Ecological Functions (ecological + function)

Distribution by Scientific Domains
Distribution within Life Sciences


Selected Abstracts


Restoring Ecological Function to a Submerged Salt Marsh

RESTORATION ECOLOGY, Issue 2010
Camille L. Stagg
Impacts of global climate change, such as sea level rise and severe drought, have altered the hydrology of coastal salt marshes resulting in submergence and subsequent degradation of ecosystem function. A potential method of rehabilitating these systems is the addition of sediment-slurries to increase marsh surface elevation, thus ameliorating effects of excessive inundation. Although this technique is growing in popularity, the restoration of ecological function after sediment addition has received little attention. To determine if sediment subsidized salt marshes are functionally equivalent to natural marshes, we examined above- and belowground primary production in replicated restored marshes receiving four levels of sediment addition (29,42 cm North American Vertical Datum of 1988 [NAVD 88]) and in degraded and natural ambient marshes (4,22 cm NAVD 88). Moderate intensities of sediment-slurry addition, resulting in elevations at the mid to high intertidal zone (29,36 cm NAVD 88), restored ecological function to degraded salt marshes. Sediment additions significantly decreased flood duration and frequency and increased bulk density, resulting in greater soil drainage and redox potential and significantly lower phytotoxic sulfide concentrations. However, ecological function in the restored salt marsh showed a sediment addition threshold that was characterized by a decline in primary productivity in areas of excessive sediment addition and high elevation (>36 cm NAVD 88). Hence, the addition of intermediate levels of sediment to submerging salt marshes increased marsh surface elevation, ameliorated impacts of prolonged inundation, and increased primary productivity. However, too much sediment resulted in diminished ecological function that was equivalent to the submerged or degraded system. [source]


Implications of species loss in freshwater fish assemblages

ECOGRAPHY, Issue 6 2001
Anne E. Magurran
Freshwater systems are vulnerable to pollution and species loss often ensues. Are there additional implications for assemblage structure? Here we use Berger-Parker d. Simpson's I/D and Simpson's F to measure the ecological diversity of pristine and perturbed freshwater fish assemblages in Trinidad. West Indies, and Oklahoma. USA. Although the impacted sites typically had fewer species than expected, they could not be distinguished from unperturbed ones of equivalent richness. Changes in the evenness of these assemblages are thus driven by changes in richness. One practical outcome is that diversity indices may not provide independent verification of the detrimental consequences of pollution. The similarity in structure of naturally and anthropogenically impoverished assemblages provides no grounds for complacency, however, since it ignores the evolutionary history of the species concerned. On the basis of our results we suggest that species provenance may be important in tests of ecological function. Moreover, these investigations should replicate natural patterns of evenness as well as richness. [source]


Abundance and diversity of heterotrophic bacterial cells assimilating phosphate in the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean

ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, Issue 10 2010
Krista Longnecker
Summary Microorganisms play key roles in the cycles of carbon and nutrients in the ocean, and identifying the extent to which specific taxa contribute to these cycles will establish their ecological function. We examined the use of 33P-phosphate to identify heterotrophic bacteria actively involved in the cycling of phosphate, an essential inorganic nutrient. Seawater from the sub-tropical North Atlantic Ocean was incubated with 33P-phosphate and analysed by microautoradiography to determine the proportion and diversity of the bacterial community-assimilating phosphate. Complementary incubations using 3H-leucine and 3H-thymidine were also conducted. We found that a higher proportion of total heterotrophic bacterial cells in surface water samples assimilated phosphate compared with leucine or thymidine. Bacteria from all of the phylogenetic groups we identified by CARD-FISH were able to assimilate phosphate, although the abundances of cells within each group did not scale directly with the number found to assimilate phosphate. Furthermore, a significantly higher proportion of Alphaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria and Cytophaga -like cells assimilated phosphate compared with leucine or thymidine. Our results suggest that a greater proportion of bacterial cells in surface waters are actively participating in the biogeochemical cycling of phosphorus, and possibly other elements, than is currently estimated through the use of 3H-leucine or 3H-thymidine. [source]


Vertical distribution of picoeukaryotic diversity in the Sargasso Sea

ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, Issue 5 2007
Fabrice Not
Summary Eukaryotic molecular diversity within the picoplanktonic size-fraction has primarily been studied in marine surface waters. Here, the vertical distribution of picoeukaryotic diversity was investigated in the Sargasso Sea from euphotic to abyssal waters, using size-fractionated samples (< 2 ,m). 18S rRNA gene clone libraries were used to generate sequences from euphotic zone samples (deep chlorophyll maximum to the surface); the permanent thermocline (500 m); and the pelagic deep-sea (3000 m). Euphotic zone and deep-sea data contrasted strongly, the former displaying greater diversity at the first-rank taxon level, based on 232 nearly full-length sequences. Deep-sea sequences belonged almost exclusively to the Alveolata and Radiolaria, while surface samples also contained known and putative photosynthetic groups, such as unique Chlorarachniophyta and Chrysophyceae sequences. Phylogenetic analyses placed most Alveolata and Stramenopile sequences within previously reported ,environmental' clades, i.e. clades within the Novel Alveolate groups I and II (NAI and NAII), or the novel Marine Stramenopiles (MAST). However, some deep-sea NAII formed distinct, bootstrap supported clades. Stramenopiles were recovered from the euphotic zone only, although many MAST are reportedly heterotrophic, making the observed distribution a point for further investigation. An unexpectedly high proportion of radiolarian sequences were recovered. From these, five environmental radiolarian clades, RAD-I to RAD-V, were identified. RAD-IV and RAD-V were composed of Taxopodida-like sequences, with the former solely containing Sargasso Sea sequences, although from all depth zones sampled. Our findings highlight the vast diversity of these protists, most of which remain uncultured and of unknown ecological function. [source]


