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01 Mar 2024
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Cities as parasitic amplifiers? Malaria prevalence and diversity in great tits along an urbanization gradient

Exploring the Impact of Urbanization on Avian Malaria Dynamics in Great Tits: Insights from a Study Across Urban and Non-Urban Environments

Recommended by based on reviews by Ana Paula Mansilla and 2 anonymous reviewers

Across the temporal expanse of history, the impact of human activities on global landscapes has manifested as a complex interplay of ecological alterations. From the advent of early agricultural practices to the successive waves of industrialization characterizing the 18th and 19th centuries, anthropogenic forces have exerted profound and enduring transformations upon Earth's ecosystems. Indeed, by 2017, more than 80% of the terrestrial biosphere was transformed by human populations and land use, and just 19% remains as wildlands (Ellis et al. 2021).
 
Urbanization engenders profound alterations in environmental conditions, exerting substantial impacts on biological communities. The expansion of built infrastructure, modification of land use patterns, and the introduction of impervious surfaces and habitat fragmentation are key facets of urbanization (Faeth et al. 2011). These alterations generate biodiversity loss, changes in the composition of biological communities, disruptions in access and availability of food and nutrients, and a loss of efficiency in the immune system's control of infections, etc. (Reyes et al. 2013).
 
In this study, Caizergues et al. (2023) investigated the prevalence and diversity of avian malaria parasites (Plasmodium/Haemoproteus sp. and Leucocytozoon sp.) in great tits (Parus major) living across an urbanization gradient. The study reveals nuanced patterns of avian malaria prevalence and lineage diversity in great tits across urban and non-urban environments. While overall parasite diversity remains consistent, there are marked differences in prevalence between life stages and habitats. They observed a high prevalence in adult birds (from 95% to 100%), yet lower prevalence in fledglings (from 0% to 38%). Notably, urban nestlings exhibit higher parasite prevalence than their non-urban counterparts, suggesting a potential link between early malaria infection and the urban heat island effect. This finding underscores the importance of considering both spatial and temporal aspects of urbanization in understanding disease dynamics. Parasite lineages were not habitat-specific. The results suggest a potential parasitic burden in more urbanized areas, with a marginal but notable effect of nest-level urbanization on Plasmodium prevalence. This challenges the common perception of lower parasitic prevalence in urban environments and highlights the need for further investigation into the factors influencing parasite prevalence at finer spatial scales.
 
The discussion emphasizes the significance of examining vector distributions, abundance, and diversity in urban areas, which may be influenced by ecological niches and the presence of suitable habitats such as marshes. The identification of habitat-specific Haemosporidian lineages, particularly those occurring more frequently in urban areas, raises intriguing questions about the factors influencing parasite diversity. The presence of rare lineages in urban environments, such as AFR065, DELURB4, and YWT4, suggests a potential connection between urban bird communities and specific parasite strains.
 
Future research should empirically demonstrate these relationships to enhance our understanding of urban parasitology. This finding has broader implications for wildlife epidemiology, especially when introducing or keeping exotic wildlife in contact with native species. The study highlights the importance of considering not only the prevalence but also the specific lineages of parasites in understanding the dynamics of avian malaria in urban and non-urban habitats. This preprint contributes valuable insights to the ongoing discourse on the intricate interplay between ecological repercussions of human-induced changes (urbanization), biological communities, and the prevalence of vector-borne diseases.
 
References

Caizergues AE, Robira B, Perrier C, Jeanneau M, Berthomieu A, Perret S, Gandon S, Charmantier A (2023) Cities as parasitic amplifiers? Malaria prevalence and diversity in great tits along an urbanization gradient. bioRxiv, 2023.05.03.539263, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.05.03.539263

Ellis EC, Gauthier N, Klein Goldewijk K, Bliege Bird R, Boivin N, Díaz S, Fuller DQ, Gill JL, Kaplan JO, Kingston N, Locke H, McMichael CNH, Ranco D, Rick TC, Shaw MR, Stephens L, Svenning JC, Watson JEM. People have shaped most of terrestrial nature for at least 12,000 years. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Apr 27;118(17):e2023483118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2023483118

Faeth  SH, Bang  C, Saari  S (2011) Urban biodiversity: Patterns and mechanisms. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1223:69–81. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05925.x

Faeth  SH, Bang  C, Saari  S (2011) Urban biodiversity: Patterns and mechanisms. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1223:69–81. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05925.x

Reyes  R, Ahn  R, Thurber  K, Burke  TF (2013) Urbanization and Infectious Diseases: General Principles, Historical Perspectives, and Contemporary Challenges. Challenges Infect Dis 123. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-4496-1_4

Cities as parasitic amplifiers? Malaria prevalence and diversity in great tits along an urbanization gradientAude E. Caizergues, Benjamin Robira, Charles Perrier, Melanie Jeanneau, Arnaud Berthomieu, Samuel Perret, Sylvain Gandon, Anne Charmantier<p style="text-align: justify;">Urbanization is a worldwide phenomenon that modifies the environment. By affecting the reservoirs of pathogens and the body and immune conditions of hosts, urbanization alters the epidemiological dynamics and divers...Epidemiology, Host-parasite interactions, Human impactAdrian DiazAnonymous, Gauthier Dobigny, Ana Paula Mansilla2023-09-11 20:24:44 View
20 Feb 2024
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Functional trade-offs: exploring the temporal response of field margin plant communities to climate change and agricultural practices

