skip to main content

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "McGill, Brian J."

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Abstract While human activities are known to elicit rapid turnover in species composition through time, the properties of the species that increase or decrease their spatial occupancy underlying this turnover are less clear. Here, we used an extensive dataset of 238 metacommunity time series of multiple taxa spread across the globe to evaluate whether species that are more widespread (large-ranged species) differed in how they changed their site occupancy over the 10–90 years the metacommunities were monitored relative to species that are more narrowly distributed (small-ranged species). We found that on average, large-ranged species tended to increase in occupancy through time, whereas small-ranged species tended to decrease. These relationships were stronger in marine than in terrestrial and freshwater realms. However, in terrestrial regions, the directional changes in occupancy were less extreme in protected areas. Our findings provide evidence for systematic decreases in occupancy of small-ranged species, and that habitat protection could mitigate these losses in the face of environmental change. 
    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  3. Social change in any society entails changes in both behaviours and institutions. We model a group-structured society in which the transmission of individual behaviour occurs in parallel with the selection of group-level institutions. We consider a cooperative behaviour that generates collective benefits for groups but does not spread between individuals on its own. Groups exhibit institutions that increase the diffusion of the behaviour within the group, but also incur a group cost. Groups adopt institutions in proportion to their fitness. Finally, the behaviour may also spread globally. We find that behaviour and institutions can be mutually reinforcing. But the model also generates behavioural source-sink dynamics when behaviour generated in institutionalized groups spreads to non-institutionalized groups and boosts their fitness. Consequently, the global diffusion of group-beneficial behaviour creates a pattern of institutional free-riding that limits the evolution of group-beneficial institutions. Our model suggests that, in a group-structured society, large-scale beneficial social change can be best achieved when the relevant behaviour and institutions remain correlated. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Macroecology is a growing and important subdiscipline of ecology, but it is becoming increasingly diffuse, without an organizing principle that is widely agreed upon. I highlight two main current views of macroecology: as the study of large‐scale systems and as the study of emergent systems. I trace the history of both these views through the writings of the founders of macroecology. I also highlight the transmutation principle that identifies serious limitations to the study of large‐scale systems with reductionist approaches. And I suggest that much of the underlying goal of macroecology is the pursuit of general principles and the escape from contingency. I highlight that there are many intertwined aspects of macroecology, with a number of resulting implications. I propose that returning to a focus on studying assemblages of a large number of particles is a helpful view. I propose defining macroecology as “the study at the aggregate level of aggregate ecological entities made up of large numbers of particles for the purposes of pursuing generality”.

    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    A key feature of life’s diversity is that some species are common but many more are rare. Nonetheless, at global scales, we do not know what fraction of biodiversity consists of rare species. Here, we present the largest compilation of global plant diversity to quantify the fraction of Earth’s plant biodiversity that are rare. A large fraction, ~36.5% of Earth’s ~435,000 plant species, are exceedingly rare. Sampling biases and prominent models, such as neutral theory and the k-niche model, cannot account for the observed prevalence of rarity. Our results indicate that (i) climatically more stable regions have harbored rare species and hence a large fraction of Earth’s plant species via reduced extinction risk but that (ii) climate change and human land use are now disproportionately impacting rare species. Estimates of global species abundance distributions have important implications for risk assessments and conservation planning in this era of rapid global change. 
    more » « less
  6. Abstract

    The species composition of plant and animal assemblages across the globe has changed substantially over the past century. How do the dynamics of individual species cause this change? We classified species into seven unique categories of temporal dynamics based on the ordered sequence of presences and absences that each species contributes to an assemblage time series. We applied this framework to 14,434 species trajectories comprising 280 assemblages of temperate marine fishes surveyed annually for 20 or more years. Although 90% of the assemblages diverged in species composition from the baseline year, this compositional change was largely driven by only 8% of the species' trajectories. Quantifying the reorganization of assemblages based on species shared temporal dynamics should facilitate the task of monitoring and restoring biodiversity. We suggest ways in which our framework could provide informative measures of compositional change, as well as leverage future research on pattern and process in ecological systems.

    more » « less
  7. Abstract Aim

    Closely related species tend to resemble each other in their morphology and ecology because of shared ancestry. When exploring correlations between species traits, therefore, species cannot be treated as statistically independent. Phylogenetic comparative methods (PCMs) attempt to correct statistically for this shared evolutionary history. Almost all such approaches, however, assume that correlations between traits are constant across the tips of the tree, which we refer to as phylogenetic stationarity. We suggest that this assumption of phylogenetic stationarity might be often violated and that relationships between species traits might evolve alongside clades, for example, owing to the effects of unmeasured traits or other latent variables. Specific examples range from shifts in allometric scaling relationships between clades (e.g., basal metabolic rate and body mass in endotherms, and tree diameter and biomass in trees) to the differing relationship between leaf mass per area and shade tolerance in deciduous versus evergreen trees and shrubs.


    Here, we introduce an exploratory modelling framework, phylogenetically weighted regression, which represents an extension of geographically weighted regression (GWR) used in spatial studies, to allow non‐stationarity in model parameters across a phylogenetic tree. We demonstrate our approach using empirical data on flowering time and seed mass from a well‐studied plant community in southeastern Sweden. Our model reveals strong, diverging trends across the phylogeny, including changes in the sign of the relationship between clades.

    Main conclusions

    By allowing for phylogenetic non‐stationarity, we are able to detect shifting relationships among species traits that would be obscured in traditional PCMs; thus, we suggest that PWR might be an important exploratory tool in the search for key missing variables in comparative analyses.

    more » « less
  8. Abstract Aim

    Addressing global environmental challenges requires access to biodiversity data across wide spatial, temporal and taxonomic scales. Availability of such data has increased exponentially recently with the proliferation of biodiversity databases. However, heterogeneous coverage, protocols, and standards have hampered integration among these databases. To stimulate the next stage of data integration, here we present a synthesis of major databases, and investigate (a) how the coverage of databases varies across taxonomy, space, and record type; (b) what degree of integration is present among databases; (c) how integration of databases can increase biodiversity knowledge; and (d) the barriers to database integration.



    Time period


    Major taxa studied

    Plants and vertebrates.


    We reviewed 12 established biodiversity databases that mainly focus on geographic distributions and functional traits at global scale. We synthesized information from these databases to assess the status of their integration and major knowledge gaps and barriers to full integration. We estimated how improved integration can increase the data coverage for terrestrial plants and vertebrates.


    Every database reviewed had a unique focus of data coverage. Exchanges of biodiversity information were common among databases, although not always clearly documented. Functional trait databases were more isolated than those pertaining to species distributions. Variation and potential incompatibility of taxonomic systems used by different databases posed a major barrier to data integration. We found that integration of distribution databases could lead to increased taxonomic coverage that corresponds to 23 years’ advancement in data accumulation, and improvement in taxonomic coverage could be as high as 22.4% for trait databases.

    Main conclusions

    Rapid increases in biodiversity knowledge can be achieved through the integration of databases, providing the data necessary to address critical environmental challenges. Full integration across databases will require tackling the major impediments to data integration: taxonomic incompatibility, lags in data exchange, barriers to effective data synchronization, and isolation of individual initiatives.

    more » « less