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Last Update: February 11, 2008

Chapter 4 - The biological environment.

New books and papers | Websites

Chapter Outline :

    • Although often considered a less significant component, biology plays a key role in species distribution;
    • This can be seen at three scales: individual, population and community;
    • At the individual level, genetics plays a key role in determining the characteristics (and thus survival) of the species;
    • Populations consist of members of the same species in a specific area. At this scale, key issues are those which affect the range as a whole, such as human impact;
    • Community-scale responses have to do with species interactions which are often considered to be governed by a set of ‘rules’;
    • Changes in distribution can also occur as sets of species interact together; succession is one of the most prominent examples of this;
    • The impact of these biological reactions in both individuals and ecosystems has theoretical and practical implications for us.


New books and papers
Author(s) Title (and link) Comment
Antonovics et al 2007 Evolution by Any Other Name:
Antibiotic Resistance and Avoidance
of the E-Word
Demonstrates the dynamics of evolution but also shows that in certain cases, the word is not acceptable e.g in microbial research.
Danby and Hik 2007 Variability, contingency and rapid change in recent subarctic alpine tree line dynamics The notion that change is gradual is dispelled here with an examination of the impact of global warming on alpine areas.
Myneni et al 2007 Large seasonal swings in leaf area
of Amazon rainforests
Leaf area can vary by up to 25% showing marked relat
Hughes et al 2007 Phase Shifts, Herbivory, and the Resilience of Coral Reefs to Climate Change Managing fish populations may be a way of restoring coral reefs.
Ryan et al 2007 Ecological Speciation in South
Atlantic Island Finches
Examples of sympatric speciation are rare. Here is one possible example.
Suttle, Thomsen and Power 2007 Species Interactions Reverse
Grassland Responses to Changing Climate
The effects of climate change might be mitigated by the effects of species interactions.
Myers et al 2007 Cascading Effects of the Loss of
Apex Predatory Sharks from a
Coastal Ocean
The removal of a top predator has effects on all levels of the food web.
Funk and Vitousek 2007 Resource-use efficiency and plant invasion in low-resource systems Invasive species "win" over native species because they can respond faster to opportunities.
Gotelli and Ellison 2006 Food-Web Models Predict Species Abundances in Response to Habitat Change Tries to model changes in dynamics following habitat loss. Best model is the one focussing on trophic structure.
Peacor et al 2006 Phenotypic Plasticity Opposes Species Invasions by Altering Fitness Surface Invasion is not just numbers and strength; it alters the genetic responses of aspecies. Therefore such factors need to be taken into account in measuring invasion impact
Slabbekoorn and den Boer-Visser 2006 Cities Change the Songs of Birds Urban areas put pressure on species other than just habitat - there are also behavioural changes as well.
Helfield and Naiman 2006 Keystone Interactions: Salmon and
Bear in Riparian Forests of Alaska
Keystone species have greater impact when acting together than individually
Roberts, Poore and Johnston 2006 Ecological consequences of copper contamination in macroalgae effects on epifauna and associated herbivores. Algae can be bioaccumulators but this also has an impact on their population dynamics - heavy metal presence is not neutral.
Bellwood et al 2006 Sleeping Functional Group
Drives Coral-Reef Recovery
Coral reef decline can be reversed in some cases by groups of species not obviously in keystone positions.
Wills et al 2006 Nonrandom Processes Maintain
Diversity in Tropical Forests
Diversity should decay through time but this study of a tropical forest shows preferential maintenance of rare species.
Terborgh et al 2006 Vegetation dynamics of predator-free land-bridge islands Field studies of manipulated areas suggests that predators are essential for community stability.
Sundberg, Hansson and Rydin 2006 Colonization of Sphagnum on land uplift islands in the Baltic Sea: time, area, distance and life history For this genus, colonisation seems to be governed by spore production rather than distance from other areas/land.
Stinson et al 2006 Invasive Plant Suppresses the Growth of Native Tree Seedlings by Disrupting Belowground Mutualisms Little evidence has been shown of the mechanism whereby invasive species "succeed" in their new habitats. This study suggests disruption of fungal associations is one mechanism.
Savolainen et al 2006 Sympatric speciation in palms on an oceanic island Evidence shows support for the idea of sympatric speciation which has hitherto be difficult to prove.