Unravelling plant diversity in agricultural field margins in France: plant species better adapted to climate change need other agricultures to persist

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Ignasi Bartomeus, Clelia Sirami and Diego Gurvich

Agricultural field margin plants, often referred to as “spontaneous” species, are key for the stabilization of several social-ecological processes related to crop production such as pollination or pest control (Tamburini et al. 2020). Because of its beneficial function, increasing the diversity of field margin flora becomes as important as crop diversity in process-based agricultures such as agroecology. Contrary, supply-dependent intensive agricultures produce monocultures and homogenized environments that might benefit their productivity, which generally includes the control or elimination of the field margin flora (Emmerson et al. 2016, Aligner 2018). Considering that different agricultural practices are produced by (and produce) different territories (Moore 2020) and that they are also been shaped by current climate change, we urgently need to understand how agricultural intensification constrains the potential of territories to develop agriculture more resilient to such change (Altieri et al., 2015). Thus, studies unraveling how agricultural practices' effects on agricultural field margin flora interact with those of climate change is of main importance, as plant strategies better adapted to such social-ecological processes may differ.        
 
In this vein, the study of Poinas et al. (2024) can be considered a key contribution. It exemplifies how agricultural intensification practiced in the context of climate change can constrain the potential of agricultural field margin flora to cope with climatic variations. The authors found that the incidence of plant strategies better adapted to climate change (conservative/stress-tolerant and Mediterranean species) increased with higher temperatures and lower soil moisture, and with lower intensity of margin management. In contrast, the incidence of ruderal species decreased with climate change. Thus, increasing or even maintaining current levels of agricultural intensification may affect the potential of French agriculture to move to sustainable process-based agricultures because of the reduction of plant diversity, particularly of vegetation better adapted to climate change. 
 
By using an impressive dataset spanning 9 years and 555 agricultural margins in continental France, Poinas et al. (2024) investigated temporal changes in climatic variables (temperature and soil moisture), agricultural practices (herbicide and fertilizers quantity, the frequency of margin mowing or grinding), plant taxonomical and functional diversity, plant strategies (Grime 1977, 1988) and relationships between these temporal changes. Temporal changes in plant strategies were associated with those observed in climatic variables and agricultural practices. Even such associations seem to be mediated by spatial changes, as described in the supplementary material and in their most recent article (Poinas et al. 2023), changes in climatic variables registered in a decade shaped plant strategies and therefore the diversity and functional potential of agricultural field margins. These results are clearly synthesized in Figures 6 and 7 of the present contribution.
 
As shown by Poinas et al. (2024), in the context of climate change, decreasing agricultural intensification will produce more diverse agricultural field margins by promoting the persistence of plant species better adapted to higher temperatures and lower soil moisture. Thus, adopting other agricultural practices (e.g., agroforestry, agroecology) will produce territories with a higher potential to move to sustainable processes-based agricultures that may better cope with climate change by harboring higher biocultural diversity (Altieri et al. 2015).

References

Alignier, A., 2018. Two decades of change in a field margin vegetation metacommunity as a result of field margin structure and management practice changes. Agric., Ecosyst. & Environ., 251, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2017.09.013 

Altieri, M.A., Nicholls, C.I., Henao, A., Lana, M.A., 2015. Agroecology and the design of climate change-resilient farming systems. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 35, 869–890. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-015-0285-2

Emmerson, M., Morales, M. B., Oñate, J. J., Batary, P., Berendse, F., Liira, J., Aavik, T., Guerrero, I., Bommarco, R., Eggers, S., Pärt, T., Tscharntke, T., Weisser, W., Clement, L. & Bengtsson, J. (2016). How agricultural intensification affects biodiversity and ecosystem services. In Adv. Ecol. Res. 55, 43-97. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aecr.2016.08.005

Grime, J. P., 1977. Evidence for the existence of three primary strategies in plants and its relevance to ecological and evolutionary theory. The American Naturalist, 111(982), 1169–1194. https://doi.org/10.1086/283244

Grime, J. P., 1988. The C-S-R model of primary plant strategies—Origins, implications and tests. In L. D. Gottlieb & S. K. Jain, Plant Evolutionary Biology (pp. 371–393). Springer Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-1207-6_14

Moore, J., 2020. El capitalismo en la trama de la vida (Capitalism in The Web of Life). Traficantes de sueños, Madrid, Spain. 

Poinas, I., Fried, G., Henckel, L., & Meynard, C. N., 2023. Agricultural drivers of field margin plant communities are scale-dependent. Bas. App. Ecol. 72, 55-63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.baae.2023.08.003

Poinas, I., Meynard, C. N., Fried, G., 2024. Functional trade-offs: exploring the temporal response of field margin plant communities to climate change and agricultural practices, bioRxiv, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.03.03.530956

Tamburini, G., Bommarco, R., Wanger, T.C., Kremen, C., Van Der Heijden, M.G., Liebman, M., Hallin, S., 2020. Agricultural diversification promotes multiple ecosystem services without compromising yield. Sci. Adv. 6, eaba1715. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aba1715

Functional trade-offs: exploring the temporal response of field margin plant communities to climate change and agricultural practicesIsis Poinas, Christine N Meynard, Guillaume Fried<p style="text-align: justify;">Over the past decades, agricultural intensification and climate change have led to vegetation shifts. However, functional trade-offs linking traits responding to climate and farming practices are rarely analyzed, es...Agroecology, Biodiversity, Botany, Climate change, Community ecologyJulia Astegiano2023-03-04 15:40:35 View
15 Feb 2024
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Sources of confusion in global biodiversity trends

Unraveling the Complexity of Global Biodiversity Dynamics: Insights and Imperatives

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Pedro Cardoso and 1 anonymous reviewer

Biodiversity loss is occurring at an alarming rate across terrestrial and marine ecosystems, driven by various processes that degrade habitats and threaten species with extinction. Despite the urgency of this issue, empirical studies present a mixed picture, with some indicating declining trends while others show more complex patterns.

