Giant Tortoises Migrate Unpredictably in the Face of Climate Change

Unlike many migratory species, Galapagos giant tortoises do not use current environmental conditions to time their seasonal migration

 

April 18, 2019
For Immediate Release                                   

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

 

Galapagos giant tortoises are sometimes called Gardeners of the Galapagos because they are responsible for long-distance seed dispersal. Their migration is key for many tree and plant species’ survival. Photo courtesy of Guillame Bastille-Rousseau.

Galapagos giant tortoises, sometimes called Gardeners of the Galapagos, are creatures of habit. In the cool dry season, the highlands of the volcano slopes are engulfed in cloud which allows the vegetation to grow despite the lack of rain. On the lower slopes, however, there is no thick fog layer, and vegetation is not available year round. Adult tortoises thus spend the dry season in the higher regions, and trek back to the lower, relatively warmer zones where there is abundant, nutritious vegetation when the rainy season begins.

The tortoises often take the same migration routes over many years in order to find optimal food quality and temperatures. The timing of this migration is essential for keeping their energy levels high, and climate change could disrupt a tortoise’s ability to migrate at the right time.

In the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecology, researchers use GPS to track the timing and patterns of tortoise migration over multiple years.

“We had three main goals in the study,” says Guillaume Bastille-Rousseau, lead author of the paper. “One was determining if tortoises adjust their timing of migration to current environmental conditions. Two, if so, what clues do they use to adjust the timing, and, three, what are the energetic consequences of migration mis-timing for tortoises?”

The researchers expected the migrations to be timed with current food and temperature conditions because many other migratory species operate that way. Bastille-Rousseau says “many animals, such as ungulates, can track current environmental conditions and migrate accordingly – what researchers sometime refer to as surfing the green-wave.”

Contrary to the researchers’ expectations, however, migration is weakly associated with current conditions such as fog, rain, and temperature. For instance, if it is unseasonably arid, it appears the tortoises do not take that variation into account when deciding it is time to migrate. It is unclear at this point whether they are basing their migration decisions on memories of past conditions or if they are simply incorrectly assessing current local conditions.

Galapagos giant tortoises migrate from arid lowlands to foggy, cooler uplands during the dry season to find more consistent, if not as nutritious, vegetation. Image courtesy of Guillame Bastille-Rousseau.

Bastille-Rousseau says the team is surprised by the mismatch, stating “tortoise timing of migration fluctuated a lot among years, often by over two months. This indicates that migration for tortoises may not just be about foraging opportunities. For example, female tortoises have to make decisions related to nesting, and we still have a lot to learn about migration in giant tortoises.”

Fortunately, this sub-optimal timing may not yet have critical impact on tortoise health. Potentially due to their long lives of up to 100 years and large body size, bad timing of migration has smaller consequences for giant tortoises compared to small, short lived animals. Giant tortoises can go up to a year without eating and survive, while other migrating species must eat more regularly to sustain their energy levels.

Giant tortoises are important ecosystem engineers in the Galapagos, responsible for long-distance seed dispersal, and their migration is key for many tree and plant species’ survival. How the tortoises’ variation in migration timing will affect the rest of the ecosystem is still unclear. Because tortoises do not seem to be tracking annual variation in environmental conditions, it is quite possible that the mistiming of migration will keep increasing in the future.

“One concern is that at some point in the future,” Bastille-Rousseau adds, “migration may not be an optimal strategy for tortoises. There may be a reduction in the number of individuals doing these long-distance movements. This would likely have cascading consequences for the whole ecosystem.”

