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  1. null (Ed.)
  2. Gaillard, Jean‐Michel (Ed.)
  3. null (Ed.)
    Global loss of biodiversity and its associated ecosystem services is occurring at an alarming rate and is predicted to accelerate in the future. Metacommunity theory provides a framework to investigate multi-scale processes that drive change in biodiversity across space and time. Short-term ecological studies across space have progressed our understanding of biodiversity through a metacommunity lens, however, such snapshots in time have been limited in their ability to explain which processes, at which scales, generate observed spatial patterns. Temporal dynamics of metacommunities have been understudied, and large gaps in theory and empirical data have hindered progress in our understanding of underlying metacommunity processes that give rise to biodiversity patterns. Fortunately, we are at an important point in the history of ecology, where long-term studies with cross-scale spatial replication provide a means to gain a deeper understanding of the multiscale processes driving biodiversity patterns in time and space to inform metacommunity theory. The maturation of coordinated research and observation networks, such as the United States Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, provides an opportunity to advance explanation and prediction of biodiversity change with observational and experimental data at spatial and temporal scales greater than any single research group could accomplish. Synthesis of LTER network community datasets illustrates that long-term studies with spatial replication present an under-utilized resource for advancing spatio-temporal metacommunity research. We identify challenges towards synthesizing these data and present recommendations for addressing these challenges. We conclude with insights about how future monitoring efforts by coordinated research and observation networks could further the development of metacommunity theory and its applications aimed at improving conservation efforts. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
  5. Abstract

    There is an urgent need to synthesize the state of our knowledge on plant responses to climate. The availability of open-access data provide opportunities to examine quantitative generalizations regarding which biomes and species are most responsive to climate drivers. Here, we synthesize time series of structured population models from 162 populations of 62 plants, mostly herbaceous species from temperate biomes, to link plant population growth rates (λ) to precipitation and temperature drivers. We expect: (1) more pronounced demographic responses to precipitation than temperature, especially in arid biomes; and (2) a higher climate sensitivity in short-lived rather than long-lived species. We find that precipitation anomalies have a nearly three-fold larger effect onλthan temperature. Species with shorter generation time have much stronger absolute responses to climate anomalies. We conclude that key species-level traits can predict plant population responses to climate, and discuss the relevance of this generalization for conservation planning.

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  6. Abstract

    The relationship between biodiversity and stability, or its inverse, temporal variability, is multidimensional and complex. Temporal variability in aggregate properties, like total biomass or abundance, is typically lower in communities with higher species diversity (i.e., the diversity–stability relationship [DSR]). At broader spatial extents, regional‐scale aggregate variability is also lower with higher regional diversity (in plant systems) and with lower spatial synchrony. However, focusing exclusively on aggregate properties of communities may overlook potentially destabilizing compositional shifts. It is not yet clear how diversity is related to different components of variability across spatial scales, nor whether regional DSRs emerge across a broad range of organisms and ecosystem types. To test these questions, we compiled a large collection of long‐term metacommunity data spanning a wide range of taxonomic groups (e.g., birds, fish, plants, invertebrates) and ecosystem types (e.g., deserts, forests, oceans). We applied a newly developed quantitative framework for jointly analyzing aggregate and compositional variability across scales. We quantified DSRs for composition and aggregate variability in local communities and metacommunities. At the local scale, more diverse communities were less variable, but this effect was stronger for aggregate than compositional properties. We found no stabilizing effect of γ‐diversity on metacommunity variability, but β‐diversity played a strong role in reducing compositional spatial synchrony, which reduced regional variability. Spatial synchrony differed among taxa, suggesting differences in stabilization by spatial processes. However, metacommunity variability was more strongly driven by local variability than by spatial synchrony. Across a broader range of taxa, our results suggest that high γ‐diversity does not consistently stabilize aggregate properties at regional scales without sufficient spatial β‐diversity to reduce spatial synchrony.

