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Journal Cover Theoretical Ecology
  [SJR: 1.456]   [H-I: 13]   [9 followers]  Follow
   Hybrid Journal Hybrid journal (It can contain Open Access articles)
   ISSN (Print) 1874-1746 - ISSN (Online) 1874-1738
   Published by Springer-Verlag Homepage  [2335 journals]
  • Downstream flow and upstream movement determine the value of a stream
           reach for potadromous fish populations
    • Abstract: Abstract Given that human activities often have negative impacts on biological populations, a common question is to find the location of greatest positive or least negative impact. Local habitat suitability is frequently used to evaluate viability of fish populations in river networks. Upper stream reaches are often undervalued, in particular when they are not navigable or do not contain commercially interesting fish. Since water flow transports certain local conditions downstream and individuals navigate river networks upstream and downstream, impacts of local perturbations can manifest elsewhere in the system, and overall effects of disturbances should be assessed on a network level. We study a model for a potadromous fish population in a system of connected stream reaches. We consider different geometries to evaluate how downstream transport and individual movement interact to determine the location of greatest and least impact of a single or two concurrent disturbances. Our results show how upper stream reaches can be highly significant for population persistence if downstream transport of abiotic conditions or upstream movement of individuals is strong.
      PubDate: 2016-06-21
  • Evolutionary food web models: effects of an additional resource
    • Abstract: Abstract Many empirical food webs contain multiple resources, which can lead to the emergence of sub-communities—partitions—in a food web that are weakly connected with each other. These partitions interact and affect the complete food web. However, the fact that food webs can contain multiple resources is often neglected when describing food web assembly theoretically, by considering only a single resource. We present an allometric, evolutionary food web model and include two resources of different sizes. Simulations show that an additional resource can lead to the emergence of partitions, i.e. groups of species that specialise on different resources. For certain arrangements of these partitions, the interactions between them alter the food web properties. First, these interactions increase the variety of emerging network structures, since hierarchical bodysize relationships are weakened. Therefore, they could play an important role in explaining the variety of food web structures that is observed in empirical data. Second, interacting partitions can destabilise the population dynamics by introducing indirect interactions with a certain strength between predator and prey species, leading to biomass oscillations and evolutionary intermittence.
      PubDate: 2016-06-13
  • The content and availability of information affects the evolution of
           social-information gathering strategies
    • Abstract: Abstract Social animals can gather information by observing the other members of their groups. Strategies for gathering this type of social information have many components. In particular, an animal can vary the number of other animals it observes. European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) in flight pay attention to a number of neighbors that allows the flock to reach consensus quickly and robustly. The birds may do this because being in such a flock confers benefits on its members, or the birds may use the strategy that is individually beneficial without regard for the flock’s structure. To understand when individual-level optimization results in a group-level optimum, we develop a model of animals gathering social information about environmental cues, where the cue can be about either predators or resources, and we analyze two processes through which the number of neighbors changes over time. We then identify the number of neighbors the birds use when the two dynamics reach equilibrium. First, we find that the equilibrium number of neighbors is much lower when the birds are learning about the presence of resources rather than predators. Second, when the information is about the presence of predators, we find that the equilibrium number of neighbors increases as the information becomes more widespread. Third, we find that an optimization process converges on strategies that allow the flock to reach consensus when the information is about the presence of abundant resources, but not when it is about the presence of scarce resources or predators.
      PubDate: 2016-06-07
  • The effects of predation on seasonally migrating populations
    • Abstract: Abstract Interspecific interactions may occur for just a brief period each year before the populations involved become spatially separated. For instance, the range of a migrating population may overlap with that of a population of predators for a single season. In this work, we outline a framework for examining how this kind of ‘transient’ predation influences the dynamics of the prey population. A time-dependent switching system is used to partition the annual cycle into distinct segments. We then consider the effect of a single predatory interaction during a particular season, with the associated predators characterised as either generalists or specialists. We show that generalist predation potentially can allow multiple stable limit cycles to exist. Predation by specialists may cause prey abundance to oscillate over long time periods. This is shown to be a consequence of over-exploitation of newborn prey individuals. The habitat-based formulation extends naturally to the study of interannual variation in environmental conditions. We illustrate how such changes may cause migrant populations to undergo sudden changes in numbers that are not readily reversible.
