Phytoplasmas (Mollicutes, Acholeplasmataceae), vector-borne obligate bacterial plant-parasites, infect nearly 1,000 plant species and unknown numbers of insects, mainly leafhoppers (Hemiptera, Deltocephalinae), which play a key role in transmission and epidemiology. Although the plant-phytoplasma-insect association has been evolving for >300 million years, nearly all known phytoplasmas have been discovered as a result of the damage inflicted by phytoplasma diseases on crops. Few efforts have been made to study phytoplasmas occurring in non-economically important plants in natural habitats. In this study, a sub-sample of leafhopper specimens preserved in a large museum biorepository was analyzed to unveil potential new associations. PCR screening for phytoplasmas performed on 227 phloem-feeding leafhoppers collected worldwide from natural habitats revealed the presence of 6 different previously unknown phytoplasma strains. This indicates that museum collections of herbivorous insects represent a rich and largely untapped resource for discovery of new plant pathogens, that natural areas worldwide harbor a diverse but largely undiscovered diversity of phytoplasmas and potential insect vectors, and that independent epidemiological cycles occur in such habitats, posing a potential threat of disease spillover into agricultural systems. Larger-scale future investigations will contribute to a better understanding of phytoplasma genetic diversity, insect host range, and insect-borne phytoplasma transmission and provide an early warning for the emergence of new phytoplasma diseases across global agroecosystems.
The coastal heathlands of North-west Europe are valuable cultural landscapes, created and maintained over millennia by a land-use regime involving burning and grazing. These heathlands are now critically threatened throughout their range by land-use change and, increasingly, climatic changes. The climatic change impacts are complex, as the coastal heathland regions are experiencing increased temperature and precipitation, but also increased frequency and severity of extreme events, such as drought. Previous studies reveal that established heathland vegetation, including Calluna, are vulnerable to drought, but also that these vulnerabilities vary throughout the range, and with successional stage after fire. Recruitment from seed is an important regeneration strategy for Calluna heathland vegetation after burning, and our study is the first to assess how the seed germination and early seedling growth of Calluna respond to drought. We will do this in a lab germination experiment, where we will expose Calluna seeds to five different drought treatments, from -0.25 MPa to -1.7 MPa, and measure germination, and record germination percentage, germination rates, and seedling growth, below-ground allocation, and functional traits (Specific Leaf Area, Specific Root Length). To allow assessment of variation in drought responses due to geographic origin, successional stage, and the maternal plants’ drought exposure, we will conduct this experiment on seeds from 540 Calluna plants sampled from across three drought treatments (control, 50%, and 90% coverage), in three successional stages after fire (pioneer, building, mature), in two regions (60N, 65N), using a factorial design.
Chimpanzees Pan troglodytes are the closest extant relative of modern humans, and are often used as a model organism to help understand prehistoric human behavior and ecology. Originally presumed herbivorous, chimpanzees have been observed hunting 24 species of birds, ungulates, rodents, monkeys, and other primates, using an array of techniques from tools to group cooperation. Using the literature on chimpanzee hunting behavior and diet from 13 studies, we aimed to determine the prey preferences of chimpanzees. We extracted data on prey-specific variables such as targeted species, their body weight, and their abundance within the prey community, and hunter-specific variables such as hunting method, and chimpanzee group size and sex ratio. We used these in a generalized linear model to determine what factors drive chimpanzee prey preference. We calculated a Jacobs’ Index value for each prey species killed at two sites in Uganda and two sites in Tanzania. Chimpanzees prefer prey with a body weight of 7.6 ± 0.4 kg or less, which corresponds to animals such as juvenile bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus and guereza colobus monkeys Colobus guereza. Sex ratio in chimpanzee groups appears to drive chimpanzee prey preference, where chimpanzees increasingly prefer prey when in male-dominated groups. Prey preference information from chimpanzee research can assist conservation management programs by identifying key prey species to manage, as well as contribute to a better understanding of the evolution of human hunting behavior.