 


Journal article

Bastille-Rousseau, Bastille, et al., 2019. Migration triggers in a large herbivore: Galapagos giant tortoises navigating resource gradients on volcanoes. Ecology. DOI: 10.1002/ecy.2658

 

Authors

Guillaume Bastille-Rousseau, James P. Gibbs, and Jacqueline L. Frair: Roosevelt Wild Life Station and Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Charles B. Yackulic: U.S. Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science Center

Freddy Cabrera: Charles Darwin Foundation, Puerto Ayora, Galápagos, Ecuador

Stephen Blake: Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, and Roosevelt Wild Life Station, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry; Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell, Germany; Whitney Harris World Ecology Center, University of Missouri-St. Louis; Department of Biology, Saint Louis University; WildCare Institute, Saint Louis Zoo

 

Author contact:

Guillame Bastille-Rousseau    gbr@colostate.edu

 

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The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the worlds largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 3000-4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org

ESA Tipsheet for April 1, 2019

Upcoming research in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Monday, 1 Apr 2019
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, ZGentes@esa.org

 

Get a sneak peek into these new scientific papers, publishing April 1, 2019 in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

  • Artificial lights from cities cause disruption among nocturnally migrating birds (Chicago, Houston, and Dallas are the worst)
  • How your age can predict your attitude toward nature
  • Building a global research network to track wildlife in cities
  • Using new tech to keep a finger on Earth’s pulse
  • Thinking outside the box when cities are the last chance for saving species

 

Artificial lights from cities cause disruption among nocturnally migrating birds (Chicago, Houston, and Dallas are the worst)

The radiance of major urban center artificial light at night is measured by satellite. Photo courtesy of Kyle G. Horton.

Researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the University of Oxford’s Edward Grey Institute have collected over two decades of data from satellites and weather radars to pinpoint the areas where artificial light affects the highest number of nocturnally migrating birds, and at what times of year the most birds are affected. They found that birds migrating through Chicago, Houston, and Dallas faced the highest levels of exposure, and that levels of exposure in these areas were as much as 20 times higher than in the 122 other major cities they studied. 

Author Contact: Kyle Horton (kgh48@cornell.edu)

 

 

Reconnecting older teenagers with nature before and as they enter adulthood could be critical. Photo courtesy of E Bentall/www.respb-images.com

How your age predicts your attitude toward nature

Conservation organizations often encourage people to spend time outdoors as a means of motivating pro-environmental behavior. However, humans’ sense of connection to nature depends on many social and psychological factors, and may also fluctuate with age, providing useful patterns to consider when designing audience-specific conservation strategies. A team of researchers from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the University of Essex surveyed nearly 400 people to identify age- and demographic-related patterns in humans’ connection to nature and found that connection was much lower in teenagers than in children under 12 and that males consistently showed lower levels of nature connection than females, with the exception of those in their late 20s.

Author Contact: Joelene Hughes (Joelene.hughes@rspb.org.uk)

 

 

Building a global network to track squirrels and foxes in cities

A coyote (Canis latrans) in a cemetery in Chicago, Illinois. Photo courtesy of Seth B. Magle.

Researchers from Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and a number of universities across the US have developed a network of research groups that collect and share data about biodiversity in cities. In a new Frontiers paper, the authors show how the Urban Wildlife Information Network (UWIN)’s  protocols, which were first implemented in Chicago, can be adapted for use in virtually any city and for any type of wildlife, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. UWIN partners also collaborate with science educators and crowdsourcing research platforms such as Zooniverse to engage communities in local environmental research.

Author Contact: Seth Magle (smagle@lpzoo.org)

 

 

In this remote-sensing image, colors indicate distance from scanner and saturation indicates laser reflectivity. Photo courtesy of M Palace/CC BY 4.0

Using new tech to keep a finger on Earth’s pulse

Remote-sensing measurements offer a way for ecologists to obtain large volumes of data that show how ecosystems are changing; furthermore, collecting these measurements is more cost-effective than many types of on-the-ground field experiments. A new review in Frontiers examines the advantages of five high-tech approaches: spectroscopy, thermal and fluorescence imaging, terrestrial laser scanning, digital repeat photography, and unmanned aerial systems. For example, infrared cameras can generate round-the-clock heat maps of plants to show how they are responding to changes in the environment in near real time, and drones’ flight paths can be pre-programmed to collect data from the same places multiple times. The authors explain how such approaches can be used alone or in combination to carry out accurate and far-reaching planetary-scale global-change experiments.

Author Contact: Alexey Shiklomanov (Alexey.shiklomanov@pnnl.gov)

 


Thinking outside the box w
hen cities are the last chance for saving species

Urban-restricted species rely on a variety of land-use types such as golf courses, railway verges, and roadsides. Art courtesy of E Pirtle.

