Post-doctoral Research

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Now showing 1 - 5 of 6
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    Origin of climatic data can determine the transferability of species distribution models
    (2020) Datta, A.; Schweiger, O.; Kühn, I.
    Methodological research on species distribution modelling (SDM) has so far largely focused on the choice of appropriate modelling algorithms and variable selection approaches, but the consequences of choosing amongst different sources of environmental data has scarcely been investigated. Bioclimatic variables are commonly used as predictors in SDMs. Currently, several online databases offer the same sets of bioclimatic variables, but they differ in underlying source of raw data and method of data processing (extrapolation and downscaling). In this paper, we asked whether predictive performance and spatial transferability of SDMs are affected by the choice of two different bioclimatic databases viz. WorldClim 2 and Chelsa 1.2. We used presence-absence data of the invasive plant Ageratina adenophora from the Western Himalaya for training SDMs and a set of independently-collected presence-only datasets from the Central and Eastern Himalaya to evaluate the transferability of the SDMs beyond the training range. We found that the performance of SDMs was, to a large degree, affected by the choice of the climatic dataset. Models calibrated on Chelsa 1.2 outperformed WorldClim 2 in terms of internal evaluation on the calibration dataset. However, when the model was transferred beyond the calibration range to the Central and Eastern Himalaya, models based on WorldClim 2 performed substantially better. We recommend that, in addition to the choice of predictor variables, the choice of predictor datasets with these variables should not be based merely on subjective decision whenever several options are available. Instead, such decisions should be based on robust evaluation of the most appropriate dataset for a given geographic region and species being modelled. Moreover, decisions could also depend on the objective of the study, i.e. projecting within the calibration range or beyond. Therefore, a quantitative evaluation of predictor datasets from alternative sources should be routinely performed as an integral part of the modelling procedure.
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    Sex ratio rather than population size affects genetic diversity in Antennaria dioica
    (German Society for Plant Sciences and The Royal Botanical Society of the Netherlands, 2018) Rosche, C.; Schrieber, K.; Lachmuth, S.; Durka, W.; Hirsch, H.; Wagner, V.; Schleuning, M.; Hensen, I.
    • Habitat fragmentation and small population size can lead to genetic erosion in threatened plant populations. Classical theory implies that dioecy can counteract genetic erosion as it decreases the magnitude of inbreeding and genetic drift due to obligate outcrossing. However, in small populations, sex ratios may be strongly male- or female-biased, leading to substantial reductions in effective population size. This may theoretically result in a unimodal relationship between sex ratios and genetic diversity;yet, empirical studies on this relationship are scarce. • Using AFLP markers, we studied genetic diversity, structure and differentiation in 14 highly fragmented Antennaria dioica populations from the Central European lowlands. Our analyses focused on the relationship between sex ratio, population size and genetic diversity. • Although most populations were small (mean: 35.5 patches), genetic diversity was moderately high. We found evidence for isolation-by-distance, but overall differentiation of the populations was rather weak. Females dominated 11 populations, which overall resulted in a slightly female-biased sex ratio (61.5%). There was no significant relationship between population size and genetic diversity. The proportion of females was not unimodally but positively linearly related to genetic diversity. • The high genetic diversity and low genetic differentiation suggest that A. dioica has been widely distributed in the Central European lowlands in the past, while fragmentation occurred only in the last decades. Sex ratio has more immediate consequences on genetic diversity than population size. An increasing proportion of females can increase genetic diversity in dioecious plants, probably due to a higher amount of sexual reproduction.
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    Climate change leads to increasing population density and impacts of a key island invader
    (Ecological Society of America, 2018) McClelland, G.T.W.; Altwegg, R.; van Aarde, R.J.; Ferreira, S.; Burger, A.E.; Chown, S.L.
    The considerable threats of invasive rodents to island biodiversity are likely to be compounded by climate change. Forecasts for such interactions have been most pronounced for the Southern Ocean islands where ameliorating conditions are expected to decrease thermal and resource restrictions on rodents. Firm evidence for changing rodent populations in response to climate change, and demonstrations of associated impacts on the terrestrial environment, are nonetheless entirely absent for the region. Using data collected over three decades on sub-Antarctic Marion Island, we tested empirically whether mouse populations have changed through time and whether these changes can be associated significantly with changing abiotic conditions. Changes in invertebrate populations, which have previously been attributed to mouse predation, but with little explicit demographic analysis, were also examined to determine whether they can be associated with changing mouse populations. The total number of mice on the island at annual peak density increased by 430.0% between 1979–1980 and 2008–2011. This increase was due to an advanced breeding season, which was robustly related to the number of precipitation-free days during the non-breeding season. Mice directly reduced invertebrate densities, with biomass losses of up to two orders of magnitude in some habitats. Such invertebrate declines are expected to have significant consequences for ecosystem processes over the long term. Our results demonstrate that as climate change continues to create ameliorating conditions for invasive rodents on sub-Antarctic islands, the severity of their impacts will increase. They also emphasize the importance of rodent eradication for the restoration of invaded islands.
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    The ecological integrity of the lower Olifants River, Limpopo province, South Africa: 2009-2015-Part B: Tributaries of the Olifants River
    (Taylor & Francis, 2017) Marr, S.M.; Mohlala, T.D.; Swemmer, A.
    Monitoring on the Lowveld reaches of the Olifants River, Limpopo River System, and its Steelpoort, Blyde, Klaserie and Selati tributaries was initiated in 2009. Analysis of the 2009–2015 data from four Olifants River sites showed deterioration in the river’s ecological condition between where it enters the Lowveld and where it enters the Kruger National Park, with a slight recovery within the Kruger National Park. Physico-chemical, aquatic macroinvertebrate and fish data collected in 2009–2015 at six sites on the Steelpoort, Blyde, Klaserie and Selati tributaries of the Olifants River corroborated the ecological condition of these tributaries. The Selati was the most polluted and was in a critically modified condition, whereas the Klaserie and Steelpoort were in fair condition and the Blyde was in good condition. The Selati appeared to have a significant negative impact on the water quality, macroinvertebrates and fish of the Olifants River within the Kruger National Park.
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    A global database of ant species abundances
    (Ecological Society of America, 2017) Gibb, H.; Dunn, R.R.; Sanders, N.J.; Grossman, B.F.; Photakis, M.; Abril, S.; Agosti, D.; Andersen, A.N.; Angulo, E.; Armbrecht, I.; Arnan, X.; Baccaro, F.B.; Bishop, T.R.; et al.
    What forces structure ecological assemblages? A key limitation to general insights about assemblage structure is the availability of data that are collected at a small spatial grain (local assemblages) and a large spatial extent (global coverage). Here, we present published and unpublished data from 51 ,388 ant abundance and occurrence records of more than 2,693 species and 7,953 morphospecies from local assemblages collected at 4,212 locations around the world. Ants were selected because they are diverse and abundant globally, comprise a large fraction of animal biomass in most terrestrial communities, and are key contributors to a range of ecosystem functions. Data were collected between 1949 and 2014, and include, for each geo-referenced sampling site, both the identity of the ants collected and details of sampling design, habitat type, and degree of disturbance. The aim of compiling this data set was to provide comprehensive species abundance data in order to test relationships between assemblage structure and environmental and biogeographic factors. Data were collected using a variety of standardized methods, such as pitfall and Winkler traps, and will be valuable for studies investigating large-scale forces structuring local assemblages. Understanding such relationships is particularly critical under current rates of global change. We encourage authors holding additional data on systematically collected ant assemblages, especially those in dry and cold, and remote areas, to contact us and contribute their data to this growing data set.