Climate change effects on upland stream macroinvertebrates over a 25-year period

GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY, Issue 5 2007
ISABELLE DURANCE
Abstract Climate change effects on some ecosystems are still poorly known, particularly where they interact with other climatic phenomena or stressors. We used data spanning 25 years (1981,2005) from temperate headwaters at Llyn Brianne (UK) to test three hypotheses: (1) stream macroinvertebrates vary with winter climate; (2) ecological effects attributable to directional climate change and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) are distinguishable and (3) climatic effects on macroinvertebrates depend on whether streams are impacted by acidification. Positive (i.e. warmer, wetter) NAO phases were accompanied by reduced interannual stability (=similarity) in macroinvertebrate assemblage in all streams, but associated variations in composition occurred only in acid moorland. The NAO and directional climate change together explained 70% of interannual variation in temperature, but forest and moorland streams warmed respectively by 1.4 and 1.7°C (P<0.001) between 1981 and 2005 after accounting for NAO effects. Significant responses among macroinvertebrates were confined to circumneutral streams, where future thermal projections (+1, +2, +3°C) suggested considerable change. Spring macroinvertebrate abundance might decline by 21% for every 1°C rise. Although many core species could persist if temperature gain reached 3°C, 4,10 mostly scarce taxa (5,12% of the species pool) would risk local extinction. Temperature increase in Wales approaches this magnitude by the 2050s under the Hadley HadCM3 scenarios. These results support all three hypotheses and illustrate how headwater stream ecosystems are sensitive to climate change. Altered composition and abundance could affect conservation and ecological function, with the NAO compounding climate change effects during positive phases. We suggest that acidification, in impacted streams, overrides climatic effects on macroinvertebrates by simplifying assemblages and reducing richness. Climatic processes might, nevertheless, exacerbate acidification or offset biological recovery. [source]


Quantifying the impact of groundwater discharge on the surface,subsurface exchange

HYDROLOGICAL PROCESSES, Issue 15 2009
Fulvio Boano
Abstract The exchange of oxygen and nutrients between the well-aerated stream water and the subsurface water is crucial for the biochemical conditions of the hyporheic zone. The metabolic activity of the hyporheic microorganisms controls the fate of nitrogen and phosphorus in the pore water, and influences the fate of these nutrients at the catchment scale. Unfortunately, the incomplete knowledge of the complex hydrodynamics of the coupled surface-subsurface flow field often hinders the understanding of the ecological relevance of the hyporheic processes. Here, we analyse the influence of groundwater discharge through the streambed on bedform-induced hyporheic exchange. A simple mathematical model of a coupled stream-aquifer system is developed in order to describe the essential feature of the surface-subsurface exchange. The most representative characteristics of the hyporheic exchange, e.g. the depth of the hyporheic zone - are parametrized in terms of a small number of easily measurable quantities. This information on the hyporheic flow field provides the fundamental basis for the study of the ecological function of the hyporheic zone. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. [source]


Insights into the termite assemblage of a neotropical rainforest from the spatio-temporal distribution of flying alates

INSECT CONSERVATION AND DIVERSITY, Issue 3 2009
THOMAS BOURGUIGNON
Abstract., 1. During the last decade, many studies have focused on the diversity of termite species and their ecological function, but these have been mostly based on transect protocols not designed to sample canopy-dwelling and subterranean species. Additionally, all these studies relied upon collections of foraging parties composed of workers and soldiers in the soil or in pieces of wood. 2. We hypothesised that alate-based protocols could disclose spatial and temporal patterns of termite flights and provide a more balanced picture of assemblages for ecological and biodiversity surveys. 3. Our study took place in the framework of the IBISCA-Panama project, which used numerous trapping methods to give a multifaceted overview of a complex tropical rainforest arthropod community. Two methods, flight interception traps and light traps, were efficient at collecting termite alates. All collected specimens were assigned to morphospecies which were later identified to the genus or species level, when possible. 4. Our results highlighted that: (i) alate trapping represents a powerful complement to ground-based standardised sampling protocols by allowing the documentation of the whole termite assemblage. (ii) Canopy dwellers fly preferentially in the upper strata, whereas no vertical stratification was found for ground dwellers, suggesting that height of flight is dictated by a pressure for long distance dispersal as well as the need to find a suitable site for colony-founding. (iii) Alates from closely related species do not stagger their flight period to avoid hybridisation but rather synchronise their flights according to environmental factors. [source]


High-nickel insects and nickel hyperaccumulator plants: A review

INSECT SCIENCE, Issue 1 2009
Robert S. Boyd
Abstract Insects can vary greatly in whole-body elemental concentrations. Recent investigations of insects associated with Ni hyperaccumulator plants have identified insects with relatively elevated whole-body Ni levels. Evaluation of the limited data available indicates that a whole-body Ni concentration of 500 ,g Ni/g is exceptional: I propose that an insect species with a mean value of 500 ,g Ni/g or greater, in either larval/nymphal or adult stages, be considered a "high-Ni insect". Using the 500 ,g Ni/g criterion, 15 species of high-Ni insects have been identified to date from studies in Mpumalanga (South Africa), New Caledonia and California (USA). The highest mean Ni concentration reported is 3 500 ,g Ni/g for nymphs of a South African Stenoscepa species (Orthoptera: Pyrgomorphidae). The majority of high-Ni insects (66%) are heteropteran herbivores. Studies of high-Ni insect host preference indicate they are monophagous (or nearly so) on a particular Ni hyperaccumulator plant species. Much of the Ni in bodies of these insects is in their guts (up to 66%,75%), but elevated levels have also been found in Malpighian tubules, suggesting efficient elimination as one strategy for dealing with a high-Ni diet. Tissue levels of Ni are generally much lower than gut concentrations, but up to 1200 ,g Ni/g has been reported from exuviae, suggesting that molting may be another pathway of Ni elimination. One ecological function of the high Ni concentration of these insects may be to defend them against natural enemies, but to date only one experimental test has supported this "elemental defense" hypothesis. Community-level studies indicate that high-Ni insects mobilize Ni into food webs but that bioaccumulation of Ni does not occur at either plant-herbivore or herbivore-predator steps. Unsurprisingly, Ni bioaccumulation indices are greater for high-Ni insects compared to other insect species that feed on Ni hyperaccumulator plants. There is some evidence of Ni mobilization into food webs by insect visitors to flowers of Ni hyperaccumulator plants, but no high-Ni insect floral visitors have been reported. [source]