We sought to generate a preliminary demographic framework for Psammochloa villosa to support of future studies of this ecologically important desert grass species, its conservation, and sustainable utilization. Psammochloa villosa occurs in the Inner Mongolian Plateau where it is frequently the dominant species and is involved in sand stabilization and wind breaking. Here, we characterized the genetic diversity and structure of 210 individuals from 43 natural populations of P. villosa using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers. We obtained 1728 well-defined amplified bands from eight pairs of primers, of which 1654 bands (95.72%) were polymorphic.All these values indicate that there is abundant genetic diversity, but limited gene flow in P. villosa. However, an analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) showed that genetic variation mainly exists within 43 populations of the species (64.16%), and we found that the most genetically similar populations were often not geographically adjacent. Thus, this suggests that the mechanisms of gene flow are surprisingly complex in the species and may occur over long distances. In addition, we predicted the distribution dynamics of P. villosa based on the spatial distribution modeling and found that its range has contracted continuously since the last inter-glacial period. We speculate that dry, cold climates have been critical in determining the geographic distribution of P. villosa during the Quaternary period. Our study provides new insights into the population genetics and evolutionary history of P. villosa in the Inner Mongolian Plateau, which can be used to design in-situ conservation actions and to prioritize sustainable utilization of germplasm resources.
Amblypygids are an arachnid order possessing a unique pair of spined pedipalps: appendages that perform in prey capture, courtship and contest. Pedipalp length, hypothesised to be under sexual selection, varies markedly across amblypygid species, and pedipalp spination, thought to reflect selection for function in prey capture, also differs interspecifically. Differences in pedipalp shape between species may indicate that the relative strength of selection for prey capture and sexual selection vary across the group. However, interspecific differences in pedipalp shape have not been quantified, due to difficulties in identifying homologous features. For the first time, we quantify trends in amblypygid pedipalp shape complexity. We use elliptical Fourier analysis to quantify 2D complexity in pedipalp outlines across eleven species and six genera. We find that complexity significantly decreases as pedipalp length increases. This appears to be driven by relative spine length, suggesting that a trade-off exists between pedipalp length and spination. Furthermore, significant female-biased sexual dimorphism in shape complexity is present in the tibial segment of the amblypygid pedipalp. Our results provide novel insights into the drivers of amblypygid pedipalp evolution, and suggest that a functional trade-off between performance in prey capture and other functions under sexual selection exist in this enigmatic structure.
Phragmites australis is the dominant species in the Yellow River Delta and plays an important role in wetland ecosystems. Ecological responses of the P. australis community to soil properties were investigated in 96 areas along the coastal-inland regions in the Yellow River Delta of China. The aim was to evaluate the relationship between phenotypic variation and environmental factors, reveal which functional traits could well respond to changes in electrical conductivity and soil water content, and the ecological strategies of P. australis. Within the range of soil water content (9.39–36.92%) and electrical conductivity (0.14–13.29 ms/cm), the results showed that the effects of soil water content and salinity were not equally important for the characterization of the morphological and physiological variability, and that plant functional traits including leaf traits and stem traits responded more strongly to soil salinity than soil water content. Our results suggested that salinity leads to reduced average height, specific leaf area, leaf area, and base stem diameter, but increased leaf water content and leaf thickness. The relationships between functional traits and electrical conductivity were generally linear and logarithmic. The coefficients of variation of morphological traits showed more phenotypic plasticity than the physiological traits. Salinity also led to the stress tolerator/competitor-stress tolerator (S/CS) strategies of P. australis; with the decrease of environmental stress, the main strategy gradually moved to the competitor (C) strategy, making P. australis the dominant species in the Yellow River Delta. KEYWORDS: Soil water content, Electrical conductivity, Functional traits, Plasticity, Life strategies.
