Examples of mathematical representations of functional diversity.

Review: Diving into the multiple ways to measure how species function

Stefano Mammola, Carlos P. Carmona, Thomas Guillerme, Pedro Cardoso Organisms, species, and sets of species interact and perform functions in the environment in ways that we are just starting to unravel. Quantifying how much such functions and interactions contribute to our own well-being through so-called ecosystem services is growing in importance. Scientists are doing so by measuring species traits, defined as any characteristic of a … Continue reading Review: Diving into the multiple ways to measure how species function

Trampling by large animals and human activities shape polar tundra soils.

Review: Stomping in silence: Conceptualizing trampling effects on soils in polar tundra

Maria Tuomi, Maria Väisänen, Henni Ylänne, Francis Q. Brearley, Isabel C Barrio, Kari Anne Bråthen, Isabell Eischeid, Bruce C. Forbes, Ingibjörg S. Jónsdóttir, Anders L. Kolstad, Petr Macek, Matteo Petit Bon, James D. M. Speed, Sari Stark, Kristin Svavarsdóttir, Jóhann Thórsson, C. Guillermo Bueno Across the world, soils are impacted by disturbances caused by trampling of large animals and us, humans, as well as by … Continue reading Review: Stomping in silence: Conceptualizing trampling effects on soils in polar tundra

Review: A unifying, eco-physiological framework for animal dormancy

Kathryn Wilsterman, Mallory A. Ballinger and Caroline M. Williams Animals across the tree of life, from fruit flies to bears, express some form of programmed dormancy to get through periods of the year that have low resources availability. For the most part, these dormancies are studied in silos that focus on closely related organisms, like mammals or insects; researchers working on insect dormancies rarely interact … Continue reading Review: A unifying, eco-physiological framework for animal dormancy

Review: The inducible defenses of large mammals to human lethality

Robert A. Montgomery, David W. Macdonald,  Matthew W. Hayward A key area of ecological inquiry is the evolution of defense mechanisms induced by a previous encounter with a biotic agent, whether that be a consumer or a competitor. Research has now catalogued many morphological and behavioral adaptations of hosts to their parasites, of plants to their herbivores, and of prey to their predators. Within predator-prey … Continue reading Review: The inducible defenses of large mammals to human lethality

Review: How do you know an animal is stressed?

Brenna M.G. Gormally, L. Michael Romero             Scientists across disciplines including medicine, psychology, and even wildlife conservation are interested in understanding what it means to be ‘stressed’. As humans, we typically associate stress with negative feelings, usually of anxiety. This characterization, however, is an over-simplification of the phenomenon of ‘stress’ in the scientific world. While long-term stress can lead to harmful side effects including immunosuppression, … Continue reading Review: How do you know an animal is stressed?

Hypothetical trade-offs involved in seed dispersal by (A) bolder and (B) more cautious individuals, illustrated with an example of a seed caching squirrel. Red boxes denote animal decisions that are likely unfavorable to plants; green boxes denote favorable ones. Size of the boxes reflects relative probability of a given decision for bold vs. shy animals. Illustration credit: Emily Underwood.

How well animals help plants by dispersing seeds can depend on the animal’s personality

Rafał Zwolak and Andrew Sih Personalities are not exclusively a human trait. Animals, from insects to primates, also show consistent behavioral tendencies. Even within the same species, some individuals are bolder and others more cautious; some are more and others less social; some are very active and others rather idle. These differences are likely to influence a multitude of important ecological processes. We argue that … Continue reading How well animals help plants by dispersing seeds can depend on the animal’s personality

Review: How fruits have evolved to “talk” to animals

Kim Valenta and Omer Nevo Wild fruits come in an incredible diversity of colors, shapes, smells, and sizes. This diversity has puzzled scientists for well over a century. Because many animals rely on fruits as important food sources, and many plants rely on animals as seed dispersers, it has been suggested that fruiting plants, and the animals that disperse their seeds, have coevolved. The dispersal … Continue reading Review: How fruits have evolved to “talk” to animals

Non-native lodgepole pines spreading across New Zealand grasslands (Photo: S. J. Sapsford)

How can we predict impacts of non-native species in the environment?

Sarah J. Sapsford, Angela J. Brandt, Kimberley T. Davis, Guadalupe Peralta, Ian A. Dickie, Robert D. Gibson II, Joanna L. Green, Philip E. Hulme, Martin A. Nuñez, Kate H. Orwin, Anibal Pauchard, David A. Wardle, Duane A. Peltzer Many species of plants, animals and microbes have been introduced to new ecosystems, either accidentally or deliberately. In either case, these introduced species are non-native and can … Continue reading How can we predict impacts of non-native species in the environment?

Environmental change and the evolution of genomes: Transposable elements as translators of phenotypic plasticity into genotypic variability

Sergio Pimpinelli and Lucia Piacentini Phenotypic plasticity is defined as the capacity of a single genotype to exhibit a broad spectrum of phenotypes in response to changing environmental conditions. Such a phenomenon is generally explained as the result of molecular mechanisms (‘epigenetic’ mechanisms) modifying gene expression without altering the underlying DNA sequence. However, the biology of transposable elements, DNA fragments capable of moving themselves from … Continue reading Environmental change and the evolution of genomes: Transposable elements as translators of phenotypic plasticity into genotypic variability

Review: Microplastics might harm our soils, but how will soil organisms change their impact?

Maxwell S. Helmberger, Lisa K Tiemann and Matthew J.Grieshop, Microplastics—tiny plastic beads, fragments, and fibers released from personal care products, plastic waste, and laundering of synthetic fabrics—have long been understood to contaminate the ocean. Only recently have scientists learned they’re also prevalent in the soils human society depends on. It’s important to understand the threat microplastics pose to soils so we can safeguard them for … Continue reading Review: Microplastics might harm our soils, but how will soil organisms change their impact?