Peer-reviewed articles on the important, everyday components of our work lives

Blog written by Meghan Duffy, Associate Editor for Academic Practice in Ecology and Evolution

A few years ago, I did a study of last and corresponding authorship practices in ecology. I thought the results were interesting and might be useful to others, so started to think about writing it up for publication. But, when I did, I realized I had a problem: I wanted the paper to be seen by ecologists, but I wasn’t sure of what ecology journal might be willing to publish such a piece.

It turns out I wasn’t alone in feeling like we needed a venue for this sort of study in a journal that focuses on ecology and evolution. Many ecologists and evolutionary biologists are in positions where much of their time is spent in teaching and service roles. Even research intensive positions often involve leading teams, writing grants, sitting on review panels, and networking. Thus, while much of our training focuses on how to carry out our own research, many of us are in positions where we need to do so much more than that. And we need ways to learn and reflect on the skills and concepts that deal with these other aspects of our scientific lives.

When the Academic Practice section was announced in 2017, the call noted:

“As ecologists and evolutionary biologists, we apply scholarly approaches to the myriad roles we have undertaken in our professions. Publishing about such new knowledge and advances in our ‘roles’ (e.g., teaching, service, outreach, professional development, and change) typically occurs in a range of transdisciplinary journals. Tracking down this literature, in what can be disparate fields of research, is time‐consuming and can prevent groundbreaking ideas from being more generally acknowledged and ultimately implemented in the day‐to‐day.

Our new category “Academic Practice” is intended to remedy this situation and bring high‐quality studies … to the attention of our readers.”

Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 12.53.30 pm

In the end, my paper was the first official “Academic Practice in Ecology & Evolution” paper published by Ecology & Evolution, though the journal had already published a few articles along these lines prior to this official call (this paper by Fox & Burns was published in 2015 and this Fox et al. paper was published in 2016). I now am the Associate Editor who handles the Academic Practice submissions. You can now identify a paper as suitable for this section upon submission, which leads it into a system where Jennifer Firn is assigned as the Editor and me as the Associate Editor. When reading the submissions, I often think of how they are like really interesting, data driven blog posts that I would read anyway. So, in this post, I wanted to briefly highlight five recent publications in this section (selected with help from Jennifer!) which cover topics from grant writing to teaching to how we actually do our science to publishing to mentoring:

    • Teaching: Farrell & Carey wrote about activities aimed at developing computational literacy that they incorporated into undergraduate ecology courses, arguing that such training is important but currently lacking in the undergraduate ecology curriculum. They found that two modules that teach students how to analyze large scale datasets and to carry out simulation modeling led to students reporting significantly increased proficiency and confidence in their use of Excel and R and in computer programming in general, though did not significantly impact students self-reported likelihood of using Excel, R, or computer programming.
  • Research: Craven et al. analyzed changes in the interdisciplinarity of biodiversity science, analyzing almost 100,000 papers published over a 20 year period. They found that concept and subdiscipline diversity in biodiversity science have decreased over time, arguing that this reflects consolidation of the discipline around core concepts.
  • Publishing: Paine & Fox analyzed the effectiveness of journals as arbiters of scientific impact, using a survey of over 12,000 authors and data on almost 17,000 rounds of manuscript submission. This study has a wealth of really interesting results, including finding that ~65% of manuscripts were published in the first journal to which they were submitted (this surprised me!) and that, for those manuscripts that were rejected, 78% of were submitted to a journal with a lower impact factor. Based on the number of citations that a manuscript received after publication compared to the journals that rejected it, the authors concluded that the peer review system is an effective judge of the likely impact of a paper.
    • Grant writing: In contrast to Paine & Fox’s conclusion that journals (and peer review) are effective at judging likely impact, Roger Cousens argues that grant allocation systems are highly influenced by chance, and then goes on to present his personal conclusions regarding the factors that contribute to variation in the assessment of grant proposals, as well as his suggestions of things we could change. He argues against a lottery system (arguing that this would lead to less well-developed projects), and for grant agencies being more clear about their expectations.
  • Mentoring: Mentorship is such an important part of many of our jobs, but also something we receive very little formal training in. Thus, it didn’t surprise me to see this paper by Hund et al. zipping around social media when it first came out! They explain why good mentoring is so important, some of the unique challenges associated with mentoring in academia, and talk about a course that they developed and taught at the University of Colorado that focused on mentoring.