Thermodynamic and thermoeconomic analyses of an irreversible combined Carnot heat engine system

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENERGY RESEARCH, Issue 5 2001
Jincan Chen
Abstract A combined cycle model which includes the irreversibilities of finite-rate heat transfer in heat-exchange processes and heat leak loss of the heat source is used to analyse the performance of a multi-stage Carnot heat engine system. The efficiency, power output, ecological function and profit of operating the combined system are optimized. The optimally operating region of the combined system is determined. The optimal combined conditions between two adjacent cycles in the combined system are obtained. Moreover, the cycle model is generalized to include the internal irreversibilities of the working fluids so that the results obtained here become more general. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. [source]


Participatory planning, management and alternative livelihoods for poor wetland-dependent communities in Kampala, Uganda

AFRICAN JOURNAL OF ECOLOGY, Issue 2009
Robert Kabumbuli
Abstract The paper is based on an on-going 3-year study in the wetland communities of Kampala. The study uses participatory methods and aims to contribute to (i) the development of low-income wetland communities, (ii) to prepare these communities to become less dependent on wetlands without receding into poverty, and (iii) the better management of the wetlands. The communities in direct dependence and intimate interaction with Nakivubo wetlands are mainly poor, live and work under hazardous conditions, and their activities pose a threat to the ecological function of the wetlands. Yet these wetlands are important for filtering the city's waste and storm water before it flows into Lake Victoria's Murchison Bay, which is Kampala's source of piped water. Government approaches to the problem of wetland encroachment have largely failed because they are confrontational, and are not consistent or participatory. The study has in the first year conducted a series of activities including stakeholder analysis, resource analysis, livelihood analysis, a questionnaire survey and action planning. Preliminary data show that wetland dependency is very high among the poor nearby communities. They practice cultivation, brick-making and harvesting of wetland vegetation. However, these activities are under threat because wetland resources are dwindling due to increasing population and over-use. Livelihoods are threatened not only by the decreasing productivity of the wetland, but also by the ever-present government threat to evict wetland encroachers to restore its ecology. The study therefore works with communities to prepare for less dependence on wetlands so that they do not suddenly recede into worse poverty if they are evicted. They formulate strategies to enhance alternative livelihood, and for management of the wetland. Action plans have been formulated to address the situation through a newly created association. [source]


Wood-feeding beetles and soil nutrient cycling in burned forests: implications of post-fire salvage logging

AGRICULTURAL AND FOREST ENTOMOLOGY, Issue 1 2010
Tyler P. Cobb
1Rising economic demands for boreal forest resources along with current and predicted increases in wildfire activity have increased salvage logging of burned forests. Currently, the ecological consequences of post-fire salvage logging are insufficiently understood to develop effective management guidelines or to adequately inform policy decision-makers. 2We used both field and laboratory studies to examine the effects of post-fire salvage logging on populations of the white-spotted sawyer Monochamus scutellatus scutellatus (Say) (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) and its ecological function in boreal forest. 3Monochamus s. scutellatus adults were relatively abundant in both burned and clear-cut logged sites but were absent from salvage logged sites. 4An in situ mesocosm experiment showed that the abundance of M. s. scutellatus larvae in burned white spruce bolts was linked to changes in total organic nitrogen and carbon in mineral soil. 5Organic nutrient inputs in the form of M. s. scutellatus frass increased mineral soil microbial respiration rates by more than three-fold and altered the availability of nitrogen. Changes in nitrogen availability corresponded with decreased germination and growth of Epilobium angustifolium and Populus spp. but not Calamagrostis canadensis. 6Although the present study focused on local scale effects, the reported findings suggest that continued economic emphasis on post-fire salvage logging may have implications beyond the local scale for biodiversity conservation, nutrient cycling and plant community composition in forest ecosystems recovering from wildfire. [source]


Dominance by a canopy forming seaweed modifies resource and consumer control of bloom-forming macroalgae

OIKOS, Issue 7 2007
Britas Klemens Eriksson
Degradation of ecological resources by large-scale disturbances highlights the need to demonstrate biological properties that increase resistance to change and promote the resilience of ecosystem regimes. Coastal eutrophication is a global-scale disturbance that drives ecosystem change by increasing primary production and favouring ephemeral and bloom-forming life-forms. Recent synthesis indicates that consumption processes increase the resistance of coastal communities to nutrient loading by controlling the responses of ephemeral macroalgae. Here we suggest a similar ecological function for canopy cover by demonstrating that the presence of a canopy species modifies both resource and consumer control of bloom-forming algae associated with nutrient enrichment. We tested effects of canopy presence on the interaction between consumer and resource control, by field-manipulations of a dominant canopy forming seaweed (Fucus vesiculosus), grazer presence (dominated by the gastropod Littorina littorea) and nutrient enrichment (common agricultural NPK fertilizer). Canopy cover and grazers jointly controlled strong increases of ephemeral bloom-forming algae (dominated by Ulva spp) from nutrient enrichment; nutrients increased ephemeral recruitment almost 10-fold, but only in the absence of both grazers and canopy cover. Recruitment success of the canopy-forming seaweed itself decreased additively with 56.1, 71.3 and 50.5% from independent effects of canopy cover, grazers and nutrient enrichment, respectively. A meta-analysis of nine nutrient enrichment experiments including seaweed, seagrass and stream communities, showed that in the presence of canopies average nutrient effects were reduced by more than 90% compared to without canopies. This corroborates the generality of our finding that dominating canopy species are important for aquatic ecosystems by increasing community resistance to the propagation of nutrient effects. [source]


