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Collaborations between scientists and volunteers have the potential to broaden the scope of research and enhance the ability to collect scientific data. Interested members of the public may contribute valuable information as they learn about wildlife in their local communities.
Landscape genetics is a rapidly evolving interdisciplinary field that integrates approaches from population genetics and landscape ecology. In the context of habitat fragmentation, the current focus of landscape genetics is on assessing the degree to which landscapes facilitate the movement of organisms (landscape connectivity) by relating gene-flow patterns to landscape structure. Neutral genetic variation among individuals or direct estimates of current gene flow are statistically related to landscape characteristics such as the presence of hypothesized barriers or the least-cost distance for an organism to move from one habitat patch to another, given the nature of the intervening matrix or habitat types. In the context of global change, a major challenge for landscape genetics is to address the spread of adaptive variation across landscapes. Genome scans combined with genetic sample collection along environmental gradients or in different habitat types attempt to identify molecular markers that are statistically related to specific environmental conditions, indicating adaptive genetic variation. The landscape genetics of adaptive variation may also help answer fundamental questions about the collective evolution of populations.
Ecological research on organism-environment interactions has developed asymmetrically. Modulation of organisms by the environment has received much attention, while theoretical studies on the environmental impact of organisms have until recently been limited. We propose a theoretical framework for studying the environmental impacts of woody plants in order to understand their effects on biodiversity. We adopt pattern formation theory to discuss how woody plants organize ecological systems on the patch and landscape levels through patch formation, and how organism patchiness creates resource patchiness that affects biodiversity. We suggest an integrative model that links organisms as landscape modulators through resource distribution and species filtering from larger to smaller spatial scales. Our “biodiversity cycling hypothesis” states that in organism-modulated landscapes, disturbance enables the coexistence of different developmental stages of vegetation patches, thereby increasing biodiversity. This hypothesis emphasizes that species and landscape diversity vary with the development, renewal, maturation, and decay of biotically induced patches.
Caterpillars have a great capacity for rapid weight gain, but to reap the benefits of this capacity, larvae must be able to survive in a hostile environment and emerge as adults at the right time of year. In this article, I review examples of growth decisions in butterfly larvae that can be viewed as adaptations for optimized growth performance. These include sex-specific growth decisions that lead to protandry and sexual size dimorphism, fine-tuning of growth in response to photoperiod and temperature, development of alternative larval morphs that mimic the plant structures they feed on, and the peculiar growth patterns of lycenid butterflies that manipulate ants and grow as “cuckoos” inside ant nests. I conclude that growth of an individual can be seen as the sum of several environmentally dependent decisions, which may influence the growth trajectory by changes in physiology, behavior, and morphology.
The Philippines is a megabiodiversity country, but it is also often seen as a country of ecological ruin whose biodiversity is on the verge of collapse. Decades of environmental neglect have pushed ecosystems to their limit, often with deadly repercussions for the human population. Is conservation in the Philippines a lost cause? We review current conservation efforts in the Philippines, considering the actions of academics, field researchers, local communities, nongovernmental organizations, the government, and other sectors of society. Remarkably, however precarious the present situation may seem, there have been some recent positive gains and signs of hope. Although there is no room for complacency, we conclude that the diversity of available indicators suggests that conservation in the Philippines, against many odds, shows signs of success, and thus deserves greater attention and increased investment.
In species management and conservation, surrogate species or groups of species can be used as proxies for broader sets of species when the number of species of concern is too great to allow each to be considered individually. However, these surrogate approaches are not applicable to all situations. In this article we discuss how the nature of the ecological system, the objectives and scale of management, and the level of available knowledge influence the decision about using a surrogate approach. We use species-area relations to define a “surrogate zone” in which the approach may be most effective. Using the Interior Columbia Basin of the northwestern United States as an example, we outline 10 steps that may enhance the effectiveness of surrogate approaches. Using a surrogate approach necessarily entails a trade-off between management tailored to individual species and less precise practices that may apply to a broader array of species. Ultimately, the use of a surrogate approach depends on the level of uncertainty that is acceptable in conducting management or conservation activities—in other words, “How good is good enough?”
Plant ecologists have long been concerned with a seemingly paradoxical scenario in the relationship between plant growth and climate change: warming may actually increase the risk of plant frost damage. The underlying hypothesis is that mild winters and warm, early springs, which are expected to occur as the climate warms, may induce premature plant development, resulting in exposure of vulnerable plant tissues and organs to subsequent late-season frosts. The 2007 spring freeze in the eastern United States provides an excellent opportunity to evaluate this hypothesis and assess its large-scale consequences. In this article, we contrast the rapid prefreeze phenological advancement caused by unusually warm conditions with the dramatic postfreeze setback, and report complicated patterns of freeze damage to plants. The widespread devastation of crops and natural vegetation occasioned by this event demonstrates the need to consider large fluctuations in spring temperatures a real threat to terrestrial ecosystem structure and functioning in a warming climate.
Although the quantity of data on the location, status, and management of invasive species is ever increasing, invasive species data sets are often difficult to obtain and integrate. A cyberinfrastructure for such information could make these data available for Internet users. The data can be used to create regional watch lists, to send e-mail alerts when a new species enters a region, to construct models of species' current and future distributions, and to inform management. Although the exchange of environmental data over the Internet in the form of raster data is maturing, and the exchange of species occurrence data is developing quickly, there is room for improvement. In this article, we present a vision for a comprehensive invasive species cyberinfrastructure that is capable of accessing data effectively, creating models of invasive species spread, and distributing this information.