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  1. Abstract Background and Aims Despite the critical role of woody tissues in determining net carbon exchange of terrestrial ecosystems, relatively little is known regarding the drivers of sapwood and bark respiration. Methods Using one of the most comprehensive wood respiration datasets to date (82 species from Australian rainforest, savanna and temperate forest), we quantified relationships between tissue respiration rates (Rd) measured in vitro (i.e. ‘respiration potential’) and physical properties of bark and sapwood, and nitrogen concentration (Nmass) of leaves, sapwood and bark. Key Results Across all sites, tissue density and thickness explained similar, and in some cases more, variation in bark and sapwood Rd than did Nmass. Higher density bark and sapwood tissues had lower Rd for a given Nmass than lower density tissues. Rd–Nmass slopes were less steep in thicker compared with thinner-barked species and less steep in sapwood than in bark. Including the interactive effects of Nmass, density and thickness significantly increased the explanatory power for bark and sapwood respiration in branches. Among these models, Nmass contributed more to explanatory power in trunks than in branches, and in sapwood than in bark. Our findings were largely consistent across sites, which varied in their climate, soils and dominant vegetationmore »type, suggesting generality in the observed trait relationships. Compared with a global compilation of leaf, stem and root data, Australian species showed generally lower Rd and Nmass, and less steep Rd–Nmass relationships. Conclusions To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to report control of respiration–nitrogen relationships by physical properties of tissues, and one of few to report respiration–nitrogen relationships in bark and sapwood. Together, our findings indicate a potential path towards improving current estimates of autotrophic respiration by integrating variation across distinct plant tissues.« less
  2. BACKGROUND Madagascar is one of the world’s foremost biodiversity hotspots. Its unique assemblage of plants, animals, and fungi—the majority of which evolved on the island and occur nowhere else—is both diverse and threatened. After human arrival, the island’s entire megafauna became extinct, and large portions of the current flora and fauna may be on track for a similar fate. Conditions for the long-term survival of many Malagasy species are not currently met because of multiple anthropogenic threats. ADVANCES We review the extinction risk and threats to biodiversity in Madagascar, using available international assessment data as well as a machine learning analysis to predict the extinction risks and threats to plant species lacking assessments. Our compilation of global International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessments shows that overexploitation alongside unsustainable agricultural practices affect 62.1 and 56.8% of vertebrate species, respectively, and each affects nearly 90% of all plant species. Other threats have a relatively minor effect today but are expected to increase in coming decades. Because only one-third (4652) of all Malagasy plant species have been formally assessed, we carried out a neural network analysis to predict the putative status and threats for 5887 unassessed species and tomore »evaluate biases in current assessments. The percentage of plant species currently assessed as under threat is probably representative of actual numbers, except in the case of the ferns and lycophytes, where significantly more species are estimated to be threatened. We find that Madagascar is home to a disproportionately high number of Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species. This further highlights the urgency for evidence-based and effective in situ and ex situ conservation. Despite these alarming statistics and trends, we find that 10.4% of Madagascar’s land area is protected and that the network of protected areas (PAs) covers at least part of the range of 97.1% of terrestrial and freshwater vertebrates with known distributions (amphibians, freshwater fishes, reptiles, birds, and mammal species combined) and 67.7% of plant species (for threatened species, the percentages are 97.7% for vertebrates and 79.6% for plants). Complementary to this, ex situ collections hold 18% of vertebrate species and 23% of plant species. Nonetheless, there are still many threatened species that do not occur within PAs and are absent from ex situ collections, including one amphibian, three mammals, and seven reptiles, as well as 559 plants and more yet to be assessed. Based on our updated vegetation map, we find that the current PA network provides good coverage of the major habitats, particularly mangroves, spiny forest, humid forest, and tapia, but subhumid forest and grassland-woodland mosaic have very low areas under protection (5.7 and 1.8% respectively). OUTLOOK Madagascar is among the world’s poorest countries, and its biodiversity is a key resource for the sustainable future and well-being of its citizens. Current threats to Madagascar’s biodiversity are deeply rooted in historical and present social contexts, including widespread inequalities. We therefore propose five opportunities for action to further conservation in a just and equitable way. First, investment in conservation and restoration must be based on evidence and effectiveness and be tailored to meet future challenges through inclusive solutions. Second, expanded biodiversity monitoring, including increased dataset production and availability, is key. Third, improving the effectiveness of existing PAs—for example through community engagement, training, and income opportunities—is more important than creating