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Ecol Appl [journal]
- Hibernation site requirements of bats in man-made hibernacula in a spatial context. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]
- Ecol Appl 2013 Mar; 23(2):502-14.
Bat hibernacula selection depends on various spatial and nonspatial variables that differ widely between sites. However, previous studies have focused mainly on nonspatial variables. This research investigated factors that determined the abundance and species richness of hibernating bats in hibernation objects of the New Dutch Waterline, The Netherlands, and determined the relevant scales over which spatial factors operate using regression techniques and ecological-niche factor analyses. The effects of 32 predictor variables on several response variables, i.e., the total bat abundance, species richness, and abundance and presence of bat species, were investigated. Predictor variables were classified as internal variables (e.g., building size, climatic conditions, and human access) or external variables (e.g., ground and vegetation cover and land cover type) that were measured at different spatial scales to study the influence of the spatial context. The internal building variables (mainly the size of hibernacula and the number of hiding possibilities) affected the hibernating bat abundance and species richness. Climatic variables, such as changes in temperature and humidity, were less important. The hibernation site suitability was also influenced by spatial variables at a variety of scales, thereby indicating the importance of scale-dependent species-environment relationships. The absence of human use and public access enhanced hibernation site suitability, but the internal size-related variables had the greatest positive effect on hibernation site suitability. These results demonstrate the importance of considering the different spatial scales of the surrounding landscape to better understand habitat selection, and they offer directives to managers to optimize objects for hibernating bats and to improve management and bat conservation. The analyses have wider applications to other wildlife-habitat studies.
- Population impacts of Wolbachia on Aedes albopictus. [Journal Article, Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]
- Ecol Appl 2013 Mar; 23(2):493-501.
Prior studies have demonstrated that Wolbachia, a commonly occurring bacterium capable of manipulating host reproduction, can affect life history traits in insect hosts, which in turn can have population-level effects. Effects on hosts at the individual level are predicted to impact population dynamics, but the latter has not been examined empirically. Here, we describe a biological model system based on Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito) that allows for measurement of population dynamics, which has not been accomplished in prior field trials or laboratory designs. The results demonstrate the studied populations to be robust and allow for persistent, closed populations with overlapping generations, which are regulated solely through density-dependent, intraspecific competition for limited resources. Using a novel experimental design, we compare populations that are either uninfected or infected with Wolbachia. The results show differences that include population size, eclosion rates, adult survivorship, and fecundity. The aposymbiotic populations were generally larger and adults longer lived relative to the infected populations. The outcome is discussed in context with naturally occurring Wolbachia invasions, proposed autocidal strategies, and the utility of the developed system as a biological platform for hypothesis testing and improved parameterization.
- Interactive effects of wildfire, forest management, and isolation on amphibian and parasite abundance. [Journal Article, Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.]
- Ecol Appl 2013 Mar; 23(2):479-92.
Projected increases in wildfire and other climate-driven disturbances will affect populations and communities worldwide, including host-parasite relationships. Research in temperate forests has shown that wildfire can negatively affect amphibians, but this research has occurred primarily outside of managed landscapes where interactions with human disturbances could result in additive or synergistic effects. Furthermore, parasites represent a large component of biodiversity and can affect host fitness and population dynamics, yet they are rarely included in studies of how vertebrate hosts respond to disturbance. To determine how wildfire affects amphibians and their parasites, and whether effects differ between protected and managed landscapes, we compared abundance of two amphibians and two nematodes relative to wildfire extent and severity around wetlands in neighboring protected and managed forests (Montana, USA). Population sizes of adult, male long-toed salamanders (Ambystoma macrodactylum) decreased with increased burn severity, with stronger negative effects on isolated populations and in managed forests. In contrast, breeding population sizes of Columbia spotted frogs (Rana luteiventris) increased with burn extent in both protected and managed protected forests. Path analysis showed that the effects of wildfire on the two species of nematodes were consistent with differences in their life history and transmission strategies and the responses of their hosts. Burn severity indirectly reduced abundance of soil-transmitted Cosmocercoides variabilis through reductions in salamander abundance. Burn severity also directly reduced C. variabilis abundance, possibly though changes in soil conditions. For the aquatically transmitted nematode Gyrinicola batrachiensis, the positive effect of burn extent on density of Columbia spotted frog larvae indirectly increased parasite abundance. Our results show that effects of wildfire on amphibians depend upon burn extent and severity, isolation, and prior land use. Through subsequent effects on the parasites, our results also reveal how changes in disturbance regimes can affect communities across trophic levels.
