Ecological Importance (ecological + importance)

Distribution by Scientific Domains
Distribution within Life Sciences

Selected Abstracts

Changes of traditional agrarian landscapes and their conservation implications: a case study of butterflies in Romania

Thomas Schmitt
ABSTRACT Global biodiversity is decreasing as a result of human activities. In many parts of the world, this decrease is due to the destruction of natural habitats. The European perspective is different. Here, traditional agricultural landscapes developed into species-rich habitats. However, the European biodiversity heritage is strongly endangered. One of the countries where this biodiversity is best preserved is Romania. We analyse the possible changes in Romania's land-use patterns and their possible benefits and hazards with respect to biodiversity. As model group, we used butterflies, whose habitat requirements are well understood. We determined the ecological importance of different land-use types for the conservation of butterflies, underlining the special importance of Romania's semi-natural grasslands for nature conservation. We found that increasing modern agriculture and abandonment of less productive sites both affect biodiversity negatively , the former immediately and the latter after a lag phase of several years. These perspectives are discussed in the light of the integration of Romania into the European Union. [source]

Coefficient shifts in geographical ecology: an empirical evaluation of spatial and non-spatial regression

ECOGRAPHY, Issue 2 2009
L. Mauricio Bini
A major focus of geographical ecology and macroecology is to understand the causes of spatially structured ecological patterns. However, achieving this understanding can be complicated when using multiple regression, because the relative importance of explanatory variables, as measured by regression coefficients, can shift depending on whether spatially explicit or non-spatial modeling is used. However, the extent to which coefficients may shift and why shifts occur are unclear. Here, we analyze the relationship between environmental predictors and the geographical distribution of species richness, body size, range size and abundance in 97 multi-factorial data sets. Our goal was to compare standardized partial regression coefficients of non-spatial ordinary least squares regressions (i.e. models fitted using ordinary least squares without taking autocorrelation into account; "OLS models" hereafter) and eight spatial methods to evaluate the frequency of coefficient shifts and identify characteristics of data that might predict when shifts are likely. We generated three metrics of coefficient shifts and eight characteristics of the data sets as predictors of shifts. Typical of ecological data, spatial autocorrelation in the residuals of OLS models was found in most data sets. The spatial models varied in the extent to which they minimized residual spatial autocorrelation. Patterns of coefficient shifts also varied among methods and datasets, although the magnitudes of shifts tended to be small in all cases. We were unable to identify strong predictors of shifts, including the levels of autocorrelation in either explanatory variables or model residuals. Thus, changes in coefficients between spatial and non-spatial methods depend on the method used and are largely idiosyncratic, making it difficult to predict when or why shifts occur. We conclude that the ecological importance of regression coefficients cannot be evaluated with confidence irrespective of whether spatially explicit modelling is used or not. Researchers may have little choice but to be more explicit about the uncertainty of models and more cautious in their interpretation. [source]

Is the matrix a sea?

Habitat specificity in a naturally fragmented landscape
Abstract., 1. Metapopulation and island biogeography theory assume that landscapes consist of habitat patches set in a matrix of non-habitat. If only a small proportion of species conform to the patch,matrix assumptions then metapopulation theory may only describe special cases rather than being of more general ecological importance. 2. As an initial step towards understanding the prevalence of metapopulation dynamics in a naturally fragmented landscape, the distribution of beetle species in three replicates of three habitat types was examined, including rainforest and eucalypt forest (the habitat patches), and buttongrass sedgeland (the matrix), in south-west Tasmania, Australia. 3. Ordination methods indicated that the buttongrass fauna was extremely divergent from the fauna of forested habitats. Permutation tests showed that the abundance of 13 of 17 commonly captured species varied significantly among habitats, with eight species confined to eucalypts or rainforest, and three species found only in buttongrass. Approximately 60% of species were confined to forested habitat implying that metapopulation theory has the potential to be very important in the forest,buttongrass landscape. 4. Although floristically the rainforest and eucalypts were extremely distinct, the beetle faunas from eucalypts and rainforests overlapped substantially. Therefore rainforest patches connected by eucalypt forest represent continuous habitat for most species. 5. Other studies report a wide range of values for the proportion of patch-specific species in fragmented landscapes. Understanding the environmental or historical conditions under which a high proportion of species become patch specialists would help to identify where spatial dynamic theory may be especially applicable, and where habitat loss and fragmentation poses the greatest threat to biodiversity. [source]

