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7 September 2018

Importance of harvest‐driven trait changes for invasive species management [Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment]

Libor Závorka, Iris Lang, Julien Cucherousset

Although intraspecific differences between the phenotypes of organisms are an important driver of ecological dynamics (Des Roches et al. 2018), research to help integrate phenotypic variation and its drivers with ecosystem management has been limited. For this reason, the novel conceptual framework proposed by Palkovacs et al. (2018) – which helps to clarify the ecological implications of harvest‐driven trait changes – is timely.

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5 September 2018

The smartphone fallacy – when spatial data are reported at spatial scales finer than the organisms themselves [Frontiers of Biogeography]

Thankfully, the days when specimen localities could be described in extremely vague terms such as “Peru” or “Indochina” are long gone. But the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Latitude and longitude data of specimens and study areas (such as small nature reserves) are nowadays commonly reported to the 0.000001 of a degree (or 0.01 of a second) or even more “precisely”. This is done either because of converting across measurement systems or because hand-held devices and internet sources provide this kind of precision. We probably report this degree of precision because we are reluctant to round – feeling it would make the data better and more “scientific”. I point out the scale referred to by different degrees of geographic precision (e.g., 10cm for 6 decimal places) and argue that such degree of precision is false for two reasons (...)

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24 July 2018

A decision tree for assessing the risks and benefits of publishing biodiversity data [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

nadequate information on the geographical distribution of biodiversity hampers decision-making for conservation. Major efforts are underway to fill knowledge gaps, but there are increasing concerns that publishing the locations of species is dangerous, particularly for species at risk of exploitation. While we recognize that well-informed control of location data for highly sensitive taxa is necessary to avoid risks, such as poaching or habitat disturbance by recreational visitors, we argue that ignoring the benefits of sharing biodiversity data could unnecessarily obstruct conservation efforts for species and locations with low risks of exploitation. We provide a decision tree protocol for scientists that systematically considers both the risks of exploitation and potential benefits of increased conservation activities. Our protocol helps scientists assess the impacts of publishing biodiversity data and aims to enhance conservation opportunities, promote community engagement and reduce duplication of survey efforts.

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23 July 2018

Prioritizing phylogenetic diversity captures functional diversity unreliably [Nature communications)

In the face of the biodiversity crisis, it is argued that we should prioritize species in order to capture high functional diversity (FD). Because species traits often reflect shared evolutionary history, many researchers have assumed that maximizing phylogenetic diversity (PD) should indirectly capture FD, a hypothesis that we name the “phylogenetic gambit”. Here, we empirically test this gambit using data on ecologically relevant traits from >15,000 vertebrate species. Specifically, we estimate a measure of surrogacy of PD for FD. We find that maximizing PD results in an average gain of 18% of FD relative to random choice. However, this average gain obscures the fact that in over one-third of the comparisons, maximum PD sets contain less FD than randomly chosen sets of species. These results suggest that, while maximizing PD protection can help to protect FD, it represents a risky conservation strategy.

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20 July 2018

Human influence on the seasonal cycle of tropospheric temperature [Science]

We provide scientific evidence that a human-caused signal in the seasonal cycle of tropospheric temperature has emerged from the background noise of natural variability. Satellite data and the anthropogenic “fingerprint” predicted by climate models show common large-scale changes in geographical patterns of seasonal cycle amplitude. These common features include increases in amplitude at mid-latitudes in both hemispheres, amplitude decreases at high latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, and small changes in the tropics. Simple physical mechanisms explain these features. The model fingerprint of seasonal cycle changes is identifiable with high statistical confidence in five out of six satellite temperature datasets. Our results suggest that attribution studies with the changing seasonal cycle provide powerful evidence for a significant human effect on Earth’s climate.

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