Arctic Research Station of Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, 629400, Zelenaya Gorka Str., 21, Labytnangi, Russia.
Background: High latitude ecosystems are at present changing rapidly under the influence of climate warming, and specialized Arctic species at the southern margin of the Arctic may be particularly affected. The Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), a small mammalian predator endemic to northern tundra areas, is able to exploit different resources in the context of varying tundra ecosystems. Although generally widespread, it is critically endangered in subarctic Fennoscandia, where a fading out of the characteristic lemming cycles and competition with abundant red foxes have been identified as main threats. Read More
Background: The castor bean tick (Ixodes ricinus) transmits infectious diseases such as Lyme borreliosis, which constitutes an important ecosystem disservice. Despite many local studies, a comprehensive understanding of the key drivers of tick abundance at the continental scale is still lacking. We analyze a large set of environmental factors as potential drivers of I. Read More
Background: Glucocorticoid hormones are known to play a key role in mediating a cascade of physiological responses to social and ecological stressors and can therefore influence animals' behaviour and ultimately fitness. Yet, how glucocorticoid levels are associated with reproductive success or survival in a natural setting has received little empirical attention so far. Here, we examined links between survival and levels of glucocorticoid in a small, short-lived primate, the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), using for the first time an indicator of long-term stress load (hair cortisol concentration). Read More
For the fifth year, BMC Ecology is proud to present the winning images from our annual image competition. The 2017 edition received entries by talented shutterbug-ecologists from across the world, showcasing research that is increasing our understanding of ecosystems worldwide and the beauty and diversity of life on our planet. In this editorial we showcase the winning images, as chosen by our Editorial Board and guest judge Chris Darimont, as well as our selection of highly commended images. Read More
Background: Long-distance migratory birds in North America have undergone precipitous declines over the past half-century. Although the trend is clear, for many migrating species underpinning the exact causes poses a challenge to conservation due to the numerous stressors that they encounter. Climate conditions during all phases of their annual cycle can have important consequences for their survival. Read More
Background: Body size is a major factor in the nutritional ecology of ruminant mammals. Females, due to their smaller size and smaller rumen, have more rapid food-passage times than males and thereby require higher quality forage. Males are more efficient at converting high-fiber forage into usable energy and thus, are more concerned with quantity. Read More
University of Vermont, Larner College of Medicine, 89 Beaumont Ave, Burlington, VT, 05405, USA.
Background: Defensive symbionts can provide significant fitness advantages to their hosts. Facultative symbionts can protect several species of aphid from fungal pathogens, heat shock, and parasitism by parasitoid wasps. Previous work found that two of these facultative symbionts can also indirectly protect pea aphids from predation by the lady beetle Hippocampus convergens. Read More
Background: Ongoing conversion, disturbance and fragmentation of tropical forests stress this ecosystem and cause the decline or disappearance of many species. Particular traits have been identified which indicate an increasing extinction risk of a species, but traits facilitating survival in altered habitats have mostly been neglected. Here we search for traits that make a species tolerant to disturbances, thus independent of pristine forests. Read More
Background: Amphibians and reptiles are among the most endangered vertebrate species worldwide. However, little is known how they are affected by road-kills on tertiary roads and whether the surrounding landscape structure can explain road-kill patterns. The aim of our study was to examine the applicability of open-access remote sensing data for a large-scale citizen science approach to describe spatial patterns of road-killed amphibians and reptiles on tertiary roads. Read More
Background: Species richness affects processes and functions in many ecosystems. Since management of temperate grasslands is directly affecting species composition and richness, it can indirectly govern how systems respond to fluctuations in environmental conditions. Our aim in this study was to investigate whether species richness in managed grasslands can buffer the effects of drought and warming manipulations and hence increase the resistance to climate change. Read More
Background: Human food subsidies can provide predictable food sources in large quantities for wildlife species worldwide. In the boreal forest of Fennoscandia, gut piles from moose (Alces alces) harvest provide a potentially important food source for a range of opportunistically scavenging predators. Increased populations of predators can negatively affect threatened or important game species. Read More
Background: Understanding how species adapt to new niches is a central issue in evolutionary ecology. Nutrition is vital for the survival of all organisms and impacts species fitness and distribution. While most Drosophila species exploit rotting plant parts, some species have diversified to use ripe fruit, allowing earlier colonization. Read More
Background: Mass occurrences of cyanobacteria frequently cause detrimental effects to the functioning of aquatic ecosystems. Consequently, attempts haven been made to control cyanobacterial blooms through naturally co-occurring herbivores. Control of cyanobacteria through herbivores often appears to be constrained by their low dietary quality, rather than by the possession of toxins, as also non-toxic cyanobacteria are hardly consumed by many herbivores. Read More