Restoring Ecological Function to a Submerged Salt Marsh

RESTORATION ECOLOGY, Issue 2010
Camille L. Stagg
Impacts of global climate change, such as sea level rise and severe drought, have altered the hydrology of coastal salt marshes resulting in submergence and subsequent degradation of ecosystem function. A potential method of rehabilitating these systems is the addition of sediment-slurries to increase marsh surface elevation, thus ameliorating effects of excessive inundation. Although this technique is growing in popularity, the restoration of ecological function after sediment addition has received little attention. To determine if sediment subsidized salt marshes are functionally equivalent to natural marshes, we examined above- and belowground primary production in replicated restored marshes receiving four levels of sediment addition (29,42 cm North American Vertical Datum of 1988 [NAVD 88]) and in degraded and natural ambient marshes (4,22 cm NAVD 88). Moderate intensities of sediment-slurry addition, resulting in elevations at the mid to high intertidal zone (29,36 cm NAVD 88), restored ecological function to degraded salt marshes. Sediment additions significantly decreased flood duration and frequency and increased bulk density, resulting in greater soil drainage and redox potential and significantly lower phytotoxic sulfide concentrations. However, ecological function in the restored salt marsh showed a sediment addition threshold that was characterized by a decline in primary productivity in areas of excessive sediment addition and high elevation (>36 cm NAVD 88). Hence, the addition of intermediate levels of sediment to submerging salt marshes increased marsh surface elevation, ameliorated impacts of prolonged inundation, and increased primary productivity. However, too much sediment resulted in diminished ecological function that was equivalent to the submerged or degraded system. [source]


Linking ecological function to species composition in ecological restoration: Seed removal by ants in recreated woodland

AUSTRAL ECOLOGY, Issue 7 2009
BORIS LOMOV
Abstract Evaluations of ecological restoration typically focus on associating measures of structural properties of ecosystems (e.g. species diversity) with time since restoration efforts commenced. Such studies often conclude a failure to achieve restoration goals without examining functional performance of the organism assemblages in question. We compared diversity and composition of ant assemblages and the rates of seed removal by ants in pastures, 4- to 10-year old revegetated areas and remnants of Cumberland Plain Woodland, and an endangered ecological community in Sydney, Australia. Ant assemblages of forest remnant sites had significantly higher species richness, significantly different species composition and a more complex functional group structure in comparison with ant assemblages of pasture and revegetated sites, which did not differ significantly. However, the rates of seed removal by ants in revegetated sites were similar to those in forest remnants, with the rates in pasture sites being significantly lower. Approximately, one-third of all ant species were observed to remove seeds. Forest remnant sites had significantly different assemblages of seed removing ant species from those in pasture and revegetated sites. These results demonstrate that similar ant assemblages of unrestored and restored areas can function differently, depending on habitat context. Evaluation of restoration success by quantifying ecosystem structure and function offers more insights into ecosystem recovery than reliance on structural data alone. [source]


Combined effects of two stressors on Kenyan coral reefs are additive or antagonistic, not synergistic

CONSERVATION LETTERS, Issue 2 2010
Emily S. Darling
Abstract A challenge for conservation science is predicting the impacts of co-occurring human activities on ecological systems. Multiple anthropogenic and natural stressors impact ecosystems globally and are expected to jeopardize their ecological functions and the success of conservation and management initiatives. The possibility that two or more stressors interact synergistically is of particular concern, but such nonadditive effects remain largely unidentified in nature. A long-term data set of hard coral cover from Kenyan reefs was used to examine the independent and interactive effects of two stressors: fishing and a temperature anomaly in 1998 that caused mass coral bleaching and mortality. While both stressors decreased coral cover, fishing by 51% and bleaching by 74%, they did not interact synergistically. Instead, their combined effect was antagonistic or weakly additive. The observed nonsynergistic response may be caused by the presence of one dominant stressor, bleaching, and cotolerance of coral taxa to both bleaching and fishing stressors. Consequently, coral bleaching has been the dominant driver of coral loss on Kenyan reefs and while marine reserves offer many benefits to reef ecosystems, they may not provide corals with a refuge from climate change. [source]


Ecological boundary detection using Carlin,Chib Bayesian model selection

DIVERSITY AND DISTRIBUTIONS, Issue 6 2005
Ralph Mac Nally
ABSTRACT Sharp ecological transitions in space (ecotones, edges, boundaries) often are where ecologically important events occur, such as elevated or reduced biodiversity or altered ecological functions (e.g. changes in productivity, pollination rates or parasitism loads, nesting success). While human observers often identify these transitions by using intuitive or gestalt assignments (e.g. the boundary between a remnant woodland patch and the surrounding farm paddock seems obvious), it is clearly desirable to make statistical assessments based on measurements. These assessments often are straightforward to make if the data are univariate, but identifying boundaries or transitions using compositional or multivariate data sets is more difficult. There is a need for an intermediate step in which pairwise similarities between points or temporal samples are computed. Here, I describe an approach that treats points along a transect as alternative hypotheses (models) about the location of the boundary. Carlin and Chib (1995) introduced a Bayesian technique for comparing non-hierarchical models, which I adapted to compute the probabilities of each boundary location (i.e. a model) relative to the ensemble of models constituting the set of possible points of the boundary along the transect. Several artificial data sets and two field data sets (on vegetation and soils and on cave-dwelling invertebrates and microclimates) are used to illustrate the approach. The method can be extended to cases in with several boundaries along a gradient, such as where there is an ecotone of non-zero thickness. [source]


Effects of landscape structure and habitat type on a plant-herbivore-parasitoid community

