Compilation by Robyn Darbyshire

Hautier, Y., D. Tilman, et al. (2015). “Anthropogenic environmental changes affect ecosystem stability via biodiversity.” Science 348(6232): 336-340.

Human-driven environmental changes may simultaneously affect the biodiversity, productivity, and stability of Earth’s ecosystems, but there is no consensus on the causal relationships linking these variables. Data from 12 multiyear experiments that manipulate important anthropogenic drivers, including plant diversity, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, fire, herbivory, and water, show that each driver influences ecosystem productivity. However, the stability of ecosystem productivity is only changed by those drivers that alter biodiversity, with a given decrease in plant species numbers leading to a quantitatively similar decrease in ecosystem stability regardless of which driver caused the biodiversity loss. These results suggest that changes in biodiversity caused by drivers of environmental change may be a major factor determining how global environmental changes affect ecosystem stability.

FULL TEXT LINK: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6232/336.abstract


Marton, J. M., I. F. Creed, et al. (2015). “Geographically Isolated Wetlands are Important Biogeochemical Reactors on the Landscape.” BioScience 65(4): 408-418.

Wetlands provide many ecosystem services, including sediment and carbon retention, nutrient transformation, and water quality improvement. Although all wetlands are biogeochemical hotspots, geographically isolated wetlands (GIWs) receive fewer legal protections compared with other types of wetlands because of their apparent isolation from jurisdictional waters. Here, we consider controls on biogeochemical functions that influence water quality, and estimate changes in ecosystem service delivery that would occur if these landscape features were lost following recent US Supreme Court decisions (i.e., Rapanos, SWANCC). We conclude that, despite their lack of persistent surfacewater connectivity or adjacency to jurisdictional waters, GIWs are integral to biogeochemical processing on the landscape and therefore maintaining the integrity of US waters. Given the likelihood that any GIW contributes to downstream water quality, we suggest that the burden of proof could be shifted to assuming that all GIWs are critical for protecting aquatic systems until proven otherwise.

FULL TEXT LINK: http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/65/4/408.abstract


Collins, B. M., A. J. Das, et al. (2014). “Beyond reducing fire hazard: fuel treatment impacts on overstory tree survival.” Ecological Applications 24(8): 1879-1886.

Fuel treatment implementation in dry forest types throughout the western United States is likely to increase in pace and scale in response to increasing incidence of large wildfires. While it is clear that properly implemented fuel treatments are effective at reducing hazardous fire potential, there are ancillary ecological effects that can impact forest resilience either positively or negatively depending on the specific elements examined, as well as treatment type, timing, and intensity. In this study, we use overstory tree growth responses, measured seven years after the most common fuel treatments, to estimate forest health. Across the five species analyzed, observed mortality and future vulnerability were consistently low in the mechanical-only treatment. Fire-only was similar to the control for all species except Douglas-fir, while mechanical-plus-fire had high observed mortality and future vulnerability for white fir and sugar pine. Given that overstory trees largely dictate the function of forests and services they provide (e.g., wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, soil stability) these results have implications for understanding longer-term impacts of common fuel treatments on forest resilience.

FULL TEXT LINK: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1890/14-0971.1


Standish, R. J., R. J. Hobbs, et al. (2014). “Resilience in ecology: Abstraction, distraction, or where the action is?” Biological Conservation 177: 43-51.

Increasingly, the success of management interventions aimed at biodiversity conservation are viewed as being dependent on the ‘resilience’ of the system. Although the term ‘resilience’ is increasingly used by policy makers and environmental managers, the concept of ‘resilience’ remains vague, varied and difficult to quantify. Here we clarify what this concept means from an ecological perspective, and how it can be measured and applied to ecosystem management. We argue that thresholds of disturbance are central to measuring resilience. Thresholds are important because they offer a means to quantify how much disturbance an ecosystem can absorb before switching to another state, and so indicate whether intervention might be necessary to promote the recovery of the pre-disturbance state. We distinguish between helpful resilience, where resilience helps recovery, and unhelpful resilience where it does not, signalling the presence of a threshold and the need for intervention. Data to determine thresholds are not always available and so we consider the potential for indices of functional diversity to act as proxy measures of resilience. We also consider the contributions of connectivity and scale to resilience and how to incorporate these factors into management. We argue that linking thresholds to functional diversity indices may improve our ability to predict the resilience of ecosystems to future, potentially novel, disturbances according to their spatial and temporal scales of influence. Throughout, we provide guidance for the application of the resilience concept to ecosystem management. In doing so, we confirm its usefulness for improving biodiversity conservation in our rapidly changing world.

FULL TEXT LINK: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320714002353


Sovern, S. G., E. D. Forsman, et al. (2015). “Roosting habitat use and selection by northern spotted owls during natal dispersal.” The Journal of Wildlife Management 79(2): 254-262.

We studied habitat selection by northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina) during natal dispersal in Washington State, USA, at both the roost site and landscape scales. We used logistic regression to obtain parameters for an exponential resource selection function based on vegetation attributes in roost and random plots in 76 forest stands that were used for roosting. We used a similar analysis to evaluate selection of landscape habitat attributes based on 301 radio-telemetry relocations and random points within our study area. We found no evidence of within-stand selection for any of the variables examined, but 78% of roosts were in stands with at least some large (>50 cm dbh) trees. At the landscape scale, owls selected for stands with high canopy cover (>70%). Dispersing owls selected vegetation types that were more similar to habitat selected by adult owls than habitat that would result from following guidelines previously proposed to maintain dispersal habitat. Our analysis indicates that juvenile owls select stands for roosting that have greater canopy cover than is recommended in current agency guidelines.

FULL TEXT LINK: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.834