Background: Habitat fragmentation is considered to be a main reason for decreasing genetic diversity of plant species. However, the results of many fragmentation studies are inconsistent. This may be due to the influence of habitat conditions, having an indirect effect on genetic variation via reproduction. Read More
Background: Natural red fluorescence is particularly conspicuous in the eyes of some small, benthic, predatory fishes. Fluorescence also increases in relative efficiency with increasing depth, which has generated speculation about its possible function as a "light organ" to detect cryptic organisms under bluish light. Here we investigate whether foraging success is improved under ambient conditions that make red fluorescence stand out more, using the triplefin Tripterygion delaisi as a model system. Read More
Background: Understanding whether species' elevational range is shifting in response to directional changes in climate and whether there is a predictable pattern in that response is one of the major challenges in ecology. However, so far very little is known about the distributional responses of subtropical species to climate change, especially for small mammals. In this study, we examined the elevational range shifts at three range points (upper and lower range limits and abundance-weighted range centre) of rodents over a 30-year period (1986 to 2014-2015), in a subtropical forest of Southwest China. Read More
Background: Rodents of the genus Rattus are among the most pervasive and successful invasive species, causing major vicissitudes in native ecological communities. A broad and flexible generalist diet has been suggested as key to the invasion success of Rattus spp. Here, we use an indirect approach to better understand foraging niche width, plasticity, and overlap within and between introduced Rattus spp. Read More
Background: Invasions pose a large threat to native species, but the question of why some species are more invasive, and some communities more prone to invasions than others, is far from solved. Using 10 different three-species bacterial communities, we tested experimentally if the phylogenetic relationships between an invader and a resident community and the propagule pressure affect invasion probability.
Results: We found that greater diversity in phylogenetic distances between the members of resident community and the invader lowered invasion success, and higher propagule pressure increased invasion success whereas phylogenetic distance had no clear effect. Read More
Background: Establishing populations in ecologically marginal habitats may require substantial phenotypic changes that come about through phenotypic plasticity, local adaptation, or both. West-Eberhard's "plasticity-first" model suggests that plasticity allows for rapid colonisation of a new environment, followed by directional selection that develops local adaptation. Two predictions from this model are that (i) individuals of the original population have high enough plasticity to survive and reproduce in the marginal environment, and (ii) individuals of the marginal population show evidence of local adaptation. Read More
Background: Adjusting the timing of annual events to gradual changes in environmental conditions is necessary for population viability. However, adaptations to weather extremes are poorly documented in migratory species. Due to their vast seasonal movements, long-distance migrants face unique challenges in responding to changes as they rely on an endogenous circannual rhythm to cue the timing of their migration. Read More
Background: Species recovery after disturbances depends on the strength and duration of disturbance, on the species traits and on the biotic interactions with other species. In order to understand these complex relationships, it is essential to understand mechanistically the transient dynamics of interacting species during and after disturbances. We combined microcosm experiments with simulation modelling and studied the transient recovery dynamics of a simple microbial food web under pulse and press disturbances and under different predator couplings to an alternative resource. Read More
Background: Plant strategies to resist herbivory include tolerance and avoidance. Tolerance strategies, such as rapid regrowth which increases the palatability of new shoots, can lead to positive feedback loops between plants and herbivores. An example of such a positive feedback occurs when moose (Alces alces) browse trees in boreal forests. Read More
Background: In Europe, bank voles (Myodes glareolus) are widely distributed and can transmit Puumala virus (PUUV) to humans, which causes a mild to moderate form of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, called nephropathia epidemica. Uncovering the link between host and virus dynamics can help to prevent human PUUV infections in the future. Bank voles were live trapped three times a year in 2010-2013 in three woodland plots in each of four regions in Germany. Read More
Background: At high densities, terrestrial and marine species often employ alternate reproductive tactics (ARTs) to maximize reproductive benefits. We describe ARTs in a high-density and unfished spawning aggregation of the squaretail grouper (Plectropomus areolatus) in Lakshadweep, India.
Results: As previously reported for this species, territorial males engage in pair-courtship, which is associated with a pair-spawning tactic. Read More
Background: Phenotypic plasticity is commonplace and enables an organism to respond to variations in the environment. Plastic responses often modify a suite of traits and can be triggered by both abiotic and biotic changes. Here we analysed the plastic response towards a grazer of two genotypes of the marine dinoflagellate Alexandrium fundyense, evaluated the similarity of this response and discuss potential strain-specific trade-offs. Read More
Background: Different methods have been used to map species and habitat distributions. In this paper, similarity-based reasoning-a methodological approach that has received less attention-was applied to estimate the distribution and coverage of Dasiphora fruticosa for the region in the Baltic states where grows the most abundant population of this species.