      PubDate: 2016-06-03
  • Heterogeneity in patch quality buffers metapopulations from pathogen
    • Abstract: Abstract Many wildlife species persist on a network of ephemerally occupied habitat patches connected by dispersal. Provisioning of food and other resources for conservation management or recreation is frequently used to improve local habitat quality and attract wildlife. Resource improvement can also facilitate local pathogen transmission, but the landscape-level consequences of provisioning for pathogen spread and habitat occupancy are poorly understood. Here, we develop a simple metapopulation model to investigate how heterogeneity in patch quality resulting from resource improvement influences long-term metapopulation occupancy in the presence of a virulent pathogen. We derive expressions for equilibrium host–pathogen outcomes in terms of provisioning effects on individual patches (through decreased patch extinction rates) and at the landscape level (the fraction of high-quality, provisioned patches), and highlight two cases of practical concern. First, if occupancy in the unprovisioned metapopulation is sufficiently low, a local maximum in occupancy occurs for mixtures of high- and low-quality patches, such that further increasing the number of high-quality patches both lowers occupancy and allows pathogen invasion. Second, if the pathogen persists in the unprovisioned metapopulation, further provisioning can result in all patches becoming infected and in a global minimum in occupancy. This work highlights the need for more empirical research on landscape-level impacts of local resource provisioning on pathogen dynamics.
      PubDate: 2016-06-01
  • The “edge effect” phenomenon: deriving population abundance
           patterns from individual animal movement decisions
    • Abstract: Abstract Edge effects have been observed in a vast spectrum of animal populations. They occur where two conjoining habitats interact to create ecological phenomena that are not present in either habitat separately. On the individual-level, an edge effect is a change in behavioral tendency on or near the edge. On the population-level, it is a pattern of population abundance near an edge that cannot be explained in terms of either habitat in isolation. That these two levels of description exist suggests there ought to be a mathematical link between them. Here, we make inroads into providing such a link, deriving analytic expressions describing oft-observed population abundance patterns from a model of movement decisions near edges. Depending on the model parameters, we can see positive, negative, or transitional edge effects emerge. Importantly, the distance over which animals make their decisions to move between habitats turns out to be a key factor in quantifying the magnitude of certain observed edge effects.
      PubDate: 2016-06-01
  • Spatially heterogeneous pressure raises risk of catastrophic shifts
    • Abstract: Abstract Ecosystems may exhibit catastrophic shifts, i.e. abrupt and irreversible responses of ecosystem functions and services to continuous changes in external conditions. The search for early warning signs of approaching shifts has so far mainly been conducted on theoretical models assuming spatially-homogeneous external pressures (e.g. climatic). Here, we investigate how a spatially explicit pressure may affect ecosystems’ risk of catastrophic shifts and the associated spatial early-warning signs. As a case study, we studied a dryland vegetation model assuming ‘associational resistance’, i.e. the mutual reduction of local grazing impact by neighboring plants sharing the investment in defensive traits. Consequently, grazing pressure depends on the local density of plants and is thus spatially-explicit. We focus on the distribution of vegetation patch sizes, which can be assessed using remote sensing and are candidate early warning signs of catastrophic shifts in drylands. We found that spatially explicit grazing affected both the resilience and the spatial patterns of the landscape. Grazing impact became self-enhancing in more fragmented landscapes, disrupted patch growth and put apparently ‘healthy’ drylands under high risks of catastrophic shifts. Our study highlights that a spatially explicit pressure may affect the nature of the spatial pattern observed and thereby change the interpretation of the early warning signs. This may generalize to other ecosystems exhibiting self-organized spatial patterns, where a spatially-explicit pressure may interfere with pattern formation.
      PubDate: 2016-06-01
  • The migration game in habitat network: the case of tuna
    • Abstract: Abstract Long-distance migration is a widespread process evolved independently in several animal groups in terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Many factors contribute to the migration process and of primary importance are intra-specific competition and seasonality in the resource distribution. Adaptive migration in direction of increasing fitness should lead to the ideal free distribution (IFD) which is the evolutionary stable strategy of the habitat selection game. We introduce a migration game which focuses on migrating dynamics leading to the IFD for age-structured populations and in time varying habitats, where dispersal is costly. The model predicts migration dynamics between these habitats and the corresponding population distribution. When applied to Atlantic bluefin tunas, it predicts their migration routes and their seasonal distribution. The largest biomass is located in the spawning areas which have also the largest diversity in the age-structure. Distant feeding areas are occupied on a seasonal base and often by larger individuals, in agreement with empirical observations. Moreover, we show that only a selected number of migratory routes emerge as those effectively used by tunas.
