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  1. Abstract

    Small mammals are important to the functioning of ecological communities with changes to their abundances used to track impacts of environmental change. While capture–recapture estimates of absolute abundance are preferred, indices of abundance continue to be used in cases of limited sampling, rare species with little data, or unmarked individuals. Improvement to indices can be achieved by calibrating them to absolute abundance but their reliability across years, sites, or species is unclear. To evaluate this, we used the US National Ecological Observatory Network capture–recapture data for 63 small mammal species over 46 sites from 2013 to 2019. We generated 17,155 absolute abundance estimates using capture–recapture analyses and compared these to two standard abundance indices, and three types of calibrated indices. We found that neither raw abundance indices nor index calibrations were reliable approximations of absolute abundance, with raw indices less correlated with absolute abundance than index calibrations (raw indices overall R2 < 0.5, index calibration overall R2 > 0.6). Performance of indices and index calibrations varied by species, with those having higher and less variable capture probabilities performing best. We conclude that indices and index calibration methods should be used with caution with a count of individuals being themore »best index to use, especially if it can be calibrated with capture probability. None of the indices we tested should be used for comparing different species due to high variation in capture probabilities. Hierarchical models that allow for sharing of capture probabilities over species or plots (i.e., joint-likelihood models) may offer a better solution to mitigate the cost and effort of large-scale small mammal sampling while still providing robust estimates of abundance.

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  2. Abstract Background

    Children are less susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and typically have milder illness courses than adults, but the factors underlying these age-associated differences are not well understood. The upper respiratory microbiome undergoes substantial shifts during childhood and is increasingly recognized to influence host defense against respiratory pathogens. Thus, we sought to identify upper respiratory microbiome features associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection susceptibility and illness severity.


    We collected clinical data and nasopharyngeal swabs from 285 children, adolescents, and young adults (<21 years) with documented SARS-CoV-2 exposure. We used 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing to characterize the nasopharyngeal microbiome and evaluated for age-adjusted associations between microbiome characteristics and SARS-CoV-2 infection status and respiratory symptoms.


    Nasopharyngeal microbiome composition varied with age (PERMANOVA, P < .001; R2 = 0.06) and between SARS-CoV-2–infected individuals with and without respiratory symptoms (PERMANOVA, P  = .002; R2 = 0.009). SARS-CoV-2–infected participants with Corynebacterium/Dolosigranulum-dominant microbiome profiles were less likely to have respiratory symptoms than infected participants with other nasopharyngeal microbiome profiles (OR: .38; 95% CI: .18–.81). Using generalized joint attributed modeling, we identified 9 bacterial taxa associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection and 6 taxa differentially abundant among SARS-CoV-2–infected participants with respiratory symptoms; the magnitude of these associations was strongly influenced by age.


    We identified interactive relationships between agemore »and specific nasopharyngeal microbiome features that are associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection susceptibility and symptoms in children, adolescents, and young adults. Our data suggest that the upper respiratory microbiome may be a mechanism by which age influences SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility and illness severity.

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  3. Modeling species distributions over space and time is one of the major research topics in both ecology and conservation biology. Joint Species Distribution models (JSDMs) have recently been introduced as a tool to better model community data, by inferring a residual covariance matrix between species, after accounting for species' response to the environment. However, these models are computationally demanding, even when latent factors, a common tool for dimension reduction, are used. To address this issue, Taylor-Rodriguez et al. ( 2017 ) proposed to use a Dirichlet process, a Bayesian nonparametric prior, to further reduce model dimension by clustering species in the residual covariance matrix. Here, we built on this approach to include a prior knowledge on the potential number of clusters, and instead used a Pitman–Yor process to address some critical limitations of the Dirichlet process. We therefore propose a framework that includes prior knowledge in the residual covariance matrix, providing a tool to analyze clusters of species that share the same residual associations with respect to other species. We applied our methodology to a case study of plant communities in a protected area of the French Alps (the Bauges Regional Park), and demonstrated that our extensions improve dimension reductionmore »and reveal additional information from the residual covariance matrix, notably showing how the estimated clusters are compatible with plant traits, endorsing their importance in shaping communities.« less
  4. Observational studies have not yet shown that environmental variables can explain pervasive nonlinear patterns of species abundance, because those patterns could result from (indirect) interactions with other species (e.g., competition), and models only estimate direct responses. The experiments that could extract these indirect effects at regional to continental scales are not feasible. Here, a biophysical approach quantifies environment– species interactions (ESI) that govern community change from field data. Just as species interactions depend on population abundances, so too do the effects of environment, as when drought is amplified by competition. By embedding dynamic ESI within framework that admits data gathered on different scales, we quantify responses that are induced indirectly through other species, including probabilistic uncertainty in parameters, model specification, and data. Simulation demonstrates that ESI are needed for accurate interpretation. Analysis demonstrates how nonlinear responses arise even when their direct responses to environment are linear. Applications to experimental lakes and the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) yield contrasting estimates of ESI. In closed lakes, interactions involving phytoplankton and their zooplankton grazers play a large role. By contrast, ESI are weak in BBS, as expected where year-to-year movement degrades the link between local population growth and species interactions. In both cases,more »nonlinear responses to environmental gradients are induced by interactions between species. Stability analysis indicates stability in the closed-system lakes and instability in BBS. The probabilistic framework has direct application to conservation planning that must weigh risk assessments for entire habitats and communities against competing interests.

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  5. Fan, Yanan ; Nott, David ; Smith, Michael S ; Dortet-Bernadet, Jean-Luc. (Ed.)
    Quantile regression is widely seen as an ideal tool to understand complex predictor-response relations. Its biggest promise rests in its ability to quantify whether and how predictor effects vary across response quantile levels. But this promise has not been fully met due to a lack of statistical estimation methods that perform a rigorous, joint analysis of all quantile levels. This gap has been recently bridged by Yang and Tokdar [18]. Here we demonstrate how their joint quantile regression method, as encoded in the R package qrjoint, offers a comprehensive and model-based regression analysis framework. This chapter is an R vignette where we illustrate how to fit models, interpret coefficients, improve and compare models and obtain predictions under this framework. Our case study is an application to ecology where we analyse how the abundance of red maple trees depends on topographical and geographical features of the location. A complete absence of the species contributes excess zeros in the response data. We treat such excess zeros as left censoring in the spirit of a Tobit regression analysis. By utilising the generative nature of the joint quantile regression model, we not only adjust for censoring but also treat it as an object ofmore »independent scientific interest.« less
  6. Abstract The relationships that control seed production in trees are fundamental to understanding the evolution of forest species and their capacity to recover from increasing losses to drought, fire, and harvest. A synthesis of fecundity data from 714 species worldwide allowed us to examine hypotheses that are central to quantifying reproduction, a foundation for assessing fitness in forest trees. Four major findings emerged. First, seed production is not constrained by a strict trade-off between seed size and numbers. Instead, seed numbers vary over ten orders of magnitude, with species that invest in large seeds producing more seeds than expected from the 1:1 trade-off. Second, gymnosperms have lower seed production than angiosperms, potentially due to their extra investments in protective woody cones. Third, nutrient-demanding species, indicated by high foliar phosphorus concentrations, have low seed production. Finally, sensitivity of individual species to soil fertility varies widely, limiting the response of community seed production to fertility gradients. In combination, these findings can inform models of forest response that need to incorporate reproductive potential.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023