1. Metadata plays an essential role in the long term preservation, reuse, and interoperability of data. Nevertheless, creating useful metadata can be sufficiently difficult and weakly-enough incentivised that many datasets may be accompanied by little or no metadata. One key challenge is, therefore, how to make metadata creation easier and more valuable. We present a solution that involves creating domain specific metadata schemes that are as complex as necessary and as simple as possible. These goals are achieved by co-development between a metadata expert and the researchers (i.e. the data creators). The final product is a bespoke metadata scheme into which researchers can enter information (and validate it) via the simplest of interfaces: a web browser application and a spreadsheet. 2.We provide the R package [‘dmdScheme‘](https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=dmdScheme) [@Krug2019] for creating a template domain specific scheme. We describe how to create a domain specific scheme from this template, including the iterative co-development process, and the simple methods for using the scheme, and simple methods for quality assessment, improvement, and validation. 3.The process of developing a metadata scheme following the outlined approach was successful, resulting in a metadata scheme which is used for the data generated in our research group. The validation quickly identifies forgotten metadata, as well as inconsistent metadata, therefore improving the quality of the metadata. Multiple output formats are available, including XML. 4. Making the provision of metadata easier while also ensuring high quality must be a priority for data curation initiatives. We show how both objectives are achieved by very close collaboration between metadata experts and researchers to create domain specific schemes. A near-future priority is to provide methods to interface domain specific schemes with general metadata schemes, such as the Ecological Metadata Language, to increase interoperability.
1. Accurate biodiversity and population monitoring is a requirement for effective conservation decision-making. Survey method bias is therefore a concern, particularly when research programs face logistical and cost limitations. 2. We employed point counts (PCs) and autonomous recording units (ARUs) to survey avian biodiversity across elevational gradients in comparable temperate mountain habitats at opposite ends of the Americas (9 mountains in British Columbia (BC), Canada and 10 in southern Chile). We compared detected species richness against multi-year species inventories and examined differences in detection probability by family. By incorporating time costs, we assessed the performance and efficiency of single vs. combined methods. 3. ARUs were predicted to capture ~92% of species present in BC but only ~58% in Chile, despite Chilean mountain communities being less diverse. Community, rather than landscape composition, appears to be the driver of this dramatic difference. Chilean communities contain less-vocal species, which ARUs missed. Further, 6/14 families in BC were better detected by ARUs while 11/11 families in Chile were better detected by PCs. Where survey conditions differentially impacted methods, PC detection varied over the morning and with canopy cover in BC and ARU detection probability mostly varied seasonally in Chile. Within a single year of monitoring, neither method alone was predicted to capture the full avian community, with the exception of ARUs in the alpine and subalpine of BC. PCs contributed little to detected diversity in BC, but including this method resulted in negligible increases in total time costs. Combining PCs with ARUs in Chile significantly increased species detections, again, for little cost. 4. Combined methods were among the most efficient and accurate approaches to capturing diversity. We recommend conducting observer point counts, where possible, when ARUs are deployed and retrieved, in order to capture additional diversity and flag methodology biases with minimal additional effort.
The study is aimed to investigate the nature and extent, and assess perception of local community towards wildlife. A total of 140 household heads were selected randomly from nine survey villages using structured and semi-structured questionnaire for interviews. Focus group discussion, key informant interview and personal observation were held used to achieve the study objectives. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and responses compared using Chi-square test (2 tailed), one-way ANOVA and Pearson correlation coefficient. Besides, Likert scale statements were used to assess the attitudes of local people towards wildlife conservation. About 47.1% of sampled respondents thought that they experienced livestock predation whereas 57(40.7%) of the respondents faced both crop damage and livestock predation problems. A total of 932.43TLU livestock and 218 Dogs losses reported by households due to predators over the last five years. Thus, large numbers (848.6TLU livestock and 218 Dogs) of attack was happened due to Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta). The frequency of livestock predation (F = 8.157, df = 8, P < 0.05) and type of predators involved (χ2=79.719, df = 8, p <0.05) were significantly differ across study villages. Nearly half, 69(49.3%) of respondents ranked Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) as primary crop raider. Whilst majority of the respondents 115(82.1%) perceived Maize was frequently and severely damaged cereal crop. Most 80 (57.1%) respondents used different methods simultaneously to minimize damage caused by wild animals. Nearly half, (48.6%) of respondents had negative and strong negative attitude towards wildlife conservation. Level of education and amount of money imposed as penalty for illegal grazing were the most important factors affecting the local community attitudes towards wildlife conservation. Improve livestock husbandry, use appropriate guarding methods, education and make the community the actor of conservation would be vital to enhance the peaceful co-existence between human and wildlife in the study area.