      PubDate: 2016-06-01
  • Autochthonous or allochthonous resources determine the characteristic
           population dynamics of ecosystem engineers and their impacts
    • Abstract: Abstract Ecosystem engineering, or the modification of physical environments by organisms, can influence trophic interactions and thus food web dynamics. Although existing theory exclusively considers engineers using autochthonous resources, many empirical studies show that they often depend on allochthonous resources. By developing a simple mathematical model involving an ecosystem engineer that modifies the physical environment through its activities, its resource, and physical environment modified by the engineer, we compare the effects of autochthonous and allochthonous resources on the dynamics and stability of community with ecosystem engineers. To represent a variety of real situations, we consider engineers that alter either resource productivity, engineer feeding rate on the resource, or engineer mortality, and incorporate time-lagged responses of the physical environment. Our model shows that the effects of ecosystem engineering on community dynamics depend greatly on resource types. When the engineer consumes autochthonous resources, the community can exhibit oscillatory dynamics if the engineered environment affects engineer’s feeding rate or mortality. These cyclic behaviors are, however, stabilized by a slowly responding physical environment. When allochthonous resources are supplied as donor-controlled, on the other hand, the engineer population is unlikely to oscillate but instead can undergo unbounded growth if the engineered environment affects resource productivity or engineer mortality. This finding suggests that ecosystem engineers utilizing allochthonous resources may be more likely to reach high abundance and cause strong impacts on ecosystems. Our results highlight that community-based, compounding effects of trophic and physical biotic interactions of ecosystem engineers depend crucially on whether the engineers utilize autochthonous or allochthonous resources.
      PubDate: 2016-06-01
  • Many weak interactions and few strong; food-web feasibility depends on the
           combination of the strength of species’ interactions and their
           correct arrangement
    • Abstract: Abstract Ecological communities consist of generalists who interact with proportionally many species, and specialists who interact with proportionally few. The strength of these interactions also varies, with communities typically exhibiting a few strong links embedded within many weak links. Historically, it has been argued that generalists should interact more weakly with their partners than specialists and, since weak interactions are thought to increase community stability, that this pattern increases the stability of diverse communities. Here, we studied model-generated predator-prey communities to explicitly investigate the validity of this argument. In feasible communities—those which were both locally stable and all species had positive biomass—we indeed found that species with many predators or prey are affected by them more weakly than species with few. This relationship, however, is only part of the story. While species with many predators (or prey) tend to be only weakly affected by each of them, these many weak interactions are balanced by a few strong interactions with prey (or predators). These few strong interactions are large enough that, when the effect of predator and prey interactions are combined, it seems that species with many interactions actually interact more strongly than species with few interactions. Though past research has tended to focus on either the arrangement of species interactions or the strength of those interactions, we show here that the two are in fact inextricably linked. This observation has implications for both the realistic design of theoretical models, and the conservation of ecological communities, especially those in which the strength and arrangement of species’ interactions are impacted by biodiversity-loss disturbances such as habitat alteration.
      PubDate: 2016-06-01
  • Erratum to: Sensitivity analysis of continuous-time models for ecological
           and evolutionary theories
    • PubDate: 2016-06-01
  • How Levins’ dynamics emerges from a Ricker metapopulation model
    • Abstract: Abstract Understanding the dynamics of metapopulations close to extinction is of vital importance for management. Levins-like models, in which local patches are treated as either occupied or empty, have been used extensively to explore the extinction dynamics of metapopulations, but they ignore the important role of local population dynamics. In this paper, we consider a stochastic metapopulation model where local populations follow a stochastic, density-dependent dynamics (the Ricker model), and use this framework to investigate the behaviour of the metapopulation on the brink of extinction. We determine under which circumstances the metapopulation follows a time evolution consistent with Levins’ dynamics. We derive analytical expressions for the colonisation and extinction rates (c and e) in Levins-type models in terms of reproduction, survival and dispersal parameters of the local populations, providing an avenue to parameterising Levins-like models from the type of information on local demography that is available for a number of species. To facilitate applying our results, we provide a numerical algorithm for computing c and e.
