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  1. Abstract

    Disturbance and environmental change may cause communities to converge on a steady state, diverge towards multiple alternative states or remain in long‐term transience. Yet, empirical investigations of successional trajectories are rare, especially in systems experiencing multiple concurrent anthropogenic drivers of change. We examined succession in old field grassland communities subjected to disturbance and nitrogen fertilization using data from a long‐term (22‐year) experiment. Regardless of initial disturbance, after a decade communities converged on steady states largely determined by resource availability, where species turnover declined as communities approached dynamic equilibria. Species favoured by the disturbance were those that eventually came to dominate the highly fertilized plots. Furthermore, disturbance made successional pathways more direct revealing an important interaction effect between nutrients and disturbance as drivers of community change. Our results underscore the dynamical nature of grassland and old field succession, demonstrating how community properties such as diversity change through transient and equilibrium states.

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  2. Abstract

    Functional traits affect the demographic performance of individuals in their environment, leading to fitness differences that scale up to drive population dynamics and community assembly. Understanding the links between traits and fitness is, therefore, critical for predicting how populations and communities respond to environmental change. However, the net effects of traits on species fitness are largely unknown because we have lacked a framework for estimating fitness across multiple species and environments.

    We present a modelling framework that integrates trait effects on demographic performance over the life cycles of individuals to estimate the net effect of traits on species fitness. This approach involves (1) modelling trait effects on individual demographic rates (growth, survival and recruitment) as multidimensional performance surfaces that vary with individual size and environment and (2) integrating these effects into a population model to project population growth rates (i.e., fitness) as a function of traits and environment. We illustrate our approach by estimating performance surfaces and fitness landscapes for trees across a temperature gradient in the eastern United States.

    Functional traits (wood density, specific leaf area and maximum height) interacted with individual size and temperature to influence tree growth, survival and recruitment rates, generating demographic trade‐offs and shaping the contours of fitness landscapes. Tall tree species had high survival, growth and fitness across the temperature gradient. Wood density and specific leaf area had interactive effects on demographic performance, resulting in fitness landscapes with multiple peaks.

    With this approach it is now possible to empirically estimate the net effect of traits on fitness, leading to an improved understanding of the selective forces that drive community assembly and permitting generalizable predictions of population and community dynamics in changing environments.

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  3. Abstract

    Reports of declines in abundance and biomass of insects and other invertebrates from around the world have raised concerns about food limitation that could have profound impacts for insectivorous species. Food availability can clearly affect species; however, there is considerable variation among studies in whether this effect is evident, and thus a lack of clarity over the generality of the relationship. To understand how decreased food availability due to invertebrate declines will affect bird populations, we conducted a systematic review and used meta‐analytic structural equation modelling, which allowed us to treat our core variables of interest as latent variables estimated by the diverse ways in which researchers measure fecundity and chick body condition. We found a moderate positive effect of food availability on chick body condition and a strong positive effect on reproductive success. We also found a negative relationship between chick body condition and reproductive success. Our results demonstrate that food is generally a limiting factor for breeding songbirds. Our analysis also provides evidence for a consistent trade‐off between chick body condition and reproductive success, demonstrating the complexity of trophic dynamics important for these vital rates.

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  4. Abstract

    Hypoxia in coastal waters and lakes is widely recognized as a detrimental environmental issue, yet we lack a comparable understanding of hypoxia in rivers. We investigated controls on hypoxia using 118 million paired observations of dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration and water temperature in over 125,000 locations in rivers from 93 countries. We found hypoxia (DO < 2 mg L−1) in 12.6% of all river sites across 53 countries, but no consistent trend in prevalence since 1950. High‐frequency data reveal a 3‐h median duration of hypoxic events which are most likely to initiate at night. River attributes were better predictors of riverine hypoxia occurrence than watershed land cover, topography, and climate characteristics. Hypoxia was more likely to occur in warmer, smaller, and lower‐gradient rivers, particularly those draining urban or wetland land cover. Our findings suggest that riverine hypoxia and the resulting impacts on ecosystems may be more pervasive than previously assumed.

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  5. Abstract

    Research has conclusively demonstrated the potential for dispersal evolution in range expansions and shifts, however the degree of dispersal evolution observed has varied substantially among organisms. Further, it is unknown how the factors influencing dispersal evolution might impact other ecological processes at play. We use an individual-based model to investigate the effects of the underlying genetics of dispersal and mode of reproduction in range expansions and shifts. Consistent with predictions from stationary populations, dispersal evolution increases with sexual reproduction and loci number. Contrary to our predictions, however, increased dispersal does not always improve a population’s ability to track changing conditions. The mate finding Allee effect inherent to sexual reproduction increases extinction risk during range shifts, counteracting the beneficial effect of increased dispersal evolution. Our results demonstrate the importance of considering both ecological and evolutionary processes for understanding range expansions and shifts.

