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  1. Abstract

    Biogeographic history can lead to variation in biodiversity across regions, but it remains unclear how the degree of biogeographic isolation among communities may lead to differences in biodiversity. Biogeographic analyses generally treat regions as discrete units, but species assemblages differ in how much biogeographic history they share, just as species differ in how much evolutionary history they share. Here, we use a continuous measure of biogeographic distance, phylobetadiversity, to analyze the influence of biogeographic isolation on the taxonomic and functional diversity of global mammal and bird assemblages. On average, biodiversity is better predicted by environment than by isolation, especially for birds. However, mammals in deeply isolated regions are strongly influenced by isolation; mammal assemblages in Australia and Madagascar, for example, are much less diverse than predicted by environment alone and contain unique combinations of functional traits compared to other regions. Neotropical bat assemblages are far more functionally diverse than Paleotropical assemblages, reflecting the different trajectories of bat communities that have developed in isolation over tens of millions of years. Our results elucidate how long-lasting biogeographic barriers can lead to divergent diversity patterns, against the backdrop of environmental determinism that predominantly structures diversity across most of the world.

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  2. Niche theory predicts that ecologically similar species can coexist through multidimensional niche partitioning. However, owing to the challenges of accounting for both abiotic and biotic processes in ecological niche modelling, the underlying mechanisms that facilitate coexistence of competing species are poorly understood. In this study, we evaluated potential mechanisms underlying the coexistence of ecologically similar bird species in a biodiversity-rich transboundary montane forest in east-central Africa by computing niche overlap indices along an environmental elevation gradient, diet, forest strata, activity patterns and within-habitat segregation across horizontal space. We found strong support for abiotic environmental habitat niche partitioning, with 55% of species pairs having separate elevation niches. For the remaining species pairs that exhibited similar elevation niches, we found that within-habitat segregation across horizontal space and to a lesser extent vertical forest strata provided the most likely mechanisms of species coexistence. Coexistence of ecologically similar species within a highly diverse montane forest was determined primarily by abiotic factors (e.g. environmental elevation gradient) that characterize the Grinnellian niche and secondarily by biotic factors (e.g. vertical and horizontal segregation within habitats) that describe the Eltonian niche. Thus, partitioning across multiple levels of spatial organization is a key mechanism of coexistence in diverse communities. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 30, 2024
  3. Forecasting the future state of a species is a tricky process, as there are numerous hidden factors that influence species trajectories in addition to the obvious unknowns about the future state of the planet. We echo the guidance of Clare et al. (2024) to use near‐term and long‐term forecasting in complementary ways. Near‐term forecasts can be used to guide specific management and conservation actions, which can be updated as new data and evidence are collected. Long‐term forecasts can be used to characterize uncertainty further into the future, which can help guide longstanding conservation planning and legislative actions that are based on such uncertainty in possible future outcomes.

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  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  5. Abstract

    Environmental and anthropogenic factors affect the population dynamics of migratory species throughout their annual cycles. However, identifying the spatiotemporal drivers of migratory species' abundances is difficult because of extensive gaps in monitoring data. The collection of unstructured opportunistic data by volunteer (citizen science) networks provides a solution to address data gaps for locations and time periods during which structured, design‐based data are difficult or impossible to collect.

    To estimate population abundance and distribution at broad spatiotemporal extents, we developed an integrated model that incorporates unstructured data during time periods and spatial locations when structured data are unavailable. We validated our approach through simulations and then applied the framework to the eastern North American migratory population of monarch butterflies during their spring breeding period in eastern Texas. Spring climate conditions have been identified as a key driver of monarch population sizes during subsequent summer and winter periods. However, low monarch densities during the spring combined with very few design‐based surveys in the region have limited the ability to isolate effects of spring weather variables on monarchs.

