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Home > Communication > Scientific newsletter > Publications

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12 March 2017

Many shades of gray—The context-dependent performance of organic agriculture [Science Advances / Review]

Organic agriculture is often proposed as a more sustainable alternative to current conventional agriculture. We assess the current understanding of the costs and benefits of organic agriculture across multiple production, environmental, producer, and consumer dimensions. Organic agriculture shows many potential benefits (including higher biodiversity and improved soil and water quality per unit area, enhanced profitability, and higher nutritional value) as well as many potential costs including lower yields and higher consumer prices. However, numerous important dimensions have high uncertainty, particularly the environmental performance when controlling for lower organic yields, but also yield stability, soil erosion, water use, and labor conditions. We identify conditions that influence the relative performance of organic systems, highlighting areas for increased research and policy support.

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9 March 2017

Fear Mediates Trophic Cascades: Nonconsumptive Effects of Predators Drive Aquatic Ecosystem Function [The American Naturalist]

Keywords : antipredatory behavior, damselfly, trait-mediated indirect interactions (TMIIs), predator cues, terrestrial predator, top-down effects.

Predators control prey populations and influence communities and the functioning of ecosystems through a combination of consumptive and nonconsumptive effects. These effects can be locally confined to one ecosystem but can also be extended to neighboring ecosystems. In this study, we investigated the nonconsumptive effects of terrestrial avian predators on the communities of aquatic invertebrates inhabiting bromeliads and on the functioning of these natural ecosystems.(...)

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9 March 2017

Plant phylogeny as a window on the evolution of hyperdiversity in the tropical rainforest biome [New Phytologist / Tansley review]

Keywords : biome evolution, cradle, extinction, hyperdiversity, museum, speciation, species richness, tropical rainforest

Tropical rainforest (TRF) is the most species-rich terrestrial biome on Earth, harbouring just under half of the world’s plant species in c. 7% of the land surface. Phylogenetic trees provide important insights into mechanisms underpinning TRF hyperdiversity that are complementary to those obtained from the fossil record. Phylogenetic studies of TRF plant diversity have mainly focused on whether this biome is an evolutionary ‘cradle’ or ‘museum’, emphasizing speciation and extinction rates. However, other explanations, such as biome age, immigration and ecological limits, must also be considered. We present a conceptual framework for addressing the drivers of TRF diversity, and review plant studies that have tested them with phylogenetic data(...)

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8 March 2017

Effects of an invasive predator cascade to plants via mutualism disruption [Nature Communications]

Keywords : community ecology, forest ecology, invasive species

Invasive vertebrate predators are directly responsible for the extinction or decline of many vertebrate species, but their indirect impacts often go unmeasured, potentially leading to an underestimation of their full impact. When invasives extirpate functionally important mutualists, dependent species are likely to be affected as well. Here, we show that the invasive brown treesnake, directly responsible for the extirpation of forest birds from the island of Guam, is also indirectly responsible for a severe decline in plant recruitment as a result of disrupting the fruit-frugivore mutualism. (...)

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8 March 2017

A fitness trade-off between seasons causes multigenerational cycles in phenotype and population size [eLIFE]

Although seasonality is widespread and can cause fluctuations in the intensity and direction of natural selection, we have little information about the consequences of seasonal fitness trade-offs for population dynamics. Here we exposed populations of Drosophila melanogaster to repeated seasonal changes in resources across 58 generations and used experimental and mathematical approaches to investigate how viability selection on body size in the non-breeding season could affect demography. (...)

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