- Repeated burning of eastern tallgrass prairie increases richness and diversity, stabilizing late successional vegetation. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.]
- Ecol Appl 2013 Mar; 23(2):464-78.
Understanding temporal effects of fire frequency on plant species diversity and vegetation structure is critical for managing tallgrass prairie (TGP), which occupies a mid-continental longitudinal precipitation and productivity gradient. Eastern TGP has contributed little information toward understanding whether vegetation-fire interactions are uniform or change across this biome. We resampled 34 fire-managed mid- and late-successional ungrazed TGP remnants occurring across a dry to wet-mesic moisture gradient in the Chicago region of Illinois, USA. We compared hypotheses that burning acts either as a stabilizing force or causes change in diversity and structure, depending upon fire frequency and successional stage. Based on western TGP, we expected a unimodal species richness distribution across a cover-productivity gradient, variable functional group responses to fire frequency, and a negative relationship between fire frequency and species richness. Species diversity was unimodal across the cover gradient and was more strongly humpbacked in stands with greater fire frequency. In support of a stabilizing hypothesis, temporal similarity of late-successional vegetation had a logarithmic relationship with increasing fire frequency, while richness and evenness remained stable. Temporal similarity within mid-successional stands was not correlated with fire frequency, while richness increased and evenness decreased over time. Functional group responses to fire frequency were variable. Summer forb richness increased under high fire frequency, while C4 grasses, spring forbs, and nitrogen-fixing species decreased with fire exclusion. On mesic and wet-mesic sites, vegetation structure measured by the ratio of woody to graminoid species was negatively correlated with abundance of forbs and with fire frequency. Our findings that species richness responds unimodally to an environmental-productivity gradient, and that fire exclusion increases woody vegetation and leads to loss of C4 and N-fixing species, suggest that these processes are uniform across the TGP biome and not affected by its rainfall-productivity gradient. However, increasing fire frequency in eastern TGP appears to increase richness of summer forbs and stabilize late-successional vegetation in the absence of grazing, and these processes may differ across the longitudinal axis of TGP. Managing species diversity in ungrazed eastern TGP may be dependent upon high fire frequency that removes woody vegetation and prevents biomass accumulation.
- Protein supplementation reduces non-grass foraging by a primary grazer. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.]
- Ecol Appl 2013 Mar; 23(2):455-63.
It is believed that wildlife and livestock can coexist in semiarid savanna rangelands. However, this coexistence is threatened by intense competition for scarce, but nutritionally vital, forage resources. Specifically, there is evidence that grazing livestock seasonally compete for protein-rich forbs (non-grasses) with browsing and mixed-feeding wildlife. While this has been attributed to protein needs, there are no experimental tests of whether grazers in such a context alter their diet selection when supplemented with protein. We compared forage selection between cattle supplemented with protein (cotton seedcake) and those not supplemented during dry and wet periods, in a semiarid African savanna rangeland where they have been demonstrated to compete with wildlife for forage. We further evaluated whether such dietary alteration affected the overall biting and movement behavior, nutrition, and performance of cattle, by comparing bite and step rates, diet quality (crude protein and digestible organic matter), forage intake, and live mass change between these treatment groups. During the dry period, relative consumption of forbs was 76% lower in supplemented cattle than in non-supplemented cattle. Notably, supplemented cattle significantly avoided forbs relative to their abundance in the environment, while non-supplemented cattle over-sampled this herbage type. Conversely, selection and relative use of Brachiaria lachnantha, the most abundant grass species, and Bothriochloa insculpta, a grass species otherwise avoided, increased following protein supplementation. These patterns were similar but nonsignificant during the wet period. Bite and step rates, diet quality, forage intake, and performance were not significantly affected by protein supplementation in either period. Our study shows that foraging cattle partially trade off protein-rich forbs for protein-poor grasses when supplemented with protein, without suffering detrimental behavioral, nutritional, or performance consequences. These results broaden our understanding of the role of non-grasses in the diets of "grazers" and suggest protein supplementation as a potential tool in managing coexistence between grazing livestock and browsing (forb-consuming) wildlife.
