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14 November 2016

Sexual selection can both increase and decrease extinction probability: reconciling demographic and evolutionary factors [Journal of Animal Ecology]

Keywords : adaptation, climate change, environmental change, evolution, extinction, individual-based model, sexual selection

1.Previous theoretical models of the effect of sexual selection on average individual fitness in a population have mostly predicted that sexually selected populations should adapt faster and clear deleterious mutations more quickly than populations where sexual selection is not operating.
2.While some laboratory studies have supported these predictions, others have not and studies of field systems have tended to find negative effects of sexual selection, or no effect. The negative effects of sexual selection found in field and other studies are usually ascribed to the costs associated with strong sexual selection acting on the population.(...)

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14 November 2016

Making sense of genomic islands of differentiation in light of speciation [Nature Reviews Genetics]

Subject terms : ecological genetics, evolutionary biology, evolutionary genetics, genetic variation, next-generation sequencing, population genetics, speciation

As populations diverge, genetic differences accumulate across the genome. Spurred by rapid developments in sequencing technology, genome-wide population surveys of natural populations promise insights into the evolutionary processes and the genetic basis underlying speciation. Although genomic regions of elevated differentiation are the focus of searches for ’speciation genes’, there is an increasing realization that such genomic signatures can also arise by alternative processes that are not related to population divergence, such as linked selection. In this Review, we explore methodological trends in speciation genomic studies, highlight the difficulty in separating processes related to speciation from those emerging from genome-wide properties that are not related to reproductive isolation, and provide a set of suggestions for future work in this area.

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13 November 2016

Recent pause in the growth rate of atmospheric CO2 due to enhanced terrestrial carbon uptake [Nature Communications]

Keywords : attribution, carbon cycle, climate-change ecology

Terrestrial ecosystems play a significant role in the global carbon cycle and offset a large fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The terrestrial carbon sink is increasing, yet the mechanisms responsible for its enhancement, and implications for the growth rate of atmospheric CO2, remain unclear. Here using global carbon budget estimates, ground, atmospheric and satellite observations, and multiple global vegetation models, we report a recent pause in the growth rate of atmospheric CO2, and a decline in the fraction of anthropogenic emissions that remain in the atmosphere, despite increasing anthropogenic emissions.(...)

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12 November 2016

Current Incentives for Scientists Lead to Underpowered Studies with Erroneous Conclusions [PLOS Biology/Perspective]

Keywords : scientists, careers, ecosystems, careers in research, physical fitness, peer review, research assessment, research errors

We can regard the wider incentive structures that operate across science, such as the priority given to novel findings, as an ecosystem within which scientists strive to maximise their fitness (i.e., publication record and career success). Here, we develop an optimality model that predicts the most rational research strategy, in terms of the proportion of research effort spent on seeking novel results rather than on confirmatory studies, and the amount of research effort per exploratory study. We show that, for parameter values derived from the scientific literature, researchers acting to maximise their fitness should spend most of their effort seeking novel results and conduct small studies that have only 10%–40% statistical power. As a result, half of the studies they publish will report erroneous conclusions. Current incentive structures are in conflict with maximising the scientific value of research; we suggest ways that the scientific ecosystem could be improved.

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11 November 2016

Incorporating explicit geospatial data shows more species at risk of extinction than the current Red List [Science Advances]

Keywords : red list, threatened species, remote sensing, GIS, birds, conservation

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List classifies species according to their risk of extinction, informing global to local conservation decisions. Unfortunately, important geospatial data do not explicitly or efficiently enter this process. Rapid growth in the availability of remotely sensed observations provides fine-scale data on elevation and increasingly sophisticated characterizations of land cover and its changes. These data readily show that species are likely not present within many areas within the overall envelopes of their distributions. Additionally, global databases on protected areas inform how extensively ranges are protected. We selected 586 endemic and threatened forest bird species from six of the world’s most biodiverse and threatened places (Atlantic Forest of Brazil, Central America, Western Andes of Colombia, Madagascar, Sumatra, and Southeast Asia).(...)

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