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Both tree size and life history variation drive forest structure and dynamics, but little is known about how life history frequency changes with size. We used a scaling framework to quantify ontogenetic size variation and assessed patterns of abundance, richness, productivity and light interception across life history strategies from >114,000 trees in a primary, neotropical forest. We classified trees along two life history axes: a
fast–slowaxis characterized by a growth–survival trade‐off, and a stature–recruitmentaxis with tall, long‐lived pioneersat one end and short, short‐lived recruitersat the other.
Relative abundance, richness, productivity and light interception follow an approximate power law, systematically shifting over an order of magnitude with tree size.
Slowsaplings dominate the understorey, but slowtrees decline to parity with rapidly growing fastand long‐lived pioneerspecies in the canopy.
Like the community as a whole,
slowspecies are the closest to obeying the energy equivalence rule (EER)—with equal productivity per size class—but other life histories strongly increase productivity with tree size. Productivity is fuelled by resources, and the scaling of light interception corresponds to the scaling of productivity across life history strategies, with slowand allspecies near solar energy equivalence. This points towards a resource‐use corollary to the EER: the resource equivalence rule.
Fitness trade‐offs associated with tree size and life history may promote coexistence in tropical forests by limiting niche overlap and reducing fitness differences.
Synthesis. Tree life history strategies describe the different ways trees grow, survive and recruit in the understorey. We show that the proportion of trees with a pioneer life history strategy increases steadily with tree size, as pioneers become relatively more abundant, productive, diverse and capture more resources towards the canopy. Fitness trade‐offs associated with size and life history strategy offer a mechanism for coexistence in tropical forests.
Species richness of marine mammals and birds is highest in cold, temperate seas—a conspicuous exception to the general latitudinal gradient of decreasing diversity from the tropics to the poles. We compiled a comprehensive dataset for 998 species of sharks, fish, reptiles, mammals, and birds to identify and quantify inverse latitudinal gradients in diversity, and derived a theory to explain these patterns. We found that richness, phylogenetic diversity, and abundance of marine predators diverge systematically with thermoregulatory strategy and water temperature, reflecting metabolic differences between endotherms and ectotherms that drive trophic and competitive interactions. Spatial patterns of foraging support theoretical predictions, with total prey consumption by mammals increasing by a factor of 80 from the equator to the poles after controlling for productivity.more » « less
Ecological studies of global warming impacts have many constraints. Organisms are often exposed to higher temperatures for short periods of time, probably underestimating their ability to acclimate or adapt relative to slower but real rates of warming. Many studies also focus on a limited number of traits and miss the multifaceted effects that warming may have on organisms, from physiology to behaviour. Organisms exhibit different movement traits, some of which are primarily driven by metabolic processes and others by decision‐making, which should influence the extent to which temperature affects them.
We collected snails from streams that have been differentially heated by geothermal activity for decades to determine how long‐term exposure to different temperatures affected their metabolism and movement. Additionally, we collected snails from a cold stream (5°C) and measured their metabolism and movement at higher temperatures (short‐term exposure). We used respirometry to measure metabolic rates and automated in situ image‐based tracking to quantify several movement traits from 5 to 21°C.
Long‐term exposure to higher temperatures resulted in a greater thermal sensitivity of metabolic rate compared to snails exposed for short durations, highlighting the need for caution when conducting acute temperature exposures in global warming research. Average speed, which is largely driven by metabolism, also increased more with temperature for long‐term exposure compared to short‐term exposure. Movement traits we interpret as more decision‐based, such as time spent moving and trajectory shape, were less affected by temperature. Step length increased and step angle decreased at higher temperatures for both long‐ and short‐term exposure, resulting in overall straighter trajectories. The power‐law exponent of the step length distributions and fractal dimension of trajectories were independent of temperature, however, suggesting that snails retained the same movement strategy.
The observed changes in snail movement at higher temperatures should lead to higher encounter rates and more efficient searching, providing a behavioural mechanism for stronger plant–herbivore interactions in warmer environments. Our research is among the first to show that temperature has contrasting effects on different movement traits, which may be determined by the metabolic contribution to those behaviours.
Thermal acclimation capacity, the degree to which organisms can alter their optimal performance temperature and critical thermal limits with changing temperatures, reflects their ability to respond to temperature variability and thus might be important for coping with global climate change. Here, we combine simulation modelling with analysis of published data on thermal acclimation and breadth (range of temperatures over which organisms perform well) to develop a framework for predicting thermal plasticity across taxa, latitudes, body sizes, traits, habitats and methodological factors. Our synthesis includes > 2000 measures of acclimation capacities from > 500 species of ectotherms spanning fungi, invertebrates, and vertebrates from freshwater, marine and terrestrial habitats. We find that body size, latitude, and methodological factors often interact to shape acclimation responses and that acclimation rate scales negatively with body size, contributing to a general negative association between body size and thermal breadth across species. Additionally, we reveal that acclimation capacity increases with body size, increases with latitude (to mid‐latitudinal zones) and seasonality for smaller but not larger organisms, decreases with thermal safety margin (upper lethal temperature minus maximum environmental temperatures), and is regularly underestimated because of experimental artefacts. We then demonstrate that our framework can predict the contribution of acclimation plasticity to the IUCN threat status of amphibians globally, suggesting that phenotypic plasticity is already buffering some species from climate change.