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Natural selection has played an important role in establishing various phenotypes, but the molecular mechanisms of phenotypic adaptation are not well understood. The slow progress is a consequence of mutagenesis experiments in which present-day molecules were used and of the limited scope of statistical methods used to detect adaptive evolution. To fully appreciate phenotypic adaptation, the precise roles of adaptive mutations during phenotypic evolution must be elucidated through the engineering and manipulation of ancestral phenotypes. Experimental and quantum chemical analyses of dim-light vision reveal some surprising results and provide a foundation for a productive study of the adaptive evolution of various phenotypes.
Indigenous forests across North America have been and continue to be transformed. The implications of these changes are far reaching and include the loss of habitat, biological diversity, and ecological services, as well as diminished air and water quality. The northern flying squirrel is a forest obligate that achieves its highest density in old growth, facilitates critical symbiotic relationships, and is an essential prey of disturbance-sensitive predators. Its reliance on old-forest attributes varies with community diversity, and its sensitivity to isolation renders it an ideal indicator of landscape connectivity. The results of numerous studies reveal the squirrel's acute sensitivity to disturbance at multiple spatial scales, which renders it an effective sentinel of forest ecosystem processes and condition over both geological and ecological time scales. Therefore, a thorough understanding of its ecology can inform projections and the effective mitigation of continued disturbance of ecological communities of boreal and montane coniferous forests.
In 1985, Michael Soulé asked, “What is conservation biology?” We revisit this question more than 25 years later and offer a revised set of core principles in light of the changed global context for conservation. Most notably, scientists now widely acknowledge that we live in a world dominated by humans, and therefore, the scientific underpinnings of conservation must include a consideration of the role of humans. Today's conservation science incorporates conservation biology into a broader interdisciplinary field that explicitly recognizes the tight coupling of social and natural systems. Emerging priorities include pursuing conservation within working landscapes, rebuilding public support, working with the corporate sector, and paying better attention to human rights and equity. We argue that in conservation, strategies must be promoted that simultaneously maximize the preservation of biodiversity and the improvement of human well-being.
State wildlife conservation programs provide a strong foundation for biodiversity conservation in the United States, building on state wildlife action plans. However, states may miss the species that are at the most risk at rangewide scales, and threats such as novel diseases and climate change increasingly act at regional and national levels. Regional collaborations among states and their partners have had impressive successes, and several federal programs now incorporate state priorities. However, regional collaborations are uneven across the country, and no national counterpart exists to support efforts at that scale. A national conservation-support program could fill this gap and could work across the conservation community to identify large-scale conservation needs and support efforts to meet them. By providing important information-sharing and capacity-building services, such a program would advance collaborative conservation among the states and their partners, thus increasing both the effectiveness and the efficiency of conservation in the United States.
Heather Tallis, Harold Mooney, Sandy Andelman, Patricia Balvanera, Wolfgang Cramer, Daniel Karp, Stephen Polasky, Belinda Reyers, Taylor Ricketts, Steve Running, Kirsten Thonicke, Britta Tietjen, Ariane Walz
Earth's life-support systems are in flux, yet no centralized system to monitor and report these changes exists. Recognizing this, 77 nations agreed to establish the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). The GEO Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) integrates existing data streams into one platform in order to provide a more complete picture of Earth's biological and social systems. We present a conceptual framework envisioned by the GEO BON Ecosystem Services Working Group, designed to integrate national statistics, numerical models, remote sensing, and in situ measurements to regularly track changes in ecosystem services across the globe. This information will serve diverse applications, including stimulating new research and providing the basis for assessments. Although many ecosystem services are not currently measured, others are ripe for reporting. We propose a framework that will continue to grow and inspire more complete observation and assessments of our planet's life-support systems.