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7 juin 2018

The strength of the biodiversity–ecosystem function relationship depends on spatial scale [Proceedings of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences]

Keywords : species richness, ecosystem functioning, β-diversity, Jensen’s inequality, nonlinear averaging, spatial scale

Our understanding of the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF) applies mainly to fine spatial scales. New research is required if we are to extend this knowledge to broader spatial scales that are relevant for conservation decisions. Here, we use simulations to examine conditions that generate scale dependence of the BEF relationship. We study scale by assessing how the BEF relationship (slope and R2) changes when habitat patches are spatially aggregated. We find three ways for the BEF relationship to be scale-dependent : (i) variation among local patches in local (α) diversity, (ii) spatial variation in the local BEF relationship and (iii) incomplete compositional turnover in species composition among patches.(...)

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7 juin 2018

‘Green incubation’ : avian offspring benefit from aromatic nest herbs through improved parental incubation behaviour [Proceedings of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences]

Keywords : egg temperature, European starling, prenatal, medicinal herbs, timing, volatile

Development of avian embryos requires thermal energy, usually from parents. Parents may, however, trade off catering for embryonic requirements against their own need to forage through intermittent incubation. This dynamically adjusted behaviour can be affected by properties of the nest. Here, we experimentally show a novel mechanism by which parents, through incorporation of aromatic herbs into nests, effectively modify their incubation behaviour to the benefit of their offspring. Our study species, the European starling, includes in its nest aromatic herbs which promote offspring fitness. We provided wild starlings with artificial nests including or excluding the typically selected fresh herbs and found strong support for our prediction of facilitated incubation.(...)

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6 juin 2018

Biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning respond unimodally to environmental stress [Ecology Letters]

Keywords : stress, biodiversity, community model, meta‐analysis, plant communities

Understanding how biodiversity (B) affects ecosystem functioning (EF) is essential for assessing the consequences of ongoing biodiversity changes. An increasing number of studies, however, show that environmental conditions affect the shape of BEF relationships. Here, we first use a game‐theoretic community model to reveal that a unimodal response of the BEF slope can be expected along environmental stress gradients, but also how the ecological mechanisms underlying this response may vary depending on how stress affects species interactions. Next, we analysed a global dataset of 44 experiments that crossed biodiversity with environmental conditions.(...)

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6 juin 2018

Restore the lost ecological functions of people [Nature Ecology & Evolution - Comment]

Recent calls for the reintroduction of functionally important animal species are motivated by a desire to restore ecological function, but overlook the ecological roles performed by humans. Here, we consider humans in ecological context, exploring our roles in the maintenance and restoration of ecosystem function.

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6 juin 2018

An epigenetic mechanism for cavefish eye degeneration [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : evolutionary developmental biology, evolutionary genetics, experimental organisms

Coding and non-coding mutations in DNA contribute significantly to phenotypic variability during evolution. However, less is known about the role of epigenetics in this process. Although previous studies have identified eye development genes associated with the loss-of-eyes phenotype in the Pachón blind cave morph of the Mexican tetra Astyanax mexicanus, no inactivating mutations have been found in any of these genes. Here, we show that excess DNA methylation-based epigenetic silencing promotes eye degeneration in blind cave A. mexicanus. By performing parallel analyses in A. mexicanus cave and surface morphs, and in the zebrafish Danio rerio, we have discovered that DNA methylation mediates eye-specific gene repression and globally regulates early eye development.(...)

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