In a recent effort to better understand global biodiversity dynamics, Boennec et al. (2024) conducted a comprehensive literature review examining temporal trends in biodiversity. Their analysis reveals that reviews and meta-analyses, coupled with the use of global indicators, tend to report declining trends more frequently. Additionally, the study underscores a critical gap in research: the scarcity of investigations into the combined impact of multiple pressures on biodiversity at a global scale. This lack of understanding complicates efforts to identify the root causes of biodiversity changes and develop effective conservation strategies.

This study serves as a crucial reminder of the pressing need for long-term biodiversity monitoring and large-scale conservation studies. By filling these gaps in knowledge, researchers can provide policymakers and conservation practitioners with the insights necessary to mitigate biodiversity loss and safeguard ecosystems for future generations.

References

Boennec, M., Dakos, V. & Devictor, V. (2023). Sources of confusion in global biodiversity trend. bioRxiv, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology. https://doi.org/10.32942/X29W3H

 

Sources of confusion in global biodiversity trendsMaelys Boennec, Vasilis Dakos, Vincent Devictor<p>Populations and ecological communities are changing worldwide, and empirical studies exhibit a mixture of either declining or mixed trends. Confusion in global biodiversity trends thus remains while assessing such changes is of major social, po...Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Meta-analysesPaulo Borges2023-09-20 11:10:25 View
23 Jan 2024
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Use of linear features by red-legged partridges in an intensive agricultural landscape: implications for landscape management in farmland

The importance of managing linear features in agricultural landscapes for farmland birds

Recommended by based on reviews by Matthew Grainger and 1 anonymous reviewer

European farmland bird populations continue declining at an alarming rate, and some species require urgent action to avoid their demise (Silva et al. 2024). While factors such as climate change and urbanization also play an important role in driving the decline of farmland bird populations, its main driver seems to be linked with agricultural intensification (Rigal et al. 2023). Besides increased pesticide and fertilizer use, agricultural intensification often results in the homogenization of agricultural landscapes through the removal of seminatural linear features such as hedgerows, field margins, and grassy strips that can be beneficial for biodiversity. These features may be particularly important during the breeding season, when breeding farmland birds can benefit from patches of denser vegetation to conceal nests and improve breeding success. It is both important and timely to understand how landscape management can help to address the ongoing decline of farmland birds by identifying specific actions that can boost breeding success.

Perrot et al. 2023 contribute to this effort by exploring how red-legged partridges use linear features in an intensive agricultural landscape during the breeding season. Through a combination of targeted fieldwork and GPS tracking, the authors highlight patterns in home range size and habitat selection that provide insights for landscape management. Specifically, their results suggest that birds have smaller range sizes in the vicinity of traffic routes and seminatural features structured by both herbaceous and woody cover. Furthermore, they show that breeding birds tend to choose linear elements with herbaceous cover whereas non-breeders prefer linear elements with woody cover, underlining the importance of accounting for the needs of both breeding and non-breeding birds. In particular, the authors stress the importance of providing additional vegetation elements such as hedges, grassy strips or embankments in order to increase landscape heterogeneity. These landscape elements are usually found in the vicinity of linear infrastructures such as roads and tracks, but it is important they are available also in separate areas to avoid the risk of bird collision and the authors provide specific recommendations towards this end. Overall, this is an important study with clear recommendations on how to improve landscape management for these farmland birds.

References

Perrot, C., Séranne, L., Berceaux, A., Noel, M., Arroyo, B., & Bacon, L. (2023) "Use of linear features by red-legged partridges in an intensive agricultural landscape: implications for landscape management in farmland." bioRxiv, ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology.
https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.07.27.550774
 
Rigal, S., Dakos, V., Alonso, H., Auniņš, A., Benkő, Z., Brotons, L., ... & Devictor, V. (2023) "Farmland practices are driving bird population decline across Europe." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120.21: e2216573120.
https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2216573120
 
Silva, J. P., Gameiro, J., Valerio, F., & Marques, A. T. (2024) "Portugal's farmland bird crisis requires action." Science 383.6679: 157-157.
https://doi.org/10.1126/science.adn1390

Use of linear features by red-legged partridges in an intensive agricultural landscape: implications for landscape management in farmlandCharlotte Perrot, Antoine Berceaux, Mathias Noel, Beatriz Arroyo, Leo Bacon<p>Current agricultural practices and change are the major cause of biodiversity loss. An important change associated with the intensification of agriculture in the last 50 years is the spatial homogenization of the landscape with substantial loss...Agroecology, Behaviour & Ethology, Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Habitat selectionRicardo Correia2023-08-01 10:27:33 View
12 Jan 2024
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Methods for tagging an ectoparasite, the salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis

Marking invertebrates using RFID tags

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Simon Blanchet and 1 anonymous reviewer

Guiding and monitoring the efficiency of conservation efforts needs robust scientific background information, of which one key element is estimating wildlife abundance and its spatial and temporal variation. As raw counts are by nature incomplete counts of a population, correcting for detectability is required (Clobert, 1995; Turlure et al., 2018). This can be done with Capture-Mark-Recapture protocols (Iijima, 2020). Techniques for marking individuals are diverse, e.g. writing on butterfly wings, banding birds, or using natural specific patterns in the individual’s body such as leopard fur or whale tail. Advancement in technology opens new opportunities for developing marking techniques, including strategies to limit mark identification errors (Burchill & Pavlic, 2019), and for using active marks that can transmit data remotely or be read automatically.

The details of such methodological developments frequently remain unpublished, the method being briefly described in studies that use it. For a few years, there has been however a renewed interest in proper publishing of methods for ecology and evolution. This study by Folk & Mennerat (2023) fits in this context, offering a nice example of detailed description and testing of a method to mark salmon ectoparasites using RFID tags. Such tags are extremely small, yet easy to use, even with automatic recording procedure. The study provides a very good basis protocol that should help researchers working for small species, in particular invertebrates. The study is complemented by a video illustrating the placement of the tag so the reader who would like to replicate the procedure can get a very precise idea of it.

References

Burchill, A. T., & Pavlic, T. P. (2019). Dude, where’s my mark? Creating robust animal identification schemes informed by communication theory. Animal Behaviour, 154, 203–208. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2019.05.013

Clobert, J. (1995). Capture-recapture and evolutionary ecology: A difficult wedding ? Journal of Applied Statistics, 22(5–6), 989–1008.

Folk, A., & Mennerat, A. (2023). Methods for tagging an ectoparasite, the salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis (p. 2023.08.31.555695). bioRxiv, ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.08.31.555695

Iijima, H. (2020). A Review of Wildlife Abundance Estimation Models: Comparison of Models for Correct Application. Mammal Study, 45(3), 177–188. https://doi.org/10.3106/ms2019-0082

Turlure, C., Pe’er, G., Baguette, M., & Schtickzelle, N. (2018). A simplified mark–release–recapture protocol to improve the cost effectiveness of repeated population size quantification. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 9(3), 645–656. https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.12900

 

Methods for tagging an ectoparasite, the salmon louse *Lepeophtheirus salmonis*Alexius Folk, Adele Mennerat<p style="text-align: justify;">Monitoring individuals within populations is a cornerstone in evolutionary ecology, yet individual tracking of invertebrates and particularly parasitic organisms remains rare. To address this gap, we describe here a...Dispersal & Migration, Evolutionary ecology, Host-parasite interactions, Marine ecology, Parasitology, Terrestrial ecology, ZoologyNicolas Schtickzelle2023-09-04 15:25:08 View
10 Jan 2024
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Beyond variance: simple random distributions are not a good proxy for intraspecific variability in systems with environmental structure

Two paradigms for intraspecific variability

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Simon Blanchet and Bart Haegeman

Community ecology usually concerns itself with understanding the causes and consequences of diversity at a given taxonomic resolution, most classically at the species level. Yet there is no doubt that diversity exists at all scales, and phenotypic variability within a taxon can be comparable to differences between taxa, as observed from bacteria to fish and trees. The question that motivates an active and growing body of work (e.g. Raffard et al 2019) is not so much whether intraspecific variability matters, but what we get wrong by ignoring it and how to incorporate it into our understanding of communities. There is no established way to think about diversity at multiple nested taxonomic levels, and it is tempting to summarize intraspecific variability simply by measuring species mean and variance in any trait and metric.

In this study, Girard-Tercieux et al (2023a) propose that, to understand its impact on community-level outcomes and in particular on species coexistence, we should carefully distinguish between two ways of thinking about intraspecific variability:

-"unstructured" variation, where every individual's features are like an independent random draw from a species-specific distribution, for instance, due to genetic lottery and developmental accidents

-"structured" variation that is due to each individual encountering a different but enduring microenvironment.

The latter type of variability may still appear complex and random-like when the environment is high-dimensional (i.e. multifaceted, with many different factors contributing to each individual's performance and development). Thus, it is not necessarily "structured" in the sense of being easily understood -- we may need to measure more aspects of the environment than is practical if we want to fully predict these variations.

What distinguishes this "structured" variability is that it is, in a loose sense, inheritable: individuals from the same species that grow in the same microenvironment will have the same performance, in a repeatable fashion. Thus, if each species is best at exploiting at least a fraction of environmental conditions, it is likely to avoid extinction by competition, except in the unlucky case of no propagule reaching any of the favorable sites.
By contrast, drawing each individual's preferences and performance randomly at each generation (from its own species distribution, but independently from other and past individuals) leads to stochastic dynamics, so-called ecological drift, that easily induce a large number of species extinctions.

The core intuition, that the complex spatial structure and high-dimensional nature of the environment plays a key explanatory role in species coexistence, is a running thread through several of the authors' work (e.g. Clark et al 2010), clearly inspired by their focus on tropical forests. This study, by tackling the question of intraspecific determinants of interspecific outcomes, makes a compelling addition to this line of investigation, coming as a theoretical companion to a more data-oriented study (Girard-Tercieux et al 2023b). But I believe it raises a question that is even broader in scope.