ECOGRAPHY, Issue 3 2003
Andreas Kruess
The effects of local habitat and large-scale landscape factors on species diversity and species interactions were studied using the insect community in stems of the creeping thistle Cirsium arvense. Thistle abundance was higher in fallows than in crop fields and field margins, with fallows providing 67% of thistle abundance within 15 study areas on a landscape scale. Species richness of the herbivores was positively related with thistle abundance, parasitoid species richness was influenced by habitat type and was positively correlated with herbivore species richness. The abundance of herbivores and parasitoids was affected by local factors such as habitat type and host abundance, but also by landscape factors such as the percentage of non-crop area and the isolation of habitats. The infestation rate caused by the agromyzid Melanagromyza aeneoventris was positively related to percent non-crop area, whereas the parasitism rate of this fly increased with increasing habitat diversity on the landscape scale. For these two interactions and for total herbivore abundance, a scale-dependency of the landscape effects was found. The results emphasize that biological diversity and ecological functions within a plant-insect community are not only affected by local habitat factors but also by large-scale landscape characteristics. Hence, to improve future agri-environmental schemes for biodiversity conservation and biological control large-scale landscape effects and their scale-dependency should be considered. [source]


The interpretation, assessment and conservation of ecological communities

ECOLOGICAL MANAGEMENT & RESTORATION, Issue 2009
David A. Keith
Summary Ecological communities are assemblages of species that occur together in space and time. Their properties include composition, structure, habitat, distribution, biological interactions and ecosystem functions. The community concept has a central role in conservation planning, and is a key approach for biodiversity conservation above the species level. The relatively recent application of risk assessment and regulatory systems to conservation of ecological communities has highlighted a number of challenges related to intrinsic uncertainties in the definition, diagnosis and assessment of ecological communities. In this review, I aim to elucidate some key conceptual issues essential to the interpretation of communities. Effective description, diagnosis and assessment of communities rests on an understanding of community theory in relation to environmental gradients and ecosystem dynamics. Continuum and discrete models can both contribute to interpretation of communities for conservation. Different sources of uncertainty are inherent in the key properties that characterize communities. Although some of these are reducible, remaining uncertainty must be incorporated into assessments and decision-making processes for conservation. Protocols for assessing extinction risks of communities address rates of decline in distribution, size of distribution and rates of decline in ecological functions. Some protocols assess these factors in a manner that may be inconsistent with equivalent methods for assessing species. Communities may be viewed in a framework that distinguishes thematic, spatial and temporal scales. These scales influence the outcomes of risk assessment, the benefits and limitations of maps and how well communities perform their function in conservation planning. When applied effectively, ecological communities can be powerful tools for delivering cost-effective outcomes for land-use planning and biodiversity conservation. [source]


Movement patterns of endangered Roanoke logperch (Percina rex)

ECOLOGY OF FRESHWATER FISH, Issue 3 2008
J. H. Roberts
Abstract,,, Using mark,recapture methods, we studied movements of endangered Roanoke logperch (Percina rex Jordan & Evermann), a benthic darter, at 12 riffle,run sites over a 9-year-long period in the Roanoke River, Virginia, USA. Our primary objective was to characterise movements among transects within sites, but we opportunistically recorded two between-site movements as well. Our recapture rate was low (22 of 485 marked fish), but most recaptured fish exhibited movements between tagging and recapture, relocating either to another transect within a site (12 fish) or to another site altogether (two fish). Within sites, Roanoke logperch exhibited fidelity over time to the areas in which they were initially marked. These restricted areas were lengthier than transects (>15 m) but shorter than entire riffle,runs (<150 m). The two between-site movements were extensive (3.2 and 2.5 km), observed over a long mark,recapture interval (2 and 5 years, respectively), and may have represented migratory or dispersal movements. Their detection required an unusually extensive study design. Both small- and large-scale movements fulfil important ecological functions for Roanoke logperch, and greater study of such movements in this and other darter species is needed to inform conservation choices. [source]


The structure of bacterial communities in the western Arctic Ocean as revealed by pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA genes

ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, Issue 5 2010
David L. Kirchman
Summary Bacterial communities in the surface layer of the oceans consist of a few abundant phylotypes and many rare ones, most with unknown ecological functions and unclear roles in biogeochemical processes. To test hypotheses about relationships between abundant and rare phylotypes, we examined bacterial communities in the western Arctic Ocean using pyrosequence data of the V6 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Samples were collected from various locations in the Chukchi Sea, the Beaufort Sea and Franklin Bay in summer and winter. We found that bacterial communities differed between summer and winter at a few locations, but overall there was no significant difference between the two seasons in spite of large differences in biogeochemical properties. The sequence data suggested that abundant phylotypes remained abundant while rare phylotypes remained rare between the two seasons and among the Arctic regions examined here, arguing against the ,seed bank' hypothesis. Phylotype richness was calculated for various bacterial groups defined by sequence similarity or by phylogeny (phyla and proteobacterial classes). Abundant bacterial groups had higher within-group diversity than rare groups, suggesting that the ecological success of a bacterial lineage depends on diversity rather than on the dominance of a few phylotypes. In these Arctic waters, in spite of dramatic variation in several biogeochemical properties, bacterial community structure was remarkably stable over time and among regions, and any variation was due to the abundant phylotypes rather than rare ones. [source]


