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Accidental aRt via @kwbroman

It’s Friday and that means that it’s time for our Friday link dump, where we highlight some recent papers (and other stuff) that we found interesting but didn’t have the time to write an entire post about. If you think there’s something we missed, or have something to say, please share in the comments section!


It’s been a few weeks for me, but I’m back in force with an absolutely fantastic pre-print by Keith Fritschie et al. in Ecology titled “Evolutionary history and the strength of species interactions: testing the phylogenetic and limiting similarity hypothesis.” Briefly, there is an idea that more closely related species have evolved similar strategies for resource acquisition and survival, and thus close relatives compete more strongly than distant ones. This idea has driven a great deal of quite good ecological research (this paper by Ingram & Shurin leaps to mind as a fine example, as well as this paper by Hultgren & Duffy), but there have been few direct experimental tests of this idea (merely lots of correlative analyses, as above). Fritschie and colleagues used microcosm experiments to quantify the strength of competitive interactions between all possible pairs of 23 different freshwater algae. They found that there was absolutely no relationship between competitive strength and phylogenetic distance. Personally I find this interesting because most studies find that species traits — widely considered to be indicators of competitive interactions — are strongly phylogenetically conserved. What is up with algae that makes them buck this trend? Coupled with flaws in the theoretical reasoning behind the assumption of phylogenetic distance and competition (see recent paper by Mayfield & Levine), are we seeing the collapse of phylogenetic analyses in community ecology?

Another cool paper by Daniel Laughlin titled “The intrinsic dimensionality of plant traits and its relevance to community assembly” in the Journal of Ecology. Laughlin suggests that the niches of plants can be adequately captured by 4-8 traits. It would be interesting to test these conclusions with traits of varying resolution, and across different taxa.

A new tumblr on accidental art using R. (Credit to @kara_woo and @ErikaMudrak)

Speaking of R, I’ve been hacking away at an R function to calculate R2 for mixed effects models based on the calculations in Schielzeth & Nakagawa 2012. I think it’s finally ready for the big time, so check it out here. It calculates R2 values for linear, general linear, and generalized linear mixed effects models (including binomial and poisson distributions). Thanks to the various commentators who spotted bugs in the code (#wwbd). –Jon Lefcheck


This week, I was transcribing a forthcoming Diverse Introspectives interview with Lauren Buckley on her research on species responses to climate change (stay tuned!), when I got the current issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, which, wouldn’t you know it, is a special issue on the impacts of climate change on biodiversity.  Here are some highlights:

  • Staudinger et al. conduct a literature review on recent research documenting species’ responses to climate change. Many species are accelerating their responses (changes in phenologies and range shifts), but not all. These idiosyncracies lead to novel species interactions.
  • Grimm et al. report on changes to ecosystem function caused by climate changes including sea ice loss, warming, wildfire and insect outbreaks.
  • And, more specifically, ecosystem services! Nelson et al. (the al. here includes Peter Kareiva) discuss how ecosystem services are being affected by changes including more  frequent and extreme weather events.
  • Staudt et al. cover climate change from the perspective of multiple stressors.
  • Adaptive management strategies by Stein et al.

-Emily Grason


Following a rather stimulating conversation with Simon Levin (which we will be posting soon!) math has been on my brain. While at UW Dr. Levin gave a seminar on Mathematics and Sustainability, which outline the countless frontiers and potential for math to solve environmental problems. One of the questions we asked of him was to give some examples of where math has solved problems in the context of biodiversity. A key example was nature reserve design. As a primer for your enjoyment of the Levin interview, everyone’s homework is  to read and completely understand Alain Billionnet’s publication this week which covers reserves, fragmentation and genetic diversity and is entitled: Mathematical optimization ideas for biodiversity conservation.

Also, for those of us who weren’t at INTECOL, we missed out on a fabulous plenary lecture given by Georgia Mace, “Looking Forward not Backwards-Biodiversity Conservation in the 21st Century”  but it’s available on YouTube! Thanks to John Finn via Twitter for the suggestion! –Hillary Burgess


An eclectic mix of things from me this week:

-Fletcher Halliday

Following Emily’s suggestions on climate-change, here are two more pieces on the subject.

Abigail E. Cahill and colleagues published last month a systematic review of proximate causes of climate-change induced population declines and extinctions, titled “How does climate change cause extinction?” They found 136 case studies, most of them about vertebrates, that dealt with this topic. But, not surprisingly, only a handful of studies (only 18!) have documented proximate causes for climate-change extinctions and declines. A surprising result is that proximate causes to local extinction and declines are not related to direct effects of climate-change, such as limited physiological tolerance to extreme temperatures or to changes in precipitation patterns, as one would expect. Rather, alterations in interspecific interactions, driven by climate-change, are the most common causes of extinctions and declines. Changes in biotic interactions that leads to a reduction in food availability seems to be the most important proximate factor, but other biotic changes such as phenological decoupling and pathogen spread are also important. Nonetheless, as the climate continues to change drastically, the authors suggest that limited physiological tolerance to extreme weather conditions may become the dominant cause of extinction in the next decades.

I just found another interesting study on climate-change this morning, through ScienceBlog and even though I have not read it yet, it seems worth to mention it. The paper titled “Simulated Changes in Northwest U.S. Climate in Response to Amazon Deforestation”, led by David Medvigy, shows that Amazon deforestation may drastically reduce rain and snowfall in the coastal northwest United States and in the Sierra Nevada, which might result in water and food shortages, and increase the risk of forest fires in the US. This is study is good to remind us that nature do not respect political boundaries and that local conservation and socioeconomic policies are likely to fail, without looking at the big picture. Transboundary conservation policies are vital to achieve conservation goals and sustain  local livelihoods, no matter where you are.

– Vinicius Bastazini




8 November, 2013

November 8, 2013