I was recently at a day-long event at Michigan that focused on discipline-based education research (DBER). At it, people kept saying that they struggle with where to publish this work — if they want to influence practice, it makes sense to publish in disciplinary journals, but often disciplinary journals don’t accept these kinds of articles. It reminded me that we are lucky to have a forum for articles about all of those parts of our day-to-day work lives.

Many of the articles that have been published in the Academic Practice section are now spotlighted here; that spotlight will be updated periodically. If you have questions about a potential submission, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or Jennifer!

What can you do to increase diversity in our (academic) sector?

Willa Huston, Charles Cranfield, Shari Forbes, and Andy Leigh

Read the full article here

There is lots of evidence and increasing awareness that workplaces that are genuinely diverse and inclusive are often found to not only be more innovative and successful, but also report their staff having higher levels of wellbeing and happiness. Diverse and inclusive workplace cultures are hard to achieve as shifting embedded culture and practise takes time and there needs to be a willingness to change from upper management, in particular. In academia, the competitive nature of funding and publishing are a common excuse used to de-rail conversations and attempts to install new flexible, inclusive practises, or to recruit a more diverse profile of employees. Even though there are more and more reports and evidence of bias influencing recruitment, conference and seminar invitations, funding review panels and publication peer review. We know that increasing diversity and inclusion is a moral imperative, but more than that, we know that it will benefit us all, even those already successful in academia.

The efforts of individuals can make a difference. We should not just rely on institutional practices. As a group of like-minded academics keen to make a difference to our workforce, we set out to reflect on our own practises and recognised that we were engaging, in an ad hoc, way with sponsorship. This led us to explore and develop a plan for how we can recognise and strategically use sponsorship as a tool to help increase diversity and inclusivity in our own organisations, academia, and the STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths, and medicine) sector.

We note that sponsorship is just one activity, and we acknowledge our contribution is just one element that alone will not make a difference. We highlight that there are many national, institutional, and individual efforts to address diversity and inclusion in STEMM. It seems like an exciting time where a whole of sector change is underway. We hope to see an increased culture of diversity and inclusion across academia during our careers.

Examples of individual initiatives include

  • #just1action4WiS – Dame Professor Athene Donald’s list of actions (many of which a sponsor might do)
  • Inspiring and increasing awareness- such as Professor Imogen Coe’s (@imogenrcoephd) TEDx talk ‘change the numbers’[1] (see TEDx talk)
  • Showcasing female role models in STEM, e.g. Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott’s work [2] (blog, @lappinscott)
  • Professor Jenny Martin’s guide to achieving gender equity in conferences (show-me-the-policy, blog, @Jenny_STEM [3]),
  • And social media movements, like the anti-sexual harassment movement commenced by Tarana Burke, and amplified by Alyssa Mylano (#MeToo), has also been taken up by women in STEMM (#MeTooSTEM) [4] (including Assistant Professor BethAnn McLaughlin, Tarana Burke, and Dr Sherry Marts who won the “2018 MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award).

*note, one of these advocates has recently had a tenure decision overturned (see article here), and we highlight that there are penalties for advocacy activities that sponsors should try to protect their protégé’s against such risks.

So what exactly is sponsorship?

Even if you aren’t sure what sponsorship is, you are probably already doing it!

Sponsorship is not the same as mentorship, which is defined by psychosocial support. Sponsorship is proactive and instrumental in helping to advance a career [5]. As a sponsor, you will use your influence and facilitate opportunities that benefit your protégé [6].

Sponsorship often benefits from a previous or existing mentoring relationship, as a sponsor is required to exert their influence to benefit and strategically position the protégé.

So what can we do about it?

You can sponsor now, and you probably already do. However, you should reflect and make sure you are sponsoring in a diverse and inclusive way. We term this ‘organic sponsorship’.  Whilst we talk about ‘leadershipand developing leaders in our article, we think everyone, at every level, can do some form of sponsorship, as we can’t leave sponsorship just up to our managers. We should all be trying to increase diversity and inclusion at every career stage and opportunity.