Methods: Field observations, after thinning to at least 50 m interval, included 1480 coverage estimations in the species presence locations and 8317 absence locations. Read More
Background: Insect pollinators play an important role in crop pollination, but the relative contribution of wild pollinators and honey bees to pollination is currently under debate. There is virtually no information available on the strength of pollination services and the identity of pollination service providers from Asian smallholder farming systems, where fields are small, and variation among fields is high. We established 18 winter oilseed rape (Brassica napus L. Read More
Background: Herbivore-induced changes in plant traits can cause indirect interactions between spatially and/or temporally separated herbivores that share the same host plant. Feeding modes of the herbivores is one of the major factors that influence the outcome of such interactions. Here, we tested whether the effects of transient aboveground herbivory for seven days by herbivores of different feeding guilds on tomato plants (Solanum lycopersicum) alters their interaction with spatially as well as temporally separated belowground herbivores. Read More
Background: Plant-parasitic nematodes (PPN) are major crop pests. On olive (Olea europaea), they significantly contribute to economic losses in the top-ten olive producing countries in the world especially in nurseries and under cropping intensification. The diversity and the structure of PPN communities respond to environmental and anthropogenic forces. Read More
Background: A previous multi-locus lineage (MLL) analysis of SSR-microsatellite data of old olive trees in the southeast Mediterranean area had shown the predominance of the Souri cultivar (MLL1) among grafted trees. The MLL analysis had also identified an MLL (MLL7) that was more common among rootstocks than other MLLs. We here present a comparison of the MLL combinations MLL1 (scion)/MLL7 (rootstock) and MLL1/MLL1 in order to investigate the possible influence of rootstock on scion phenotype. Read More
Background: Learning processes can be broadly categorized into associative and non-associative. Associative learning occurs through the pairing of two previously unrelated stimuli, whereas non-associative learning occurs in response to a single stimulus. How these two principal processes compare in the same learning task and how they contribute to the overall behavioural changes brought about by experience is poorly understood. Read More
Background: Nematodes play a key role in soil processes with alterations in the nematode community structure having the potential to considerably influence ecosystem functioning. As a result fluctuations in nematode diversity and/or community structure can be gauged as a 'barometer' of a soil's functional biodiversity. However, a deficit exists in regards to baseline knowledge and on the impact of specific GM crops on soil nematode populations and in particular in regard to the impact of GM potatoes on the diversity of nematode populations in the rhizosphere. Read More
Background: Conifer populations appear disproportionately threatened by global change. Most examples are, however, drawn from the northern hemisphere and long-term rates of population decline are not well documented as historical data are often lacking. We use a large and long-term (1931-2013) repeat photography dataset together with environmental data and fire records to account for the decline of the critically endangered Widdringtonia cedarbergensis. Read More
Background: Nepal provides habitat for approximately 100-125 wild Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). Although a small proportion of the world population of this species, this group is important for maintaining the genetic diversity of elephants and conservation of biodiversity in this region. Knowledge of foraging patterns of these animals, which is important for understanding their habitat requirements and for assessing their habitat condition, is lacking for the main areas populated by elephants in Nepal. Read More
Background: The Belly River Group of southern Alberta is one of the best-sampled Late Cretaceous terrestrial faunal assemblages in the world. This system provides a high-resolution biostratigraphic record of terrestrial vertebrate diversity and faunal turnover, and it has considerable potential to be a model system for testing hypotheses of dinosaur palaeoecological dynamics, including important aspects of palaeoecommunity structure, trophic interactions, and responses to environmental change. Vertebrate fossil microsites (assemblages of small bones and teeth concentrated together over a relatively short time and thought to be representative of community composition) offer an unparalleled dataset to better test these hypotheses by ameliorating problems of sample size, geography, and chronostratigraphic control that hamper other palaeoecological analyses. Read More
Background: One way to cope with irregularly occurring resources is to adjust reproduction according to the anticipated future resource availability. In support of this hypothesis, few rodent species have been observed to produce, after the first litter born in spring, summer litters in anticipation of autumn's seed mast. This kind of behaviour could eliminate or decrease the lag in population density normally present in consumer dynamics. Read More
Background: Making forecasts about biodiversity and giving support to policy relies increasingly on large collections of data held electronically, and on substantial computational capability and capacity to analyse, model, simulate and predict using such data. However, the physically distributed nature of data resources and of expertise in advanced analytical tools creates many challenges for the modern scientist. Across the wider biological sciences, presenting such capabilities on the Internet (as "Web services") and using scientific workflow systems to compose them for particular tasks is a practical way to carry out robust "in silico" science. Read More
