Despite intensive research during the past decade on the effects of alien species, invasion science still lacks the capacity to accurately predict the impacts of those species and, therefore, to provide timely advice to managers on where limited resources should be allocated. This capacity has been limited partly by the context-dependent nature of ecological impacts, research highly skewed toward certain taxa and habitat types, and the lack of standardized methods for detecting and quantifying impacts. We review different strategies, including specific experimental and observational approaches, for detecting and quantifying the ecological impacts of alien species. These include a four-way experimental plot design for comparing impact studies of different organisms. Furthermore, we identify hypothesis-driven parameters that should be measured at invaded sites to maximize insights into the nature of the impact. We also present strategies for recognizing high-impact species. Our recommendations provide a foundation for developing systematic quantitative measurements to allow comparisons of impacts across alien species, sites, and time.
A focus on ecosystem services (ES) is seen as a means for improving decisionmaking. In the research to date, the valuation of the material contributions of ecosystems to human well-being has been emphasized, with less attention to important cultural ES and nonmaterial values. This gap persists because there is no commonly accepted framework for eliciting less tangible values, characterizing their changes, and including them alongside other services in decisionmaking. Here, we develop such a framework for ES research and practice, addressing three challenges: (1) Nonmaterial values are ill suited to characterization using monetary methods; (2) it is difficult to unequivocally link particular changes in socioecological systems to particular changes in cultural benefits; and (3) cultural benefits are associated with many services, not just cultural ES. There is no magic bullet, but our framework may facilitate fuller and more socially acceptable integrations of ES information into planning and management.
The majority of the world's forests are used for multiple purposes, which often include the potentially conflicting goals of timber production and biodiversity conservation. A scientifically validated management approach that can reduce such conflicts is retention forestry, an approach modeled on natural processes, which emerged in the last 25 years as an alternative to clearcutting. A portion of the original stand is left unlogged to maintain the continuity of structural and compositional diversity. We detail retention forestry's ecological role, review its current practices, and summarize the large research base on the subject. Retention forestry is applicable to all forest biomes, complements conservation in reserves, and represents bottom-up conservation through forest manager involvement. A research challenge is to identify thresholds for retention amounts to achieve desired outcomes. We define key issues for future development and link retention forestry with land-zoning allocation at various scales...
Climatic changes are predicted to significantly affect the frequency and severity of disturbances that shape forest ecosystems. We provide a synthesis of climate change effects on native bark beetles, important mortality agents of conifers in western North America. Because of differences in temperature-dependent life-history strategies, including cold-induced mortality and developmental timing, responses to warming will differ among and within bark beetle species. The success of bark beetle populations will also be influenced indirectly by the effects of climate on community associates and host-tree vigor, although little information is available to quantify these relationships. We used available population models and climate forecasts to explore the responses of two eruptive bark beetle species. Based on projected warming, increases in thermal regimes conducive to population success are predicted for Dendroctonus rufipennis (Kirby) and Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, although there is considerable spatial and temporal variability. These predictions from population models suggest a movement of temperature suitability to higher latitudes and elevations and identify regions with a high potential for bark beetle outbreaks and associated tree mortality in the coming century.
Citizen science enlists the public in collecting large quantities of data across an array of habitats and locations over long spans of time. Citizen science projects have been remarkably successful in advancing scientific knowledge, and contributions from citizen scientists now provide a vast quantity of data about species occurrence and distribution around the world. Most citizen science projects also strive to help participants learn about the organisms they are observing and to experience the process by which scientific investigations are conducted. Developing and implementing public data-collection projects that yield both scientific and educational outcomes requires significant effort. This article describes the model for building and operating citizen science projects that has evolved at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology over the past two decades. We hope that our model will inform the fields of biodiversity monitoring, biological research, and science education while providing a window into the culture of citizen science.
Native oyster reefs once dominated many estuaries, ecologically and economically. Centuries of resource extraction exacerbated by coastal degradation have pushed oyster reefs to the brink of functional extinction worldwide. We examined the condition of oyster reefs across 144 bays and 44 ecoregions; our comparisons of past with present abundances indicate that more than 90% of them have been lost in bays (70%) and ecoregions (63%). In many bays, more than 99% of oyster reefs have been lost and are functionally extinct. Overall, we estimate that 85% of oyster reefs have been lost globally. Most of the world's remaining wild capture of native oysters (> 75%) comes from just five ecoregions in North America, yet the condition of reefs in these ecoregions is poor at best, except in the Gulf of Mexico. We identify many cost-effective solutions for conservation, restoration, and the management of fisheries and nonnative species that could reverse these oyster losses and restore reef ecosystem services.