- The worldwide "wildfire" problem. [Journal Article]
- Ecol Appl 2013 Mar; 23(2):438-54.
The worldwide "wildfire" problem is headlined by the loss of human lives and homes, but it applies generally to any adverse effects of unplanned fires, as events or regimes, on a wide range of environmental, social, and economic assets. The problem is complex and contingent, requiring continual attention to the changing circumstances of stakeholders, landscapes, and ecosystems; it occurs at a variety of temporal and spatial scales. Minimizing adverse outcomes involves controlling fires and fire regimes, increasing the resistance of assets to fires, locating or relocating assets away from the path of fires, and, as a probability of adverse impacts often remains, assisting recovery in the short-term while promoting the adaptation of societies in the long-term. There are short- and long-term aspects to each aspect of minimization. Controlling fires and fire regimes may involve fire suppression and fuel treatments such as prescribed burning or non-fire treatments but also addresses issues associated with unwanted fire starts like arson. Increasing the resistance of assets can mean addressing the design and construction materials of a house or the use of personal protective equipment. Locating or relocating assets can mean leaving an area about to be impacted by fire or choosing a suitable place to live; it can also mean the planning of land use. Assisting recovery and promoting adaptation can involve insuring assets and sharing responsibility for preparedness for an event. There is no single, simple, solution. Perverse outcomes can occur. The number of minimizing techniques used, and the breadth and depth of their application, depends on the geographic mix of asset types. Premises for policy consideration are presented.
- An innovative aerial assessment of Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem mountain pine beetle-caused whitebark pine mortality. [Journal Article]
- Ecol Appl 2013 Mar; 23(2):421-37.
An innovative aerial survey method called the Landscape Assessment System (LAS) was used to assess mountain pine beetle (MPB; Dendroctonus ponderosae)-caused mortality of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) across the species distribution in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE; 894 774 ha). This large-scale implementation of the LAS method consisted of 8673 km of flight lines, along which 4653 geo-tagged, oblique aerial photos were captured at the catchment level (a subset of 12-digit USGS hydrologic units) and geographic information system (GIS) processed. The Mountain Pine Beetle-caused Mortality Rating System, a landscape-scale classification system designed specifically to measure the cumulative effects of recent and older MPB attacks on whitebark pine, was used to classify mortality with a rating from 0 to 6 based on the amount of red (recent attack) and gray (old attack) trees visible. The approach achieved a photo inventory of 79% of the GYE whitebark pine distribution. For the remaining 21%, mortality levels were estimated based on an interpolated surface. Results that combine the photo-inventoried and interpolated mortality indicate that nearly half (46%) of the GYE whitebark pine distribution showed severe mortality (3-4 or 5.3-5.4 rating), 36% showed moderate mortality (2-2.9 rating), 13% showed low mortality (1-1.9 rating), and 5% showed trace levels of mortality (0-0.9). These results reveal that the proliferation of MPB in the subalpine zone of the GYE due to climate warming has led to whitebark pine mortality that is more severe and widespread than indicated from either previous modeling research or USDA Forest Service Aerial Detection surveys. Sixteen of the 22 major mountain ranges of the GYE have experienced widespread moderate-to-severe mortality. The majority of catchments in the other six mountain ranges show low-to-moderate mortality. Refugia from MPB outbreaks, at least for now, also exist and correspond to locations that have colder microclimates. The spatially explicit mortality information produced by this project has helped forest managers develop and implement conservation strategies that include both preservation and restoration efforts. Future research aimed at documenting and quantifying the ecological impacts of widespread decline and collapse of this foundation and keystone species is warranted.
- Meta-modeling soil organic carbon sequestration potential and its application at regional scale. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]
- Ecol Appl 2013 Mar; 23(2):408-20.