Species-specific differences in oak foliage affect preference and performance of gypsy moth caterpillars

L. K. Foss
Abstract The gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar (L.) (Lepidoptera: Lymantriidae), is an introduced defoliator that preferentially feeds on oaks, Quercus spp. (Fagaceae) in the north-eastern USA. As the gypsy moth expands its geographic range, the extensive oak component in forests and urban environments of the USA assure its successful establishment. Given their economic and ecological importance, and the gypsy moth's potential to cause mortality, we evaluated caterpillar preference and performance on various oaks prevalent in the central hardwoods region. Most of the physical and chemical characteristics we measured, from budbreak phenology to foliar chemistry, varied significantly among the oak species tested. Similarly, insect preference and performance varied significantly, though not always in predictable ways. Caterpillar preference was compared for black, Q. velutina Lamarck, burr, Q. macrocarpa Michaux, cherrybark, Q. pagoda Rafinesque, northern red, Q. rubra L., pin, Q. palustris Muenchhausen, swamp white, Q. bicolor Willdenow, white, Q. alba L., and willow, Q. phellos L., oaks. Gypsy moth preference was greatest for black and burr, and least for northern red, pin, and willow oaks. We assessed foliar characteristics and caterpillar performance on foliage from burr, cherrybark, northern red, pin, and willow oaks. Caterpillar preference did not always correlate with performance. Gypsy moth consumption and growth were highest, and development most rapid, on pin oak, which had high nitrogen and tannin levels, and was among the least preferred. Northern red and willow oaks were also among the least preferred and were the least suitable tested, producing caterpillars with moderate to low consumption and growth rates, as well as the longest development. Northern red oak contained the lowest foliar tannins; willow oak foliage was lowest in carbohydrates and nitrogen. Our results suggest that a combination of foliar characteristics may be responsible for gypsy moth preference and performance, and that an optimal combination of foliar components serves to maximize host suitability. These data will provide information useful for planning and managing urban forests in the presence of expanding gypsy moth populations. [source]

Assessing diversity and biogeography of aerobic anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria in surface waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans using the Global Ocean Sampling expedition metagenomes

Natalya Yutin
Summary Aerobic anoxygenic photosynthetic bacteria (AAnP) were recently proposed to be significant contributors to global oceanic carbon and energy cycles. However, AAnP abundance, spatial distribution, diversity and potential ecological importance remain poorly understood. Here we present metagenomic data from the Global Ocean Sampling expedition indicating that AAnP diversity and abundance vary in different oceanic regions. Furthermore, we show for the first time that the composition of AAnP assemblages change between different oceanic regions, with specific bacterial assemblages adapted to open ocean or coastal areas respectively. Our results support the notion that marine AAnP populations are complex and dynamic, and compose an important fraction of bacterioplankton assemblages in certain oceanic areas. [source]


EVOLUTION, Issue 9 2002
Hans Slabbekoorn
Abstract., Bird song is a sexual trait important in mate choice and known to be shaped by environmental selection. Here we investigate the ecological factors shaping song variation across a rainforest gradient in central Africa. We show that the little greenbul (Andropadus virens), previously shown to vary morphologically across the gradient in fitness-related characters, also varies with respect to song characteristics. Acoustic features, including minimum and maximum frequency, and delivery rate of song notes showed significant differences between habitats. In contrast, we found dialectal variation independent of habitat in population-typical songtype sequences. This pattern is consistent with ongoing gene flow across habitats and in line with the view that song variation in the order in which songtypes are produced is not dependent on habitat characteristics in the same way physical song characteristics are. Sound transmission characteristics of the two habitats did not vary significantly, but analyses of ambient noise spectra revealed dramatic and consistent habitat-dependent differences. Matching between low ambient noise levels for low frequencies in the rainforest and lower minimal frequencies in greenbul songs in this habitat suggests that part of the song divergence may be driven by habitat-dependent ambient noise patterns. These results suggest that habitat-dependent selection may act simultaneously on traits of ecological importance and those important in prezygotic isolation, leading to an association between morphological and acoustic divergence. Such an association may promote assortative mating and may be a mechanism driving reproductive divergence across ecological gradients. [source]

