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12 March 2018

Great moments in evolution: the conquest of land by plants [Current Opinion in Plant Biology]

500 Ma ago the terrestrial habitat was a barren, unwelcoming place for species other than, for example, bacteria or fungi. Most probably, filamentous freshwater algae adapted to aerial conditions and eventually conquered land. Adaptation to a severely different habitat apparently included sturdy cell walls enabling an erect body plan as well as protection against abiotic stresses such as ultraviolet radiation, drought and varying temperature. To thrive on land, plants probably required more elaborate signaling pathways to react to diverse environmental conditions, and phytohormones to control developmental programs. Many such plant-typical features have been studied in flowering plants, but their evolutionary origins were long clouded.(...)

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9 March 2018

Altruism in a volatile world [Nature]

Keywords : animal behaviour, behavioural ecology, evolutionary theory, social evolution

The evolution of altruism—costly self-sacrifice in the service of others—has puzzled biologists since The Origin of Species. For half a century, attempts to understand altruism have developed around the concept that altruists may help relatives to have extra offspring in order to spread shared genes. This theory—known as inclusive fitness—is founded on a simple inequality termed Hamilton’s rule. However, explanations of altruism have typically not considered the stochasticity of natural environments, which will not necessarily favour genotypes that produce the greatest average reproductive success. Moreover, empirical data across many taxa reveal associations between altruism and environmental stochasticity, a pattern not predicted by standard interpretations of Hamilton’s rule.(...)

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8 March 2018

Meta-analysis and the science of research synthesis [Nature]

Keywords : biodiversity, outcomes research

Meta-analysis is the quantitative, scientific synthesis of research results. Since the term and modern approaches to research synthesis were first introduced in the 1970s, meta-analysis has had a revolutionary effect in many scientific fields, helping to establish evidence-based practice and to resolve seemingly contradictory research outcomes. At the same time, its implementation has engendered criticism and controversy, in some cases general and others specific to particular disciplines. Here we take the opportunity provided by the recent fortieth anniversary of meta-analysis to reflect on the accomplishments, limitations, recent advances and directions for future developments in the field of research synthesis.

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8 March 2018

Managing the global land resource [Proceedings of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences]

Keywords : climate change, land, food security, greenhouse gas removal, biodiversity, Sustainable Development Goal

With a growing population with changing demands, competition for the global land resource is increasing. We need to feed a projected population of 9–10 billion by 2050, rising to approximately 12 billion by 2100. At the same time, we need to reduce the climate impact of agriculture, forestry and other land use, and we almost certainly need to deliver land-based greenhouse gas removal for additional climate change mitigation. In addition, we need to deliver progress towards meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, all without compromising the many ecosystem services provided by land and without exceeding planetary boundaries. Managing the land to tackle these pressing issues is a major global challenge. In this perspective paper, I provide a very broad overview of the main challenges, and explore co-benefits, trade-offs and possible solutions.

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8 March 2018

Environmental DNA for freshwater fish monitoring: insights for conservation within a protected area [PeerJ]

Subject Areas : aquaculture, fisheries and fish science, conservation biology, genetics, freshwater biology

Many fish species have been introduced in wild ecosystems around the world to provide food or leisure, deliberately or from farm escapes. Some of those introductions have had large ecological effects. The north American native rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss Walbaum, 1792) is one of the most widely farmed fish species in the world. It was first introduced in Spain in the late 19th century for sport fishing (Elvira 1995) and nowadays is used there for both fishing and aquaculture. On the other hand, the European native brown trout (Salmo trutta L.) is catalogued as vulnerable in Spain. Detecting native and invasive fish populations in ecosystem monitoring is crucial, but it may be difficult from conventional sampling methods such as electrofishing.(...)

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