    Simulation results confirmed the ability of our integrated model to accurately and precisely estimate abundance indices and the effects of covariates during locations and time periods in which structured sampling are lacking. In our case study, we combined opportunistic monarch observations during the spring migration and breeding period with structured data from the summer Midwestern breeding grounds. Our model revealed a nonstationary relationship between weather conditions and local monarch abundance during the spring, driven by spatially varying vegetation and temperature conditions.

    Data for widespread and migratory species are often fragmented across multiple monitoring programs, potentially requiring the use of both structured and unstructured data sources to obtain complete geographic coverage. Our integrated model can estimate population abundance at broad spatiotemporal extents despite structured data gaps during the annual cycle by leveraging opportunistic data.

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  6. Abstract Aim

    Species distribution models (SDMs) are increasingly applied across macroscales using detection‐nondetection data. These models typically assume that a single set of regression coefficients can adequately describe species–environment relationships and/or population trends. However, such relationships often show nonlinear and/or spatially varying patterns that arise from complex interactions with abiotic and biotic processes that operate at different scales. Spatially varying coefficient (SVC) models can readily account for variability in the effects of environmental covariates. Yet, their use in ecology is relatively scarce due to gaps in understanding the inferential benefits that SVC models can provide compared to simpler frameworks.


    Here we demonstrate the inferential benefits of SVC SDMs, with a particular focus on how this approach can be used to generate and test ecological hypotheses regarding the drivers of spatial variability in population trends and species–environment relationships. We illustrate the inferential benefits of SVC SDMs with simulations and two case studies: one that assesses spatially varying trends of 51 forest bird species in the eastern United States over two decades and a second that evaluates spatial variability in the effects of five decades of land cover change on grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) occurrence across the continental United States.

    Main conclusions

    We found strong support for SVC SDMs compared to simpler alternatives in both empirical case studies. Factors operating at fine spatial scales, accounted for by the SVCs, were the primary divers of spatial variability in forest bird occurrence trends. Additionally, SVCs revealed complex species–habitat relationships with grassland and cropland area for grasshopper sparrow, providing nuanced insights into how future land use change may shape its distribution. These applications display the utility of SVC SDMs to help reveal the environmental factors that drive species distributions across both local and broad scales. We conclude by discussing the potential applications of SVC SDMs in ecology and conservation.

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  7. Abstract

    Data deficiencies among rare or cryptic species preclude assessment of community‐level processes using many existing approaches, limiting our understanding of the trends and stressors for large numbers of species. Yet evaluating the dynamics of whole communities, not just common or charismatic species, is critical to understanding and the responses of biodiversity to ongoing environmental pressures.

    A recent surge in both public science and government‐funded data collection efforts has led to a wealth of biodiversity data. However, these data collection programmes use a wide range of sampling protocols (from unstructured, opportunistic observations of wildlife to well‐structured, design‐based programmes) and record information at a variety of spatiotemporal scales. As a result, available biodiversity data vary substantially in quantity and information content, which must be carefully reconciled for meaningful ecological analysis.

    Hierarchical modelling, including single‐species integrated models and hierarchical community models, has improved our ability to assess and predict biodiversity trends and processes. Here, we highlight the emerging ‘integrated community modelling’ framework that combines both data integration and community modelling to improve inferences on species‐ and community‐level dynamics.

    We illustrate the framework with a series of worked examples. Our three case studies demonstrate how integrated community models can be used to extend the geographic scope when evaluating species distributions and community‐level richness patterns; discern population and community trends over time; and estimate demographic rates and population growth for communities of sympatric species. We implemented these worked examples using multiple software methods through the R platform via packages with formula‐based interfaces and through development of custom code in JAGS, NIMBLE and Stan.

    Integrated community models provide an exciting approach to model biological and observational processes for multiple species using multiple data types and sources simultaneously, thus accounting for uncertainty and sampling error within a unified framework. By leveraging the combined benefits of both data integration and community modelling, integrated community models can produce valuable information about both common and rare species as well as community‐level dynamics, allowing for holistic evaluation of the effects of global change on biodiversity.

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