The responses of floodplain primary production to flood frequency and timing

JOURNAL OF APPLIED ECOLOGY, Issue 1 2001
A.I. Robertson
Summary 1,River regulation and abstraction have dramatically altered the natural flow regime of many rivers world-wide, but experimental investigations of the biological effects are infrequent. In the mid-region of the Murray River, Australia, river regulation has reduced the frequency and duration of spring floods and increased the frequency of summer floods. We used controlled floods (treatments: no floods, spring floods, summer floods and spring + summer floods) to determine how the growth of river red gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis trees, aquatic macrophytes and biofilms varied with the seasonal timing and frequency of flooding. 2,After 6 years of controlled flooding, above-ground net production of wood by river red gum trees was equal and greatest in plots receiving spring + summer floods and summer floods (mean 496 g m,2 year,1). Production was significantly lower in plots receiving spring floods or no controlled floods, which had similar rates of production (mean 330 g m,2 year,1). 3,During 2 years of measurement in wetlands created by flooding, production and species richness of aquatic macrophyte were both greater in spring than in summer floods. The history of flood frequency at any experimental site did not affect macrophyte production or species richness. The aquatic macrophyte community in shallow regions of wetlands differed significantly with the seasonal timing of floods, but not flood frequency. 4,The accumulation of chlorophyll a and total mass of biofilm on wood surfaces in wetlands created by flooding were greater in spring (mean chlorophyll a, 0·88 µg cm,2; mean mass, 0·066 mg cm,2) than in summer floods (mean chlorophyll a, 0·09 µg cm,2; mean mass, 0·034 mg cm,2). The history of flood frequency at any experimental site did not affect accumulation of either the autotrophic or heterotrophic components of biofilms. 5,Spring flooding, while not as beneficial for tree growth, is critical for the growth of wetland macrophytes, the maintenance of macrophyte species richness, and favours better development of autotrophic biofilms. Maintenance of both the timber harvest and wetland conservation values of these floodplains will require the return of more natural flood flows in the spring period. Restoration of floodplain rivers requires a thorough understanding of the relationships between ecological functions and the natural flow regime. [source]


Wetlands, livelihoods and sustainability in Tanzania

AFRICAN JOURNAL OF ECOLOGY, Issue 2009
A. G. Mwakaje
Abstract Wetlands in Tanzania are among the world's most biologically productive ecosystems and are rich in species diversity. Wetlands support family livelihoods through crop production, grazing pastures and direct resource extractions. Ecologically, wetlands are instrumental in water storage, filtration, flood control and toxic retention and are also important habitat for biodiversity both flora and fauna. The last 30 years have witnessed rapid degradation of wetlands which threatens livelihoods; disturbs ecological settings and leads into unsustainable development. In this study, an attempt has been made to describe the livelihoods and sustainability issues of the Bahi Wetlands in Central Tanzania. This is a semi-arid area and therefore the wetland plays a key role socio-economically and environmentally. Data were collected from 200 households in Ngaiti and Kitalalo villages using structured and semi-structured questionnaires. There were also focused groups interviews, key informants and Participatory Rural Appraisal methods. Findings show Bahi Wetlands to play a significant role in livelihoods, cultural and ecological functions. However, the sustainability of the wetlands is threatened by over-cultivation, overgrazing and over-extraction of natural resources directly. Livelihood diversifications through credit provision, improved extension services and strengthened local institutions, are recommended. Wetlands policy and laws should be developed and enforced. [source]


Chernozem,Soil of the Year 2005

JOURNAL OF PLANT NUTRITION AND SOIL SCIENCE, Issue 6 2005
Manfred Altermann
Abstract The proclamation of the "Soil of the Year" was made for the first time in Germany in 2005 on occasion of the World Soil Day. Chernozems were selected for this purpose. In this paper an overview of these groups of soils is given. Chernozems are concentrated in the drought region of Central Germany. A standard profile from the core area of Chernozems developed from loess is presented with comprehensive laboratory analysis. Chernozems developed primarily upon carbonatic loess substrates under summer-dry climatic conditions in an open park-like landscape with isolated forest stands. The development of Chernozems began as early as the late glacial period, and they were fully developed by the Atlantikum age. The far-reaching, uniformly thick humus horizons indicate substrate differences in the loess cover, which are partly the result of bioturbation. Within Germany, Chernozems and Chernozem-like soils make up approx. 3% of the surface area and 5% (approx. 11,000 km2) of the arable land. The results of the Static Fertilization Experiment in Bad Lauchstädt, founded in 1902, clarify the high value of Chernozem for biomass production and the environment. Each loss due to erosion or decrease in surface area reduces the fulfillment of soil ecological functions of the soils and is comparable to a loss of animal and plant species. Therefore, soil scientists and the results of soil research must be more comprehensively implemented for soil preservation, protection, and politics. For acceptance of these goals among the general public and the political-decision makers, the campaign "Soil of the Year" should give some thought-provoking impulses. Schwarzerde , Boden des Jahres 2005 Anlässlich des Weltbodentages wurde in Deutschland für 2005 mit der Schwarzerde erstmalig ein ,Boden des Jahres" proklamiert. Damit soll in der Bevölkerung und bei politischen Entscheidungsträgern ein stärkeres Bewusstsein für den Boden und ein höheres Engagement für den Bodenschutz angeregt werden. Im Beitrag wird ein Überblick über diese Bodengruppe gegeben und ein Standardprofil aus dem Kerngebiet der Schwarzerden aus Löss (Mitteldeutsches Trockengebiet) mit umfassenden Laboranalysen exemplarisch präsentiert. Schwarzerden entwickelten sich vorwiegend auf kalkreichen Lössen unter sommertrockenen Klimabedingungen in einer offenen parkähnlichen Landschaft mit Waldinseln. Die Entstehung der Schwarzerden setzte bereits im Spätglazial ein, und im Atlantikum waren sie voll entwickelt. Die weiträumig gleiche Mächtigkeit der Humushorizonte zeichnet primäre Substratunterschiede in der Lössdecke nach; sie sind nicht nur das Ergebnis einer Bioturbation. In Deutschland nehmen die Schwarzerden und schwarzerdeähnlichen Böden etwa 3 % der Bodenfläche bzw. 5 % (ca. 11.000 km2) der landwirtschaftlichen Nutzfläche ein. Die Ergebnisse des seit 1902 bestehenden Statischen Düngungsversuchs Bad Lauchstädt verdeutlichen den hohen Wert der Schwarzerden für Biomasseproduktion und Umwelt. Jeder Verlust durch Erosion oder Flächenentzug mindert die Erfüllung ökologischer Funktionen der Böden und ist dem Artenverlust von Tieren und Pflanzen gleichzustellen. In der Bodenpolitik müssen deshalb die Ergebnisse der Bodenforschung zum Erhalt und Schutz unserer Böden umfassender als bisher umgesetzt und Bodenwissenschaftler stärker in politische Entscheidungen eingebunden werden. Für die Akzeptanz und Umsetzung dieser Ziele in der Öffentlichkeit soll der ,Boden des Jahres" Impulse geben. [source]


