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22 February 2017

Landscape simplification weakens the association between terrestrial producer and consumer diversity in Europe [Global Change Biology]

Keywords : coevolution, ecosystem resilience, functional traits, habitat loss, herbivory, host specialization, land-use change, phylogenetic diversity, plant–insect interactions, trophic associations

Land-use change is one of the primary drivers of species loss, yet little is known about its effect on other components of biodiversity that may be at risk. Here, we ask whether, and to what extent, landscape simplification, measured as the percentage of arable land in the landscape, disrupts the functional and phylogenetic association between primary producers and consumers. Across seven European regions, we inferred the potential associations (functional and phylogenetic) between host plants and butterflies in 561 seminatural grasslands. Local plant diversity showed a strong bottom-up effect on butterfly diversity in the most complex landscapes, but this effect disappeared in simple landscapes.(...)

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22 February 2017

Seven new species of Night Frogs (Anura, Nyctibatrachidae) from the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot of India, with remarkably high diversity of diminutive forms [PeerJ]

Keywords : biodiversity, taxonomy, zoology

The Night Frog genus Nyctibatrachus (Family Nyctibatrachidae) represents an endemic anuran lineage of the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot, India. Until now, it included 28 recognised species, of which more than half were described recently over the last five years. Our amphibian explorations have further revealed the presence of undescribed species of Nights Frogs in the southern Western Ghats. Based on integrated molecular, morphological and bioacoustic evidence, seven new species are formally described here (...)

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20 February 2017

Dispersal assembly of rain forest tree communities across the Amazon basin [PNAS]

Keywords : Amazonia, biogeography, community assembly, phylogenetic structure, tropical trees

The Amazon is largely covered by contiguous rain forest. Nevertheless, previous studies have suggested that past geological and climatic events, as well as limited seed dispersal, may have restricted the movement of tree lineages across the Amazon. Using a phylogenetic approach, we show that dispersal into local communities and larger regions in the Amazon appears to not have been limited on evolutionary timescales, but instead, local communities have been assembled by lineages from across the Amazon. These results contrast with those from seasonally dry tropical forests, where closely related species are clustered in geographic space. Furthermore, our results suggest a role for dispersal as an initiator for geographic isolation that might lead to speciation in Amazonian trees.

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20 February 2017

Cross-realm assessment of climate change impacts on species’ abundance trends [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : climate-change ecology, community ecology, macroecology, population dynamics

Climate change, land-use change, pollution and exploitation are among the main drivers of species’ population trends; however, their relative importance is much debated. We used a unique collection of over 1,000 local population time series in 22 communities across terrestrial, freshwater and marine realms within central Europe to compare the impacts of long-term temperature change and other environmental drivers from 1980 onwards. To disentangle different drivers, we related species’ population trends to species- and driver-specific attributes, such as temperature and habitat preference or pollution tolerance. We found a consistent impact of temperature change on the local abundances of terrestrial species. Populations of warm-dwelling species increased more than those of cold-dwelling species. In contrast, impacts of temperature change on aquatic species’ abundances were variable.(...)

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20 February 2017

Cooperation facilitates the colonization of harsh environments [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : behavioural ecology, ecosystem ecology, phylogenetics, social evolution

Animals living in harsh environments, where temperatures are hot and rainfall is unpredictable, are more likely to breed in cooperative groups. As a result, harsh environmental conditions have been accepted as a key factor explaining the evolution of cooperation. However, this is based on evidence that has not investigated the order of evolutionary events, so the inferred causality could be incorrect. We resolved this problem using phylogenetic analyses of 4,707 bird species and found that causation was in the opposite direction to that previously assumed. (...)

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