Many endangered species persist only in urban areas, so efforts to save them depend entirely on conservation strategies in cities. Ecologists from the University of Melbourne identified 39 threatened Australian species that are restricted to urban areas (including the Western swamp tortoise, several orchid species, trees, and a snail species) and discussed the strategies that have been used to protect them. They recommend that urban conservationists prioritize small, unconventional urban areas not typically used for conservation, keep careful watch on development activities, be willing to maintain secrecy regarding the location of threatened species, and engage human communities in stewardship and conservation activities.    

Author Contact: Kylie Soanes (ksoanes@unimelb.edu.au)

 

 

 

 

 

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The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org

 

Woolly Stars Need Catastrophes to Live

In the Santa Ana River floodplain, an endangered plant needs the effects of intense flooding to grow and survive in loose soil

 

March 19, 2019
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

 

The endangered Santa Ana Woolly Star depends on catastrophic floods to create its preferred habitat of loose soil. Thanks to a huge dam, natural floods are now nonexistent in its home turf. Photo courtesy of Darren Sandquist.

A small, crunchy, spiny plant redefines toughness as it thrives on catastrophic flooding. The endangered Santa Ana Woolly Star does not just prosper with floods, though; it depends on them. Thanks to a huge dam, natural floods are now nonexistent in its home turf.

In a study published in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecosphere, researchers use different soil treatments mimicking flood effects in the woolly star’s preferred habitat, exploring the effectiveness of each to help the plant survive in the face of urban development.

The woolly star (Eriastrum densifolium) is a perennial plant that grows on loose and unstable clay, silt, sand, and gravel left by infrequent, large floods in the Santa Ana River floodplain of southern California. It was classified as an endangered species in 1987 under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 due to flood control measures that reduce its habitat. With the construction of the Seven Oaks Dam in 2000 – the tenth largest earthen dam in the world – the occasional flooding, scouring, and deposition of new soil needed to create the woolly star’s favored habitat does not occur at all.

Without targeted reestablishment of flows and flood pulses, or treatments that artificially mimic catastrophic flooding, woolly star populations are unlikely to exist for long in the floodplain.

In the newly published paper, Rebecca R. Hernandez of the University of California, Davis, and Darren R. Sandquist from California State University, Fullerton, examine the effectiveness of different soil treatments on native plant recovery. The methods mimic one or more physical disturbances occurring after a natural flooding event: the researchers cleared all plant cover, scoured the top soil layer, and added sand to imitate deposits that occur after flooding. They established an experimental site in 1999, using treatments on plots of land and surveying for plant cover, abundance, maturity, and diversity at varying intervals after treatments were given.

Researchers use soil treatments that mimic one or more physical disturbances occurring after a natural flooding event, such as scouring away topsoil. Photo courtesy of Ken Corey/USFWS.

“The surveys reported here are the first to examine recovery of alluvial sage scrub native plant populations – in particular the federally endangered Santa Ana River woolly star – for more than two years after various soil [treatments],” the paper states.

Hernandez hypothesizes that soil treatments mimicking catastrophic floods will help reestablish woolly star plants, while taking no action will favor invasive grasses and other exotic plant species. Without intense flood pulses, the soil becomes more stable and supportive of these competing plants. The grass then further stabilizes the soil, creating an inhospitable area for the woolly stars that prefer loose dirt, and the grasses and other invasive plants out compete them for territory.

The treatment that simulated vegetation and soil being scoured away by rushing floodwaters resulted in the highest rate of woolly star survival. The plots treated with this method also had the least amount of competing grasses. As predicted, if plots are not treated in any way, there is very low year-to-year survival of woolly star, covering only 1.2 percent of the ground. The other treatments show responses ranging between these extremes, with treatments simulating sediment deposition from flooding in second place. Scouring or burying the existing soil surface is the most important driver for reestablishment of the woolly star.