Spatial and temporal patterns of microcrustacean assemblage structure and secondary production in a wetland ecosystem

Summary 1. In contrast to extensive studies of zooplankton in lakes, the role of microcrustaceans in wetlands is not well studied. In this study, spatial and temporal patterns of microcrustacean assemblage structure and secondary production were quantified over a 2-year period in a southeastern U.S.A. wetland. 2. Thirty-two species, including 19 cladocerans, 10 copepods and three ostracods, generated different temporal patterns of density and production between vegetated (Nymphaea) and non-vegetated (open-water) zones reflecting species-specific differences in life histories. 3. Summer assemblages were dominated by small, planktonic filter-feeders, typified by high annual production/biomass (P/B) and daily production. In contrast, winter assemblages were dominated by larger, epibenthic detritivores with low P/B and high biomass. Seasonal shifts in the relative importance of planktonic species in the warmer months to benthic and epiphytic species in the cooler months suggest that energy flow pathways through microcrustaceans may vary seasonally. 4. Total annual production was higher during both years in the Nymphaea zone (13.0 g and 13.6 g DM m,2 year,1) than the open-water (8.2 and 6.3 g DM m,2 year,1), and was similar between years for the entire wetland pond (12.3 and 12.2 g DM m,2 year,1). 5. Although wetland ecosystems have been the subject of considerable ecological research in the past 20 years, our study is one of the few to demonstrate a highly diverse and relatively productive microcrustacean assemblage. Such comprehensive production studies can be used to quantify the ecological importance of microcrustaceans in freshwater wetland ecosystems. [source]

Winter diatom blooms in a regulated river in South Korea: explanations based on evolutionary computation

Summary 1. An ecological model was developed using genetic programming (GP) to predict the time-series dynamics of the diatom, Stephanodiscus hantzschii for the lower Nakdong River, South Korea. Eight years of weekly data showed the river to be hypertrophic (chl. a, 45.1 ± 4.19 ,g L,1, mean ± SE, n = 427), and S. hantzschii annually formed blooms during the winter to spring flow period (late November to March). 2. A simple non-linear equation was created to produce a 3-day sequential forecast of the species biovolume, by means of time series optimization genetic programming (TSOGP). Training data were used in conjunction with a GP algorithm utilizing 7 years of limnological variables (1995,2001). The model was validated by comparing its output with measurements for a specific year with severe blooms (1994). The model accurately predicted timing of the blooms although it slightly underestimated biovolume (training r2 = 0.70, test r2 = 0.78). The model consisted of the following variables: dam discharge and storage, water temperature, Secchi transparency, dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, evaporation and silica concentration. 3. The application of a five-way cross-validation test suggested that GP was capable of developing models whose input variables were similar, although the data are randomly used for training. The similarity of input variable selection was approximately 51% between the best model and the top 20 candidate models out of 150 in total (based on both Root Mean Squared Error and the determination coefficients for the test data). 4. Genetic programming was able to determine the ecological importance of different environmental variables affecting the diatoms. A series of sensitivity analyses showed that water temperature was the most sensitive parameter. In addition, the optimal equation was sensitive to DO, Secchi transparency, dam discharge and silica concentration. The analyses thus identified likely causes of the proliferation of diatoms in ,river-reservoir hybrids' (i.e. rivers which have the characteristics of a reservoir during the dry season). This result provides specific information about the bloom of S. hantzschii in river systems, as well as the applicability of inductive methods, such as evolutionary computation to river-reservoir hybrid systems. [source]

Ribosomal RNA gene fragments from fossilized cyanobacteria identified in primary gypsum from the late Miocene, Italy

