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14 September 2018

A continental system for forecasting bird migration [Science]

Billions of animals cross the globe each year during seasonal migrations, but efforts to monitor them are hampered by the unpredictability of their movements. We developed a bird migration forecast system at a continental scale by leveraging 23 years of spring observations to identify associations between atmospheric conditions and bird migration intensity. Our models explained up to 81% of variation in migration intensity across the United States at altitudes of 0 to 3000 meters, and performance remained high in forecasting events 1 to 7 days in advance (62 to 76% of variation was explained). Avian migratory movements across the United States likely exceed 500 million individuals per night during peak passage. Bird migration forecasts will reduce collisions with buildings, airplanes, and wind turbines; inform a variety of monitoring efforts; and engage the public.

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14 September 2018

A quantitative analysis linking sea turtle mortality and plastic debris ingestion [Scientific Reports]

Plastic in the marine environment is a growing environmental issue. Sea turtles are at significant risk of ingesting plastic debris at all stages of their lifecycle with potentially lethal consequences. We tested the relationship between the amount of plastic a turtle has ingested and the likelihood of death, treating animals that died of known causes unrelated to plastic ingestion as a statistical control group. We utilized two datasets; one based on necropsies of 246 sea turtles and a second using 706 records extracted from a national strandings database. Animals dying of known causes unrelated to plastic ingestion had less plastic in their gut than those that died of either indeterminate causes or due to plastic ingestion directly (e.g. via gut impaction and perforation). We found a 50% probability of mortality once an animal had 14 pieces of plastic in its gut. Our results provide the critical link between recent estimates of plastic ingestion and the population effects of this environmental threat.

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14 September 2018

Ecophylogenetics Clarifies the Evolutionary Association between Mammals and Their Gut Microbiota [American Society for Microbiology]

Keywords : gut microbiome, bioinformatics, ecology, evolution, phylogeny, taxonomy

Our knowledge of how the gut microbiome relates to mammalian evolution benefits from the identification of gut microbial taxa that are unexpectedly prevalent or unexpectedly conserved across mammals. Such taxa enable experimental determination of the traits needed for such microbes to succeed as gut generalists, as well as those traits that impact mammalian fitness. However, the punctuated resolution of microbial taxonomy may limit our ability to detect conserved gut microbes, especially in cases in which broadly related microbial lineages possess shared traits that drive their apparent ubiquity across mammals. To advance the discovery of conserved mammalian gut microbes, we developed a novel ecophylogenetic approach to taxonomy that groups microbes into taxonomic units based on their shared ancestry and their common distribution across mammals.(...)

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14 September 2018

A global meta-analysis of yield stability in organic and conservation agriculture [Nature Communications]

One of the primary challenges of our time is to enhance global food production and security. Most assessments in agricultural systems focus on plant yield. Yet, these analyses neglect temporal yield stability, or the variability and reliability of production across years. Here we perform a meta-analysis to assess temporal yield stability of three major cropping systems: organic agriculture and conservation agriculture (no-tillage) vs. conventional agriculture, comparing 193 studies based on 2896 comparisons. Organic agriculture has, per unit yield, a significantly lower temporal stability (−15%) compared to conventional agriculture. Thus, although organic farming promotes biodiversity and is generally more environmentally friendly, future efforts should focus on reducing its yield variability.(...)

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12 September 2018

Expanding, shifting and shrinking: The impact of global warming on species’ elevational distributions [Global Ecology and Biogeography]

Keywords : climate change, elevational gradient, mountaintop extinctions, range limits, range shifts, species distributions

Species are responding to climate warming by shifting their distributions toward historically cooler regions, but the degree to which expansions at cool range limits are balanced by contractions at warm limits is unknown. We synthesized published data documenting shifts at species’ warm versus cool range limits along elevational gradients to (a) test classic ecological theory that predicts temperature more directly influences species’ cool range limits than their warm range limits, and (b) determine how warming‐associated shifts have changed the extent and area of species’ elevational distributions.(...)

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