EFFECTS OF PRESCRIPTIVE RIPARIAN BUFFERS ON LANDSCAPE CHARACTERISTICS IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA, USA,

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN WATER RESOURCES ASSOCIATION, Issue 3 2002
JoAnn M. Hanowski
ABSTRACT: Forest buffers adjacent to water bodies are widely prescribed in forest management to protect ecological functions of riparian systems. To date, buffers have been applied on the landscape uniformly without quantifying their effectiveness or the effects they have on landscape characteristics. Our objective was to quantify landscape characteristics (amount of edge and interior forest) when buffers were applied to water bodies in a 100 by 100 km area of northern Minnesota. We used a Landsat classified image in a geographic information system platform to apply two buffer widths ,28.5 m and 57 m , to water bodies, including nonforested wetlands, intermittent or perennial streams, and lakes. A total of 107,141 ha (18.3 percent) of the forest area was adjacent to and within 28.5 m of these water bodies, while 201,457 ha of forest was within 57 m, representing 34.4 percent of the total forest area. Imposing a 28.5 m buffer on water bodies increased the amount of edge and interior forest in the study area. When water bodies were buffered with a 57 m forest strip, we found a slight increase in forest edge from the current condition, and this buffer width resulted in the largest amount of interior forest. Interior forest increased with the 57 m buffer due to the density of water bodies in this region; adjacent water bodies coalesced when buffers were applied and formed isolated forest islands that contained forest interior habitat. Instead of wholesale application of set width riparian buffers, we suggest that ecological conditions of riparian areas be evaluated on a site level and that areas that currently provide important riparian conditions be maintained on the landscape with appropriate management practices. [source]


LANDSCAPE-SCALE ANALYSIS AND MANAGEMENT OF CUMULATIVE IMPACTS TO RIPARIAN ECOSYSTEMS: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE,

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN WATER RESOURCES ASSOCIATION, Issue 6 2001
Eric D. Stein
ABSTRACT: Analyses of cumulative impacts to riparian systems is an important yet elusive goal. Previous analyses have focused on comparing the number of hectares impacted to the number of hectares restored, without addressing the loss of riparian function or the effect of the spatial distribution of impacts. This paper presents an analysis of the spatial distribution of development-related impacts to riparian ecosystems, that were authorized under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Impacts on habitat structure, contiguity, and landscape context were evaluated using functional indices scaled to regional reference sites. Impact sites were mapped using GIS and analyzed for spatial associations. Positive spatial autocorrelation (i.e. clustering of impact sites) resulted from the piecemeal approach to impact assessment, which failed to prevent cumulative impacts. Numerous small projects in close proximity have resulted in adverse impacts to entire stream reaches or have fragmented the aquatic resources to a point where overall functional capacity is impaired. Additionally, the ecological functions of unaffected areas have been diminished due to their proximity to degraded areas. A proactive approach to managing cumulative impacts is currently being used in Orange County, California as part of a Corps of Engineers sponsored Special Area Management Plan (SAMP). The SAMP process is evaluating the ecological conditions and physical processes of the study watersheds and attempting to plan future development in a manner that will guard against cumulative impacts. [source]


Lakes and society: The contribution of lakes to sustainable societies

LAKES & RESERVOIRS: RESEARCH AND MANAGEMENT, Issue 2 2001
Lowell L. Klessig
Abstract Lake management is typically approached from a biophysical perspective. Lake managers ask how lakes can be managed to sustain their ecological functions. The social value of lakes is usually given less attention. The present paper begins the analysis at the other end of the lake and society connection by posing the question: what social needs must be met to sustain society? The primary social needs of sustainable societies are outlined and then the contribution of lakes to each need is discussed. Lakes can only provide optimal social benefits if management decisions recognize the full set of potential contributions lakes can make to society and those management decisions are integrated to provided balanced attention to all values that lakes provide. The present paper expands the domain of values beyond the traditional environmental and recreational contributions of lake management to also include aesthetics, education, economic opportunity, emotional security, cultural opportunity, individual freedom and spirituality. Citizen involvement is essential in broadening the conceptualization of the lake values and in implementing integrated management plans. [source]


Gene function beyond the single trait: natural variation, gene effects, and evolutionary ecology in Arabidopsis thaliana

PLANT CELL & ENVIRONMENT, Issue 1 2005
S. J. TONSOR
ABSTRACT The purpose of plant functional genomics is to describe the patterns of gene expression and internal plant function underlying the ecological functions that sustain plant growth and reproduction. Plants function as integrated systems in which metabolic and developmental pathways draw on common resource pools and respond to a relatively small number of signal/response systems. Plants are also integrated with their environment, exchanging energy and matter with their surroundings and are consequently sensitive to changes in energy and resource fluxes. These two levels of integration complicate the description of gene function. Internal integration results in single genes often affecting multiple characteristics (pleiotropy) and interacting with multiple other genes (epistasis). Integration with the external environment leads to gene expression and the genes' phenotypic effects varying across environmental backgrounds (gene,environment interaction). An accurate description of the function of all genes requires an augmentation, already underway, of the study of isolated developmental and metabolic pathways to a more integrated approach involving the study of genetic effects across scales of variation usually regarded as the purview of ecological and evolutionary research. Since the evolution of gene function also depends on this complex of gene effects, progress in evolutionary genetics will also require understanding the nature of gene interactions and pleiotropy and the constraints and patterns they impose on adaptive evolution. Studying gene function in the context of the integrated organism is a major challenge, best met by developing co-ordinated research efforts in model systems. This review highlights natural variation in A. thaliana as a system for understanding integrated gene function in an ecological and evolutionary context. The current state of this research integration in A. thaliana is described by summarizing relevant approaches, current knowledge, and some potentially fruitful future studies. By introducing some of the fundamental questions of ecological and evolutionary research, experimental approaches and systems that can reveal new facets of gene function and gene effect are also described. A glossary is included in the Appendix. [source]