We also propose an institutional approach in our article. You could use your influence to convince leaders in your own institution to adopt a programmatic approach to enabling and supporting sponsorship. Of course, for an institutional approach to succeed, we recommend considering incentives, training (especially in unconscious bias and inclusive practises), professional development opportunities, and even diversity targets to complement and support an organisation-wide sponsorship program.

What are examples of sponsorship in academia?

We have created a list, by no means exhaustive, of the types of activities sponsors in academia might do. We hope, on this blog, to grow this list and start a conversation about sponsorship.

Sponsorship activities in academia could include:

  • Encouraging or facilitating the protégé to apply for strategic and positive development opportunities.
  • Taking opportunities to name, positively identify and recommend the protégé and their achievements when they are not present; for example, when academic leaders are talking with their peers and put forward their protégé’s name. This is an important activity, given previous reports of a backlash effect, or hidden penalties, some women experience when they self-advocate [7].
  • Specifically facilitating protection of the protégé from higher risk, or less supportive members of the senior executive.
  • Advocating within the institution for financial support for the protégé’s development, such as professional development programs or leadership training schemes.
  • Leveraging organisational commitment to support all protégés to participate in support programs, particularly professional coaching.
  • If organising, or asked to contribute to a conference or seminar program, putting forward the protégé to be an invited speaker or session Chair.
  • Ensuring that the protégé is invited as a member on institutional panels or delegations to other institutions.
  • Introducing the protégé to key international and national level leaders and showcasing their strengths.
  • Introducing and asking for invited seminar opportunities for the protégé when they are travelling into an area where the sponsor has networks.
  • Facilitating or providing opportunities for the person to ‘step up’ or temporarily act in senior roles, thus developing their leadership profile.
  • Providing/advocating for external opportunities.
  • Advising on access to allowances, salary loadings, and even lobbying on behalf of the protégé to have an additional salary loading or allowance if inequities relevant to peers are apparent. This approach has actually been reported to benefit sponsorship programs in industry [8].
  • Deliberately setting out to use one’s leadership role or profile to create opportunities for the protégé, such as:
    • introducing and recommending the protégé to industry, relevant government or public agency representatives;
    • implementing new leadership roles or committees to address needs in the institution and providing a leadership role for the protégé (e.g. deputy roles, committees around expanding areas such as diversity and inclusion)
  • Ensuring that the protégé is aware of and considered for professional development opportunities, such as leadership workshops, coaching, editorial roles, board membership, membership of external bodies, or leadership roles in professional associations. This action may include the need to encourage and even assist the protégé to apply for such opportunities directly in addition to bringing it to their attention.
  • Where roles tend to be based on networks and recommendations (e.g. editorial boards), advocating for the protégé to be invited to the role.
  • Encouraging the inclusion of the protégé as an investigator on large ventures that have room for multiple participants (like large grants/projects).
  • Providing opportunities for the protégé to take senior authorship on research publications.
  • Actively seeking to create diverse and gender balanced teams/research groups/committees that encourage each individual to mentor and support each other (we expect there may be some explicit requirements by the institution for diversity targets for formal executive teams or committees).

Summary and Call to Action

We hope that our blog and article have you thinking about sponsorship for inclusivity and diversity, whether you agree with our suggested action items or our overall plan to implement sponsorship within an institution. We invite comments or ideas of more ways to sponsor through this blog and look forward to sharing our own successes and failures with our peers in the future.

References

  1. Coe, I. TEDx Talk: Change the Numbers. 2016; Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63xTTTYWEQ8.
  2. Lappin-Scott, L. To get more women in STEM little girls need better role models. The Conversation 2017; Available from: https://theconversation.com/to-get-more-women-in-stem-little-girls-need-better-role-models-70763.
  3. Martin, J.L., Ten Simple Rules to Achieve Conference Speaker Gender Balance. PLoS Computation Biology, 2014. 10: p. e1003903.
  4. #MeToo has moved beyond Hollywood and into STEM. Women of Colour Magazine 2018 [cited 14/09/2018; Available from: http://womenofcolor.online/article_list/metoo-has-moved-beyond-hollywood-and-into-stem/.
  5. Cao, J. and Y. Yang. What are Mentoring and Sponsoring and How do they Impact Organizations? Cornell University, ILR School 2013 [cited 2017 22/06/2017]; Available from: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/student/30/.
  6. Helms, M.M., D.E. Arfken, and S. Bellar, The importance of mentoring and sponsorship in women’s career development. SAM Advanced Management Journal 2016. 81(3): p. 4.
  7. Workplace Gender Equity Agency, A.G., Supporting careers: mentoring or sponsorship? Perspective Paper. 2016.
  8. Hewlett, S.A., Forget a mentor, find a sponsor: The new way to fast-track your career. 2013, Harvard: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.

