Institut für Ökologie, Evolution und Diversität
Top-down control of herbivory by birds and bats in the canopy of temperate broad-leaved oaks (Quercus robur)
Stefan M. Böhm
Konstans L. Wells
Elisabeth K. V. Kalko
- The intensive foraging of insectivorous birds and bats is well known to reduce the density of arboreal herbivorous arthropods but quantification of collateral leaf damage remains limited for temperate forest canopies. We conducted exclusion experiments with nets in the crowns of young and mature oaks, Quercus robur, in south and central Germany to investigate the extent to which aerial vertebrates reduce herbivory through predation. We repeatedly estimated leaf damage throughout the vegetation period. Exclusion of birds and bats led to a distinct increase in arthropod herbivory, emphasizing the prominent role of vertebrate predators in controlling arthropods. Leaf damage (e.g., number of holes) differed strongly between sites and was 59% higher in south Germany, where species richness of vertebrate predators and relative oak density were lower compared with our other study site in central Germany. The effects of bird and bat exclusion on herbivory were 19% greater on young than on mature trees in south Germany. Our results support previous studies that have demonstrated clear effects of insectivorous vertebrates on leaf damage through the control of herbivorous arthropods. Moreover, our comparative approach on quantification of leaf damage highlights the importance of local attributes such as tree age, forest composition and species richness of vertebrate predators for control of arthropod herbivory.
Fördersituation ökotoxikologischer und umweltchemischer Forschung in Deutschland – Ergebnisse einer Online-Befragung
- In den vergangenen Jahren gab es verschiedene Initiativen, die auf die unzureichende Fördersituation der Schadstoffbezogenen Umweltwissenschaften in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland aufmerksam gemacht haben. Um eine objektive Analyse über die Fördersituation der Ökotoxikologie und Umweltchemie in Deutschland zu erhalten, wurde eine anonyme Online-Befragung ausgearbeitet. Mit Unterstützung der Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) – German Language Branch und der Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh) – Fachgruppe für Umweltchemie und Ökotoxikologie wurde eine Einladung zur Teilnahme an der Befragung an alle Mitglieder dieser beiden maßgeblichen Verbände der Ökotoxikologie und Umweltchemie im deutschsprachigen Raum versendet. Nur leitende Mitarbeiter aus den Bereichen Forschung, Behörden und Industrie sollten an der Befragung teilnehmen. Die Befragung gliedert sich in eine Sektion zur sozioökonomischen Charakterisierung der Teilnehmer, eine zur Förderung der Forschung durch die DFG und eine zur Förderung durch andere Geldgeber. Insgesamt haben 71Wissenschaftler und Wissenschaftlerinnen in leitenden Positionen aus verschiedenen Sparten an der Befragung teilgenommen. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass die Teilnehmer als sehr leistungsstark eingestuft werden können. 48,5 % der Befragten hatten bereits einen Antrag bei der DFG gestellt. Ein Drittel der Befragten gaben an, eine Förderung durch die DFG erhalten zu haben. 64 % sind mit der Förderung Schadstoffbezogener Umweltwissenschaften durch die DFG nicht zufrieden, nur 7 % sind zufrieden. Es zeigte sich, dass die Anträge insgesamt sehr heterogen auf verschiedene Fachbereiche der DFG verteilt sind. Geowissenschaften, Wasserforschung und Chemie nehmen die ersten Ränge ein, vor Biologie und Ökologie. Im Gegensatz dazu gaben 91,2 % der Befragten an, dass Sie bereits Drittmittelanträge bei anderen Förderinstitutionen (außer der DFG) gestellt haben, und 83,6 % wurden bereits entsprechende Drittmittelanträge bewilligt. 62,3 % der Befragten sind der Meinung, dass sich die Fördersituation für die Schadstoffbezogenen Umweltwissenschaften in den letzten Jahren insgesamt verschlechtert oder sogar deutlich verschlechtert hat. Der überwiegende Anteil der Befragten (60,9 %) ist mit der Fördersituation durch Drittmittelgeber unzufrieden, nur 10,9 % sind damit zufrieden. Auf die Frage „Ist die Forschungsförderung im europäischen Ausland insgesamt besser als in Deutschland?“ antworteten 30 % mit „ja“, 9 % mit „nein“ und 61 % mit „ich weiß nicht“. Zusammenfassend ergab die Befragung, dass die Fördersituation der Ökotoxikologie und Umweltchemie in Deutschland insgesamt als steigerungsbedürftig, bei der DFG jedoch als problematisch zu bewerten ist. Die auffällige Unterrepräsentation der DFG im Vergleich zu anderen Drittmittelgebern verdeutlicht, dass die wichtigste Förderinstitution Deutschlands den Bedürfnissen der Schadstoffbezogenen Umweltwissenschaften nicht hinreichend Rechnung trägt. Insbesondere die Antworten auf die offenen Fragen bezüglich Verbesserungsmöglichkeiten der Forschungsförderung sollten als Grundlage für einen offenen Dialog der Schadstoffbezogenen Umweltforschung mit den Drittmittelgebern DFG, BMBF und DBU bzw. den entsprechenden Institutionen in CH und A genutzt werden.