Salt Marsh Restoration in Connecticut: 20 Years of Science and Management

RESTORATION ECOLOGY, Issue 3 2002
R. Scott Warren
Abstract In 1980 the State of Connecticut began a tidal marsh restoration program targeting systems degraded by tidal restrictions and impoundments. Such marshes become dominated by common reed grass (Phragmites australis) and cattail (Typha angustifolia and T. latifolia), with little ecological connection to Long Island Sound. The management and scientific hypothesis was that returning tidal action, reconnecting marshes to Long Island Sound, would set these systems on a recovery trajectory. Specific restoration targets (i.e., pre-disturbance conditions or particular reference marshes) were considered unrealistic. However, it was expected that with time restored tides would return ecological functions and attributes characteristic of fully functioning tidal salt marshes. Here we report results of this program at nine separate sites within six marsh systems along 110 km of Long Island Sound shoreline, with restoration times of 5 to 21 years. Biotic parameters assessed include vegetation, macroinvertebrates, and use by fish and birds. Abiotic factors studied were soil salinity, elevation and tidal flooding, and soil water table depth. Sites fell into two categories of vegetation recovery: slow, ca. 0.5%, or fast, more than 5% of total area per year. Although total cover and frequency of salt marsh angiosperms was positively related to soil salinity, and reed grass stand parameters negatively so, fast versus slow recovery rates could not be attributed to salinity. Instead, rates appear to reflect differences in tidal flooding. Rapid recovery was characterized by lower elevations, greater hydroperiods, and higher soil water tables. Recovery of other biotic attributes and functions does not necessarily parallel those for vegetation. At the longest studied system (rapid vegetation recovery) the high marsh snail Melampus bidentatus took two decades to reach densities comparable with a nearby reference marsh, whereas the amphipod Orchestia grillus was well established on a slow-recovery marsh, reed grass dominated after 9 years. Typical fish species assemblages were found in restoration site creeks and ditches within 5 years. Gut contents of fish in ditches and on the high marsh suggest that use of restored marsh as foraging areas may require up to 15 years to reach equivalence with reference sites. Bird species that specialize in salt marshes require appropriate vegetation; on the oldest restoration site, breeding populations comparable with reference marshland had become established after 15 years. Use of restoration sites by birds considered marsh generalists was initially high and was still nearly twice that of reference areas even after 20 years. Herons, egrets, and migratory shorebirds used restoration areas extensively. These results support our prediction that returning tides will set degraded marshes on trajectories that can bring essentially full restoration of ecological functions. This can occur within two decades, although reduced tidal action can delay restoration of some functions. With this success, Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection established a dedicated Wetland Restoration Unit. As of 1999 tides have been restored at 57 separate sites along the Connecticut coast. [source]


Towards an integrated environmental assessment for wetland and catchment management

THE GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL, Issue 2 2003
R Kerry Turner
This paper develops a decision support system for evaluation of wetland ecosystem management strategy and examines its, so far partial, application in a case study of an important complex coastal wetland known as the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, in the east of England, UK. Most managed ecosystems are complex and often poorly understood hierarchically organized systems. Capturing the range of relevant impacts on natural and human systems under different management options will be a formidable challenge. Biodiversity has a hierarchical structure which ranges from the ecosystem and landscape level, through the community level and down to the population and genetic level. There is a need to develop methodologies for the practicable detection of ecosystem change, as well as the evaluation of different ecological functions. What is also required is a set of indicators (environmental, social and economic) which facilitate the detection of change in ecosystems suffering stress and shock and highlight possible drivers of the change process. A hierarchical classification of ecological indicators of sustainability would need to take into account existing interactions between different organization levels, from species to ecosystems. Effects of environmental stress are expressed in different ways at different levels of biological organization and effects at one level can be expected to impact other levels, often in unpredictable ways. The management strategy, evaluation methodologies and indicators adopted should also assess on sustainability grounds whether any given management option is supporting, or reducing, the diversity of functions which are providing stakeholders with the welfare benefits they require. [source]


Quantitative comparison of the diversity of landscapes with actual vs. potential natural vegetation

APPLIED VEGETATION SCIENCE, Issue 2 2000
Carlo Ricotta
Abstract. In the past 20 years, several metrics have been developed to quantify various aspects of landscape structure and diversity in space and time, and most have been tested on grid-based thematic maps. Once landscape patterns have been quantified, their effects on ecological functions can be explained if the expected pattern in the absence of specific processes is known. This type of expected pattern has been termed a neutral landscape model. In the landscape-ecological literature, researchers traditionally adopt random and fractal computer-generated neutral landscape models to verify the expected relationship between a given ecological process and landscape spatial heterogeneity. Conversely, little attention has been devoted to distribution patterns of potential natural vegetation (PNV) as an ecological baseline for the evaluation of pattern-process interactions at the landscape scale. As an application for demonstration, we propose a neutral model based on PNV as a possible reference for a quantitative comparison with actual vegetation (AC V) distribution. Within this context, we introduce an evenness-like index termed ,actual-to-potential entropy ratio' (HA/P = HACV/HPNV, where H is Shannon's entropy). Results show that, despite the hypothetical character of most PNV maps, the use of PNV distribution as a baseline for a quantitative comparison with ACV distribution may represent a first step towards a general model for the evaluation of the effects of disturbance on vegetation patterns and diversity. [source]