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  1. Abstract

    Nonnative species are a key agent of global change. However, nonnative invertebrates remain understudied at the community scales where they are most likely to drive local extirpations. We use the North American NEON pitfall trapping network to document the number of nonnative species from 51 invertebrate communities, testing four classes of drivers. We sequenced samples using the eDNA from the sample's storage ethanol. We used AICc informed regression to evaluate how native species richness, productivity, habitat, temperature, and human population density and vehicular traffic account for continent‐wide variation in the number of nonnative species in a local community. The percentage of nonnatives varied 3‐fold among habitat types and over 10‐fold (0%–14%) overall. We found evidence for two types of constraints on nonnative diversity. Consistent with Capacity rules (i.e., how the number of niches and individuals reflect the number of species an ecosystem can support) nonnatives increased with existing native species richness and ecosystem productivity. Consistent with Establishment Rules (i.e., how the dispersal rate of nonnative propagules and the number of open sites limits nonnative species richness) nonnatives increased with automobile traffic—a measure of human‐generated propagule pressure—and were twice as common in pastures than native grasslands. After accounting for drivers associated with a community's ability to support native species (native species richness and productivity), nonnatives are more common in communities that are regularly seasonally disturbed (pastures and, potentially deciduous forests) and those experiencing more vehicular traffic. These baseline values across the US North America will allow NEON's monitoring mission to document how anthropogenic change—from disturbance to propagule transport, from temperature to trends in local extinction—further shape biotic homogenization.

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  2. Beyond the better-studied carbohydrates and the macronutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, a remaining 20 or so elements are essential for life and have distinct geographical distributions, making them of keen interest to ecologists. Here, I provide a framework for understanding how shortfalls in micronutrients like iodine, copper, and zinc can regulate individual fitness, abundance, and ecosystem function. With a special focus on sodium, I show how simple experiments manipulating biogeochemistry can reveal why many of the variables that ecologists study vary so dramatically from place to place. I conclude with a discussion of how the Anthropocene's changing temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric CO 2 levels are contributing to nutrient dilution (decreases in the nutrient quality at the base of food webs). 
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  3. Invertebrate growth rates have been changing in the Anthropocene. We examine rates of seasonal maturation in a grasshopper community that has been declining annually greater than 2% a year over 34 years. As this grassland has experienced a 1°C increase in temperature, higher plant biomass and lower nutrient densities, the community is maturing more slowly. Community maturation had a nutritional component: declining in years/watersheds with lower plant nitrogen. The effects of fire frequency were consistent with effects of plant nitrogen. Principal components analysis also suggests associated changes in species composition—declines in the densities of grass feeders were associated with declines in community maturation rates. We conclude that slowed maturation rates—a trend counteracted by frequent burning—likely contribute to long-term decline of this dominant herbivore. 
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  4. Abstract

    The electrolytes Na and K both function to maintain water balance and membrane potential. However, these elements work differently in plants—where K is the primary electrolyte—than in animals—where ATPases require a balanced supply of Na and K. Here, we use monthly factorial additions of Na and K to simulate bovine urine inputs and explore how these electrolytes ramify through a prairie food web. Against a seasonal trend of increasing grass biomass and decreasing water and elemental tissue concentrations, +K and +Na plots boosted water content and, when added together, plant biomass. Compared to control plots, +Na and +K plots increased element concentrations in above‐ground plant tissue early in summer and decreased them in September. Simultaneously, invertebrate abundance on Na and K additions were sequentially higher and lower than control plots from June to September and were most suppressed when grass was most nutrient rich. K was the more effective plant electrolyte, but Na frequently promoted similar changes in grass ionomes. The soluble/leachable ions of Na and K showed significant ability to shape plant growth, water content, and the 15‐element ionome, with consequences for higher trophic levels. Grasslands with high inputs of Na and K—via large mammal grazers or coastal aerosol deposition—likely enhance the ability of plants to adjust their above‐ground ionomes, with dramatic consequences for the distribution of invertebrate consumers.

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  6. Abstract

    Activity density (AD), the rate at which animals collectively move through their environment, emerges as the product of a taxon's local abundance and its velocity. We analyze drivers of seasonal AD using 47 localities from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) both to better understand variation in ecosystem rates like pollination and seed dispersal as well as the constraints of using AD to monitor invertebrate populations. AD was measured as volume from biweekly pitfall trap arrays (ml trap−114 days−1). Pooled samples from 2017 to 2018 revealed AD extrema at most temperatures but with a strongly positive overall slope. However, habitat types varied widely in AD's seasonal temperature sensitivity, from negative in wetlands to positive in mixed forest, grassland, and shrub habitats. The temperature of maximum AD varied threefold across the 47 localities; it tracked the threefold geographic variation in maximum growing season temperature with a consistent gap ofca. 3°C across habitats, a novel macroecological result. AD holds potential as an effective proxy for investigating ecosystem rates driven by activity. However, our results suggest that its use for monitoring insect abundance is complicated by the many ways that both abundance and velocity are constrained by a locality's temperature and plant physiognomy.

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  7. Abstract

    Sodium (Na) is an essential element for all animals, but not for plants. Soil Na supplies vary geographically. Animals that primarily consume plants thus have the potential to be Na limited and plants that uptake Na may be subject to higher rates of herbivory, but their high Na content also may attract beneficial partners such as pollinators and seed dispersers.

    To test for the effects of Na biogeochemistry on herbivory, we conducted distributed Na press experiments (monthly Na application across the growing season) in four North American grasslands.

    Na addition increased soil and plant Na concentrations at all sites. Grasses in Na addition plots had significantly higher herbivore damage by leaf miners and fungal pathogens than those in control plots. Forbs with higher foliar Na concentrations had significantly more chewing insect herbivore and fungal damage.

    While no pattern was evident across all species, several forb species had higher Na concentrations in inflorescences compared to leaves, suggesting they may allocate Na to attract beneficial partners.

    The uptake of Na by plants, and animal responses, has implications for the salinification in the Anthropocene. Increased use of road salt, irrigation with saline groundwater, rising sea levels and increasing temperatures and evapotranspiration rates with climate change can all increase inputs of Na into terrestrial ecosystems.

    Our results suggest increasing terrestrial Na availability will benefit insect herbivores and plant fungal pathogens.

    A freePlain Language Summarycan be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

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