Aussie forests in distress – A call for interventions

Written by Vithya Krishnan. Click here to read the full article.

The Great Sandy National Park region in Queensland, Australia is a special place for many reasons including its very unique ecosystems and soil dynamics where majestic tropical forests rich in biodiversity are literally growing on pure sand 1,2,3,4.

 

This region supports a unique variety of plant communities ranging from coastal open woodlands to rainforests thriving on sand of different ages and nutrient availability. One unique ecosystem and the focus of our study is the wet-sclerophyll forests found on K’gari (Fraser Island), Queensland.

The case for an endemic species – Syncarpia hillii

Wet‐sclerophyll forests are rare ecosystems that can transition to dry‐sclerophyll forests or to rainforests. Australian wet-sclerophyll forests are dominated by trees in the Myrtaceae family, including Eucalyptus species. Generally, these forests require fire for survival and regeneration; without which could lead to their eventual loss and a transition to a rainforest5.

On K’gari, these forests are home to the narrowly endemic species Syncarpia hillii and the more widely distributed Lophostemon confertus. They are listed as an “of concern” regional ecosystem with ~10,000 hectares remaining6.

Understanding the dynamics of these forests for conservation is limited. Little is known about Syncarpia hillii, and the loss of wet-sclerophyll habitats could affect endangered animals (e.g. glider possums, powerful owl) that live in these forests7.

Brief history of K’gari

Traditional Butchulla landowners managed K’gari’s ecosystems through frequent burning prior to European interference from the mid-19th century; fire management changed to infrequent high intensity fires with the takeover8. Syncarpia hillii was found to be resistant to marine borers and was heavily logged for construction of the Suez Canal. Logging stopped in 1991 when the island was recommended for World Heritage status9.

picture1State Library of Queensland, McKenzie’s Tramway Locomotive, Fraser Island, Queensland ca. 1920.

What did we do?                                                                                           

Motivated by the need to direct conservation efforts, we analysed long-term experimental plots of wet-sclerophyll forest on Fraser Island, Queensland. These plots were originally set up by the Queensland Forestry Department in 1952 and regular measurement of trees were made till 1989. Trees with a diameter at breast height (DBH) of 10 cm or larger were measured, identified according to species, and their locations within plots mapped.

In the 2016-2017 period, we returned to remeasure existing and new trees in three 0.4-hectare plots that were previously established. According to historical records, these three plots have been subjected to varying degrees of selective logging, fire, and cyclone disturbance between 1952 to 1989.

picture2

Syncarpia hillii – Lophostemon confertus wet-sclerophyll forests in K’gari, Queensland.

What did the forest look like in 1952?

Syncarpia hillii and Lophostemon confertus were the main species found in all plots. Others such as Agathis robusta, Eucalyptus microcorys, and Eucalyptus pilularis were also present but in smaller numbers. The plots were subjected to heavy logging and fire before 1952 (circa 1915).

What do they look like today?

In general, our results suggest that Syncarpia hillii–Lophostemon confertus are maintaining their dominance in the canopy, but they are also being out competed by rainforest trees.

Rainforest species have recruited an average of 150 individuals between 1983 to 2017 in each plot compared to an average of 30 S. hillii and 25 L. confertus individuals.

The two most common rainforest species were pioneer trees Schizomeria ovata and Backhousia myrtifolia which occur in the upper canopy of rainforests on K’gari9.

picture3

Location of stems ≥ 10 cm DBH in 1952 and 2017 in 0.4-ha plot in Syncarpia hillii–Lophostemon confertus forests. The five main tree species are indicated by different colours, and sizes of dots represent DBH size classes as indicated.

