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30 June 2017

Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions and the functional loss of long-distance seed-dispersal services [Ecography]

Keywords : animal movement, body mass, landscape connectivity, dispersal kernel, frugivory, gene flow, home range, Janzen-Connell effects, downsizing effect, seed size

Pleistocene extinctions affected mainly large-bodied animals, determining the loss or changes in numerous ecological functions. Evidence points to a central role of many extinct megafauna herbivores as seed dispersers. An important step in understanding the legacy of extinct mutualistic interactions is to evaluate the roles and effectiveness of megafauna herbivores in seed dispersal. Here we use morphological and ecophysiological allometries to estimate both quantitative and qualitative aspects of seed-dispersal services likely provided by extinct megafauna.(...)

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29 June 2017

To what extent can ecosystem services motivate protecting biodiversity? [Ecology Letters - Idea and Perspective]

Keywords : biodiversity conservation, biodiversity-ecosystem services, conservation decisions, ecosystem services, stochastic optimal control, uncertainty

Society increasingly focuses on managing nature for the services it provides people rather than for the existence of particular species. How much biodiversity protection would result from this modified focus? Although biodiversity contributes to ecosystem services, the details of which species are critical, and whether they will go functionally extinct in the future, are fraught with uncertainty. Explicitly considering this uncertainty, we develop an analytical framework to determine how much biodiversity protection would arise solely from optimising net value from an ecosystem service.(...)

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28 June 2017

Epigenetic and chromatin-based mechanisms in environmental stress adaptation and stress memory in plants [Genome Biology]

Plants frequently have to weather both biotic and abiotic stressors, and have evolved sophisticated adaptation and defense mechanisms. In recent years, chromatin modifications, nucleosome positioning, and DNA methylation have been recognized as important components in these adaptations. Given their potential epigenetic nature, such modifications may provide a mechanistic basis for a stress memory, enabling plants to respond more efficiently to recurring stress or even to prepare their offspring for potential future assaults. In this review, we discuss both the involvement of chromatin in stress responses and the current evidence on somatic, intergenerational, and transgenerational stress memory.

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28 June 2017

Quantitative Genetic Variation in, and Environmental Effects on, Pathogen Resistance and Temperature-Dependent Disease Severity in a Wild Trout [The American Naturalist]

Keywords: resistance, tolerance, heritability, genetic correlation, proliferative kidney disease, animal mixed model

Health after pathogen contact varies among individuals because of differences in pathogen load (which is limited by resistance) and disease severity in response to pathogen load (which is limited by tolerance). To understand pathogen-induced host evolution, it is critical to know not only the relative contributions of nongenetic and genetic variation to resistance and tolerance but also how they change environmentally. We quantified nongenetic and genetic variation in parasite load and the associated temperature-dependent disease among trout siblings from two rivers.(...)

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28 June 2017

Connecting Earth observation to high-throughput biodiversity data [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : biodiversity, conservation biology, decision making, ecosystem services, environmental impact

Understandably, given the fast pace of biodiversity loss, there is much interest in using Earth observation technology to track biodiversity, ecosystem functions and ecosystem services. However, because most biodiversity is invisible to Earth observation, indicators based on Earth observation could be misleading and reduce the effectiveness of nature conservation and even unintentionally decrease conservation effort. We describe an approach that combines automated recording devices, high-throughput DNA sequencing and modern ecological modelling to extract much more of the information available in Earth observation data. This approach is achievable now, offering efficient and near-real-time monitoring of management impacts on biodiversity and its functions and services.(...)

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