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31 January 2017

Ecosystem restoration strengthens pollination network resilience and function [Nature]

Land degradation results in declining biodiversity and the disruption of ecosystem functioning worldwide, particularly in the tropics. Vegetation restoration is a common tool used to mitigate these impacts and increasingly aims to restore ecosystem functions rather than species diversity. However, evidence from community experiments on the effect of restoration practices on ecosystem functions is scarce. Pollination is an important ecosystem function and the global decline in pollinators attenuates the resistance of natural areas and agro-environments to disturbances. Thus, the ability of pollination functions to resist or recover from disturbance (that is, the functional resilience) may be critical for ensuring a successful restoration process. Here we report the use of a community field experiment to investigate the effects of vegetation restoration, specifically the removal of exotic shrubs, on pollination. We analyse 64 plant–pollinator networks and the reproductive performance of the ten most abundant plant species across four restored and four unrestored, disturbed mountaintop communities.(...)

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31 January 2017

Complex modular architecture around a simple toolkit of wing pattern genes [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : comparative, genomics, evolutionary genetics, mimicry

Identifying the genomic changes that control morphological variation and understanding how they generate diversity is a major goal of evolutionary biology. In Heliconius butterflies, a small number of genes control the development of diverse wing colour patterns. Here, we used full-genome sequencing of individuals across the Heliconius erato radiation and closely related species to characterize genomic variation associated with wing pattern diversity. We show that variation around colour pattern genes is highly modular, with narrow genomic intervals associated with specific differences in colour and pattern. This modular architecture explains the diversity of colour patterns and provides a flexible mechanism for rapid morphological diversification.(...)

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31 January 2017

Elevation alters ecosystem properties across temperate treelines globally [Nature]

Temperature is a primary driver of the distribution of biodiversity as well as of ecosystem boundaries. Declining temperature with increasing elevation in montane systems has long been recognized as a major factor shaping plant community biodiversity, metabolic processes, and ecosystem dynamics. Elevational gradients, as thermoclines, also enable prediction of long-term ecological responses to climate warming. One of the most striking manifestations of increasing elevation is the abrupt transitions from forest to treeless alpine tundra. However, whether there are globally consistent above- and belowground responses to these transitions remains an open question. To disentangle the direct and indirect effects of temperature on ecosystem properties, here we evaluate replicate treeline ecotones in seven temperate regions of the world.(...)

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30 January 2017

Rapid evolution of dispersal ability makes biological invasions faster and more variable [Nature Communications]

Keywords : evolutionary ecology, experimental evolution, invasive species, population dynamics

Genetic variation in dispersal ability may result in the spatial sorting of alleles during range expansion. Recent theory suggests that spatial sorting can favour the rapid evolution of life history traits at expanding fronts, and therefore modify the ecological dynamics of range expansion. Here we test this prediction by disrupting spatial sorting in replicated invasions of the bean beetle Callosobruchus maculatus across homogeneous experimental landscapes.(...)

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27 January 2017

Journals invite too few women to referee [Nature/Comment]

Jory Lerback and Brooks Hanson present an analysis that reveals evidence of gender bias in peer review for scholarly publications.

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