 Are rainforests taking over?

It appears so.

Their fast establishment relative to Syncarpia hillii and Lophostemon confertus raises concern that rainforest may eventually replace the wet-sclerophyll forests studied here. It is possible that rainforest species recruitment was triggered by a cyclone event in 1975, creating gaps in the canopy for colonisation. Regardless, our 2017 survey detected the highest rate of recruitment in all plots, indicating favourable growth conditions for rainforest trees.

To burn or not to burn?

Both Syncarpia hillii and Lophostemon confertus are unlikely to sustain their presence over time in an unmanaged forest, that is, in the absence of fire or other interventions.

Studies in North Queensland and Tasmanian wet-sclerophyll forests have observed declines in dominant Eucalyptus species from lack of a suitable fire regime and subsequent encroachment of rainforest species7,10,11.

Fire exclusion confers a competitive advantage to rainforest species as they develop quickly and can subsequently reduce the likelihood of fire7.

While the pros and cons of rainforest expansion remains debated in Australia7, the restricted distribution of S. hilliiL. confertus forests to K’gari and the surrounding Cooloola region makes their conservation a priority.

Fire, however, is often negatively perceived by the public and attempts to reintroduce it for conservation purposes is difficult, especially in a tourist hotspot like K’gari.

Is all lost if fire cannot be used?

Unlikely, as wet-sclerophyll forests have been maintained by selective logging in Tasmania11, and perhaps to a lesser degree, in our studied plots. It is however, difficult to propose logging as a substitute on K’gari due to its World Heritage status, cessation of commercial logging 28 years ago, and the general debate over its suitability compared to fire.

How can we conserve these forests?

Improving knowledge on seed germination, early establishment, and the drivers of tree recruitment across a broader range of environmental conditions will improve predictions of species’ trajectories and the future of these wet-sclerophyll forests.

In addition, a collaboration between the Queensland state government and Butchulla landowners on best practices for conservation may substantially improve the longevity of Syncarpia hillii-Lophostemon confertus forests on K’gari.

picture4Possible future trajectory of Syncarpia hillii – Lophostemon confertus forests on K’gari.

An inner transformation – how trees change their plumbing during droughts

Written by Dr. David Tng

Mature rainforest trees in the tropics play an unprecedented role in the water balance of the planet. Within the trunk of every tree is a sophisticated plumbing (hydraulic) system that acts like a fountain, drawing water up from the soil and putting it out into the atmosphere through the process of transpiration. A single large mature tree may put out well over 100,000 litres of water into the atmosphere a year.

It is easy to understand therefore how rainforest trees are important for maintaining local climate and watersheds, and by extension, the importance of this ecosystem service to agricultural systems.

However, some worrisome trends have been forecasted for the coming decades, where tropical rainforests in many parts of the world are likely to face more severe or frequent droughts. This is foreboding for rainforest trees that are adapted to a regime of high rainfall.

Rightly so, ecologists and conservation scientists are concerned about what climate change may herald for tropical rainforest trees and forests.

Research on how drought affects plants is not new, but most such studies are limited to glasshouse experiments using seedlings or saplings, or to trees in plantations.

How does one go about studying changes in fully developed mature trees in a tropical forest? For Professor Susan Laurance at the James Cook University, the answer was an elegant one.

Set up an “umbrella” in the rainforest

In 2015, Professor Susan Laurance established the Daintree drought experiment within a 1-hectare forest monitoring plot in the lowland tropics of northeast Australia.

infrastructure from below small

 

Using an infrastructure of plastic sheets and metal troughs in the rainforest understorey, Prof. Laurance succeeded in reducing the rainfall that gets into half hectare of rainforest, to artificially create a drier dry season. The other half a hectare obtains the normal amount of rain.

Some drought experiments in the Brazilian Amazonian tropics have used similar setups, and there are also other smaller setups in Asia that had setups to exclude rainfall from individual trees. However, the Daintree drought experiment is the first which includes a canopy crane in the centre of the plot, allowing easy access to plant material 30m up in the forest canopy.