As of 2011, over one million dams have been constructed worldwide, degrading, damaging, and destroying downstream habitats. Recovery methods like these soil treatments help sustain populations of native plant species in one such habitat, whose numbers are on the decline since installation of the Seven Oaks dam. Hopefully, these efforts in the Santa Ana River floodplain will lead to a self-sustaining ecosystem with high biodiversity and become a model for managing similarly-challenged ecosystems elsewhere.

 


 

Journal

Hernandez, Rebecca R., Sandquist, D.R. 2019. “A dam in the drylands: Soil geomorphic treatments facilitate recruitment of the endangered Santa Ana River woolly star.” Ecosphere. DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2621.

 

Authors

Rebecca R. Hernandez; Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources, University of California; John Muir Institute of the Environment, University of California, Davis

Darren R. Sandquist; Department of Biological Science, California State University, Fullerton

 

Author Contact:

Rebecca Hernandez                           globalaridlab@gmail.com

 

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The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the worlds largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society‘s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org

ESA Tipsheet for March 4,5, 2019

Upcoming research in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Thursday, 28 Feb 2019
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, ZGentes@esa.org

 

Get a sneak peek into these new scientific papers, publishing on March 4,5, 2019 in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

  • Digging for ancient parasites in museum archives
  • Species origin is linked to extinction risk
  • Pollinator-friendly cities need to be human community-friendly, too
  • Is North America’s “old growth” forest concept less important than we think?

 

Parasites hidden in museum specimens can teach us about diseases of the past and present

Specimens found in museum collections such as this one at the Berlin Museum of Natural History help scientists study preserved parasites. Photo courtesy of  S. Galyonkin/Creative Commons.

When ecologists respond to spreading infectious diseases, they need to establish a picture of the “normal” conditions they are trying to recover. According to a review published by researchers at the University of Washington and the Natural History Museum in London, the skeletons, fossils, and floating specimens found in museum and university collections provide a way for ecologists to track long-term shifts in parasitic infections. Many preserved specimens (such as frozen mammoth organs or fossilized dinosaur bones) also happen to contain preserved parasites. The authors explain how parasites can be examined using advanced imaging techniques and DNA analyses to reconstruct stories about diseases over time. 

Author Contact: Chelsea Wood (chelwood@uw.edu)

  • Harmon A, Littlewood TJ, and Wood CL. 2019. Parasites lost: using natural history collections to track disease change across deep time. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 17: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.2017.

 

 

Setting the record straight: non-native species are more frequently implicated in extinctions than native species

Brown tree snakes have caused many extinctions in Guam and elsewhere. Photo courtesy of P. Kirillov/Creative Commons.

A number of papers published in the last two decades have argued against the use of species origin as a guiding principle for natural resource management, citing a lack of evidence that non-native species are truly a major cause of biological extinction or other environmental damage. A new analysis of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species shows that species classified as “alien” have in fact contributed to more plant and animal extinctions than have native species.

Author Contact: Tim Blackburn (t.blackburn@ucl.ac.uk)

  • Blackburn TM, Bellard C, and Ricciardi A. Alien versus native species as drivers of recent extinctions. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 17: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.2020.

 

 

Giving urban communities a voice in pollinator conservation initiatives

Residents express concern about potential crime at this ‘pocket prairie’ site. Photo courtesy of Mary Gardiner.

Parks, gardens, and vacant lots are ideal candidates for pollinator conservation sites, but in cities, the presence of undeveloped green spaces with lots of unmown grass and vegetation is sometimes viewed as a sign of poverty or neglect. Because tall plants offer concealment from onlookers, “pocket prairie” plots can even be viewed by residents as dangerous and as potential areas of criminal activity. A review by researchers from Ohio State University describes how scientists can connect with local communities to learn how to design public green spaces that are viewed as attractive and safe while still conserving populations of bees and other pollinators.

Author Contact: Mary Gardiner (gardiner.29@osu.edu)

  • Turo KJ and Gardiner MM. 2019. From potential to practical: conserving bees in urban public green spaces Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 17: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.2015.

 

 

Out with OLD growth, in with ecological contiNEWity

Forests like this old-growth cedar forest in Chun T’oh Whudujut Park and Protected Area, Canada may be assessed by their lichens. Photo courtesy of Yolanda Wiersma.