This kind of intraspecific variability, due to different individuals growing in different microenvironments, is perhaps most relevant for trees and other sessile organisms, but the distinction made here between "unstructured" and "structured" variability can likely be extended to many other ecological settings.

In my understanding, what matters most in "structured" variability is not so much it stemming from a fixed environment, but rather it being maintained across generations, rather than possibly lost by drift. This difference between variability in the form of "frozen" randomness and in the form of stochastic drift over time is highly relevant in other theoretical fields (e.g. in physics, where it is the difference between a disordered solid and a liquid), and thus, I expect that it is a meaningful distinction to make throughout community ecology.

References

James S. Clark, David Bell, Chengjin Chu, Benoit Courbaud, Michael Dietze, Michelle Hersh, Janneke HilleRisLambers et al. (2010) "High‐dimensional coexistence based on individual variation: a synthesis of evidence." Ecological Monographs 80, no. 4 : 569-608. https://doi.org/10.1890/09-1541.1

Camille Girard-Tercieux, Ghislain Vieilledent, Adam Clark, James S. Clark, Benoît Courbaud, Claire Fortunel, Georges Kunstler, Raphaël Pélissier, Nadja Rüger, Isabelle Maréchaux (2023a) "Beyond variance: simple random distributions are not a good proxy for intraspecific variability in systems with environmental structure." bioRxiv, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.08.06.503032

Camille Girard‐Tercieux, Isabelle Maréchaux, Adam T. Clark, James S. Clark, Benoît Courbaud, Claire Fortunel, Joannès Guillemot et al. (2023b) "Rethinking the nature of intraspecific variability and its consequences on species coexistence." Ecology and Evolution 13, no. 3 : e9860. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.9860

Allan Raffard, Frédéric Santoul, Julien Cucherousset, and Simon Blanchet. (2019) "The community and ecosystem consequences of intraspecific diversity: A meta‐analysis." Biological Reviews 94, no. 2: 648-661. https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12472

Beyond variance: simple random distributions are not a good proxy for intraspecific variability in systems with environmental structureCamille Girard-Tercieux, Ghislain Vieilledent, Adam Clark, James S. Clark, Benoit Courbaud, Claire Fortunel, Georges Kunstler, Raphaël Pélissier, Nadja Rüger, Isabelle Maréchaux<p>The role of intraspecific variability (IV) in shaping community dynamics and species coexistence has been intensively discussed over the past decade and modelling studies have played an important role in that respect. However, these studies oft...Biodiversity, Coexistence, Community ecology, Competition, Theoretical ecologyMatthieu Barbier2022-08-07 12:51:30 View
03 Jan 2024
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Diagnosis of planktonic trophic network dynamics with sharp qualitative changes

A new approach to describe qualitative changes of complex trophic networks

Recommended by based on reviews by Tim Coulson and 1 anonymous reviewer

Modelling the temporal dynamics of trophic networks has been a key challenge for community ecologists for decades, especially when anthropogenic and natural forces drive changes in species composition, abundance, and interactions over time. So far, most modelling methods fail to incorporate the inherent complexity of such systems, and its variability, to adequately describe and predict temporal changes in the topology of trophic networks. 

Taking benefit from theoretical computer science advances, Gaucherel and colleagues (2024) propose a new methodological framework to tackle this challenge based on discrete-event Petri net methodology. To introduce the concept to naïve readers the authors provide a useful example using a simplistic predator-prey model.

The core biological system of the article is a freshwater trophic network of western France in the Charente-Maritime marshes of the French Atlantic coast. A directed graph describing this system was constructed to incorporate different functional groups (phytoplankton, zooplankton, resources, microbes, and abiotic components of the environment) and their interactions. Rules and constraints were then defined to, respectively, represent physiochemical, biological, or ecological processes linking network components, and prevent the model from simulating unrealistic trajectories. Then the full range of possible trajectories of this mechanistic and qualitative model was computed.

The model performed well enough to successfully predict a theoretical trajectory plus two trajectories of the trophic network observed in the field at two different stations, therefore validating the new methodology introduced here. The authors conclude their paper by presenting the power and drawbacks of such a new approach to qualitatively model trophic networks dynamics.

Reference

Cedric Gaucherel, Stolian Fayolle, Raphael Savelli, Olivier Philippine, Franck Pommereau, Christine Dupuy (2024) Diagnosis of planktonic trophic network dynamics with sharp qualitative changes. bioRxiv 2023.06.29.547055, ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.06.29.547055

Diagnosis of planktonic trophic network dynamics with sharp qualitative changesCedric Gaucherel, Stolian Fayolle, Raphael Savelli, Olivier Philippine, Franck Pommereau, Christine Dupuy<p>Trophic interaction networks are notoriously difficult to understand and to diagnose (i.e., to identify contrasted network functioning regimes). Such ecological networks have many direct and indirect connections between species, and these conne...Community ecology, Ecosystem functioning, Food webs, Freshwater ecology, Interaction networks, Microbial ecology & microbiologyFrancis Raoul Tim Coulson2023-07-03 10:42:34 View
03 Jan 2024
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Efficient sampling designs to assess biodiversity spatial autocorrelation : should we go fractal?