GEOBIOLOGY, Issue 2 2010
Earth scientists have searched for signs of microscopic life in ancient samples of permafrost, ice, deep-sea sediments, amber, salt and chert. Until now, evidence of cyanobacteria has not been reported in any studies of ancient DNA older than a few thousand years. Here, we investigate morphologically, biochemically and genetically primary evaporites deposited in situ during the late Miocene (Messinian) Salinity Crisis from the north-eastern Apennines of Italy. The evaporites contain fossilized bacterial structures having identical morphological forms as modern microbes. We successfully extracted and amplified genetic material belonging to ancient cyanobacteria from gypsum crystals dating back to 5.910,5.816 Ma, when the Mediterranean became a giant hypersaline brine pool. This finding represents the oldest ancient cyanobacterial DNA to date. Our clone library and its phylogenetic comparison with present cyanobacterial populations point to a marine origin for the depositional basin. This investigation opens the possibility of including fossil cyanobacterial DNA into the palaeo-reconstruction of various environments and could also be used to quantify the ecological importance of cyanobacteria through geological time. These genetic markers serve as biosignatures providing important clues about ancient life and begin a new discussion concerning the debate on the origin of late Miocene evaporites in the Mediterranean. [source]

Impact of twenty-first century climate change on diadromous fish spread over Europe, North Africa and the Middle East

Abstract Climate change is expected to drive species ranges towards the poles and to have a strong influence on species distributions. In this study, we focused on diadromous species that are of economical and ecological importance in the whole of Europe. We investigated the potential distribution of all diadromous fish regularly encountered in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East (28 species) under conditions predicted for twenty-first century climate change. To do so, we investigated the 1900 distribution of each species in 196 basins spread across all of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Four levels were used to semiquantitatively describe the abundance of species, that is missing, rare, common and abundant. We then selected five variables describing the prevailing climate in the basins, the physical nature of the basins and reflecting historical events known to have affected freshwater fish distribution. Logistic regressions with a four-level ordinal response variable were used to develop species-specific models. These predictive models related the observed distribution of these species in 1900 to the most explanatory combination of variables. Finally, we selected the A2 SRES scenario and the HadCM3 (Hadley Centre Coupled Model version 3) global climate model (GCM) to obtain climate variables (temperature and precipitation) at the end of this century. We used these 2100 variables in our models and obtained maps of climatically suitable and unsuitable basins, percentages of contraction or expansion for each species. Twenty-two models were successfully built, that is there were five species for which no model could be established because their distribution range was too narrow and the Acipenser sturio model failed during calibration. All the models selected temperature or/and precipitation as explanatory variables. Responses to climate change were species-specific but could be classified into three categories: little or no change in the distribution (five species), expansion of the distribution range (three species gaining suitable basins mainly northward) and contraction of the distribution (14 species losing suitable basins). Shifting ranges were in accordance with those found in other studies and underlined the high sensitivity of diadromous fish to modifications in their environment. [source]

Defying the curse of ignorance: perspectives in insect macroecology and conservation biogeography

Abstract., 1. Despite the abundance, richness and ecological importance of insects, distribution patterns remain unknown for most groups, and this creates serious difficulties for the evaluation of macroecological patterns and the underlying drivers. Although the problem is real, we provide an optimistic perspective on insect macroecology and conservation biogeography. 2. Although data for macroecological analysis of insects are not as complete as for many other organisms (e.g., mammals and birds), at least for some insect groups they are equivalent to what existed 10 or 20 years ago for the charismatic megafauna, so initiatives to compile data for broad-scale analyses are feasible. 3. The primary constraint for studies in insect macroecology and conservation biogeography is not (only) poor data; part of the problem arises from a lack of knowledge on how macroecological patterns and processes can be analysed and interpreted. 4. Finally, we present an overview of recent papers using insects as model organisms in macroecology, including richness and diversity gradients, ecogeographical rules, inter-specific relationships, conservation planning and modelling species distributions. Although our list is not exhaustive, it may be useful as guidelines for future research and encourage ICD readers to develop analyses for other insect groups. [source]

Evidence for a combination of pre-adapted traits and rapid adaptive change in the invasive plant Centaurea stoebe