new ones. Fourth, conservation and restoration should not focus solely on the PA network but should also include the surrounding landscapes and communities. And finally, conservation actions must address the root causes of biodiversity loss, including poverty and food insecurity. In the eyes of much of the world, Madagascar’s biodiversity is a unique global asset that needs saving; in the daily lives of many of the Malagasy people, it is a rapidly diminishing source of the most basic needs for subsistence. Protecting Madagascar’s biodiversity while promoting social development for its people is a matter of the utmost urgency Visual representation of five key opportunities for conserving and restoring Madagascar’s rapidly declining biodiversity identified in this Review. The dashed lines point to representative vegetation types where these recommendations could have tangible effects, but the opportunities are applicable across Madagascar. ILLUSTRATION: INESSA VOET« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 2, 2023
  3. BACKGROUND The Republic of Madagascar is home to a unique assemblage of taxa and a diverse set of ecosystems. These high levels of diversity have arisen over millions of years through complex processes of speciation and extinction. Understanding this extraordinary diversity is crucial for highlighting its global importance and guiding urgent conservation efforts. However, despite the detailed knowledge that exists on some taxonomic groups, there are large knowledge gaps that remain to be filled. ADVANCES Our comprehensive analysis of major taxonomic groups in Madagascar summarizes information on the origin and evolution of terrestrial and freshwater biota, current species richness and endemism, and the utilization of this biodiversity by humans. The depth and breadth of Madagascar’s biodiversity—the product of millions of years of evolution in relative isolation —is still being uncovered. We report a recent acceleration in the scientific description of species but many remain relatively unknown, particularly fungi and most invertebrates. DIGITIZATION Digitization efforts are already increasing the resolution of species richness patterns and we highlight the crucial role of field- and collections-based research for advancing biodiversity knowledge in Madagascar. Phylogenetic diversity patterns mirror that of species richness and endemism in most of the analyzed groups. Among the new datamore »presented, our update on plant numbers estimates 11,516 described vascular plant species native to Madagascar, of which 82% are endemic, in addition to 1215 bryophyte species, of which 28% are endemic. Humid forests are highlighted as centers of diversity because of their role as refugia and centers of recent and rapid radiations, but the distinct endemism of other areas such as the grassland-woodland mosaic of the Central Highlands and the spiny forest of the southwest is also important despite lower species richness. Endemism in Malagasy fungi remains poorly known given the lack of data on the total diversity and global distribution of species. However, our analysis has shown that ~75% of the fungal species detected by environmental sequencing have not been reported as occurring outside of Madagascar. Among the 1314 species of native terrestrial and freshwater vertebrates, levels of endemism are extremely high (90% overall)—all native nonflying terrestrial mammals and native amphibians are found nowhere else on Earth; further, 56% of the island’s birds, 81% of freshwater fishes, 95% of mammals, and 98% of reptile species are endemic. Little is known about endemism in insects, but data from the few well-studied groups on the island suggest that it is similarly high. The uses of Malagasy species are many, with much potential for the uncovering of useful traits for food, medicine, and climate mitigation. OUTLOOK Considerable work remains to be done to fully characterize Madagascar’s biodiversity and evolutionary history. The multitudes of known and potential uses of Malagasy species reported here, in conjunction with the inherent value of this unique and biodiverse region, reinforce the importance of conserving this unique biota in the face of major threats such as habitat loss and overexploitation. The gathering and analysis of data on Madagascar’s remarkable biota must continue and accelerate if we are to safeguard this unique and highly threatened subset of Earth’s biodiversity. Emergence and composition of Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity. Madagascar’s biota is the result of over 160 million years of evolution, mostly in geographic isolation, combined with sporadic long distance immigration events and local extinctions. (Left) We show the age of the oldest endemic Malagasy clade for major groups (from bottom to top): arthropods, bony fishes, reptiles, flatworms, birds, amphibians, flowering plants, mammals, non-flowering vascular plants, and mollusks). Humans arrived recently, some 10,000 to 2000 years (top right) and have directly or indirectly caused multiple extinctions (including hippopotamus, elephant birds, giant tortoises, and giant lemurs) and introduced many new species (such as dogs, zebu, rats, African bushpigs, goats, sheep, rice). Endemism is extremely high and unevenly distributed across the island (the heat map depicts Malagasy palm diversity, a group characteristic of the diverse humid forest). Human use of biodiversity is widespread, including 1916 plant species with reported uses. The scientific description of Malagasy biodiversity has accelerated greatly in recent years (bottom right), yet the diversity and evolution of many groups remain practically unknown, and many discoveries await.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 2, 2023
  4. Abstract Aim