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  6. Abstract

    Organisms that undergo a shift in ontogeny and habitat type often change their spatial distribution throughout their life cycle, but how this affects population dynamics remains poorly understood.

    We examined spatial and temporal patterns inAedes nigripesabundance, a widespread univoltine Arctic mosquito species (Diptera: Culicidae), hypothesizing that the spatial distribution of adults would be closely tied to aquatic habitat.

    We tracked adult densities ofA. nigripesnear Kangerlussuaq, Greenland using emergence traps, CO2‐baited traps, and sweep‐nets.

    In back‐to‐back years of sampling (2017 and 2018) we found two‐fold variation in overall abundance.

    Adults were spatially patchy when first emerging from aquatic habitats but within a week, mean capture rates for host‐seeking adult females were similar across locations, even in places far from larval habitat.

    Daily variation in mosquito captures was primarily explained by weather, with virtually no mosquito activity when temperatures averaged less than 8°C or wind speeds exceeded 6 m/s. Gravid females (3% of resting adults) were spatially patchy on the landscape, but not always in the same places where most adults emerged.

    The spatial distribution of adults is quickly uncoupled from the spatial distribution of larvae becauseA. nigripesfemales may disperse far from their natal habitats in search of a blood‐meal and high‐quality oviposition habitat.

    8. This research highlights the value of studying ecological processes that act at disparate life stages for understanding the population biology of organisms with complex life cycles.

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  7. Abstract

    Freshwater salinization of rivers is occurring across the globe because of nonpoint source loading of salts from anthropogenic activities such as agriculture, urbanization, and resource extraction that accelerate weathering and release salts. Multidecadal trends in river salinity are well characterized, yet our understanding of annual regimes of salinity in rivers draining diverse central and western U.S. landscapes and their associated catchment attributes is limited. We classified annual salinity regimes in 242 stream locations through dynamic time warping and fuzzy c‐medoids clustering of salinity time series. We found two dominant regimes in salinity characterized by an annualsummer–fall peakorspring decline. Using random forest regression, we found that precipitation amount, stream slope, and soil salinity were the most important predictors of salinity regime classification. Advancing our understanding of salinity regimes in rivers will improve our ability to predict and mitigate the effects of salinization in freshwater ecosystems through management interventions.

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  8. Abstract

    Dispersal and dormancy are two common strategies allowing for species persistence and the maintenance of biodiversity in variable environments. However, theory and empirical tests of spatial diversity patterns tend to examine either mechanism in isolation. Here, we developed a stochastic, spatially explicit metacommunity model incorporating seed banks with varying germination and survival rates. We found that dormancy and dispersal had interactive, nonlinear effects on the maintenance and distribution of metacommunity diversity. Seed banks promoted local diversity when seed survival was high and maintained regional diversity through interactions with dispersal. The benefits of seed banks for regional diversity were largest when dispersal was high or intermediate, depending on whether local competition was equal or stabilising. Our study shows that classic predictions for how dispersal affects metacommunity diversity can be strongly influenced by dormancy. Together, these results emphasise the need to consider both temporal and spatial processes when predicting multi‐scale patterns of diversity.

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  9. Abstract

    Synchronous dynamics (fluctuations that occur in unison) are universal phenomena with widespread implications for ecological stability. Synchronous dynamics can amplify the destabilizing effect of environmental variability on ecosystem functions such as productivity, whereas the inverse, compensatory dynamics, can stabilize function. Here we combine simulation and empirical analyses to elucidate mechanisms that underlie patterns of synchronous versus compensatory dynamics. In both simulated and empirical communities, we show that synchronous and compensatory dynamics are not mutually exclusive but instead can vary by timescale. Our simulations identify multiple mechanisms that can generate timescale‐specific patterns, including different environmental drivers, diverse life histories, dispersal, and non‐stationary dynamics. We find that traditional metrics for quantifying synchronous dynamics are often biased toward long‐term drivers and may miss the importance of short‐term drivers. Our findings indicate key mechanisms to consider when assessing synchronous versus compensatory dynamics and our approach provides a pathway for disentangling these dynamics in natural systems.

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