Predator-induced changes of female mating preferences: innate and experiential effects
Christian T. Jung
Jeane Rimber Indy
- Background: In many species males face a higher predation risk than females because males display elaborate traits that evolved under sexual selection, which may attract not only females but also predators. Females are, therefore, predicted to avoid such conspicuous males under predation risk. The present study was designed to investigate predator-induced changes of female mating preferences in Atlantic mollies (Poecilia mexicana). Males of this species show a pronounced polymorphism in body size and coloration, and females prefer large, colorful males in the absence of predators. Results: In dichotomous choice tests predator-naïve (lab-reared) females altered their initial preference for larger males in the presence of the cichlid Cichlasoma salvini, a natural predator of P. mexicana, and preferred small males instead. This effect was considerably weaker when females were confronted visually with the non-piscivorous cichlid Vieja bifasciata or the introduced non-piscivorous Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). In contrast, predator experienced (wild-caught) females did not respond to the same extent to the presence of a predator, most likely due to a learned ability to evaluate their predators' motivation to prey. Conclusions: Our study highlights that (a) predatory fish can have a profound influence on the expression of mating preferences of their prey (thus potentially affecting the strength of sexual selection), and females may alter their mate choice behavior strategically to reduce their own exposure to predators. (b) Prey species can evolve visual predator recognition mechanisms and alter their mate choice only when a natural predator is present. (c) Finally, experiential effects can play an important role, and prey species may learn to evaluate the motivational state of their predators. Keywords: Sexual selection; female choice; non-independent mate choice; predator recognition; Poecilia mexicana
From the Western Alps across Central Europe: Postglacial recolonisation of the tufa stream specialist Rhyacophila pubescens (Insecta, Trichoptera)
Steffen U. Pauls
- Background: Dispersal rates, i.e. the effective number of dispersing individuals per unit time, are the product of dispersal capacity, i.e. a species physiological potential for dispersal, dispersal behaviour, i.e. the decision to leave a habitat patch in favour of another, and connectivity of occupied habitat. Dispersal of species that are highly specialised to a certain habitat is thus strongly limited by habitat availability. Additionally, species inhabiting very stable environments may adopt a sedentary life-style. Both factors should lead to strong genetic differentiation in highly specialised species inhabiting stable environments. These two factors apply to our model species Rhyacophila pubescens a highly specialised freshwater insect that occurs in tufa springs, a very stable habitat. Results: We examined the genetic population structure and phylogeography using range-wide mtCOI sequence and AFLP data from 333 individuals of R. pubescens. We inferred the location of Pleistocene refugia and postglacial colonisation routes of R. pubescens, and examined ongoing local differentiation. Our results indicate intraregional differentiation with a high number of locally endemic haplotypes, that we attributed to habitat specificity and low dispersal rates of R. pubescens. We observed high levels of genetic diversity south of the Alps and genetic impoverishment north of the Alps. Estimates of migrants placed the refugium and the source of the colonisation in the Dauphine Alps (SW Alps). Conclusions: This is the first example of an aquatic insect with a colonisation route along the western margin of the Alps to the Central European highlands. The study also shows that specialisation to a stable environment may have promoted a behavioural shift to decreased dispersal rates, leading to stronger local population differentiation than in less specialised aquatic insects. Alternatively, the occurrence of highly specialised tufa spring habitats may have been more widespread in the past, leading to range regression and fragmentation among present day R. pubescens populations.
