodiversity conservation. We completed a snapshot cross-sectional study in southern New South Wales (south-eastern Australia) to quantify the efficacy of simple management practices – partial revegetation and stock reduction via fencing – for improving vegetation structure, water quality, and macroinvertebrate assemblages. We found that even short-term livestock exclusion resulted in increased vegetation cover. Relative to dams that were unfenced, those that had been partially or completely fenced for many years were characterized by reduced turbidity and nutrient levels and contained fewer thermotolerant (faecal) coliforms. They also supported increased richness and abundance of macroinvertebrates. In contrast, control (unfenced) dams tended to have high abundance of a few macroinvertebrate taxa. Notably, differences remained between the macroinvertebrate assemblages of fenced dams and nearby ‘natural’ waterbodies. Our results show how management interventions can improve water quality in farm dams and provide a valuable reference and baseline for longer term studies of farm dam improvement.
Northern range margin populations of the European fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina) have rapidly declined during recent decades. Extensive agricultural land use has fragmented the landscape, leading to habitat disruption and loss, as well as eutrophication of ponds. In Northern Germany (Schleswig-Holstein) and Southern Sweden, this decline resulted in decreased gene flow from surrounding populations, low genetic diversity, and a putative reduction in adaptive potential, leaving populations vulnerable to future environmental and climatic changes. Previous studies using mitochondrial control region and nuclear transcriptome-wide SNP data detected introgressive hybridization in multiple northern B. bombina populations after presumed illegal release of toads from Austria. Here, we determine the impact of this introgression by comparing the body conditions (as a proxy for fitness) of introgressed and non-introgressed populations, and the genetic consequences in two candidate genes for putative local adaptation (the MHC II gene as part of the adaptive immune system and the stress response gene HSP70 kDa). We detected regional differences in body condition. We observed significantly elevated levels of within individual MHC allele counts in introgressed Swedish populations, associated with a tendency towards higher body weight, relative to regional non-introgressed populations. These differences were not observed among introgressed and non-introgressed German populations. Genetic diversity in both MHC and HSP was generally lower in northern than southern populations. Our study sheds light on the potential benefits of translocations of more distantly related conspecifics as a means to increase adaptive genetic variability and fitness of struggling range margin populations without distortion of local adaptation.