Collectively, reservoirs created by dams are thought to be an important source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere. So far, efforts to quantify, model, and manage these emissions have been limited by data availability and inconsistencies in methodological approach. Here, we synthesize reservoir CH4, CO2, and N2O emission data with three main objectives: (1) to generate a global estimate of GHG emissions from reservoirs, (2) to identify the best predictors of these emissions, and (3) to consider the effect of methodology on emission estimates. We estimate that GHG emissions from reservoir water surfaces account for 0.8 (0.5-1.2) Pg CO2 equivalents per year, with the majority of this forcing due to CH4. We then discuss the potential for several alternative pathways such as dam degassing and downstream emissions to contribute significantly to overall emissions. Although prior studies have linked reservoir GHG emissions to reservoir age and latitude, we find that factors related to reservoir productivity are better predictors of emission.
Although conservation efforts have sometimes succeeded in meeting environmental goals at the expense of equity considerations, the changing context of conservation and a growing body of evidence increasingly suggest that equity considerations should be integrated into conservation planning and implementation. However, this approach is often perceived to be at odds with the prevailing focus on economic efficiency that characterizes many payment for ecosystem services (PES) schemes. Drawing from examples across the literature, we show how the equity impacts of PES can create positive and negative feedbacks that influence ecological outcomes. We caution against equity-blind PES, which overlooks these relationships as a result of a primary and narrow focus on economic efficiency. We call for further analysis and better engagement between the social and ecological science communities to understand the relationships and trade-offs among efficiency, equity, and ecological outcomes.
ABSTRACT Thawing permafrost and the resulting microbial decomposition of previously frozen organic carbon (C) is one of the most significant potential feedbacks from terrestrial ecosystems to the atmosphere in a changing climate. In this article we present an overview of the global permafrost C pool and of the processes that might transfer this C into the atmosphere, as well as the associated ecosystem changes that occur with thawing. We show that accounting for C stored deep in the permafrost more than doubles previous high-latitude inventory estimates, with this new estimate equivalent to twice the atmospheric C pool. The thawing of permafrost with warming occurs both gradually and catastrophically, exposing organic C to microbial decomposition. Other aspects of ecosystem dynamics can be altered by climate change along with thawing permafrost, such as growing season length, plant growth rates and species composition, and ecosystem energy exchange. However, these processes do not appear to be able to com...
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.
ABSTRACT Biome-scale disturbances by eruptive herbivores provide valuable insights into species interactions, ecosystem function, and impacts of global change. We present a conceptual framework using one system as a model, emphasizing interactions across levels of biological hierarchy and spatiotemporal scales. Bark beetles are major natural disturbance agents in western North American forests. However, recent bark beetle population eruptions have exceeded the frequencies, impacts, and ranges documented during the previous 125 years. Extensive host abundance and susceptibility, concentrated beetle density, favorable weather, optimal symbiotic associations, and escape from natural enemies must occur jointly for beetles to surpass a series of thresholds and exert widespread disturbance. Opposing feedbacks determine qualitatively distinct outcomes at junctures at the biochemical through landscape levels. Eruptions occur when key thresholds are surpassed, prior constraints cease to exert influence, and positi...
Abstract We assess progress toward the protection of 50% of the terrestrial biosphere to address the species-extinction crisis and conserve a global ecological heritage for future generations. Using a map of Earth's 846 terrestrial ecoregions, we show that 98 ecoregions (12%) exceed Half Protected; 313 ecoregions (37%) fall short of Half Protected but have sufficient unaltered habitat remaining to reach the target; and 207 ecoregions (24%) are in peril, where an average of only 4% of natural habitat remains. We propose a Global Deal for Nature—a companion to the Paris Climate Deal—to promote increased habitat protection and restoration, national- and ecoregion-scale conservation strategies, and the empowerment of indigenous peoples to protect their sovereign lands. The goal of such an accord would be to protect half the terrestrial realm by 2050 to halt the extinction crisis while sustaining human livelihoods.
Recognition that climate change could have negative consequences for agricultural production has generated a desire to build resilience into agricultural systems. One rational and cost-effective method may be the implementation of increased agricultural crop diversification. Crop diversification can improve resilience in a variety of ways: by engendering a greater ability to suppress pest outbreaks and dampen pathogen transmission, which may worsen under future climate scenarios, as well as by buffering crop production from the effects of greater climate variability and extreme events. Such benefits point toward the obvious value of adopting crop diversification to improve resilience, yet adoption has been slow. Economic incentives encouraging production of a select few crops, the push for biotechnology strategies, and the belief that monocultures are more productive than diversified systems have been hindrances in promoting this strategy. However, crop diversification can be implemented in a variety of f...