Martin L. Henery
Summary 1. Introduced plants have the potential to rapidly evolve traits of ecological importance that may add to their innate potential to become invasive. During invasions, selection may favour genotypes that are already pre-adapted to conditions in the new habitat and, over time, alter the characteristics of subsequent generations. 2. Spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) occurs in two predominantly spatially separated cytotypes in its native range (Europe,Western Asia), but currently only the tetraploid form has been confirmed in the introduced range (North America), where it is invasive. We used several common garden experiments to examine, across multiple populations, whether tetraploids and diploids from the native range differ in life cycle, leaf traits and reproductive capacity and if such differences would explain the predominance of tetraploids and their advance into new habitats in the introduced range. We also compared the same traits in tetraploids from the native and introduced range to determine whether any rapid adaptive changes had occurred since introduction that may have enhanced invasive potential of the species in North America. 3. We found tetraploids had lower specific leaf area, less lamina dissection and fewer, narrower leaves than diploids. Diploids exhibited a monocarpic life cycle and produced few if any accessory rosettes. Diploids produced significantly more seeds per capitulum and had more capitula per plant than tetraploids. In contrast, the vast majority of European tetraploids continued to flower in both seasons by regenerating from multiple secondary rosettes, demonstrating a predominantly polycarpic life cycle. 4. During early growth tetraploids from North America achieved greater biomass than both tetraploids and diploids from the native range but this did not manifest as larger above-ground biomass at maturity. In North American tetraploids there was also evidence of a shift towards a more strictly polycarpic life cycle, less leaf dissection, greater carbon investment per leaf, and greater seed production per capitulum. 5.,Synthesis. Our results suggest that the characteristics of tetraploid C. stoebe pre-adapted them (compared to diploid conspecifics) for spread and persistence of the species into habitats in North America characterized by a more continental climate. After the species' introduction, small but potentially important shifts in tetraploid biology have occurred that may have contributed significantly to successful invasion. [source]

Positive Interactions: Crucial Organizers in a Plant Community

Dong-Liang Cheng
Abstract For more than a century, ecologists have concentrated on competition as a crucial process for community organization. However, more recent experimental investigations have uncovered the striking influence of positive interactions on the organization of plant communities. Complex combinations of competition and positive interactions operating simultaneously among plant species seem to be widespread in nature. In the present paper, we reviewed the mechanism and ecological importance of positive interactions in plant communities, emphasizing the certainties and uncertainties that have made it an attractive area of research. Positive interactions, or facilitation, occur when one species enhances the survival, growth, or richness of another. The importance of facilitation in plant organization increases with abiotic stress and the relative importance of competition decreases. Only by combining plant interactions and the many fields of biology can we fully understand how and when the positive interactions occur. (Managing editor: Ya-Qin Han) [source]

Identification and characterization of 18 novel polymorphic microsatellite makers derived from expressed sequence tags in the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas

Abstract We report the development of 18 new polymorphic microsatellite DNA markers derived from Crassostrea gigas expressed sequences tags. Genotyping of 48 wild adult oysters sampled from Marennes-Oléron bay (France) revealed 12 to 48 alleles per locus. Observed and expected heterozygosity levels ranged from 0.64 to 1 and from 0.77 to 0.97, respectively. The development of these new markers creates a useful complementary tool for population genetics studies, parentage analysis and mapping in Pacific oyster, a species of major aquacultural and ecological importance. [source]

Reproduction, early development and larviculture of the barber goby, Elacatinus figaro (Sazima, Moura & Rosa 1997)

Maria Eugenia Meirelles
Abstract The barber goby, Elacatinus figaro, is a cleaner species of ecological importance and of keen interest to the aquarium trade. Endemic to Brazil, it is a threatened species and so aquaculture is a potential solution for reducing pressure on the natural stocks. This study describes the reproductive behaviour, the embryonic and larval development and the general breeding and rearing conditions. Ten wild fish initiated the formation of breeding pairs 20 days after acclimation to captivity. Spawning started 12 days after the first pair was formed, with one female from each pair spawning from 140 to 700 eggs (n=15 spawnings). The average period of incubation of the eggs was 6.8 days at 25 °C. The best hatching rate was 99.5% (n=10 spawnings). Larval rearing used Nannochloropsis oculata with rotifers (Brachionus rotundiformis) as the first food (day 0,25); nauplii and meta-nauplii of Artemia were fed from day 18 until larval metamorphosis with subsequent weaning using commercial marine fish diets. The transformation to juveniles started at around the 30th day post hatch. The best larval survival rate until complete metamorphosis was 30.6% (n=4 larvicultures). After this period, the mortality was insignificant. This study demonstrated that the cultivation of barber goby is feasible. [source]