Forest managers in North America usually rely on tree age when deciding which old-growth forests have the most conservation value. However, a new article by researchers from the Canadian Museum of Nature and Memorial University of Newfoundland contends that “ancient woodlands” do not necessarily require old, stately trees to be considered ancient. Instead, the length of time the area has existed uninterrupted as a forest – regardless of the age of individual trees in the forest – is a better way to identify priority areas for conservation. The authors suggest that lichens, which tend to rely on old forests, could be a way for conservation biologists and forest managers to determine how long an area has been forested. Most biologists and managers do not have expertise in identifying lichen species, but improvements in image recognition software could make it more feasible for non-lichenologists to learn how to identify these cryptic species in the field.

Author Contact: Yolanda Wiersma (ywiersma@mun.ca)

  • McMullin RT and Wiersma YF. Out with OLD growth, in with ecological contiNEWity: new perspectives on forest conservation. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 17: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.2016.

 

 

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The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org

Pika survival rates dry up with low moisture

In the Pacific Northwest, dry air interacts with low snow conditions to affect pika abundances at different elevations

 

February 4, 2019
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

 

An American pika pokes its head above the grass in New Mexico. Photo courtesy of Thomas Barlow.

Although it has been ranked as the cutest creature in US National Parks, the American pika is tough, at home in loose alpine rocks in windswept mountain regions. Related to rabbits and hares, pikas live in cold, wet climates and high terrain, spending winters in snowy homes living off of stored grasses and other forage they have gathered, only venturing out for more when weather permits.

Unfortunately for these adorable little mammals, they have a fairly severe sensitivity to overheating – they die if they are exposed to temperatures above 77°F for longer than six hours. Due to their lethal threshold for heat stress, pikas are indicators of how changing environmental conditions can affect mountain-dwelling species.

It might appear that the danger for pikas lies mostly with increasing temperatures and summer heat extremes. In some cases, however, decreased snowpack and lower air moisture may threaten pikas more.

Vapor-pressure deficit (VPD) can be likened to air’s aridity – higher VPD is drier. VPD governs the growth of many plants that pikas depend on for food, and controls cloud formation and snow. If VPD becomes higher, it will inhibit the growth of plants that pikas depend on for food, and will shrink snow packs which they use for insulation against extreme temperature. The snowpack also stores water until springtime, when it provides water for forage plants that pikas eat.

A team of researchers lead by Aaron N. Johnston of the U.S. Geological Survey sought to understand how climate change, specifically changes in snowpack and VPD, is affecting pikas. In a paper published recently in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecology, they related population abundances to weather and snowpack dynamics in the North Cascades National Park Service Complex in Washington state. In the Pacific Northwest, a place with mild summers and prevailing cool, moist conditions, pikas occur at unusually low elevations including near sea level.

A pika carries a mouthful of forage in decent weather, possibly to store it away in its home. Photo courtesy of Thomas Barlow.

The study period included a year with record-low snowpack and high VPD (very dry air) in winter of 2014-2015, a data point that provided valuable observations of these variables’ influences on the ecosystem. The researchers further studied the dynamics across differing elevations – low, middle, and high.

The results were surprisingly variable, with different dynamics acting over different elevations.

“We expected snowpack to be an important factor because it has many important ecological functions for pikas,” said Johnston. “The effect of VPD in winter was a big surprise.”

At the lowest elevations, populations declined markedly. Unusually high VPD during the snow drought dried up forage plant species accustomed to moist conditions, and lack of food may have prompted malnourished pikas to forgo reproduction. Cold exposure did not appear to affect these pikas, where absence of snowpack is common because of generally warm temperatures.

At middle elevations, it was cold stress, not dry air, that had the biggest effect. Along a narrow elevation band, about 1200-1500 meters, pika populations lacked a strong snowpack in which to seek shelter and insulation from extreme cold. However, it was a dip in reproduction the following year, not pika mortality in a single winter, that caused the population abundance to drop. Pikas may have even resorbed fetuses in response to the cold stress of the snow drought.