Spatial patterns and autocorrelation challenges in ecological conservation

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Nigel Yoccoz and Charles J Marsh

Pattern, like beauty, is to some extent in the eye of the beholder” (Grant 1977 in Wiens, 1989)

Ecologists are immersed in unraveling the complex spatial patterns that govern species diversity, driven by both practical and theoretical imperatives (Rahbek, 2005; Wang et al., 2019). This dual focus necessitates a practical imperative for strategic biodiversity conservation, requiring a nuanced understanding of locations with peak species richness and dynamic shifts in species assemblages (Chase et al., 2020). Simultaneously, there is a theoretical interest in using diversity patterns as empirical testing grounds for theories explaining factors influencing diversity disparities and the associated increase in species turnover correlated with inter-site distance (Condit et al., 2002).
 
McGill (2010), in his paper "Matters of Scale", highlights the scale-dependent nature of ecology, aligning with the recognition that spatial autocorrelation is inherent in biogeographical data and often correlated with sample size (Rahbek, 2005). Spatial autocorrelation, often underestimated in ecological studies (Dormann, 2007), occurs when proximate locations exhibit similarities in ecological attributes (Tobler, 1970; Getis, 2010), introducing a latent bias that compromises the robustness of ecological findings (Dormann, 2007; Dormann et al., 2007). This phenomenon serves as both an asset, providing valuable information for inferring processes from patterns (Palma et al. 1999), and a challenge, imposing limitations on hypothesis testing and prediction (Dormann et al., 2007 and references therein). Various factors contribute to spatial autocorrelation, with three primary contributors (Dormann et al., 2007; Legendre, 1993; Legendre and Fortin, 1989; Legendre and Legendre, 2012): (i) distance-related effects in biological processes, (ii) misrepresentation of non-linear relationships between the environment and species as linear and (iii) the oversight of a crucial spatially structured environmental determinant in the statistical model, leading to spatial structuring in the response (Dormann et al., 2007).
 
Recognising the pivotal role of spatial heterogeneity in ecological theories (Wang et al., 2019), it becomes imperative to discern and address the limitations introduced by spatial autocorrelation (Legendre, 1993). McGill (2011) emphasises that the ultimate goal of biodiversity pattern studies should be to develop a quantitative predictive theory useful for conservation. The spatial dimension's importance in study planning, determining the system's scale, appropriate quadrat size, and spacing between sampling stations, is paramount (Fortin, 1999a,b). Responses to these considerations are intricately linked with study objectives and insights from pre-sampling campaigns, underscoring the need for a nuanced and rigorous approach (Delmelle, 2021).
 
Understanding statistical techniques and nested sampling designs is crucial to answering fundamental ecological questions (Dormann et al., 2007; McDonald, 2012). In addressing spatial autocorrelation challenges, ecologists must recognize the limitations of many standard statistical methods in ecological studies (Dale and Fortin, 2002; Legendre and Fortin, 1989; Steel et al., 2013). In the initial phases of description or hypothesis generation, ecologists should proactively acknowledge the spatial structure in their data and conduct tests for spatial autocorrelation (for a comprehensive description, see Legendre and Fortin, 1989): various tools, including correlograms, spectral analysis, the Mantel test, and clustering methods, facilitate the assessment and description of spatial structures. The partial Mantel test enables the study of causal models with space as an explanatory variable. Techniques for mapping ecological variables, such as interpolation, trend surface analysis, and constrained clustering, yield maps providing valuable insights into the spatial dynamics of ecological systems.
 
This refined consideration of spatial autocorrelation emerges as an imperative in ecological research, fostering a deeper and more precise understanding of the intricate interplay between species diversity, spatial patterns, and the inherent limitations imposed by spatial autocorrelation (Legendre et al., 2002). This not only contributes significantly to the scientific discourse in ecology but also aligns with McGill's vision of developing predictive theories for effective conservation (Bacaro et al., 2016; McGill, 2011).
 
In this study by Fabien Laroche (2023), titled “Efficient sampling designs to assess biodiversity spatial autocorrelation: should we go fractal?” the primary focus was on addressing the challenges associated with estimating the autocorrelation range of species distribution across spatial scales. The study aimed to explore alternative sampling designs, with a particular focus on the application of fractal designs—self-similar designs with well-identified scales. The overarching goal was to evaluate whether fractal designs could offer a more efficient compromise compared to traditional hybrid designs, which involve mixing random sampling points with a systematic grid.
 
Virtual ecology provides a way to test whether sampling designs can accurately detect or quantify effects of interest before implementing them in the field. Beyond the question of assessing the power of empirical designs, a virtual ecology analysis contributes to clearly formulating the set of questions associated with a design. However, only a few virtual studies have focused on efficient designs to accurately estimate the autocorrelation range of biodiversity variables. In this study, the statistical framework of optimal design of experiments was employed—a methodology often used in building and comparing designs of temporal or spatiotemporal biodiversity surveys but rarely applied to the specific problem of quantifying spatial autocorrelation.
 
Key findings from the study shed light on optimal sampling strategies, with a notable dependence on the feasible grid mesh size over the study area in relation to expected autocorrelation range values. The results demonstrated that the efficiency of designs varied based on the specific effect under study. Fractal designs, however, exhibited superior performance, particularly when assessing the effect of a monotonic environmental gradient across space.
 