The purpose of the experiment is not to kill the trees, but to gain a better understanding of how mature trees respond to environmental stress. Specifically, we wanted to know whether there would be short-term changes in their hydraulic system when exposed drought in the field for two consecutive years.

Most work on plant responses to drought focus on making physiological measurements, but we chose an emphasis on wood anatomy, because stem vessels and associated tissues form the framework of the plumbing system in trees, and also because this aspect of drought response in plants has not been extensively studied. In previous work, we had demonstrated how wood anatomy can reveal the strategies trees use to conduct water, and so we hypothesized that different rainforest trees would respond differently to drought.

traits

 

Using the canopy crane, we sampled tree branches from four species of trees which we could find individuals of in both the drought-affected and non-drought affected areas of the forest, and we made anatomical examinations from the cut ends of these branches. We also examined some leaf features, such as leaf thickness and leaf water potentials, which would give us an indication of how dehydrated leaves are.

The inner transformation in trees

The baseline result is that we found a that the trees exposed to drought were undergoing an internal transformation in their wood anatomy, consistent having less water to use, and we published these results in a recent volume of Ecology and Evolution.

As we expected also, not all the species were changing in their wood anatomy in the same way.

Some species showed a shift in their vessel sizes towards having smaller vessels. Others species showed a shrinkage in ground tissue (parenchyma tissues) in their wood, likely reflecting the use of water stores. And one of the species even started to show blockages in their water conducting vessels.

myristica occlussions

 

We also found thinner leaves in most of our drought-affected trees, and our physiological measures on these leaves confirmed their dehydrated status.

Although there is no doubt that trees will die if droughts are severe or prolonged, what we can conclude from our study is that mature rainforest trees can modify their anatomy to some degree to acclimatize to drought. Also, the changes in the hydraulic properties of these trees would certainly reduce the ability of trees to transport water, and hence are put out less water into the atmosphere. We can speculate therefore that prolonged drought will ultimately lead to the degradation of the forest.

Knowing the limits on how trees of different species in species-rich tropical forests can acclimatize to droughts is an important avenue for future research, and we look forward to deeper insights on these issues with the ongoing Daintree drought experiment. We believe also that extending drought experiments to other tropical forest ecosystems such as swamp forests, mangroves, and mountain forests would be a priority for future research.

Interested in learning more about the Daintree drought experiment follow this link to watch a short video.

Ecology and Evolution in the Anthropocene

Eco_evo_blog_1_December_2018
Ecological and evolutionary evidence of the Anthropocene epoch is undeniable:  species showing changes in evolutionary history in response to humans, permanently altered environmental parameters—human signatures etched into the very crust of Earth— and changes in historical reference points when aiming to restore ecological systems. How to respond to these impacts are also being investigated more and more by ecologists and evolutionary biologists including re-valuing systems that are seen as acceptable or important to be studied, collaborative efforts in transdisciplinary research to find solutions and studies providing important recommendations on where to next.

 

The Anthropocene, the earth’s most recent, remarkably short, but impactful epoch in its long history where humans are now having a greater influence on earth’s features and processes than nature itself (Steffen et al. 2007).

Despite much academic debate around whether Earth is indeed experiencing a new epoch, here at Ecology and Evolution, we see direct evidence that ecologists and evolutionary biologists have adapted their research questions and methods to this new epoch; where since the 1940s humans have altered the Earth to such an extent its systems can no longer rebound to their original state (Kueffer and Kaiser-Bunbury 2014). Evidence suggests the signature of humans is now etched into the very crust of our planet with (Corlett 2015):

  • humans having increased greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere;
  • humans having caused ocean acidity;
  • humans having altered river systems;
  • humans having increased global and regional nitrogen and phosphorus cycles;
  • humans having created novel minerals as a result of radioactive fallout;
  • humans responsible for the species extinction rate crisis;
  • humans having homogenized the world’s biodiversity with the intentional and accidental introduction of flora and fauna.

In this increasingly human-dominated world, who will speak for nature?

Ironically, it has to also be humans who speak for nature and from our perspective it looks like ecologists and evolutionary biologists are doing just this.