Rieseberg, Wood and Baack 2006 The nature of plant species Discusses the nature of the concept and concludes that plant species are a discrete entity despite evidence of cross-fertilisation etc.
Reich et al 2006 Universal scaling of respiratory metabolism, size and nitrogen in plants This research suggests that metabolic mechanisms and rates differ between plant and animal species contrary to prevailing views.
Pauchard and Shea 2006 Integrating the study of non-native plant invasions across spatial scales Reviews evidence looking at the effect of scale upon species invasion patterns.
Parker et al 2006 Opposing Effects of Native and Exotic Herbivores on Plant Invasions Discusses the roles of native and exotic herbivores and plant species on the eventual composition of the ecosystem.
Olendorf et al 2006 Frequency-dependent survival in natural guppy populations Provides experimental evidence that negative frequency-dependent selection can be seen in nature.
Mahli et al 2006 The regional variation of above ground live biomass in old-growth Amazonian forests A study using 227 forest plots attempts to determine the key factors determining biomass and location using basal area and mean wood density. Results increase previous estimates.
Hanski and Saccheri 2006 Molecular-Level Variation Affects Population Growth in a Butterfly Metapopulation This paper presents evidence suggesting that, for the first time, genetics can influence the survival of discrete populations.
Gazhoul 2006 Floral diversity and the facilitation of pollination This paper proposes a new model to better explain pollination mechanisms.
France and Duffy 2006 Diversity and dispersal interactively affect predictability of ecosystem function This study of seagrass communities argues that to fully understand ecosystem services you need to consider dispersal as well.
Fierer and Jackson 2006 The diversity and biogeography of soil bacterial communities A continental-scale study to assess microbial diversity. There are suggestions it is edaphically controlled unlike macro-organism distribution.
Einum et al 2006 The partitioning of density-dependent dispersal, growth and survival throughout ontogeny in a highly fecund organism Describes an experiment to see how density-dependent factors vary according to life history.
DeLong et al 2006. Community Genomics Among
Stratified Microbial Assemblages
in the Ocean’s Interior
Studies on the genetic composition of ocean microbial systems show both diversity and can give insight into higher organism diversity.
Bradshaw and Holzapfel 2006 Evolutionary Response to Rapid Climate Change. Some recent responses to climate change might be phenotypic plasticity but might also be identifiable, genetic, evolutionary change.
Bouylter, Kitching and Howlett 2006. Family, visitors and the weather: patterns of flowering in tropical rain forests of northern Australia Studies show that an understanding of flowering patterns and mechanisms can be useful in assessing ecosystem health in the forest.
Bonnet and Chippindale 2006 Streambed microstructure predicts evolution of development and life history mode in the plethodontid salamander Eurycea tynerensis Studies this salamander show that microsturucture of the physical environment closely dictates evolution of life history traits.
Bazin, Gle´min and Galtier 2006 Population Size Does Not Influence
Mitochondrial Genetic Diversity
in Animals
Argues that mitochondrial DNA might not be the best measure of diversity to be used in conservation research. It suggests that nuclear loci might be better.
Allen et al 2006 Kinetic effects of temperature on rates of genetic divergence and speciation Derives a model linking biodiversity to metabloic energy giving a new facet to explaining latitudinal variation.
Harpole and Tilman 2006 Non-neutral patterns of species abundance in grassland communities Grasses can interact with nitrogen in the soil to improve their abundance. This is contrary to the idea of neutral patterns whereby traits are interchangable.
Messmer et al 2005 Phylogeography of colour polymorphism in the coral reef fish
Pseudochromis fuscus, from Papua New Guinea and the Great Barrier Reef Coral Reefs (2005) 24: 392–402
Population genetic analysis shows that rather than have one highly coloured species there are three clades each with a different evolutionary history.
Fontaine et al 2006 Functional Diversity of Plant– Pollinator Interaction Webs Enhances the Persistence of Plant Communities. If biodiversity loss targets pollinator species then this can have an impact beyond the actual animal lost to plant compositions.
Messmer et al 2005 Phylogeography of colour polymorphism in the coral reef fish
Pseudochromis fuscus, from Papua New Guinea and the Great Barrier Reef
Population genetic analysis shows that rather than have one highly coloured species there are three clades each with a different evolutionary history.
Lee et al 2005 Root functioning modifies seasonal climate. Studies in the Amazon show a direct link between climate modification and root functions.