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  7. Abstract

    Climate change has the potential to reduce the abundance and distribution of species and threaten global biodiversity, but it is typically not listed as a threat in classifying species conservation status. This likely occurs because demonstrating climate change as a threat requires data‐intensive demographic information. Moreover, the threat from climate change is often studied in specific biomes, such as polar or arid ones. Other biomes, such as coastal ones, have received little attention, despite being currently exposed to substantial climate change effects. We forecast the effect of climate change on the demography and population size of a federally endangered coastal dune plant (Lupinus tidestromii). We use data from a 14‐yr demographic study across seven extant populations of this endangered plant. Using model selection, we found that survival and fertility measures responded negatively to temperature anomalies. We then produced forecasts based on stochastic individual‐based population models that account for uncertainty in demographic outcomes. Despite large uncertainties, we predict that all populations will decline if temperatures increase by 1°C. Considering the total number of individuals across all seven populations, the most likely outcome is a population decline of 90%. Moreover, we predict extinction is certain for one of our seven populations. These results demonstrate that climate change will profoundly decrease the current and future population growth rates of this plant, and its chance of persistence. Thus, our study provides the first evidence that climate change is an extinction threat for a plant species classified as endangered under the USA Endangered Species Act.

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  8. Abstract

    Stage‐based demographic methods, such as matrix population models (MPMs), are powerful tools used to address a broad range of fundamental questions in ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation science. Accordingly, MPMs now exist for over 3000 species worldwide. These data are being digitised as an ongoing process and periodically released into two large open‐access online repositories: the COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database and the COMADRE Animal Matrix Database. During the last decade, data archiving and curation of COMPADRE and COMADRE, and subsequent comparative research, have revealed pronounced variation in how MPMs are parameterized and reported.

    Here, we summarise current issues related to the parameterisation and reporting of MPMs that arise most frequently and outline how they affect MPM construction, analysis, and interpretation. To quantify variation in how MPMs are reported, we present results from a survey identifying key aspects of MPMs that are frequently unreported in manuscripts. We then screen COMPADRE and COMADRE to quantify how often key pieces of information are omitted from manuscripts using MPMs.

    Over 80% of surveyed researchers (n = 60) state a clear benefit to adopting more standardised methodologies for reporting MPMs. Furthermore, over 85% of the 300 MPMs assessed from COMPADRE and COMADRE omitted one or more elements that are key to their accurate interpretation. Based on these insights, we identify fundamental issues that can arise from MPM construction and communication and provide suggestions to improve clarity, reproducibility and future research utilising MPMs and their required metadata. To fortify reproducibility and empower researchers to take full advantage of their demographic data, we introduce a standardised protocol to present MPMs in publications. This standard is linked towww.compadre‐, so that authors wishing to archive their MPMs can do so prior to submission of publications, following examples from other open‐access repositories such as DRYAD, Figshare and Zenodo.

    Combining and standardising MPMs parameterized from populations around the globe and across the tree of life opens up powerful research opportunities in evolutionary biology, ecology and conservation research. However, this potential can only be fully realised by adopting standardised methods to ensure reproducibility.

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  9. Abstract

    Understanding the effects of climate on the vital rates (e.g., survival, development, reproduction) and dynamics of natural populations is a long‐standing quest in ecology, with ever‐increasing relevance in the face of climate change. However, linking climate drivers to demographic processes requires identifying the appropriate time windows during which climate influences vital rates. Researchers often do not have access to the long‐term data required to test a large number of windows, and are thus forced to makea priorichoices. In this study, we first synthesize the literature to assess currenta priorichoices employed in studies performed on 104 plant species that link climate drivers with demographic responses. Second, we use a sliding‐window approach to investigate which combination of climate drivers and temporal window have the best predictive ability for vital rates of four perennial plant species that each have over a decade of demographic data (Helianthella quinquenervis,Frasera speciosa,Cylindriopuntia imbricata, andCryptantha flava). Our literature review shows that most studies consider time windows in only the year preceding the measurement of the vital rate(s) of interest, and focus on annual or growing season temporal scales. In contrast, our sliding‐window analysis shows that in only four out of 13 vital rates the selected climate drivers have time windows that align with, or are similar to, the growing season. For many vital rates, the best window lagged more than 1 year and up to 4 years before the measurement of the vital rate. Our results demonstrate that for the vital rates of these four species, climate drivers that are lagged or outside of the growing season are the norm. Our study suggests that considering climatic predictors that fall outside of the most recent growing season will improve our understanding of how climate affects population dynamics.

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