Phylogeography of a land snail suggests trans-Mediterranean neolithic transport
- Background: Fragmented distribution ranges of species with little active dispersal capacity raise the question about their place of origin and the processes and timing of either range fragmentation or dispersal. The peculiar distribution of the land snail Tudorella sulcata s. str. in Southern France, Sardinia and Algeria is such a challenging case. Methodology: Statistical phylogeographic analyses with mitochondrial COI and nuclear hsp70 haplotypes were used to answer the questions of the species' origin, sequence and timing of dispersal. The origin of the species was on Sardinia. Starting from there, a first expansion to Algeria and then to France took place. Abiotic and zoochorous dispersal could be excluded by considering the species' life style, leaving only anthropogenic translocation as parsimonious explanation. The geographic expansion could be dated to approximately 8,000 years before present with a 95% confidence interval of 10,000 to 3,000 years before present. Conclusions: This period coincides with the Neolithic expansion in the Western Mediterranean, suggesting a role of these settlers as vectors. Our findings thus propose that non-domesticated animals and plants may give hints on the direction and timing of early human expansion routes.
Habitat-mediated facilitation and counteracting ecosystem engineering interactively influence ecosystem responses to disturbance
Johan S. Eklöf
Tjisse van der Heide
Els M. van der Zee
Britas Klemens Eriksson
- Recovery of an ecosystem following disturbance can be severely hampered or even shift altogether when a point disturbance exceeds a certain spatial threshold. Such scale-dependent dynamics may be caused by preemptive competition, but may also result from diminished self-facilitation due to weakened ecosystem engineering. Moreover, disturbance can facilitate colonization by engineering species that alter abiotic conditions in ways that exacerbate stress on the original species. Consequently, establishment of such counteracting engineers might reduce the spatial threshold for the disturbance, by effectively slowing recovery and increasing the risk for ecosystem shifts to alternative states. We tested these predictions in an intertidal mudflat characterized by a two-state mosaic of hummocks (humps exposed during low tide) dominated by the sediment-stabilizing seagrass Zostera noltii) and hollows (low-tide waterlogged depressions dominated by the bioturbating lugworm Arenicola marina). In contrast to expectations, seagrass recolonized both natural and experimental clearings via lateral expansion and seemed unaffected by both clearing size and lugworm addition. Near the end of the growth season, however, an additional disturbance (most likely waterfowl grazing and/or strong hydrodynamics) selectively impacted recolonizing seagrass in the largest (1 m2) clearings (regardless of lugworm addition), and in those medium (0.25 m2) clearings where lugworms had been added nearly five months earlier. Further analyses showed that the risk for the disturbance increased with hollow size, with a threshold of 0.24 m2. Hollows of that size were caused by seagrass removal alone in the largest clearings, and by a weaker seagrass removal effect exacerbated by lugworm bioturbation in the medium clearings. Consequently, a sufficiently large disturbance increased the vulnerability of recolonizing seagrass to additional disturbance by weakening seagrass engineering effects (sediment stabilization). Meanwhile, the counteracting ecosystem engineering (lugworm bioturbation) reduced that threshold size. Therefore, scale-dependent interactions between habitat-mediated facilitation, competition and disturbance seem to maintain the spatial two-state mosaic in this ecosystem.
The second Young Environmental Scientist (YES) meeting 2011 at RWTH Aachen University - environmental challenges in a changing world
Matthias Leonhard Berens
Jochen P. Zubrod
- This article reports on the second Young Environmental Scientists Meeting that was hosted from 28 February to 2 March 2011 by the Institute for Environmental Research at RWTH Aachen University, Germany. This extraordinary meeting was again initiated and organized by the Student Advisory Council under the umbrella of Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Europe. A movie about the meeting and the abstracts of poster and platform presentations are freely available as supplemental material of this article.
