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  1. Thermal variability is a key driver of ecological processes, affecting organisms and populations across multiple temporal scales. Despite the ubiquity of variation, biologists lack a quantitative synthesis of the observed ecological consequences of thermal variability across a wide range of taxa, phenotypic traits and experimental designs. Here, we conduct a meta-analysis to investigate how properties of organisms, their experienced thermal regime and whether thermal variability is experienced in either the past (prior to an assay) or present (during the assay) affect performance relative to the performance of organisms experiencing constant thermal environments. Our results—which draw upon 1712 effect sizes from 75 studies—indicate that the effects of thermal variability are not unidirectional and become more negative as mean temperature and fluctuation range increase. Exposure to variation in the past decreases performance to a greater extent than variation experienced in the present and increases the costs to performance more than diminishing benefits across a broad set of empirical studies. Further, we identify life-history attributes that predictably modify the ecological response to variation. Our findings demonstrate that effects of thermal variability on performance are context-dependent, yet negative outcomes may be heightened in warmer, more variable climates. 
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  2. Abstract

    Information processing is increasingly recognized as a fundamental component of life in variable environments, including the evolved use of environmental cues, biomolecular networks, and social learning. Despite this, ecology lacks a quantitative framework for understanding how population, community, and ecosystem dynamics depend on information processing. Here, we review the rationale and evidence for ‘fitness value of information’ (FVOI), and synthesize theoretical work in ecology, information theory, and probability behind this general mathematical framework. The FVOI quantifies how species' per capita population growth rates can depend on the use of information in their environment. FVOI is a breakthrough approach to linking information processing and ecological and evolutionary outcomes in a changing environment, addressing longstanding questions about how information mediates the effects of environmental change and species interactions.

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  3. While considerable evidence exists of biogeographic patterns in the intensity of species interactions, the influence of these patterns on variation in community structure is less clear. Studying how the distributions of traits in communities vary along global gradients can inform how variation in interactions and other factors contribute to the process of community assembly. Using a model selection approach on measures of trait dispersion in crustaceans associated with eelgrass ( Zostera marina ) spanning 30° of latitude in two oceans, we found that dispersion strongly increased with increasing predation and decreasing latitude. Ocean and epiphyte load appeared as secondary predictors; Pacific communities were more overdispersed while Atlantic communities were more clustered, and increasing epiphytes were associated with increased clustering. By examining how species interactions and environmental filters influence community structure across biogeographic regions, we demonstrate how both latitudinal variation in species interactions and historical contingency shape these responses. Community trait distributions have implications for ecosystem stability and functioning, and integrating large-scale observations of environmental filters, species interactions and traits can help us predict how communities may respond to environmental change. 
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  4. Feedbacks are an essential feature of resilient socio-economic systems, yet the feedbacks between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human wellbeing are not fully accounted for in global policy efforts that consider future scenarios for human activities and their consequences for nature. Failure to integrate feedbacks in our knowledge frameworks exacerbates uncertainty in future projections and potentially prevents us from realizing the full benefits of actions we can take to enhance sustainability. We identify six scientific research challenges that, if addressed, could allow future policy, conservation and monitoring efforts to quantitatively account for ecosystem and societal consequences of biodiversity change. Placing feedbacks prominently in our frameworks would lead to (i) coordinated observation of biodiversity change, ecosystem functions and human actions, (ii) joint experiment and observation programmes, (iii) more effective use of emerging technologies in biodiversity science and policy, and (iv) a more inclusive and integrated global community of biodiversity observers. To meet these challenges, we outline a five-point action plan for collaboration and connection among scientists and policymakers that emphasizes diversity, inclusion and open access. Efforts to protect biodiversity require the best possible scientific understanding of human activities, biodiversity trends, ecosystem functions and—critically—the feedbacks among them. 
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