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13 October 2016

Introduction to a Virtual Issue on plant senescence [New Phytologist/Editorial]

Keywords : ageing, death, life cycle, pigmentation, senescence, virtual issue

The word ‘senescence’ is recorded as having been around in the English language since before 1700, but it was not until the late nineteenth century that it began to be used in biology. Charles Sedgwick Minot (1891) was an early adopter, eventually publishing his 1908 book The Problem of Age, Growth, and Death. A Study of Cytomorphosis, in which he defined senescence thus: ‘With each successive generation of cells the power of growth diminishes … This loss of power I term senescence’. This broadly remains the meaning of the term as used by population biologists to this day.(...)

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13 October 2016

Orienting the Interaction Compass: Resource Availability as a Major Driver of Context Dependence [PLOS Biology]

Keywords : mutualism, species interactions, trophic interactions, community ecology, population dynamics, corals, compasses, grasses

Life on earth is enormously diverse, in part because each individual engages in countless interactions with its biotic and abiotic environment during its lifetime. Not only are there many such interactions, but any given interaction of each individual with, say, its neighbor or a nutrient could lead to a different effect on its fitness and on the dynamics of the population of which it is a member. Predicting those effects is an enduring challenge to the field of ecology. Using a simple laboratory system, Hoek and colleagues present evidence that resource availability can be a primary driver of variation between interactions.(...)

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13 October 2016

Empty forest or empty rivers? A century of commercial hunting in Amazonia [Science Advances]

The Amazon basin is the largest and most species-rich tropical forest and river system in the world, playing a pivotal role in global climate regulation and harboring hundreds of traditional and indigenous cultures. It is a matter of intense debate whether the ecosystem is threatened by hunting practices, whereby an “empty forest” loses critical ecological functions. Strikingly, no previous study has examined Amazonian ecosystem resilience through the perspective of the massive 20th century international trade in furs and skins. We present the first historical account of the scale and impacts of this trade and show that whereas aquatic species suffered basin-wide population collapse, terrestrial species did not.(...)

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12 October 2016

Impact of controlled neonicotinoid exposure on bumblebees in a realistic field setting [Journal of Applied Ecology]

Keywords : Bombus terrestris audax, bumblebees, clothianidin, colony growth, ecotoxicological guidelines, field setting; foraging ecology; neonicotinoid; pesticide; pollinators

1. Pesticide exposure has been implicated as a contributor to insect pollinator declines. In social bees, which are crucial pollination service providers, the effect of low-level chronic exposure is typically non-lethal leading researchers to consider whether exposure induces sublethal effects on behaviour and whether such impairment can affect colony development.
2. Studies under laboratory conditions can control levels of pesticide exposure and elucidate causative effects, but are often criticized for being unrealistic. In contrast, field studies can monitor bee responses under a more realistic pesticide exposure landscape; yet typically such findings are limited to correlative results and can lack true controls or sufficient replication. We attempt to bridge this gap by exposing bumblebees to known amounts of pesticides when colonies are placed in the field.(...)

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12 October 2016

Extinction debt from climate change for frogs in the wet tropics [Biology Letters]

Keywords : conservation prioritization, extinction risk, metapopulation, species–area relationship, species distribution model

The effect of twenty-first-century climate change on biodiversity is commonly forecast based on modelled shifts in species ranges, linked to habitat suitability. These projections have been coupled with species–area relationships (SAR) to infer extinction rates indirectly as a result of the loss of climatically suitable areas and associated habitat. This approach does not model population dynamics explicitly, and so accepts that extinctions might occur after substantial (but unknown) delays—an extinction debt. Here we explicitly couple bioclimatic envelope models of climate and habitat suitability with generic life-history models for 24 species of frogs found in the Australian Wet Tropics (AWT).(...)

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