ABSTRACT The conservation and sustainable use of marine resources is a highlighted goal on a growing number of national and international policy agendas. Unfortunately, efforts to assess progress, as well as to strategically plan and prioritize new marine conservation measures, have been hampered by the lack of a detailed, comprehensive biogeographic system to classify the oceans. Here we report on a new global system for coastal and shelf areas: the Marine Ecoregions of the World, or MEOW, a nested system of 12 realms, 62 provinces, and 232 ecoregions. This system provides considerably better spatial resolution than earlier global systems, yet it preserves many common elements and can be cross-referenced to many regional biogeographic classifications. The designation of terrestrial ecoregions has revolutionized priority setting and planning for terrestrial conservation; we anticipate similar benefits from the use of a coherent and credible marine system.
For many decades, river research has been focused on perennial rivers. Intermittent river research has a shorter history, and recent studies suggest that alternating dry and wet conditions alter virtually all biotic communities and biogeochemical processes in these rivers. Intermittent rivers constitute more than half of the length of the global river network and are increasing in number and length in response to climate change, land-use alteration, and water abstraction. Our views of the roles that rivers play in maintaining biodiversity and controlling material fluxes will change substantially when intermittent rivers are fully integrated into regional and global analyses. Concepts, questions, and methodologies from lotic, lentic, and terrestrial ecology need to be integrated and applied to intermittent rivers to increase our knowledge and effective management of these rivers.
ABSTRACT We present a new map depicting the first global biogeographic regionalization of Earth's freshwater systems. This map of freshwater ecoregions is based on the distributions and compositions of freshwater fish species and incorporates major ecological and evolutionary patterns. Covering virtually all freshwater habitats on Earth, this ecoregion map, together with associated species data, is a useful tool for underpinning global and regional conservation planning efforts (particularly to identify outstanding and imperiled freshwater systems); for serving as a logical framework for large-scale conservation strategies; and for providing a global-scale knowledge base for increasing freshwater biogeographic literacy. Preliminary data for fish species compiled by ecoregion reveal some previously unrecognized areas of high biodiversity, highlighting the benefit of looking at the world's freshwaters through a new framework.
This article presents a unifying theory of soundscape ecology, which brings the idea of the soundscape—the collection of sounds that emanate from landscapes—into a research and application focus. Our conceptual framework of soundscape ecology is based on the causes and consequences of biological (biophony), geophysical (geophony), and human-produced (anthrophony) sounds. We argue that soundscape ecology shares many parallels with landscape ecology, and it should therefore be considered a branch of this maturing field. We propose a research agenda for soundscape ecology that includes six areas: (1) measurement and analytical challenges, (2) spatial-temporal dynamics, (3) soundscape linkage to environmental covariates, (4) human impacts on the soundscape, (5) soundscape impacts on humans, and (6) soundscape impacts on ecosystems. We present case studies that illustrate different approaches to understanding soundscape dynamics. Because soundscapes are our auditory link to nature, we also argue for their prot...
Urban ecology is a field encompassing multiple disciplines and practical applications and has grown rapidly. However, the field is heterogeneous as a global inquiry with multiple theoretical and conceptual frameworks, variable research approaches, and a lack of coordination among multiple schools of thought and research foci. Here, we present an international consensus on how urban ecology can advance along multiple research directions. There is potential for the field to mature as a holistic, integrated science of urban systems. Such an integrated science could better inform decisionmakers who need increased understanding of complex relationships among social, ecological, economic, and built infrastructure systems. To advance the field requires conceptual synthesis, knowledge and data sharing, cross-city comparative research, new intellectual networks, and engagement with additional disciplines. We consider challenges and opportunities for understanding dynamics of urban systems. We suggest pathways for advancing urban ecology research to support the goals of improving urban sustainability and resilience, conserving urban biodiversity, and promoting human well-being on an urbanizing planet.
The release of extracellular vesicles (EVs), including exosomes and microvesicles, is a phenomenon shared by many cell types as a means of communicating with other cells and also potentially removing cell contents. The cargo of EVs includes the proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and membrane receptors of the cells from which they originate. EVs released into the extracellular space can enter body fluids and potentially reach distant tissues. Once taken up by neighboring and/or distal cells, EVs can transfer functional cargo that may alter the status of recipient cells, thereby contributing to both physiological and pathological processes. In this article, we will focus on EV composition, mechanisms of uptake, and their biological effects on recipient cells. We will also discuss established and recently developed methods used to study EVs, including isolation, quantification, labeling and imaging protocols, as well as RNA analysis.