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  1. In order to learn about broad scale ecological patterns, data from large-scale surveys must allow us to either estimate the correlations between the environment and an outcome and/or accurately predict ecological patterns. An important part of data collection is the sampling effort used to collect observations, which we decompose into two quantities: the number of observations or plots ( n ) and the per-observation/plot effort ( E ; e.g., area per plot). If we want to understand the relationships between predictors and a response variable, then lower model parameter uncertainty is desirable. If the goal is to predict a response variable, then lower prediction error is preferable. We aim to learn if and when aggregating data can help attain these goals. We find that a small sample size coupled with large observation effort coupled (few large) can yield better predictions when compared to a large number of observations with low observation effort (many small). We also show that the combination of the two values ( n and E ), rather than one alone, has an impact on parameter uncertainty. In an application to Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data, we model the tree density of selected species at various amounts of aggregation using linear regression in order to compare the findings from simulated data to real data. The application supports the theoretical findings that increasing observational effort through aggregation can lead to improved predictions, conditional on the thoughtful aggregation of the observational plots. In particular, aggregations over extremely large and variable covariate space may lead to poor prediction and high parameter uncertainty. Analyses of large-range data can improve with aggregation, with implications for both model evaluation and sampling design: testing model prediction accuracy without an underlying knowledge of the datasets and the scale at which predictor variables operate can obscure meaningful results. 
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  2. 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 the 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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  3. Abstract

    Understanding community responses to climate is critical for anticipating the future impacts of global change. However, despite increased research efforts in this field, models that explicitly include important biological mechanisms are lacking. Quantifying the potential impacts of climate change on species is complicated by the fact that the effects of climate variation may manifest at several points in the biological process. To this end, we extend a dynamic mechanistic model that combines population dynamics, such as species interactions, with species redistribution by allowing climate to affect both processes. We examine their relative contributions in an application to the changing biomass of a community of eight species in the Gulf of Maine using over 30 years of fisheries data from the Northeast Fishery Science Center. Our model suggests that the mechanisms driving biomass trends vary across space, time, and species. Phase space plots demonstrate that failing to account for the dynamic nature of the environmental and biologic system can yield theoretical estimates of population abundances that are not observed in empirical data. The stock assessments used by fisheries managers to set fishing targets and allocate quotas often ignore environmental effects. At the same time, research examining the effects of climate change on fish has largely focused on redistribution. Frameworks that combine multiple biological reactions to climate change are particularly necessary for marine researchers. This work is just one approach to modeling the complexity of natural systems and highlights the need to incorporate multiple and possibly interacting biological processes in future models.

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  4. Anticipating the next generation of forests requires understanding of recruitment responses to habitat change. Tree distribution and abundance depend not only on climate, but also on habitat variables, such as soils and drainage, and on competition beneath a shaded canopy. Recent analyses show that North American tree species are migrating in response to climate change, which is exposing each population to novel climate-habitat interactions (CHI). Because CHI have not been estimated for either adult trees or regeneration (recruits per year per adult basal area), we cannot evaluate migration potential into the future. Using the Masting Inference and Forecasting (MASTIF) network of tree fecundity and new continent-wide observations of tree recruitment, we quantify impacts for redistribution across life stages from adults to fecundity to recruitment. We jointly modeled response of adult abundance and recruitment rate to climate/habitat conditions, combined with fecundity sensitivity, to evaluate if shifting CHI explain community reorganization. To compare climate effects with tree fecundity, which is estimated from trees and thus is "conditional" on tree presence, we demonstrate how to quantify this conditional status for regeneration. We found that fecundity was regulated by temperature to a greater degree than other stages, yet exhibited limited responses to moisture deficit. Recruitment rate expressed strong sensitivities to CHI, more like adults than fecundity, but still with substantial differences. Communities reorganized from adults to fecundity, but there was a re-coalescence of groups as seedling recruitment partially reverted to community structure similar to that of adults. Results provide the first estimates of continent-wide community sensitivity and their implications for reorganization across three life-history stages under climate change. 
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  5. Abstract

    Datasets that monitor biodiversity capture information differently depending on their design, which influences observer behavior and can lead to biases across observations and species. Combining different datasets can improve our ability to identify and understand threats to biodiversity, but this requires an understanding of the observation bias in each. Two datasets widely used to monitor bird populations exemplify these general concerns: eBird is a citizen science project with high spatiotemporal resolution but variation in distribution, effort, and observers, whereas the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is a structured survey of specific locations over time. Analyses using these two datasets can identify contradictory population trends. To understand these discrepancies and facilitate data fusion, we quantify species‐level reporting differences across eBird and the BBS in three regions across the United States by jointly modeling bird abundances using data from both datasets. First, we fit a joint Species Distribution Model that accounts for environmental conditions and effort to identify reporting differences across the datasets. We then examine how these differences in reporting are related to species traits. Finally, we analyze species reported to one dataset but not the other and determine whether traits differ between reported and unreported species. We find that most species are reported more in the BBS than eBird. Specifically, we find that compared to eBird, BBS observers tend to report higher counts of common species and species that are usually detected by sound. We also find that species associated with water are reported less in the BBS. Species typically identified by sound are reported more at sunrise than later in the morning. Our results quantify reporting differences in eBird and the BBS to enhance our understanding of how each captures information and how they should be used. The reporting rates we identify can also be incorporated into observation models through detectability or effort to improve analyses across species and datasets. The method demonstrated here can be used to compare reporting rates across any two or more datasets to examine biases.

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  6. Abstract Aim

    As one of the most diverse and economically important families on Earth, ground beetles (Carabidae) are viewed as a key barometer of climate change. Recent meta‐analyses provide equivocal evidence on abundance changes of terrestrial insects. Generalizations from traits (e.g., body size, diets, flights) provide insights into understanding community responses, but syntheses for the diverse Carabidae have not yet emerged. We aim to determine how habitat and trait syndromes mediate risks from contemporary and future climate change on the Carabidae community.


    North America.

    Time period


    Major taxa studied

    Ground beetles (Carabidae).


    We synthesized the abundance and trait data for 136 species from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and additional raw data from studies across North America with remotely sensed habitat characteristics in a generalized joint attribute model. Combined Light Detection and RAnging (LiDAR) and hyperspectral imagery were used to derive habitat at a continental scale. We evaluated climate risks on the joint response of species and traits by expanding climate velocity to response velocity given habitat change.


    Habitat contributes more variations in species abundance and community‐weighted mean traits compared to climate. Across North America, grassland fliers benefit from open habitats in hot, dry climates. By contrast, large‐bodied, burrowing omnivores prefer warm‐wet climates beneath closed canopies. Species‐specific abundance changes predicted by the fitted model under future shared socioeconomic pathways (SSP) scenarios are controlled by climate interactions with habitat heterogeneity. For example, the mid‐size, non‐flier is projected to decline across much of the continent, but the magnitudes of declines are reduced or even reversed where canopies are open. Conversely, temperature dominates the response of the small, frequent flierAgonoleptus conjunctus, causing projected change to be more closely linked to regional temperature changes.

    Main conclusions

    Carabidae community reorganization under climate change is being governed by climate–habitat interactions (CHI). Species‐specific responses to CHI are explained by trait syndromes. The fact that habitat mediates warming impacts has immediate application to critical habitat designation for carabid conservation.

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    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 reduction 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. 
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