We are seeing an increasing number of submissions investigating the impacts of humans on natural systems and on how organisms are adapting to human-dominated systems; and the content of our November issue 22, 2018 is no exception to this with eight articles focused on adaptions by a range of organisms including invertebrates, vertebrates and plants. In this blog post, we will briefly review the key findings of three of these studies to entice you to read more…

Artificial light at night (ALAN) and its impacts on bioluminescent invertebrates like fireflies and glow-worms is reviewed in depth by Owens and Lewis (2018). Globally 30% of vertebrates are nocturnal, and most studies have focused on nocturnal vertebrates; while a staggering 60% of identified invertebrates are nocturnal. This review summarizes five impacts of ALAN on nocturnal insects: 1. temporal disorientation, 2. spatial disorientation, 3. attraction, 4. Desensitization, and 5. Recognition. It also pulls together convincing evidence that fireflies should be used as a charismatic flagship species to study the impacts of ALAN.

Research published by Vanbianchi et al. (2018) shows that lynx populations in the North Cascades of British Columbia, Canada are making use of marginal habitat to travel between patches. This is habitat previously not considered as part of their range and therefore conservation plans. Their results clearly demonstrate the importance of not only concentrating conservation efforts on remaining high-quality core patches but also marginal habitats, even poor-quality connections between patches. This realistic message illustrates the importance of landscape-level planning and how even top predators, in the past arguably the most vulnerable, are demonstrating adaptive capacities to human-dominated landscapes. Likely because they have no choice but to adapt in order to persist in increasingly human-altered landscapes.

Bessega et al. (2018) studied the impacts of humans on the shrub white mesquite (Prosopis alba). White mesquite is an important plant for indigenous communities in Bolivia and this study found its genetic diversity has been significantly reduced by harvesting practices, particularly higher altitude white mesquite populations.

As Editors of Ecology and Evolution, we are lucky to handle and read a wide range of science including studies of rare and endangered species, sometimes with population sizes so small it is urgent (Sahlen et al. 2016) that we curate research about these species in perpetuity to, on the one hand, be used as leverage to encourage more investment in conservation priorities and, on the other hand, so that scientific knowledge about endangered species is  held in trust before extinction. At the other extreme, we also think it is important that research on ecology and evolutionary biology in the ‘new world order’ also be curated and promoted—it is a progressive change in thinking in our fields to directly study the impacts of humans on ecosystems, communities, populations and genes. How else will society be able to make more robust decisions on how to plan for short and long-term sustainability, how to plan and build our cities and agricultural landscapes more effectively for all organisms and how to ensure ecosystem services that Earth provides persist and are even enhanced holistically.

Stay tuned for more research in both these (seemingly but perhaps not so) divergent areas of ecology and evolution throughout 2019…personally we can’t wait…

References

Bessega, C., C. Pometti, R. P. Lopez, D. Larrea-Alcazar, R. H. Fortunato, B. Saidman, and J. C. Vilardi. 2018. Genetic diversity and differentiation among Prosopis alba (Leguminosae) populations from dry valleys of Bolivia with different levels of human disturbance and altitude. Ecology and Evolution 8:11309-11321.

Corlett, R. T. 2015. The Anthropocene concept in ecology and conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 30:36-41.

Kueffer, C., and C. N. Kaiser-Bunbury. 2014. Reconciling conflicting perspectives for biodiversity conservation in the Anthropocene. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 12:131-137.

Owens, A. C. S., and S. M. Lewis. 2018. The impact of artificial light at night on nocturnal insects: A review and synthesis. Ecology and Evolution 8:11337-11358.

Sahlen, E., S. Noell, C. S. DePerno, J. Kindberg, G. Spong, and J. P. G. M. Cromsigt. 2016. Phantoms of the forest: legacy risk effects of a regionally extinct large carnivore. Ecology and Evolution 6:791-799.

Steffen, W., P. Crutzen, and J. R. McNeill. 2007. The Anthropocene: Are humans now overwhleming the Great Forces of Nature. AMBIO: A Journal of Human Environment 36:614-621.

Vanbianchi, C., W. L. Gaines, M. A. Murphy, and K. E. Hodges. 2018. Navigating fragmented landscapes:  Canada lynx brave poor quality habitats while traveling. Ecology and Evolution 8:11293-11308.

A WordPress.com Website.

Up ↑