In conclusion, the study provides valuable insights into the potential benefits of incorporating fractal designs in biodiversity studies, offering a nuanced and efficient approach to estimate spatial autocorrelation. These findings contribute significantly to the ongoing scientific discourse in ecology, providing practical considerations for improving sampling designs in biodiversity assessments.
 
References
 
Bacaro, G., Altobelli, A., Cameletti, M., Ciccarelli, D., Martellos, S., Palmer, M.W., Ricotta, C., Rocchini, D., Scheiner, S.M., Tordoni, E., Chiarucci, A., 2016. Incorporating spatial autocorrelation in rarefaction methods: Implications for ecologists and conservation biologists. Ecological Indicators 69, 233-238. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.04.026
 
Chase, J.M., Jeliazkov, A., Ladouceur, E., Viana, D.S., 2020. Biodiversity conservation through the lens of metacommunity ecology. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1469, 86-104. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.14378
 
Condit, R., Pitman, N., Leigh, E.G., Chave, J., Terborgh, J., Foster, R.B., Núñez, P., Aguilar, S., Valencia, R., Villa, G., Muller-Landau, H.C., Losos, E., Hubbell, S.P., 2002. Beta-Diversity in Tropical Forest Trees. Science 295, 666-669. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1066854
 
Dale, M.R.T., Fortin, M.-J., 2002. Spatial autocorrelation and statistical tests in ecology. Écoscience 9, 162-167. https://doi.org/10.1080/11956860.2002.11682702
 
Delmelle, E.M., 2021. Spatial Sampling, in: Fischer, M.M., Nijkamp, P. (Eds.), Handbook of Regional Science. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp. 1829-1844.
 
Dormann, C.F., 2007. Effects of incorporating spatial autocorrelation into the analysis of species distribution data. Global Ecology & Biogeography 16, 129-128. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1466-8238.2006.00279.x
 
Dormann, C.F., McPherson, J.M., Araújo, M.B., Bivand, R., Bolliger, J., Carl, G., Davies, R.G., Hirzel, A., Jetz, W., Kissling, W.D., Kühn, I., Ohlemüler, R., Peres-Neto, P.R., Reineking, B., Schröder, B., Schurr, F.M., Wilson, R., 2007. Methods to account for spatial autocorrelation in the analysis of species distributional data: a review. Ecography 33, 609-628. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2007.0906-7590.05171.x
 
Fortin, M.-J., 1999a. Effects of quadrat size and data measurement on the detection of boundaries. Journal of Vegetation Science 10, 43-50. https://doi.org/10.2307/3237159
 
Fortin, M.-J., 1999b. Effects of sampling unit resolution on the estimation of spatial autocorrelation. Écoscience 6, 636-641. https://doi.org/10.1080/11956860.1999.11682547
 
Getis, A., 2010. Spatial Autocorrelation, in: Fischer, M.M., Getis, A. (Eds.), Handbook of Applied Spatial Analysis: Software Tools, Methods and Applications. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp. 255-278.
 
Laroche, F., 2023. Efficient sampling designs to assess biodiversity spatial autocorrelation: should we go fractal? bioRxiv, 2022.07.29.501974, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.07.29.501974
 
Legendre, P., 1993. Spatial Autocorrelation: Trouble or New Paradigm? Ecology 74, 1659-1673. https://doi.org/10.2307/1939924
 
Legendre, P., Dale, M.R.T., Fortin, M.-J., Gurevitch, J., Hohn, M., Myers, D., 2002. The consequences of spatial structure for the design and analysis of ecological field surveys. Ecography 25, 601-615. https://doi.org/10.1034/j.1600-0587.2002.250508.x
 
Legendre, P., Fortin, M.J., 1989. Spatial pattern and ecological analysis. Vegetatio 80, 107-138. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00048036
 
Legendre, P., Legendre, L., 2012. Numerical Ecology, Third Edition ed. Elsevier, The Netherlands.
 
McDonald, T., 2012. Spatial sampling designs for long-term ecological monitoring, in: Cooper, A.B., Gitzen, R.A., Licht, D.S., Millspaugh, J.J. (Eds.), Design and Analysis of Long-term Ecological Monitoring Studies. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 101-125.
 
McGill, B.J., 2010. Matters of Scale. Science 328, 575-576. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1188528
 
McGill, B.J., 2011. Linking biodiversity patterns by autocorrelated random sampling. American Journal of Botany 98, 481-502. https://doi.org/10.3732/ajb.1000509
 
Rahbek, C., 2005. The role of spatial scale and the perception of large-scale species-richness patterns. Ecology Letters 8, 224-239. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2004.00701.x
 
Steel, E.A., Kennedy, M.C., Cunningham, P.G., Stanovick, J.S., 2013. Applied statistics in ecology: common pitfalls and simple solutions. Ecosphere 4, art115. https://doi.org/10.1890/ES13-00160.1
 
Tobler, W.R., 1970. A Computer Movie Simulating Urban Growth in the Detroit Region. Economic Geography 46, 234-240. https://doi.org/10.2307/143141
 
Wang, S., Lamy, T., Hallett, L.M., Loreau, M., 2019. Stability and synchrony across ecological hierarchies in heterogeneous metacommunities: linking theory to data. Ecography 42, 1200-1211. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecog.04290
 