Integrating ecology with hydromorphology: a priority for river science and management

I.P. Vaughan
Abstract 1.The assessment of links between ecology and physical habitat has become a major issue in river research and management. Key drivers include concerns about the conservation implications of human modifications (e.g. abstraction, climate change) and the explicit need to understand the ecological importance of hydromorphology as prescribed by the EU's Water Framework Directive. Efforts are focusing on the need to develop ,eco-hydromorphology' at the interface between ecology, hydrology and fluvial geomorphology. Here, the scope of this emerging field is defined, some research and development issues are suggested, and a path for development is sketched out. 2.In the short term, major research priorities are to use existing literature or data better to identify patterns among organisms, ecological functions and river hydromorphological character. Another early priority is to identify model systems or organisms to act as research foci. In the medium term, the investigation of pattern,processes linkages, spatial structuring, scaling relationships and system dynamics will advance mechanistic understanding. The effects of climate change, abstraction and river regulation, eco-hydromorphic resistance/resilience, and responses to environmental disturbances are likely to be management priorities. Large-scale catchment projects, in both rural and urban locations, should be promoted to concentrate collaborative efforts, to attract financial support and to raise the profile of eco-hydromorphology. 3.Eco-hydromorphological expertise is currently fragmented across the main contributory disciplines (ecology, hydrology, geomorphology, flood risk management, civil engineering), potentially restricting research and development. This is paradoxical given the shared vision across these fields for effective river management based on good science with social impact. A range of approaches is advocated to build sufficient, integrated capacity that will deliver science of real management value over the coming decades. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. [source]

The abundance, distribution and structural characteristics of tree-holes in Nothofagus forest, New Zealand

Abstract Tree-holes provide an important microhabitat that is used for feeding, roosting and breeding by numerous species around the world. Yet despite their ecological importance for many of New Zealand's endangered species, few studies have investigated the abundance or distribution of tree-holes in native forests. We used complementary ground and climbed tree surveys to determine the abundance, distribution and characteristics of tree-holes in undisturbed Nothofagus forest in the Lewis Pass, New Zealand. We found that hole-bearing trees were surprisingly abundant compared with many other studies, including Australian Eucalyptus species and American beech. In fact, we estimated as many as 3906 tree-holes per hectare, of which 963 holes per hectare were potentially large enough to provide roost sites for hole-nesting bats in New Zealand, while only eight holes per hectare were potentially suitable for specialist hole-nesting birds. This was of great interest as primary cavity-excavating animals are absent from New Zealand forests, compared with North America and Australia. Moreover, tree-hole formation in New Zealand is likely to be dominated by abiotic processes, such as branch breakage from windstorms and snow damage. As has been found in many other studies, tree-holes were not uniformly distributed throughout the forest. Tree-holes were significantly more abundant on the least abundant tree species, Nothofagus fusca, than on either N. menziesii or N. solandri. In addition to tree species, tree size was also an important factor influencing the structural characteristics of tree-holes and their abundance in this forest. Moreover, these trends were not fully evident without climbed tree surveys. Our results revealed that ground-based surveys consistently underestimated the number of tree-holes present on Nothofagus trees, and illustrate the importance of using climbed inspections where possible in tree-hole surveys. We compare our results with other studies overseas and discuss how these are linked to the biotic and abiotic processes involved in tree-hole formation. We consider the potential implications of our findings for New Zealand's hole-dwelling fauna and how stand dynamics and past and future forest management practices will influence the structural characteristics of tree-holes and their abundance in remnant forest throughout New Zealand. [source]

Metagenomic studies reveal the critical and wide-ranging ecological importance of uncultivated archaea: the role of ammonia oxidizers

BIOESSAYS, Issue 1 2007
Ricardo Cavicchioli
Microbial genome sequencing has entered a new phase, where DNA sequence information is gathered from entire microbial communities (metagenomics or environmental genomics) rather than from individual microorganisms. By providing access to the genetic material of vast numbers of organisms, most of which are organisms that have never been isolated or cultivated, a new level of insight is being gained into the diversity and extent of the microbial processes that are presently occuring in environmental communities. By extending metagenomic-based approaches to the study of very complex and methodologically recalcitrant soil environments, a recent study has found that ammonia-oxidizing archaea are more abundant in many soils than bacteria.1 These findings not only highlight the undoubtedly critical yet unknown roles that archaea play in global nutrient cycles but illustrate the importance of genomic studies for informing us about the functional capacity of life on Earth. BioEssays 29: 11,14, 2007. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. [source]

