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Expanded view of the local-regional richness relationship by incorporating functional richness and time: a large-scale perspective

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Aim We investigate the relationship between local and regional richness in marine fouling assemblages using an expanded and globally replicated approach by incorporating two dimensions of diversity (taxonomic and functional) and different successional stages. Location Global. Methods In eight different biogeographic regions (Australia, Brazil, Chile, England, Italy, Japan, Portugal and Sweden) 68 polyvinylchloride (PVC) panels (15 x 15 x 0.3 cm) were deployed for colonization. Communities colonizing panels were analysed by measuring percentage cover at each of four different successional ages: 2, 4, 6 and 8 months. Local richness was assessed as the average number of species and functional groups (FGs) per panel and regional richness was evaluated as the estimated (Jack2) asymptote of the sample-accumulation curves for species and FG on experimental panels. Results We found that the shape of the relationship between local and regional richness depended on successional stage and the type of richness considered, i.e. taxonomic or functional richness. Hardly any relationship was detectable between local taxonomic richness and regional taxonomic richness at any successional stage. In contrast, the relation between local functional and regional functional richness shows a unimodal pattern of change during succession, passing through the stages 'independent', 'unsaturated rising', 'saturated rising' and once again 'independent'. Main conclusions The relationship between local and regional richness, whether taxonomic or functional, frequently displays independence of the two scales, particularly in early and late phases of the successional process.

Tree Diversity Explains Variation in Ecosystem Function in a Neotropical Forest in Panama

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Many experimental studies show that a decline in species number has a negative effect on ecosystem function, however less is known about this pattern in natural communities. We examined the relative importance of environment, space, and diversity on ecosystem function, specifically tree carbon storage in four plant types (understory/canopy; trees/palms), in a tropical forest in central Panama. The objectives of this study were to detect the relationship between tree diversity and carbon storage given the environmental and spatial variation that occur in natural forests and to determine which species diversity measure is more important to tree carbon storage: richness or dominance. We used redundancy analyses to partition the effect of these sources of variation on tree carbon storage. We showed that together, environment, space, and diversity accounted for 43 percent of tree carbon storage, where diversity (19%) alone is the most important source of variation and explained more variation than space (13%) and environment (1%) together. Therefore, even in natural forests where substantial environment and spatial variation can be found, it is still possible to detect the effect of diversity on ecosystem function at scales relevant to conservation. Moreover, both richness and dominance are important to explain the variation on tree carbon storage in natural forests suggesting that these two diversity measures are complementary. Thus, tree diversity is important to predict tree carbon storage in hyperdiverse forests. Abstract in Spanish is available at

Examination of gully sites on Mars with the shallow radar

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Martian gullies, found on steep slopes along broad mid-latitudinal bands, have morphologies resembling those of water-carved gullies on Earth and have been dated to <10 Ma. As such, one of the leading hypotheses, though not unique, is that martian gullies formed by the flow of liquid water in the very recent geologic past. Since the permittivity of liquid water is about one order of magnitude higher than that of most silicates, it is plausible that subsurface geologic interfaces involving liquid water may be detected via ground penetrating radar. We have surveyed a substantive portion of the martian gully population with data from the Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument, on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), in search of strong subsurface radar reflections indicative of the presence of liquid water reservoirs, which would serve as sources to the flows occurring within gullies. No such reflections are found at most of the locations surveyed, suggesting that either liquid water is not likely present in detectable amounts or that the shallow martian subsurface is unusually electrically conductive (i.e., lossy) at all of the locations examined. Strong subsurface reflections occur in the vicinity of gullies at two locations in the northern lowlands: Arcadia and southeastern Utopia Planitiae. In both cases, the reflectors occur at a range in depth of 45 to 90 m, considering a range in permittivity of 3 to 10, and -20 to -30 dB weaker than the surface reflection. In the case or Arcadia, the reflector corresponds to the eastern edge of Plaut et al.'s (2009) extensive radar subsurface unit; in both Arcadia and Utopia we interpret the reflectors as ground ice. Though our results offer a general assessment of the gully population, SHARAD is continuing its survey of gully rich locations.

Phylogenetic Analysis of Local-Scale Tree Soil Associations in a Lowland Moist Tropical Forest

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Background: Local plant-soil associations are commonly studied at the species-level, while associations at the level of nodes within a phylogeny have been less well explored. Understanding associations within a phylogenetic context, however, can improve our ability to make predictions across systems and can advance our understanding of the role of evolutionary history in structuring communities. Methodology/Principal Findings: Here we quantified evolutionary signal in plant-soil associations using a DNA sequence-based community phylogeny and several soil variables (e. g., extractable phosphorus, aluminum and manganese, pH, and slope as a proxy for soil water). We used published plant distributional data from the 50-ha plot on Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Republic of Panama. Our results suggest some groups of closely related species do share similar soil associations. Most notably, the node shared by Myrtaceae and Vochysiaceae was associated with high levels of aluminum, a potentially toxic element. The node shared by Apocynaceae was associated with high extractable phosphorus, a nutrient that could be limiting on a taxon specific level. The node shared by the large group of Laurales and Magnoliales was associated with both low extractable phosphorus and with steeper slope. Despite significant node-specific associations, this study detected little to no phylogeny-wide signal. We consider the majority of the 'traits' (i.e., soil variables) evaluated to fall within the category of ecological traits. We suggest that, given this category of traits, phylogeny-wide signal might not be expected while node-specific signals can still indicate phylogenetic structure with respect to the variable of interest. Conclusions: Within the BCI forest dynamics plot, distributions of some plant taxa are associated with local-scale differences in soil variables when evaluated at individual nodes within the phylogenetic tree, but they are not detectable by phylogeny-wide signal. Trends highlighted in this analysis suggest how plant-soil associations may drive plant distributions and diversity at the local-scale.

Understanding ecosystem retrogression

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Over time scales of thousands to millions of years, and in the absence of rejuvenating disturbances that initiate primary or early secondary succession, ecosystem properties such as net primary productivity, decomposition, and rates of nutrient cycling undergo substantial declines termed ecosystem retrogression. Retrogression results from the depletion or reduction in the availability of nutrients, and can only be reversed through rejuvenating disturbance that resets the system; this differs from age-related declines in forest productivity that are driven by shorter-term depression of nutrient availability and plant ecophysiological process rates that occur during succession. Here we review and synthesize the findings from studies of long-term chronosequences that include retrogressive stages for systems spanning the boreal, temperate, and subtropical zones. Ecosystem retrogression has been described by ecologists, biogeochemists, geologists, and pedologists, each of which has developed somewhat independent conceptual frameworks; our review seeks to unify this literature in order to better understand the causes and consequences of retrogression. Studies of retrogression have improved our knowledge of how long-term pedogenic changes drive shorter-term biological processes, as well as the consequences of these changes for ecosystem development. Our synthesis also reveals that similar patterns of retrogression (involving reduced soil fertility, predictable shifts in organismic traits, and ecological processes) occur in systems with vastly different climatic regimes, geologic substrates, and vegetation types, even though the timescales and mechanisms driving retrogression may vary greatly among sites. Studies on retrogression also provide evidence that in many regions, high biomass or "climax" forests are often transient, and do not persist indefinitely in the absence of rejuvenating disturbance. Finally, our review highlights that studies on retrogressive chronosequences in contrasting regions provide unparalleled opportunities for developing general principles about the long-term feedbacks between biological communities and pedogenic processes, and how these control ecosystem development.
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