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  3. Plants will experience considerable changes in climate within their geographic ranges over the next several decades. They may respond by exhibiting niche flexibility and adapting to changing climates. Alternatively, plant taxa may exhibit climate fidelity, shifting their geographic distributions to track their preferred climates. Here, we examine the responses of plant taxa to changing climates over the past 18,000 y to evaluate the extent to which the 16 dominant plant taxa of North America have exhibited climate fidelity. We find that 75% of plant taxa consistently exhibit climate fidelity over the past 18,000 y, even during the times of most extreme climate change. Of the four taxa that do not consistently exhibit climate fidelity, three—elm ( Ulmus ), beech ( Fagus ), and ash ( Fraxinus )—experience a long-term shift in their realized climatic niche between the early Holocene and present day. Plant taxa that migrate longer distances better maintain consistent climatic niches across transition periods during times of the most extreme climate change. Today, plant communities with the highest climate fidelity are found in regions with high topographic and microclimate heterogeneity that are expected to exhibit high climate resilience, allowing plants to shift distributions locally and adjust to somemore »amount of climate change. However, once the climate change buffering of the region is exceeded, these plant communities will need to track climates across broader landscapes but be challenged to do so because of the low habitat connectivity of the regions.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 14, 2024
  4. We are in a modern biodiversity crisis that will restructure community compositions and ecological functions globally. Large mammals, important contributors to ecosystem function, have been affected directly by purposeful extermination and indirectly by climate and land-use changes, yet functional turnover is rarely assessed on a global scale using metrics based on functional traits. Using ecometrics, the study of functional trait distributions and functional turnover, we examine the relationship between vegetation cover and locomotor traits for artiodactyl and carnivoran communities. We show that the ability to detect a functional relationship is strengthened when locomotor traits of both primary consumers (artiodactyls, n = 157 species) and secondary consumers (carnivorans, n = 138 species) are combined into one trophically integrated ecometric model. Overall, locomotor traits of 81% of communities accurately estimate vegetation cover, establishing the advantage of trophically integrated ecometric models over single-group models (58 to 65% correct). We develop an innovative approach within the ecometrics framework, using ecometric anomalies to evaluate mismatches in model estimates and observed values and provide more nuance for understanding relationships between functional traits and vegetation cover. We apply our integrated model to five paleontological sites to illustrate mismatches in the past and today and to demonstrate the utility ofmore »the model for paleovegetation interpretations. Observed changes in community traits and their associated vegetations across space and over time demonstrate the strong, rapid effect of environmental filtering on community traits. Ultimately, our trophically integrated ecometric model captures the cascading interactions between taxa, traits, and changing environments.« less
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  10. Protected areas serve to preserve the remaining biodiversity on our planet. However, today, only about 14% of terrestrial lands are protected, which will not be sufficient to support the planet’s fabric of life into the future ( 1 , 2 ). Humans continue to encroach on the habitats of many plants and animals. Simultaneously, the environmental conditions within protected areas are changing because of shifting climates, pollution, and invasive species, which all fundamentally alter ecosystems globally. To effectively conserve biodiversity, researchers and policy-makers must critically reexamine both the lands being preserved and the protection strategies being used in conservation. On pages 1094 and 1101 of this issue, Allan et al. ( 3 ) and Brennan et al. ( 4 ), respectively, evaluate the preservation capacity of today’s protected areas in different but complementary ways. Allan et al. estimate the minimum land area necessary to support today’s terrestrial biodiversity, whereas Brennan et al. identify the connectedness necessary to allow wildlife to successfully adapt to global change.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 3, 2023