      PubDate: 2016-06-01
  • Viewing tropical forest succession as a three-dimensional dynamical system
    • Abstract: Abstract As tropical forests are complex systems, they tend to be modelled either roughly via scaling relationships or in a detailed manner as high-dimensional systems with many variables. We propose an approach which lies between the two whereby succession in a tropical forest is viewed as a trajectory in the configuration space of a dynamical system with just three dependent variables, namely, the mean leaf-area index (LAI) and its standard deviation (SD) or coefficient of variation along a transect, and the mean diameter at breast height (DBH) of trees above the 90th percentile of the distribution of tree DBHs near the transect. Four stages in this forest succession are identified: (I) naturally afforesting grassland: the initial stage with scattered trees in grassland; (II) very young forest: mostly covered by trees with a few remaining gaps; (III) young smooth forest: almost complete cover by trees of mostly similar age resulting in a low SD; and (IV) old growth or mature forest: the attracting region in configuration space characterized by fluctuating SD from tree deaths and regrowth. High-resolution LAI measurements and other field data from Khao Yai National Park, Thailand show how the system passes through these stages in configuration space, as do simple considerations and a crude cellular automaton model.
      PubDate: 2016-06-01
  • Dealing with stochastic environmental variation in space and time: bet
           hedging by generalist, specialist, and diversified strategies
    • Abstract: Abstract Building on previous work, we derive an optimization model for a two-state stochastic environment and evaluate the fitnesses of five reproductive strategies across generations. To do this, we characterize spatiotemporal variation and define grain (=patch) size as the scale of fitness autocorrelation. Fitness functions of environmental condition are Gaussian. The strategies include two specialists on each of the environmental conditions; two generalists that each fare equally well under both conditions, but one (a conservative bet hedger) optimizes the shape of the fitness function; and a diversified bet hedger producing an optimal mix of the two specialists within individual broods. When the environment is primarily in one of the two states, the specialist on that state achieves the highest fitness. In the more interesting situation where the two environments are equally prevalent in the long term, with low-moderate environmental variation, a generalist strategy (that copes with both states well) does best. Higher variation favors diversified bet hedgers, or surprisingly, specialists, depending mainly on whether spatial or temporal variation predominates. These strategies reduce variance in fitness and optimize the distribution of offspring among patches differently: specialists by spreading offspring among many independently varying patches, while diversified bet hedgers put all offspring into a few patches or a single patch. We distinguish features consistent with strategies like diversified bet hedgers that spread risk in time from features linked to strategies like specialists that spread risk in space. Finally, we present testable hypotheses arising from this study and suggest directions for future work.
      PubDate: 2016-06-01
  • An updated perspective on the role of environmental autocorrelation in
           animal populations
    • Abstract: Abstract Ecological theory predicts that the presence of temporal autocorrelation in environments can considerably affect population extinction risk. However, empirical estimates of autocorrelation values in animal populations have not decoupled intrinsic growth and density feedback processes from environmental autocorrelation. In this study, we first discuss how the autocorrelation present in environmental covariates can be reduced through nonlinear interactions or by interactions with multiple limiting resources. We then estimated the degree of environmental autocorrelation present in the Global Population Dynamics Database using a robust, model-based approach. Our empirical results indicate that time series of animal populations are affected by low levels of environmental autocorrelation, a result consistent with predictions from our theoretical models. Claims supporting the importance of autocorrelated environments have been largely based on indirect empirical measures and theoretical models seldom anchored in realistic assumptions. It is likely that a more nuanced understanding of the effects of autocorrelated environments is necessary to reconcile our conclusions with previous theory. We anticipate that our findings and other recent results will lead to improvements in understanding how to incorporate fluctuating environments into population risk assessments.
      PubDate: 2016-06-01
  • The duality of stability: towards a stochastic theory of species
    • Abstract: Abstract Understanding the dynamics of ecological systems using stability concepts has been a key driver in ecological research from the inception of the field. Despite the tremendous effort put into this area, progress has been limited due to the bewildering number of metrics used to describe ecological stability. Here, we seek to resolve some of the confusion by unfolding the dynamics of a simple consumer-resource interaction module. In what follows, we first review common dynamical metrics of stability (CV, eigenvalues). We argue using the classical type II consumer-resource model as an example where the empirical stability metric, CV, hides two different, but important, aspects of stability: (i) stability due to mean population density processes and (ii) stability due to population density variance processes. We then employ a simple stochastic consumer-resource framework in order to elucidate (i) when we expect these two different aspects of stability to arise in ecological systems and, importantly, highlight (ii) the fact that these two different aspects of stability respond differentially, but predictably, to changes in fundamental parameters that govern biomass flux and loss in any consumer-resource interaction (e.g., attack rates, carrying capacity, mortality).