Phylogeny, diversification patterns and historical biogeography of euglossine orchid bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

The orchid bees constitute a clade of prominent insect pollinators distributed throughout the Neotropical region. Males of all species collect fragrances from natural sources, including flowers, decaying vegetation and fungi, and store them in specialized leg pockets to later expose during courtship display. In addition, orchid bees provide pollination services to a diverse array of Neotropical angiosperms when foraging for food and nesting materials. However, despite their ecological importance, little is known about the evolutionary history of orchid bees. Here, we present a comprehensive molecular phylogenetic analysis based on ,4.0 kb of DNA from four loci [cytochrome oxidase (CO1), elongation factor 1-, (EF1 -,), arginine kinase (ArgK) and RNA polymerase II (Pol-II)] across the entire tribe Euglossini, including all five genera, eight subgenera and 126 of the approximately 200 known species. We investigated lineage diversification using fossil-calibrated molecular clocks and the evolution of morphological traits using disparity-through-time plots. In addition, we inferred past biogeographical events by implementing model-based likelihood methods. Our dataset supports a new view on generic relationships and indicates that the cleptoparasitic genus Exaerete is sister to the remaining orchid bee genera. Our divergence time estimates indicate that extant orchid bee lineages shared a most recent common ancestor at 27,42 Mya. In addition, our analysis of morphology shows that tongue length and body size experienced rapid disparity bursts that coincide with the origin of diverse genera (Euglossa and Eufriesea). Finally, our analysis of historical biogeography indicates that early diversification episodes shared a history on both sides of Mesoamerica, where orchid bees dispersed across the Caribbean, and through a Panamanian connection, thus reinforcing the hypothesis that recent geological events (e.g. the formation of the isthmus of Panama) contributed to the diversification of the rich Neotropical biota. © 2010 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2010, 100, 552,572. [source]

Petroleum hydrocarbon contamination in boreal forest soils: a mycorrhizal ecosystems perspective

Susan J. Robertson
Abstract The importance of developing multi-disciplinary approaches to solving problems relating to anthropogenic pollution is now clearly appreciated by the scientific community, and this is especially evident in boreal ecosystems exposed to escalating threats of petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC) contamination through expanded natural resource extraction activities. This review aims to synthesize information regarding the fate and behaviour of PHCs in boreal forest soils in both ecological and sustainable management contexts. From this, we hope to evaluate potential management strategies, identify gaps in knowledge and guide future research. Our central premise is that mycorrhizal systems, the ubiquitous root symbiotic fungi and associated food-web communities, occupy the structural and functional interface between decomposition and primary production in northern forest ecosystems (i.e. underpin survival and productivity of the ecosystem as a whole), and, as such, are an appropriate focal point for such a synthesis. We provide pertinent basic information about mycorrhizas, followed by insights into the ecology of ecto- and ericoid mycorrhizal systems. Next, we review the fate and behaviour of PHCs in forest soils, with an emphasis on interactions with mycorrhizal fungi and associated bacteria. Finally, we summarize implications for ecosystem management. Although we have gained tremendous insights into understanding linkages between ecosystem functions and the various aspects of mycorrhizal diversity, very little is known regarding rhizosphere communities in PHC-contaminated soils. This makes it difficult to translate ecological knowledge into environmental management strategies. Further research is required to determine which fungal symbionts are likely to survive and compete in various ecosystems, whether certain fungal - plant associations gain in ecological importance following contamination events, and how PHC contamination may interfere with processes of nutrient acquisition and exchange and metabolic processes. Research is also needed to assess whether the metabolic capacity for intrinsic decomposition exists in these ecosystems, taking into account ecological variables such as presence of other organisms (and their involvement in syntrophic biodegradation), bioavailability and toxicity of mixtures of PHCs, and physical changes to the soil environment. [source]