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  1. Estimates of organismal thermal tolerance are frequently used to assess physiological risk from warming, yet the assumption that these estimates are predictive of mortality has been called into question. We tested this assumption in the cold-water-specialist frog, Ascaphus montanus . For seven populations, we used dynamic experimental assays to measure tadpole critical thermal maximum (CTmax) and measured mortality from chronic thermal stress for 3 days at different temperatures. We tested the relationship between previously estimated population CTmax and observed mortality, as well as the strength of CTmax as a predictor of mortality compared to local stream temperatures capturing varying timescales. Populations with higher CTmax experienced significantly less mortality in the warmest temperature treatment (25°C). We also found that population CTmax outperformed stream temperature metrics as the top predictor of observed mortality. These results demonstrate a clear link between CTmax and mortality from thermal stress, contributing evidence that CTmax is a relevant metric for physiological vulnerability assessments. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Conservation units (CUs) are an essential tool for maximizing evolutionary potential and prioritizing areas across a species’ range for protection when implementing conservation and management measures. However, current workflows for identifying CUs on the basis of neutral and adaptive genomic variation largely ignore information contained in patterns of isolation by distance (IBD), frequently the primary signal of population structure in highly mobile taxa, such as birds, bats, and marine organisms with pelagic larval stages. While individuals located on either end of a species’ distribution may exhibit clear genetic, phenotypic, and ecological differences, IBD produces subtle changes in allele frequencies across space, making it difficult to draw clear boundaries for conservation purposes in the absence of discrete population structure. Here, we highlight potential pitfalls that arise when applying common methods for delineating CUs to continuously distributed organisms and review existing methods for detecting subtle breakpoints in patterns of IBD that can indicate barriers to gene flow in highly mobile taxa. In addition, we propose a new framework for identifying CUs in all organisms, including those characterized by continuous genomic differentiation, and suggest several possible ways to harness the information contained in patterns of IBD to guide conservation and management decisions.

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  4. Abstract

    Adaptive plasticity in thermal tolerance traits may buffer organisms against changing temperatures, making such responses of particular interest in the face of global climate change. Although population variation is integral to the evolvability of this trait, many studies inferring proxies of physiological vulnerability from thermal tolerance traits extrapolate data from one or a few populations to represent the species. Estimates of physiological vulnerability can be further complicated by methodological effects associated with experimental design. We evaluated how populations varied in their acclimation capacity (i.e., the magnitude of plasticity) for critical thermal maximum (CTmax) in two species of tailed frogs (Ascaphidae), cold‐stream specialists. We used the estimates of acclimation capacity to infer physiological vulnerability to future warming. We performed CTmax experiments on tadpoles from 14 populations using a fully factorial experimental design of two holding temperatures (8 and 15°C) and two experimental starting temperatures (8 and 15°C). This design allowed us to investigate the acute effects of transferring organisms from one holding temperature to a different experimental starting temperature, as well as fully acclimated responses by using the same holding and starting temperature. We found that most populations exhibited beneficial acclimation, where CTmax was higher in tadpoles held at a warmer temperature, but populations varied markedly in the magnitude of the response and the inferred physiological vulnerability to future warming. We also found that the response of transferring organisms to different starting temperatures varied substantially among populations, although accounting for acute effects did not greatly alter estimates of physiological vulnerability at the species level or for most populations. These results underscore the importance of sampling widely among populations when inferring physiological vulnerability, as population variation in acclimation capacity and thermal sensitivity may be critical when assessing vulnerability to future warming.

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  5. null (Ed.)
  6. The unprecedented rate of extinction calls for efficient use of genetics to help conserve biodiversity. Several recent genomic and simulation-based studies have argued that the field of conservation biology has placed too much focus on conserving genome-wide genetic variation, and that the field should instead focus on managing the subset of functional genetic variation that is thought to affect fitness. Here, we critically evaluate the feasibility and likely benefits of this approach in conservation. We find that population genetics theory and empirical results show that conserving genome-wide genetic variation is generally the best approach to prevent inbreeding depression and loss of adaptive potential from driving populations toward extinction. Focusing conservation efforts on presumably functional genetic variation will only be feasible occasionally, often misleading, and counterproductive when prioritized over genome-wide genetic variation. Given the increasing rate of habitat loss and other environmental changes, failure to recognize the detrimental effects of lost genome-wide genetic variation on long-term population viability will only worsen the biodiversity crisis.

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  7. Abstract

    1. Critical thermal limits represent an important component of an organism's capacity to cope with future temperature changes. Understanding the drivers of variation in these traits may uncover patterns in physiological vulnerability to climate change. Local temperature extremes have emerged as a major driver of thermal limits, although their effects can be mediated by the exploitation of fine‐scale spatial variation in temperature through behavioural thermoregulation.

    2. Here, we investigated thermal limits along elevation gradients within and between two cold‐water frog species (Ascaphusspp.), one with a coastal distribution (A. truei) and the other with a continental range (A. montanus). We quantified thermal limits for over 700 tadpoles, representing multiple populations from each species. We combined local temporal and fine‐scale spatial temperature data to quantify local thermal landscapes (i.e., thermalscapes), including the opportunity for behavioural thermoregulation.

    3. Lower thermal limits for either species could not be reached experimentally without the water freezing, suggesting that cold tolerance is <0.3°C. By contrast, upper thermal limits varied among populations, but this variation only reflected local temperature extremes inA. montanus, perhaps as a consequence of the greater variation in stream temperatures across its range. Lastly, we found minimal fine‐scale spatial variability in temperature, suggesting limited opportunity for behavioural thermoregulation and thus increased vulnerability to warming for all populations.

    4. By quantifying local thermalscapes, we uncovered different trends in the relative vulnerability of populations across elevation for each species. InA. truei, physiological vulnerability decreased with elevation, whereas inA. montanus, all populations were equally physiologically vulnerable. These results highlight how similar environments can differentially shape physiological tolerance and patterns of vulnerability of species, and in turn impact their vulnerability to future warming.

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