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  1. Abstract

    Dissertations are a foundational scientific product; they are the formative product that early‐career scientists create and share original knowledge. The methodological approaches used in dissertations vary with the research field. In plant ecology, these approaches include observations, experiments (field or controlled environment), literature reviews, theoretical approaches, or analyses of existing data (including “big data”). Recently, concerns have been raised about the rise of “big data” studies and the loss of observational and field‐based studies in ecology, but such trends have not been formally quantified. Therefore, we examined how the emphasis on each of these categories has changed over time and whether male and female authors differ in the methods employed. We found remarkable temporal consistency, with observational studies being dominant over the entire time span examined. There was an increase in the number of approaches employed per dissertation, with increases in analyses of databases and theoretical studies adding to rather than replacing traditional methodologies (like observations and field experiments). The representation of women increased over time. There were some differences in the approaches taken by men and women, which requires further investigation.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    As the effects of anthropogenic climate change become more severe, several approaches for deliberate climate intervention to reduce or stabilize Earth’s surface temperature have been proposed. Solar radiation modification (SRM) is one potential approach to partially counteract anthropogenic warming by reflecting a small proportion of the incoming solar radiation to increase Earth’s albedo. While climate science research has focused on the predicted climate effects of SRM, almost no studies have investigated the impacts that SRM would have on ecological systems. The impacts and risks posed by SRM would vary by implementation scenario, anthropogenic climate effects, geographic region, and by ecosystem, community, population, and organism. Complex interactions among Earth’s climate system and living systems would further affect SRM impacts and risks. We focus here on stratospheric aerosol intervention (SAI), a well-studied and relatively feasible SRM scheme that is likely to have a large impact on Earth’s surface temperature. We outline current gaps in knowledge about both helpful and harmful predicted effects of SAI on ecological systems. Desired ecological outcomes might also inform development of future SAI implementation scenarios. In addition to filling these knowledge gaps, increased collaboration between ecologists and climate scientists would identify a common set of SAI research goals and improve the communication about potential SAI impacts and risks with the public. Without this collaboration, forecasts of SAI impacts will overlook potential effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services for humanity. 
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  3. Assessing the ecological and economic impacts of non-native species is crucial to providing managers and policymakers with the information necessary to respond effectively. Most non-native species have minimal impacts on the environment in which they are introduced, but a small fraction are highly deleterious. The definition of ‘damaging’ or ‘high-impact’ varies based on the factors determined to be valuable by an individual or group, but interpretations of whether non-native species meet particular definitions can be influenced by the interpreter’s bias or level of expertise, or lack of group consensus. Uncertainty or disagreement about an impact classification may delay or otherwise adversely affect policymaking on management strategies. One way to prevent these issues would be to have a detailed, nine-point impact scale that would leave little room for interpretation and then divide the scale into agreed upon categories, such as low, medium, and high impact. Following a previously conducted, exhaustive search regarding non-native, conifer-specialist insects, the authors independently read the same sources and scored the impact of 41 conifer-specialist insects to determine if any variation among assessors existed when using a detailed impact scale. Each of the authors, who were selected to participate in the working group associated with this study because of their diverse backgrounds, also provided their level of expertise and uncertainty for each insect evaluated. We observed 85% congruence in impact rating among assessors, with 27% of the insects having perfect inter-rater agreement. Variance in assessment peaked in insects with a moderate impact level, perhaps due to ambiguous information or prior assessor perceptions of these specific insect species. The authors also participated in a joint fact-finding discussion of two insects with the most divergent impact scores to isolate potential sources of variation in assessor impact scores. We identified four themes that could be experienced by impact assessors: ambiguous information, discounted details, observed versus potential impact, and prior knowledge. To improve consistency in impact decision-making, we encourage groups to establish a detailed scale that would allow all observed and published impacts to fall under a particular score, provide clear, reproducible guidelines and training, and use consensus-building techniques when necessary. 
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  4. Abstract

    Most current research on land‐use intensification addresses its potential to either threaten biodiversity or to boost agricultural production. However, little is known about thesimultaneouseffects of intensification on biodiversity and yield. To determine the responses of species richness and yield to conventional intensification, we conducted a global meta‐analysis synthesizing 115 studies which collected data for both variables at the same locations. We extracted 449 cases that cover a variety of areas used for agricultural (crops, fodder) and silvicultural (wood) production. We found that, across all production systems and species groups, conventional intensification is successful in increasing yield (grand mean + 20.3%), but it also results in a loss of species richness (−8.9%). However, analysis of sub‐groups revealed inconsistent results. For example, small intensification steps within low intensity systems did not affect yield or species richness. Within high‐intensity systems species losses were non‐significant but yield gains were substantial (+15.2%). Conventional intensification within medium intensity systems revealed the highest yield increase (+84.9%) and showed the largest loss in species richness (−22.9%). Production systems differed in their magnitude of richness response, with insignificant changes in silvicultural systems and substantial losses in crop systems (−21.2%). In addition, this meta‐analysis identifies a lack of studies that collect robust biodiversity (i.e. beyond species richness) and yield data at the same sites and that provide quantitative information on land‐use intensity. Our findings suggest that, in many cases, conventional land‐use intensification drives a trade‐off between species richness and production. However, species richness losses were often not significantly different from zero, suggesting even conventional intensification can result in yield increases without coming at the expense of biodiversity loss. These results should guide future research to close existing research gaps and to understand the circumstances required to achieve such win‐win or win‐no‐harm situations in conventional agriculture.

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