Van der Koppel et al 2005 The Effects of Spatial Scale on
Trophic Interactions
Trophic models might work well but they need to take account of organism distribution - space and scale are important.
Raghoebarsing et al 2005 Methanotrophic symbionts provide carbon for photosynthesis in peat bogs This research gives some clue as to why wetlands are such efficient storers of carbon.
Könneke et al 2005 Isolation of an autotrophic ammonia-oxidizing marine archaeon This study shows the important roles these organisms might play in global biogeochemical cycles.
Kolb and Diekmann 2005 Effects of Life-History Traits on Responses of Plant Species to Forest Fragmentation Species survival can be affected by fragmentation: it's useful to study life-history traits as well.
Bruzgul, Long ansd Hadly 2005 Temporal response of the tiger salamander (Ambsytoma tigrinum) to 3000 years of climatic variation A study highlighting the impoprtance of slamanders to change research and the ways in which change occurs.
Bossuyt, de Fre and Hoffman 2005 Abundance and flowering success patterns in a short-term grazed grassland: early evidence of facilitation Not all plant distribututions are even. There's evidence that some plants grow closer to others so that they are less likley to be grazed.
Knapp et al 2005 Relaxed Molecular Clock Provides Evidence for Long-Distance Dispersal of Nothofagus (Southern Beech) This research shows that in trying to find conclusive evidence there's still going to be doubt - in this case between vicariance and dispersal events.
Garant et al 2005 Evolution driven by differential
dispersal within a wild bird
Dispersal and differentiation forces in evolutionary situations are not as obvious as first thought.
Cattadori, Haydon and Hudson 2005 Parasites and climate synchronize
red grouse populations.
Climate might affect population levels directly but here's evidence that it can affect indirectly through control of parasites.
Bunce M, Szulkin M, Lerner HRL, Barnes I, Shapiro B, et al. (2005) Ancient DNA provides new insights into the evolutionary history of New Zealand’s extinct giant eagle. Gives an example of the speed with which evolution can change species especially in island ecosystems.
 Bascompte, Melian and Sala 2005  Interaction strength combinations and the overfishing of the marine food web Not all food chains are equal and human interaction in the wrong place can cuase more problems than might be expected by chance.
Joyce at al 2005 An extant cichlid fish radiation
emerged in an extinct Pleistocene lake
The spread and evolution of species is problematic. Here, the paper argues that current distribution can be linked to older physical environments
Tomkins et al 2004 Genic capture and resolving the lek
Reviews ways in which we can study the relationship between genetic loci and sexual traits as part of evolutionary analysis
Streelman et al 2004. Hybridization and contemporary evolution in an introduced cichlid fish from Lake Malawi National Park An example of very rapid evolutionary change.
Wardle et al 2004 Ecological Linkages Between Aboveground and Belowground Biota Argues that we need to study both aspects to appreciate fully ecosystem dynamics.
Wardle et al 2004 Ecosystem Properties and Forest
Decline in Contrasting Long-Term
Suggests that biomass peaks in late succesions and therefore such systems are not sustainable long term.
Stomp et al 2004 Adaptive divergence in pigment
composition promotes
phytoplankton biodiversity
This suggests that competitive-exclusion principles is kept by related phytoplankton having different pigments and therefore relating to different light wavelengths.
McKinnon et al 2004 Evidence for ecology’s role in speciation Speciation may be a byproduct of ecological differences.
Luo et al 2004 Phylogeography and Genetic Ancestry of Tigers (Panthera tigris) By analysing the genetic diversity and history of tigers it should be possible to get better conservation management.
Ellwood and Foster 2004 Doubling the estimate of invertebrate biomass in a rainforest canopy By measuring biomass in ferns rathe rthan just trees, invertebrate biomas can be doubled in estimate. Shows importance of sampling strategies.
Garant et al 2004 Evolution in a Changing Environment: A Case Study
with Great Tit Fledging Mass
Argues that rapid environmental change can give rise to differences in response between phenotypic and genotypic evolutionary traits.
Forde, Thompson and Bohannan 2004 Adaptation varies through space and
time in a coevolving host–parasitoid
Suggests that co-evolution can organise the degree of biodiversity across large geographic areas.
Beaugrand et al 2003 Plankton effect on cod recruitment in the North Sea  Cod have been over-exploited but here we see arguments that there's also a natural change underway in terms of food supply

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