Grassland systems constitute a significant portion of the land area in the U.S., and as a result, harbor a significant amount of arthropod diversity. During this time of biodiversity loss around the world, bioinventories of ecologically important habitats serve as important indicators for the effectiveness of conservation efforts. We conducted a bioinventory of the foliar, soil, and dung arthropod communities in 10 cattle pastures located in the southeastern U.S. during the 2018 grazing season. In sum, 126,251 specimens were collected. From the foliar community, 13 arthropod orders were observed, with the greatest species richness found in Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Hemiptera. The soil-dwelling arthropod community contained 18 orders. The three orders comprising the highest species richness were Coleoptera, Diptera, and Hymenoptera. Lastly, 12 arthropod orders were collected from cattle dung, with the greatest species richness found in Coleoptera, Diptera, and Hymenoptera. Herbivores were the most abundant functional guild found in the foliar community, and predators were most abundant in the soil and dung communities. While bioinventories demand considerable time, energy, and resources to accomplish, the information from these inventories has many uses for conservation efforts, land management recommendations, and the direction of climate change science.
The Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis is widely considered to be wrong but is rarely tested against alternative hypotheses. It predicts that soil disturbances and herbivory have identical impacts on species richness via identical mechanisms (reduction in biomass and in competition). An alternative hypothesis is that the specific traits of disturbance agents (small mammals) and plants differentially affects richness or abundance of different plant groups. We tested these hypotheses on a degu (Octodon degus) colony in central Chile. We ask whether native and non-native forbs respond differently to degu bioturbation on runways vs. herbivory on grazing lawns. We ask whether this can explain the increase in non-native plants on degu colonies. We found that biopedturbation did not explain the locations of non-native plants. We did not find direct evidence of grazing increasing non-native herbs either, but a grazing effect appears to be mediated by grass, which is the dominant cover. Further, we provide supplementary evidence to support our interpretation that a key mechanism of non-native spread is the formation of dry soil conditions on grazing lawns. Thus ecosystem engineering (alteration of soil qualities) may be an outcome of disturbances, which each interact with specific plant traits, to create the observed pattern of non-native spread in the colony. Based on these results we propose to extend Jentsch & White’s (2019) concept of combined pulse/ disturbance events to the long-term process duality of ecosystem engineering/ disturbance.
Aim: Invasive alien species (IAS) threaten ecosystems and humans worldwide, and future climate change may accelerate the expansion of IAS. Predicting the suitable distributions of IAS can prevent their further expansion. Ageratina adenophora is a invasive weed over 30 countries in tropical and subtropical regions. However, the potential suitable distribution of A. adenophora remains unclear along with its response to climate change. This study explored and mapped the current and future potential distributions of Ageratina adenophora. Location: Global Taxa: Asteraceae A. adenophora (Spreng.) R.M.King & H.Rob. Commonly known as Crofton weed. Methods: Based on A. adenophora occurrence data and climate data, we predicted its potential distribution of this weed under current and future (four RCPs in 2050 and 2070) by MaxEnt model. We used ArcGIS 10.4 to explore the distribution characteristics of this weed and the ‘ecospat’ package in R to analyse its altitudinal distribution changes. Results: The area under the curve value (>0.9) indicated excelled model performance. Among environment factors, Mean Temperature of Coldest Quarter contributed most to the model. Globally, the suitable habitat for A.adenophora invasion decreased under climate change scenarios, although regional increase were observed, including in six biodiversity hotspot regions. The potential suitable habitat of A.adenophora under climate change moved toward regions with higher elevation. Main Conclusions: Temperature was the most important variable influencing the distribution of A. Adenophora. Under the background of warming climate, the potential distribution range of A.adenophora will shrink globally but increase regionally. The distribution of A.adenophora will shift toward higher elevation under climate change. Mountain ecosystems are of special concern as they are rich in biodiversity and sensitive to climate change, and increasing human activities provide more opportunities for IAS invasion.