Background: Aquatic habitats have been altered over the past century due to a variety of anthropogenic influences. Ecomorphology is an area of aquatic ecology that can both directly and indirectly assess the effects of habitat alterations on organisms. However, few studies have explored long term trends in morphological variation. Read More
Background: Climate change factors such as elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations (e[CO2]) and altered rainfall patterns can alter leaf composition and phenology. This may subsequently impact insect herbivory. In sclerophyllous forests insects have developed strategies, such as preferentially feeding on new leaf growth, to overcome physical or foliar nitrogen constraints, and this may shift under climate change. Read More
Background: Geographic isolation is an important factor that limit species dispersal and thereby affects genetic diversity. Because islands are often small and surrounded by a natural water barrier to dispersal, they generally form discrete isolated habitats. Therefore, islands may play a key role in the distribution of the genetic diversity of insects, including flies. Read More
Background: Overexploitation and persecution of large carnivores resulting from conflict with humans comprise major causes of declines worldwide. Although little is known about the interplay between these mortality types, hunting of predators remains a common management strategy aimed at reducing predator-human conflict. Emerging theory and data, however, caution that such policy can alter the age structure of populations, triggering increased conflict in which conflict-prone juveniles are involved. Read More
Background: Human beings use plants for a multitude of purposes of which a prominent one across the globe is for their medicinal values. Medicinal plants serve as one of the major sources of income for high altitude inhabitants in the Himalaya, particularly in countries like Nepal, and Bhutan. People here harvest huge volumes of medicinal plants indiscriminately, risking their sustainability. Read More
Background: Phylogenetic diversity and evolutionary distinctiveness are highly valuable components of biodiversity, but they are rarely considered in conservation practices. Focusing on a biodiversity hotspot, the Mediterranean Basin, we aimed to identify those areas where evolutionary history is highly threatened and range-restricted in the region. Using null models, we first compared the spatial distributions of three indices: two measured threatened evolutionary history-Expected PDloss and Heightened Evolutionary distinctiveness and Global Endangerment-and one measured endemic evolutionary history-Biogeographically Evolutionary Distinctiveness. Read More
Background: Species-area relationship (SAR), endemics-area relationship (EAR) and overlap-area relationship (OAR) are three important concepts in biodiversity study. The application of fundamental equations linking the SAR, EAR and OAR, can enrich the axiomatic framework of the species-area theory and deepen our understanding of the mechanisms of community assembly.
Results: Two fundamental equations are derived and extended to power law model and random replacement model of species-area distribution. Read More
Background: An understanding of year-round habitat use is essential for determining how carry-over effects shape population dynamics in long-distance migratory songbirds. The recent discovery of long-term migratory staging sites in many species, prior to arrival at final wintering sites, adds complexity to efforts to decipher non-breeding habitat use and connections between sites. We investigated whether habitat conditions during migratory staging carry over to influence great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) body condition at final wintering sites in Zambia. Read More
Background: Phytophagous insects differ in their degree of specialisation on host plants, and range from strictly monophagous species that can develop on only one host plant to extremely polyphagous species that can develop on hundreds of plant species in many families. Nutritional compounds in host fruits affect several larval traits that may be related to adult fitness. In this study, we determined the relationship between fruit nutrient composition and the degree of host specialisation of seven of the eight tephritid species present in La Réunion; these species are known to have very different host ranges in natura. Read More
Background: The grey partridge (Perdix perdix) and the common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) are galliform birds typical of arable lands in Central Europe and exhibit a partly dramatic negative population trend. In order to understand general habitat preferences we modelled grey partridge and common pheasant densities over the entire range of Lower Saxony. Spatially explicit developments in bird densities were modelled using spatially explicit trends of crop cultivation. Read More
Background: The western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) occurs throughout western North America in various habitats such as desert, short-grass prairie and shrub-steppe, among others, where the main threat for this species is habitat loss. Range-wide declines have prompted a need for reliable estimates of its populations in Mexico, where the size of resident and migratory populations remain unknown.
Results: Our objective was to estimate the abundance and density of breeding western burrowing owl populations in Mexican prairie dog (Cynomys mexicanus) colonies in two sites located within the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion in the states of Nuevo Leon and San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Read More