      PubDate: 2016-05-27
  • Effects of diffusion on total biomass in heterogeneous continuous and
           discrete-patch systems
    • Abstract: Abstract Theoretical models of populations on a system of two connected patches previously have shown that when the two patches differ in maximum growth rate and carrying capacity, and in the limit of high diffusion, conditions exist for which the total population size at equilibrium exceeds that of the ideal free distribution, which predicts that the total population would equal the total carrying capacity of the two patches. However, this result has only been shown for the Pearl-Verhulst growth function on two patches and for a single-parameter growth function in continuous space. Here, we provide a general criterion for total population size to exceed total carrying capacity for three commonly used population growth rates for both heterogeneous continuous and multi-patch heterogeneous landscapes with high population diffusion. We show that a sufficient condition for this situation is that there is a convex positive relationship between the maximum growth rate and the parameter that, by itself or together with the maximum growth rate, determines the carrying capacity, as both vary across a spatial region. This relationship occurs in some biological populations, though not in others, so the result has ecological implications.
      PubDate: 2016-05-24
  • Species richness in a model with resource gradient
    • Abstract: Abstract In order to study the dependence of the species richness on heterogeneity of the habitat, we introduce an extended model of annual plants which combines the features of the island model and of gradient heterogeneity resources. First, we consider a native population of plants living on a square lattice of linear size L. After equilibration of this native population, seeds of several different species j = 2, ... , k of annual plants invade the system; they compete among themselves and the native ones. The system is exposed to a one-dimensional water gradient, and each species is characterised by a tolerance to a surplus of water, τ(j). We study the influences of the properties of the gradient of the resource (GR) on the species richness (SR) present in the system. We have shown that the relation between GR and SR is not straightforward and that several cases could be distinguished: For a large class of control parameters, SR increases linearly with GR. However, when the values of the control parameters are such as to create wide inhabitable regions, the relation between SR and GR ceases to have a monotonic character. We have also demonstrated that the average species richness as a function of the resource availability has a hump shape. Our results can be simply explained within our model and are in agreement with several previous field and theoretical works.
      PubDate: 2016-05-06
  • Vaccine-driven evolution of parasite virulence and immune evasion in
           age-structured population: the case of pertussis
    • Abstract: Abstract Despite enormous success of mass immunization programs in reducing incidence of infectious diseases, vaccine-escape strains have emerged perhaps as a consequence of strong selection pressures exerted on parasites by vaccines. Pertussis presents a well-documented example. As a childhood infection, it exhibits age-specific transmission biased to children. Assuming different transmission rates between children and adults, I study, by means of an age-structured epidemic model, evolutionary dynamics of parasite virulence in a vaccinated population. I find that the age-structure does not affect the evolutionary dynamics of parasite virulence. Also, based on empirical data reporting antigenic divergence with vaccine strains and mutations in virulence-associated genes in pertussis populations, I allow for parallel occurrence of mutations in parasite virulence and associated immune evasion. I conclude that this simultaneous adaptation of both traits may substantially alter the evolutionary course of the parasite. In particular, higher values of virulence are favoured once the parasite is able to evade the transmission-blocking vaccine-induced immunity. On the other hand, lower values of virulence are selected for once the parasite evolves the ability to evade the virulence-blocking vaccine-induced immunity. I emphasize the importance of multi-trait evolution to assess the direction of parasite adaptation more accurately.
      PubDate: 2016-04-25
  • Trait selection during food web assembly: the roles of interactions and
    • Abstract: Abstract Understanding the processes driving community assembly is a central theme in ecology, yet this topic is marginally studied in food webs. Bioenergetic models have been instrumental in the development of food web theory, using allometric relationships with body mass, temperature, and explicit energy flows. However, despite their popularity, little is known about the constraints they impose on assembly dynamics. In this study, we build on classical consumer–resource theory to analyze the implications of the assembly process on trait selection in food webs. Using bioenergetic models, we investigate the selective pressure on body mass and conversion efficiency and its dependence on trophic structure and temperature. We find that the selection exerted by exploitative competition is highly sensitive to how the energy fluxes are modeled. However, the addition of a trophic level consistently selects for smaller body masses of primary producers. An increase in temperature triggers important cascading changes in food webs via a reduction of producer biomass, which is detrimental to herbivore persistence. This affects the structure of trait distributions, which in turn strengthens the exploitative competition and the selective pressure on traits. Our results suggest that greater attention should be devoted to the effects of food web assembly on trait selection to understand the diversity and the functioning of real food webs, as well as their possible response to ongoing global changes.
      PubDate: 2016-04-11
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Heriot-Watt University
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