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10 January 2017

Plastomes on the edge: the evolutionary breakdown of mycoheterotroph plastid genomes [New Phytologist/Tansley insight]

Keywords : comparative genomics, convergent evolution, mixotrophy, mycoheterotrophic plants, photosynthesis genes, plastid function, plastid translation apparatus

We examine recent evidence for ratchet-like genome degradation in mycoheterotrophs, plants that obtain nutrition from fungi. Initial loss of the NADH dehydrogenase-like (NDH) complex may often set off an irreversible evolutionary cascade of photosynthetic gene losses. Genes for plastid-encoded subunits of RNA polymerase and photosynthetic enzymes with secondary functions (Rubisco and ATP synthase) can persist initially, with nonsynchronous and quite broad windows in the relative timing of their loss. Delayed losses of five core nonbioenergetic genes (especially trnE and accD, which respectively code for glutamyl tRNA and a subunit of acetyl-CoA carboxylase) probably explain long-term persistence of heterotrophic plastomes. The observed range of changes of mycoheterotroph plastomes is similar to that of holoparasites, although greater diversity of both probably remains to be discovered. These patterns of gene loss/retention can inform research programs on plastome function.

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10 January 2017

Assessing long-term effects of multiple, potentially confounded drivers in ecosystems from species traits [Global Change Biology]

Keywords : climate change, confounding effect, invertebrates, large rivers, long-term trends, multiple drivers, species traits, water quality

Although species traits have the potential to disentangle long-term effects of multiple, potentially confounded drivers in ecosystems, this issue has received very little attention in the literature. We aimed at filling this gap by assessing the relative effects of hydroclimatic and water quality factors on the trait composition of invertebrate assemblages over 30 years in the Middle Loire River (France). Using a priori predictions on the long-term variation of trait-based adaptations over the three decades, we evaluated the ability of invertebrate traits to indicate the effects of warming, discharge reduction and water quality improvement.(...)

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6 January 2017

EU-Forest, a high-resolution tree occurrence dataset for Europe [Scientific Data]

Keywords : climate change, ecology, forestry, palaeoclimate, plant ecology

We present EU-Forest, a dataset that integrates and extends by almost one order of magnitude the publicly available information on European tree species distribution. The core of our dataset ( 96% of the occurrence records) came from an unpublished, large database harmonising forest plot surveys from National Forest Inventories on an INSPIRE-compliant 1 km×1 km grid. These new data can potentially benefit several disciplines, including forestry, biodiversity conservation, palaeoecology, plant ecology, the bioeconomy, and pest management.

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5 January 2017

Ecological networks are more sensitive to plant than to animal extinction under climate change [Nature communications]

Keywords : climate-change ecology, community ecology, ecological modelling, ecological networks

Impacts of climate change on individual species are increasingly well documented, but we lack understanding of how these effects propagate through ecological communities. Here we combine species distribution models with ecological network analyses to test potential impacts of climate change on >700 plant and animal species in pollination and seed-dispersal networks from central Europe. We discover that animal species that interact with a low diversity of plant species have narrow climatic niches and are most vulnerable to climate change. In contrast, biotic specialization of plants is not related to climatic niche breadth and vulnerability. A simulation model incorporating different scenarios of species coextinction and capacities for partner switches shows that projected plant extinctions under climate change are more likely to trigger animal coextinctions than vice versa. This result demonstrates that impacts of climate change on biodiversity can be amplified via extinction cascades from plants to animals in ecological networks.

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5 January 2017

Resource tracking within and across continents in long-distance bird migrants [Science Advances]

Keywords : migration, birds, seasonal vegetation, NDVI, climate change

Migratory birds track seasonal resources across and between continents. We propose a general strategy of tracking the broad seasonal abundance of resources throughout the annual cycle in the longest-distance migrating land birds as an alternative to tracking a certain climatic niche or shorter-term resource surplus occurring, for example, during spring foliation. Whether and how this is possible for complex annual spatiotemporal schedules is not known. New tracking technology enables unprecedented spatial and temporal mapping of long-distance movement of birds.(...)

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