The taxonomist - an endangered race : a practical proposal for its survival
Johann Wolfgang Wägele
- Background: Taxonomy or biological systematics is the basic scientific discipline of biology, postulating hypotheses of identity and relationships, on which all other natural sciences dealing with organisms relies. However, the scientific contributions of taxonomists have been largely neglected when using species names in scientific publications by not citing the authority on which they are based.
Discussion: Consequences of this neglect is reduced recognition of the importance of taxonomy, which in turn results in diminished funding, lower interest from journals in publishing taxonomic research, and a reduced number of young scientists entering the field. This has lead to the so-called taxonomic impediment at a time when biodiversity studies are of critical importance.
Here we emphasize a practical and obvious solution to this dilemma. We propose that whenever a species name is used, the author(s) of the species hypothesis be included and the original literature source cited, including taxonomic revisions and identification literature - nothing more than what is done for every other hypothesis or assumption included in a scientific publication. In addition, we postulate that journals primarily publishing taxonomic studies should be indexed in ISISM.
Summary: The proposal outlined above would make visible the true contribution of taxonomists within the scientific community, and would provide a more accurate assessment for funding agencies impact and importance of taxonomy, and help in the recruitment of young scientists into the field, thus helping to alleviate the taxonomic impediment. In addition, it would also make much of the biological literature more robust by reducing or alleviating taxonomic uncertainty.
Keywords: Taxonomy crisis; taxonomic impediment; impact factor; original species description; citation index; systematics
A Bayesian framework to estimate diversification rates and their variation through time and space
- Background: Patterns of species diversity are the result of speciation and extinction processes, and molecular phylogenetic data can provide valuable information to derive their variability through time and across clades. Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo methods offer a promising framework to incorporate phylogenetic uncertainty when estimating rates of diversification.
Results: We introduce a new approach to estimate diversification rates in a Bayesian framework over a distribution of trees under various constant and variable rate birth-death and pure-birth models, and test it on simulated phylogenies. Furthermore, speciation and extinction rates and their posterior credibility intervals can be estimated while accounting for non-random taxon sampling. The framework is particularly suitable for hypothesis testing using Bayes factors, as we demonstrate analyzing dated phylogenies of Chondrostoma (Cyprinids) and Lupinus (Fabaceae). In addition, we develop a model that extends the rate estimation to a meta-analysis framework in which different data sets are combined in a single analysis to detect general temporal and spatial trends in diversification.
Conclusions: Our approach provides a flexible framework for the estimation of diversification parameters and hypothesis testing while simultaneously accounting for uncertainties in the divergence times and incomplete taxon sampling.
Shared and unique patterns of embryo development in extremophile poeciliids
R. Brian Langerhans
- Background: Closely related lineages of livebearing fishes have independently adapted to two extreme environmental factors: toxic hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and perpetual darkness. Previous work has demonstrated in adult specimens that fish from these extreme habitats convergently evolved drastically increased head and offspring size, while cave fish are further characterized by reduced pigmentation and eye size. Here, we traced the development of these (and other) divergent traits in embryos of Poecilia mexicana from benign surface habitats (“surface mollies”) and a sulphidic cave (“cave mollies”), as well as in embryos of the sister taxon, Poecilia sulphuraria from a sulphidic surface spring (“sulphur mollies”). We asked at which points during development changes in the timing of the involved processes (i.e., heterochrony) would be detectible.
Methods and Results: Data were extracted from digital photographs taken of representative embryos for each stage of development and each type of molly. Embryo mass decreased in convergent fashion, but we found patterns of embryonic fat content and ovum/embryo diameter to be divergent among all three types of mollies. The intensity of yellow colouration of the yolk (a proxy for carotenoid content) was significantly lower in cave mollies throughout development. Moreover, while relative head size decreased through development in surface mollies, it increased in both types of extremophile mollies, and eye growth was arrested in mid-stage embryos of cave mollies but not in surface or sulphur mollies.
Conclusion: Our results clearly demonstrate that even among sister taxa convergence in phenotypic traits is not always achieved by the same processes during embryo development. Furthermore, teleost development is crucially dependent on sufficient carotenoid stores in the yolk, and so we discuss how the apparent ability of cave mollies to overcome this carotenoid-dependency may represent another potential mechanism explaining the lack of gene flow between surface and cave mollies.