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19 October 2017

More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas [PLOS One]

Subject Areas : insects, seasons , land use, biomass (ecology), conservation science, grasslands, species diversity, herbs

Global declines in insects have sparked wide interest among scientists, politicians, and the general public. Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services. Our understanding of the extent and underlying causes of this decline is based on the abundance of single species or taxonomic groups only, rather than changes in insect biomass which is more relevant for ecological functioning. Here, we used a standardized protocol to measure total insect biomass using Malaise traps, deployed over 27 years in 63 nature protection areas in Germany (96 unique location-year combinations) to infer on the status and trend of local entomofauna.(...)

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18 October 2017

Transgenerational plasticity and climate change experiments: Where do we go from here? [Global Change Biology]

Keywords : acclimation, adaptation, environmental predictability, maternal effects, non-genetic inheritance, paternal effects, phenotypic plasticity, selection, within-generation plasticity

Phenotypic plasticity, both within and across generations, is an important mechanism that organisms use to cope with rapid climate change. While an increasing number of studies show that plasticity across generations (transgenerational plasticity or TGP) may occur, we have limited understanding of key aspects of TGP, such as the environmental conditions that may promote it, its relationship to within-generation plasticity (WGP) and its role in evolutionary potential. In this review, we consider how the detection of TGP in climate change experiments is affected by the predictability of environmental variation, as well as the timing and magnitude of environmental change cues applied.(...)

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18 October 2017

Evolution of drift robustness in small populations [Nature Communications]

Keywords : computer modelling, evolutionary theory

Most mutations are deleterious and cause a reduction in population fitness known as the mutational load. In small populations, weakened selection against slightly-deleterious mutations results in an additional fitness reduction. Many studies have established that populations can evolve a reduced mutational load by evolving mutational robustness, but it is uncertain whether small populations can evolve a reduced susceptibility to drift-related fitness declines. Here, using mathematical modeling and digital experimental evolution, we show that small populations do evolve a reduced vulnerability to drift, or ‘drift robustness’. (...)

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18 October 2017

Mining drives extensive deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : environmental impact, forest ecology

Mining poses significant and potentially underestimated risks to tropical forests worldwide. In Brazil’s Amazon, mining drives deforestation far beyond operational lease boundaries, yet the full extent of these impacts is unknown and thus neglected in environmental licensing. Here we quantify mining-induced deforestation and investigate the aspects of mining operations, which most likely contribute. We find mining significantly increased Amazon forest loss up to 70 km beyond mining lease boundaries, causing 11,670 km2 of deforestation between 2005 and 2015. This extent represents 9% of all Amazon forest loss during this time and 12 times more deforestation than occurred within mining leases alone.(...)

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17 October 2017

Soil biota contributions to soil aggregation [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Humankind depends on the sustainability of soils for its survival and well-being. Threatened by a rapidly changing world, our soils suffer from degradation and biodiversity loss, making it increasingly important to understand the role of soil biodiversity in soil aggregation—a key parameter for soil sustainability. Here, we provide evidence of the contribution of soil biota to soil aggregation on macro- and microaggregate scales, and evaluate how specific traits, soil biota groups and species interactions contribute to this. We conducted a global meta-analysis comprising 279 soil biota species.(...)

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