With their sensitivity to overheating, pikas are an indicator species for how climate change may affect mountain-dwelling wildlife. Photo courtesy of Shana Weber.

At high elevations, where snow often persists for up to 7-9 months, forage came back into play as the important driver of abundances. Populations increased, having had sufficient snow cover for insulation despite a snow drought, and having benefitting from increased forage availability due to earlier snowmelt and a longer growth season for food. Pikas were able to consume and collect enough food to increase their health and ability to produce many offspring over the following winter.

Given the pervasive influence of moisture on the physiology of plants and animals, the authors find the lack of previous studies on animal responses to VPD surprising.

“Moisture is distinct from climatic factors of temperature and precipitation that are commonly used to explain animal distributions,” Johnston stated. “Incorporating moisture into species distribution models should improve ecological understanding of species and their responses to climate change.”

Climate-indicator species like pikas provide a number of ecosystem services and play an important role in biodiversity. Pikas serve as a food source for a number of predators, including weasels, coyotes, and birds of prey. They are also ecosystem engineers – their foraging helps promote the diversity and distribution of various plant species and nutrients. Consequently, pika die-offs could have many lasting dire consequences for the environment and serve as a harbinger in forecasting potential climate change impacts on animal and plant life across the greater continental US.

As extreme events like snow drought continue to increase in frequency, how these events and their interactions with VPD will affect animal species remains largely unexplored. Support for continued research into climate indicator species such as the pika is critically important.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Barlow.

 


Journal Article

Johnston, Aaron N., et al. 2019. “Ecological consequences of anomalies in atmospheric moisture and snowpack.” Ecology. DOI: 10.1002/ecy.2638

 

Authors

Aaron N. Johnston, USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center; University of Washington School of Envrionmental and Forest Sciences

Jason E. Bruggeman, Beartooth Wildlife Research

Aidan Beers, University of Colorado Boulder Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Erik A Beever, USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center; Montana State University

Roger Christophersen and Jason I. Ransom, National Park Service, North Cascades National Park Complex.

 

Author Contact:

Aaron N. Johnston         ajohnston@usgs.gov

 

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The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

 

Why charismatic, introduced species are so difficult to manage

Researchers say mismatches of scale between social and ecological systems are a key contributor to many conflicts involving introduced-species management

 

February 4, 2019
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

 

Introduced and invasive species can present big problems, particularly when those species are charismatic, finds a recently published paper in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

People tend to have a more favorable view of species that are large; do not bite, crawl, or squirm; are not oily or slimy; or are culturally valued. Some introduced species, like zebra mussels, tend to be reviled by the public, and people willingly adhere to strict management policies.

However, if an animal has that elusive quality of charisma, people often don’t want it to be controlled, even if it’s harming the environment. Inevitably, these imbalances in public perception of introduced species influence the way those organisms are managed.

Ring-necked parakeets and feral domestic pigeons both frequent some urban areas in the UK, and people have grown used to seeing them in their local parks. Photo courtesy of Loz Pycock.

Take the ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri) for example. The pet trade has led to an established population of parakeets in Europe, far outside the species’ native range. Even though parakeets can transmit diseases to native birds, compete with them for nesting cavities, and are recognized as a crop pest, the public enjoys seeing them in parks, gardens, and homes. Introduced parakeets tend to be released in cities, but the parakeets actually exact the most damage in rural areas. But because people have grown used to them, they are likely to oppose eradication efforts that take place before the birds become an established nuisance.

Opposition to the management of charismatic species can be exacerbated by these “social–ecological mismatches” – differences between the scales of interacting social and ecological systems. In the parakeets’ case, the introduced birds have not been around for more than a few decades, which is not a long time on an ecological scale. But it is long for humans – many have grown up knowing the parakeets are part of their neighborhood, and so oppose efforts to manage them.

A group of researchers from the US Geological Survey (USGS) and universities in the US and UK explored how public perception and management actions toward charismatic, introduced species are often at odds with the ecological characteristics of these populations.