Wiens, J.A., 1989. The ecology of bird communities. Cambridge University Press.
Efficient sampling designs to assess biodiversity spatial autocorrelation : should we go fractal?Fabien Laroche<p>Quantifying the autocorrelation range of species distribution in space is necessary for applied ecological questions, like implementing protected area networks or monitoring programs. However, the power of spatial sampling designs to estimate t...Biodiversity, Landscape ecology, Spatial ecology, Metacommunities & Metapopulations, Statistical ecologyEric Goberville2023-04-21 10:54:29 View
02 Jan 2024
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Mt or not Mt: Temporal variation in detection probability in spatial capture-recapture and occupancy models

Useful clarity on the value of considering temporal variability in detection probability

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Dana Karelus and Ben Augustine

As so often quoted, "all models are wrong; more specifically, we always neglect potentially important factors in our models of ecological systems. We may neglect these factors because no-one has built a computational framework to include them; because including them would be computationally infeasible; or because we don't have enough data.  When considering whether to include a particular process or form of heterogeneity, the gold standard is to fit models both with and without the component, and then see whether we needed the component in the first place ​-- that is, whether including that component leads to an important difference in our conclusions. However, this approach is both tedious and endless, because there are an infinite number of components that we could consider adding to any given model.

Therefore, thoughtful exercises that evaluate the importance of particular complications under a realistic range of simulations and a representative set of case studies are extremely valuable for the field. While they cannot provide ironclad guarantees, they give researchers a general sense of when they can (probably) safely ignore some factors in their analyses. This paper by Sollmann (2024) shows that for a very wide range of scenarios, temporal and spatiotemporal variability in the probability of detection have little effect on the conclusions of spatial capture-recapture and occupancy models.  The author is thoughtful about when such variability may be important, e.g. when variation in detection and density is correlated and thus confounded, or when variation is driven by animals' behavioural responses to being captured.

Reference

Sollmann R (2024). Mt or not Mt: Temporal variation in detection probability in spatial capture-recapture and occupancy models. bioRxiv, 2023.08.08.552394, ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.08.08.552394

Mt or not Mt: Temporal variation in detection probability in spatial capture-recapture and occupancy modelsRahel Sollmann<p>State variables such as abundance and occurrence of species are central to many questions in ecology and conservation, but our ability to detect and enumerate species is imperfect and often varies across space and time. Accounting for imperfect...Euring Conference, Statistical ecologyBenjamin Bolker Dana Karelus, Ben Augustine, Ben Augustine 2023-08-10 09:18:56 View
27 Nov 2023
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Modeling Tick Populations: An Ecological Test Case for Gradient Boosted Trees

Gradient Boosted Trees can deliver more than accurate ecological predictions

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by 2 anonymous reviewers

Tick-borne diseases are an important burden on public health all over the globe, making accurate forecasts of tick population a key ingredient in a successful public health strategy. Over long time scales, tick populations can undergo complex dynamics, as they are sensitive to many non-linear effects due to the complex relationships between ticks and the relevant (numerical) features of their environment.

But luckily, capturing complex non-linear responses is a task that machine learning thrives on. In this contribution, Manley et al. (2023) explore the use of Gradient Boosted Trees to predict the distribution (presence/absence) and abundance of ticks across New York state.

This is an interesting modelling challenge in and of itself, as it looks at the same ecological question as an instance of a classification problem (presence/absence) or of a regression problem (abundance). In using the same family of algorithm for both, Manley et al. (2023) provide an interesting showcase of the versatility of these techniques. But their article goes one step further, by setting up a multi-class categorical model that estimates jointly the presence and abundance of a population. I found this part of the article particularly elegant, as it provides an intermediate modelling strategy, in between having two disconnected models for distribution and abundance, and having nested models where abundance is only predicted for the present class (see e.g. Boulangeat et al., 2012, for a great description of the later).

One thing that Manley et al. (2023) should be commended for is their focus on opening up the black box of machine learning techniques. I have never believed that ML models are more inherently opaque than other families of models, but the focus in this article on explainable machine learning shows how these models might, in fact, bring us closer to a phenomenological understanding of the mechanisms underpinning our observations.

There is also an interesting discussion in this article, on the rate of false negatives in the different models that are being benchmarked. Although model selection often comes down to optimizing the overall quality of the confusion matrix (for distribution models, anyway), depending on the type of information we seek to extract from the model, not all types of errors are created equal. If the purpose of the model is to guide actions to control vectors of human pathogens, a false negative (predicting that the vector is absent at a site where it is actually present) is a potentially more damaging outcome, as it can lead to the vector population (and therefore, potentially, transmission) increasing unchecked.

References

Boulangeat I, Gravel D, Thuiller W. Accounting for dispersal and biotic interactions to disentangle the drivers of species distributions and their abundances: The role of dispersal and biotic interactions in explaining species distributions and abundances. Ecol Lett. 2012;15: 584-593.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01772.x

Manley W, Tran T, Prusinski M, Brisson D. (2023) Modeling tick populations: An ecological test case for gradient boosted trees. bioRxiv, 2023.03.13.532443, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.03.13.532443

Modeling Tick Populations: An Ecological Test Case for Gradient Boosted TreesWilliam Manley, Tam Tran, Melissa Prusinski, Dustin Brisson<p style="text-align: justify;">General linear models have been the foundational statistical framework used to discover the ecological processes that explain the distribution and abundance of natural populations. Analyses of the rapidly expanding ...Parasitology, Species distributions, Statistical ecologyTimothée PoisotAnonymous, Anonymous2023-03-23 23:41:17 View