Upscaling the results from process-based soil-plant models to assess regional soil organic carbon (SOC) change and sequestration potential is a great challenge due to the lack of detailed spatial information, particularly soil properties. Meta-modeling can be used to simplify and summarize process-based models and significantly reduce the demand for input data and thus could be easily applied on regional scales. We used the pre-validated Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM) to simulate the impact of climate, soil, and management on SOC at 613 reference sites across Australia's cereal-growing regions under a continuous wheat system. We then developed a simple meta-model to link the APSIM-modeled SOC change to primary drivers, i.e., the amount of recalcitrant SOC, plant available water capacity of soil, soil pH, and solar radiation, temperature, and rainfall in the growing season. Based on high-resolution soil texture data and 8165 climate data points across the study area, we used the meta-model to assess SOC sequestration potential and the uncertainty associated with the variability of soil characteristics. The meta-model explained 74% of the variation of final SOC content as simulated by APSIM. Applying the meta-model to Australia's cereal-growing regions reveals regional patterns in SOC, with higher SOC stock in cool, wet regions. Overall, the potential SOC stock ranged from 21.14 to 152.71 Mg/ha with a mean of 52.18 Mg/ha. Variation of soil properties induced uncertainty ranging from 12% to 117% with higher uncertainty in warm, wet regions. In general, soils in Australia's cereal-growing regions under continuous wheat production were simulated as a sink of atmospheric carbon dioxide with a mean sequestration potential of 8.17 Mg/ha.
- Fishers' knowledge identifies environmental changes and fish abundance trends in impounded tropical rivers. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]
- Ecol Appl 2013 Mar; 23(2):392-407.
The long-term impacts of large hydroelectric dams on small-scale fisheries in tropical rivers are poorly known. A promising way to investigate such impacts is to compare and integrate the local ecological knowledge (LEK) of resource users with biological data for the same region. We analyzed the accuracy of fishers' LEK to investigate fisheries dynamics and environmental changes in the Lower Tocantins River (Brazilian Amazon) downstream from a large dam. We estimated fishers' LEK through interviews with 300 fishers in nine villages and collected data on 601 fish landings in five of these villages, 22 years after the dam's establishment (2006-2008). We compared these two databases with each other and with data on fish landings from before the dam's establishment (1981) gathered from the literature. The data obtained based on the fishers' LEK (interviews) and from fisheries agreed regarding the primary fish species caught, the most commonly used type of fishing gear (gill nets) and even the most often used gill net mesh sizes but disagreed regarding seasonal fish abundance. According to the interviewed fishers, the primary environmental changes that occurred after the impoundment were an overall decrease in fish abundance, an increase in the abundance of some fish species and, possibly, the local extinction of a commercial fish species (Semaprochilodus brama). These changes were corroborated by comparing fish landings sampled before and 22 years after the impoundment, which indicated changes in the composition of fish landings and a decrease in the total annual fish production. Our results reinforce the hypothesis that large dams may adversely affect small-scale fisheries downstream and establish a feasible approach for applying fishers' LEK to fisheries management, especially in regions with a low research capacity.
- Rebuilding fish communities: the ghost of fisheries past and the virtue of patience. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.]
- Ecol Appl 2013 Mar; 23(2):374-91.
The ecosystem approach to management requires the status of individual species to be considered in a community context. We conducted a comparative ecosystem analysis of the Georges Bank and North Sea fish communities to determine the extent to which biological diversity is restored when fishing pressure is reduced. First, fishing mortality estimates were combined to quantify the community-level intensity and selectivity of fishing pressure. Second, standardized bottom-trawl survey data were used to investigate the temporal trends in community metrics. Third, a size-based, multispecies model (LeMans) was simulated to test the response of community metrics to both hypothetical and observed changes in fishing pressure in the two communities. These temperate North Atlantic fish communities have much in common, including a history of overfishing. In recent decades fishing pressure has been reduced, and some species have started to rebuild. The Georges Bank fishery has been more selective, and fishing pressure was reduced sooner. The two communities have similar levels of size diversity and biomass per unit area, but fundamentally different community structure. The North Sea is dominated by smaller species and has lower evenness than Georges Bank. These fundamental differences in community structure are not explained by recent fishing patterns. The multispecies model was able to predict the observed changes in community metrics better on Georges Bank, where rebuilding is more apparent than in the North Sea. Model simulations predicted hysteresis in rebuilding community metrics toward their unfished levels, particularly in the North Sea. Species in the community rebuild at different rates, with smaller prey species outpacing their large predators and overshooting their pre-exploitation abundances. This indirect effect of predator release delays the rebuilding of community structure and biodiversity. Therefore community rebuilding is not just the sum of single-species rebuilding plans. Management strategies that account for interspecific interactions will be needed to restore biodiversity and community structure.