The paper argues that scale – and specifically for mismatches of scale between social and ecological systems – is a key influence on many conflicts involving introduced-species management. In a nutshell, the average citizen or policymaker experiences things in “human time” while ecosystems and introduced species experience things in “ecosystem time.” The same goes for differences in spatial scale; humans experience things on a human scale – their neighborhood, their city, things at the level of their own experience – while ecosystems and invasive species have more far-reaching consequences that are tough for people to comprehend. This makes it difficult to enact policies that are in line with the way ecosystems behave and species invasions occur.

The researchers explore other cases of introduced species and suggest ways to establish science-based strategies for managing them while also maintaining public trust.

Horses have been integral to human life throughout history, and hold widespread cultural significance. But horses are not native (at least in the modern era) to many of the places where they currently roam. Photo courtesy of Steve Petersen.

Free-roaming horses (Equus caballus) are another example. Horses have been integral to human life throughout history, and hold widespread cultural significance. But horses are not native (at least in the modern era) to many of the places where they currently roam, and many of their populations have high growth rates. Some nations, like Australia, cull their wild horse populations in an attempt to control grazing impacts on indigenous plants. In an Argentinian provincial park, wild horses have reduced native plant cover and allowed invasive pines to gain a foothold – a result that conflicts with the park’s fundamental management goal of preserving the native grasslands.

In the US, there are nearly three times as many horses on rangelands than the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has said is appropriate. One of the more socially acceptable management practices is to relocate them to holding facilities, but these can be overcrowded and take up a considerable portion of BLM funding.

Lead author Erik A. Beever of USGS explains that, as with the parakeets, social and ecological scales are at odds with each other for these iconic mammals. Management approaches can be standardized at the state or national level, yet the differences in how horses’ influences play out in nature illustrate the importance of locally-relevant approaches. “Horses can move very far,” he said, “but their management areas can be small and the boundaries do not shift over time or account for seasonal movement.” Additionally, management decisions and projects may take months to years to come into effect, while natural events can shift horse populations in days or weeks.

These differences in the scales at which social and ecological systems interact with introduced species create multi-faceted management and conservation challenges. However, Beever and his colleagues hope that shedding some light on this fundamental problem will aid management tactics in the future.

“There are tools, techniques, and approaches that can help to bring progress and even resolution to these situations,” he says. “Addressing social–ecological mismatches will be an important element to effectively manage introduced species; this will require early, meaningful communication about complex management issues among researchers, managers, and the public, and a collaborative search for practical solutions and compromises.”

 


Journal

Beever, Erik A., et al., 2019. “Social–ecological mismatches create conservation challenges in introduced species management.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. DOI: 10.1002/fee.2000

 

Authors

Erik A. Beever and Robert Al-Chokhachy, US Geological Survey, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center; Department of Ecology, Montana State University

Daniel Simberloff, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee

Sarah L. Crowley, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter

Hazel A. Jackson, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent

Steven L. Petersen, Plant and Wildlife Sciences Department, Brigham Young University

 

Author Contact:

Erik A Beever     ebeever@usgs.gov

 

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The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the worlds largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org

 

Elephants take to the road for reliable resources

In a national park, researchers study African elephant movement and vegetation using satellites


January 9, 2018

For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

 

An elephant never forgets. This seems to be the case, at least, for elephants roaming about Namibia, looking for food, fresh water, and other resources.

The relationship between resource availability and wildlife movement patterns is essential to understanding species behavior and ecology. Landscapes can change from day-to-day and year-to-year, and many animals will move about according to resource availability. But do they remember past resource conditions? Just how important is memory and spatial cognition when seeking to understand wildlife movement?

Researchers in Etosha National Park, Namibia, examined this question through an iconic mammal. “African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are ideal for this study – they have excellent cognitive abilities and long-term spatial memory,” lead author Miriam Tsalyuk of University of California Berkeley explained, “which helps them return to areas with better food and water. African savannas are unpredictable with a prolonged dry season, where knowledge of the long-term availability of resources is highly advantageous.” The study was published today in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecological Monographs.

A group of African elephants moves across the Etosha National Park in Namibia, Africa. Photo courtesy of Miriam Tsalyuk.