The effects of human disturbance on the stability of alpine meadow communities, their diversity–stability relationship, and the underlying mechanisms are still not fully understood. Here, we performed a 12-year-long (2007–2018) two-factor (2 × 3) controlled experiment on Kobresia humilis on the Tibetan Plateau. The manipulations included three clipping levels (no clipping, NC; moderate clipping, MC; heavy clipping, HC) and two fertilization levels (no fertilization, NF; fertilization, F). Our results revealed that the two clipping manipulations significantly increased the temporal stability of alpine meadow communities, whose significant increase was more pronounced under the MC than HC treatment. Moreover, asynchrony effects, portfolio effects, and facilitation interactions were all present in the communities under the six types of experimental treatment combinations. Additionally, a selection effect was detected in the compound communities, demonstrating characteristics that are common to different mechanisms. There were no significant differences in the effects of these mechanisms on community temporal stability between the NC–NF and MC–NF interactive communities. The portfolio effects predominated when clipping intensity was moderate under both fertilization and non-fertilization conditions. By contrast, in the compound communities, the selection effect predominated. In summary, we conclude that in meadow communities that undergo clipping and fertilization disturbances, facilitation interactions and weak interactions make a greater contribution toward maintaining their temporal stability.
The wild tomato species Solanum chilense is divided in geographically and genetically distinct populations that show signs of defense gene selection and differential phenotypes when challenged with several phytopathogens, including the oomycete causal agent of late blight Phytophthora infestans. To better understand the phenotypic diversity of this disease resistance in S. chilense and to assess the effect of plant genotype vs. pathogen isolate, respectively, we evaluated infection frequency in a systematic approach and with large sample sizes. We studied 85 genetically distinct individuals representing nine geographically separated populations of S. chilense. This showed that differences in quantitative resistance properties can be observed between but also within populations at the level of individual plants. Data also did not reveal clear indications for complete immunity in any of the genotypes. We further evaluated the resistance of a subset of the plants against P. infestans isolates with diverse virulence properties. This confirmed that the relative differences in resistance phenotypes between individuals were mainly determined by the plant genotype under consideration with modest effects of pathogen isolate used in the study. Thus, our report suggest that quantitative resistance against P. infestans in natural populations of a wild tomato species S. chilense is likely not the result of specific adaptations of hosts to the pathogen but of basal defence responses that depend on the host genotype and are pathogen isolate-unspecific.
1. Almost all organisms grow in size during their lifetime and switch diets, trophic positions, and interacting partners as they grow. Such ontogenetic development introduces life-history stages and flows of biomass between the stages through growth and reproduction. However, current research on complex food webs rarely considers life-history stages. The few previously proposed methods do not take full advantage of the existing food web structural models that can produce realistic food web topologies. 2. We extended the niche model by Williams & Martinez (2000) to generate food webs that included trophic species with a life-history stage structure. Our method aggregated trophic species based on niche overlap to form a life-history structured population; therefore, it largely preserved the topological structure of food webs generated by the niche model. We applied the theory of allometric predator-prey body mass ratio and parameterized an allometric bioenergetic model augmented with biomass flow between stages via growth and reproduction to study the effects of a stage structure on the stability of food webs. 3. When life-history stages were linked via growth and reproduction, fewer food webs persisted while persisting food webs tended to retain more trophic species. Topological differences between persisting linked and unlinked food webs were small to modest. Temporal variability of biomass dynamics and slopes of biomass spectra were lower in the linked food webs than the unlinked ones, suggesting that a life-history stage structure enhanced stability of complex food webs. 4. Our results suggest a positive relationship between the complexity and stability of complex food webs. A life-history stage structure in food webs may play important roles in dynamics of and diversity in food webs.