    In savannas, a grass‐dominated ground layer is key to ecosystem function via grass–fire feedbacks that maintain open ecosystems. With woody encroachment, tree density increases, thereby decreasing light in the ground layer and potentially altering ecosystem function. We investigated how light availability can filter individual grass species distributions and whether different functional traits are associated with response to a shade gradient in a landscape experiencing woody encroachment.


    Savanna–forest mosaic in the Cerrado domain, southeastern Brazil.


    Along an encroachment gradient of increasing tree leaf area index (LAI) and shade, we determined how changing light availability alters grass diversity and ground layer structure relative to grass cover and grass functional traits (photosynthetic pathway, underground storage organs, bud protection and traits related to grass shape, size and leaf dimensions).


    Increasing shade led to a decrease in grass cover and grass species richness, and also compositional and functional changes. We found that where tree LAI reached 1, grass cover was reduced by 50% and species richness by 30%. While C4grass species abundances decreased with increasing shade, the opposite pattern was true for C3grasses. There were only small differences in light preferences among C4subtypes, with phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PCK) species tolerating slightly more shaded conditions. Persistencemore »of some C4species under more shaded conditions was possible, likely due to an ability to store starch reserves via underground storage organs.


    Woody encroachment changes diversity and structure of the grassy layer that is critical to the functioning of savanna ecosystems, highlighting the dependence of the diverse grass layer on open and sunny conditions. Our results suggest a threshold of tree cover close to LAI ≈ 1 as being critical to cerrado grassy layer conservation.

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  5. Summary

    Process‐based vegetation models attempt to represent the wide range of trait variation in biomes by grouping ecologically similar species into plant functional types (PFTs). This approach has been successful in representing many aspects of plant physiology and biophysics but struggles to capture biogeographic history and ecological dynamics that determine biome boundaries and plant distributions. Grass‐dominated ecosystems are broadly distributed across all vegetated continents and harbour large functional diversity, yet most Land Surface Models (LSMs) summarise grasses into two generic PFTs based primarily on differences between temperate C3grasses and (sub)tropical C4grasses. Incorporation of species‐level trait variation is an active area of research to enhance the ecological realism of PFTs, which form the basis for vegetation processes and dynamics in LSMs. Using reported measurements, we developed grass functional trait values (physiological, structural, biochemical, anatomical, phenological, and disturbance‐related) of dominant lineages to improve LSM representations. Our method is fundamentally different from previous efforts, as it uses phylogenetic relatedness to create lineage‐based functional types (LFTs), situated between species‐level trait data and PFT‐level abstractions, thus providing a realistic representation of functional diversity and opening the door to the development of new vegetation models.