We aimed to infer the phylogenetic relationships of populations of Lobelia columnaris using chloroplast genomes and estimate the divergence time to reconstruct its historical colonization on the sky islands of Bioko and Cameroon. Specifically, we aim to answer the following questions: (1) What is the phylogenetic relationship among Bioko Island and Cameroon populations? (2) Are the older populations found on the older sky islands? (3) Does the colonization history reflect the age of the sky islands? We assembled novel plastomes from 20 individuals of L. columnaris from five mountain systems. The plastome data was explored with phylogenetic analyses using Maximum likelihood and Bayesian Inference. The complete plastome size varied from 164,609 bp to 165,368 bp. The populations of L. columnaris have a monophyletic origin, subdivided into three plastome-geographic clades. The plastid phylogenomic results and age of the sky islands indicate that L. columnaris colonized first along the Cameroon Volcanic Line’s young sky islands. The earliest divergent event (1.54 Ma) split the population in South Bioko from those on the mainland and North Bioko. The population of South Bioko was likely isolated during cold and dry conditions in forest refugia. Presumably, the colonization history occurred during the middle-late Pleistocene from South Bioko’s young sky island to North Bioko and the northern old sky islands in Cameroon. Furthermore, the central depression with lowland forest between North and South Bioko is a current geographic barrier that keeps separate the populations of Bioko from each other and the mainland populations. The Pleistocene climatic oscillations led to the divergence of the Cameroon and Bioko populations into three clades. L. columnaris colonized the older sky island in mainland Cameroon after establishing South Bioko’s younger sky islands. The biogeography history was an inverse progression concerning the age of the Afromontane sky islands.
In spring of 2012, we studied the feeding habits of snow leopard using a comprehensive approach that combines fecal genetic sampling, macro and microscopic analysis of snow leopard diets and direct observation of Naur and livestock in Kangchenjunga Conservation Area of east Nepal. Out of collected 88 putative snow leopard scat samples from 140 transects (290 km) in 27 (4*4 km2) sampling grid cells, 83% were confirmed to be from snow leopard. The genetic analysis accounted for 19 individual snow leopards (10 male and 9 female) with a mean population size estimate of 24 (95% CI: 19- 29), and an average density of 3.9 snow leopards/100 km2 within 609 km2. Total available prey biomass of Naur and Yak was estimated at 355,236 kg (505 kg yak/km2 and 78 kg Naur/km2). From the available prey biomass, we estimated snow leopards consumed 7% annually which was comprised of wild prey (49%), domestic livestock (45%), and 6% unidentified items. The estimated 47,736 kg Naur biomass gives a snow leopard-Naur ratio of 1: 59 on a weight basis. The proportion of young Naur was estimated at 17%, with an almost double predation rate at 28%. Predators such as common leopard and wolf share the same habitat and might compete with snow leopard for prey which will likely influence future predator-prey associations in KCA. Along with livestock insurance scheme improvement, there needs to be a focus on improved livestock guarding as well as engaging and educating local people to be citizen scientists on the importance of snow leopard conservation, involving them in long-term monitoring programs and promotion of ecotourism.
1. Phyllostomid bats exhibit great diversity in skull size and morphology that reflects the degree of resource division and ecological overlap in the group. In particular, Stenodermatinae has high morphological diversification associated with cranial and mandibular traits that is associated with the ability to consume the full range of available fruits (soft and hard). In terms of morphology, performance (bite force) appears to play an important role in niche partitioning among bat species, however, very few studies have confirmed these relationships using functional cranial traits. 2. Here, we analyzed craniodental traits and their relationship to the bite force in 308 specimens distributed in seven species of stenodermatine bats with two foraging types: nomadic and sedentary frugivorous bats. We evaluated 19 functional traits of the skull and jaw related to feeding and bite force in live animals by correcting bite force with body size. We used a GLM model and post hoc tests to determine possible relationships and differences between cranial traits, species, and sex. 3. The results showed that there is significant interspecific variation between stenodermatines that are nomadic and sedentary. The greatest variation in bite force within species was explained by the mandibular toothrow length (MANDL) between sexes, which was greater in females. The larger species of Artibeus, together with Platyrrhinus helleri, Uroderma convexum and Sturnira giannae, which have a greater length of the skull, condylo-incisor, condylo-canine, mandibular toothrow and height of the coronoid, exhibit greater bite force. By contrast, the smaller species A. anderseni and A. phaeotis have short skulls and the lowest values of bite force, which suggests that the size of the skull confers a biomechanical advantage. 4. Our results highlight the usefulness of analyzing functional traits related to feeding to establish the performance of bats in terms of the bite force.