Using GPS collars, the researchers tracked the movement of 15 elephant groups for periods ranging from 2 months up to a little over 4 and a half years. Key to this study, Tsalyuk emphasized, were satellite-based imagery and observations, which were used to create detailed data on vegetation types and biomass. Together with maps of surface water and man-made constructs, Tsalyuk and her colleagues then correlated these variables with the elephant movement data to look for patterns in behavior.

“Most ecological research to date examines how wildlife respond to the current environmental state,” she said. “However, animals use spatial and social memory to return to locations that have been beneficial in the past. Satellite imagery provides information about these past conditions and unravels the complexity of wildlife spatial use.”

Their analyses revealed that the elephants certainly seem to remember where to find the best food and reliable water. Long-term information (up to a decade) on forage conditions was a bigger factor in elephants’ decisions where to go than current conditions, particularly in the dry season.

“The results were very surprising indeed,” Tsalyuk said. “We thought that if we could capture the vegetation conditions as close as possible to the time the elephants passed there, we could better explain preference for a particular location. But we found the complete opposite – elephants have a stronger preference for locations where forage conditions have been better for many years, over the forage availability they see around them at the moment.”

The researchers were also surprised about the variability of the elephants’ preference for resources – different vegetation types and water sources – over time of day and over seasons.

Elephants’ strong inclination to be close to water is expected in the semiarid environment of Etosha. Preference for permanent water sources increases as rainfall declines. As the dry season progresses, elephants become increasingly dependent on artificial (human-made) water sources, such as bore holes. 

Collared African elephants like this one near a water source helped supply movement data for the study. Photo courtesy of Miriam Tsalyuk.

Somewhat less expected was the elephants’ fondness to walk close to roads.

“Roads are often dangerous to wildlife,” Tsalyuk said. “However, this research was performed within Etosha National Park, where most of the roads are dirt roads with relatively little traffic.” Elephants highly preferred to travel along roads in the dry season, when road conditions are best and when the elephants need to move farther between water and vegetation resources. It seems they use roads as easy walking terrain to conserve energy.

It’s possible that they may also take advantage of browsable plants in roadside ditches, or could position themselves behind tourist vehicles as a potential shield from predators.

The elephants in Etosha prefer areas with higher grass biomass, but lower tree biomass. When food is abundant, the elephants feel more comfortable to explore the landscape for greener patches or higher quality forage. In the dry season, however, when food becomes scarcer and less nutritious the goal becomes reducing the risk of starvation, and the elephants restrict themselves to areas where forage productivity has been favorable for many years.

Elephants are important ecosystem engineers – they control habitat conditions or availability of resources to other organisms. For example, they enhance plant diversity by suppressing tree cover and promote seed dispersal and nutrient transport, while dense elephant populations may cause vegetation degradation and tree damage. Unfortunately for these integral animals, elephant populations throughout Africa are in steep decline in the last decade due to poaching and greater restriction of their range.

If we want to better understand the changes in elephant–savanna vegetation dynamics and to improve land management, it is crucial to account for the variation in the movement-related responses of elephants to changing resources.

 


Journal Article

Miriam Tsalyuk, et al., 2018. “Temporal variation in resource selection of African Elephants follows long term variability 2 in resource availability.” Ecological Monographs. DOI: 10.1002/ecm.1348.

 

Authors

Miriam Tsalyuk, Department of Environmental Sciences, Policy & Management, University of California Berkeley

Werner Kilian , Etosha Ecological Institute, Namibia

Björn Reineking, Université Grenoble Alpes, France

Wayne Marcus Getz, School of Mathematical Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

 

Author Contact

Miriam Tsalyuk      miri.tsa@gmail.com

 

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The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Does mountaintop removal also remove rattlesnakes?

Mining operations in Appalachia permanently alter habitat availability for rattlesnakes

 

January 3, 2018
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

 

Timber rattlesnakes, according to the study’s author, are among the most docile creatures in Appalachia. Photo courtesy of Thomas Maigret.

On the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Kentucky, surface coal mining is destroying ridgelines and mountaintops, and along with them, the habitat of a surprisingly gentle reptile species – the timber rattlesnake.

“Timber rattlesnakes may be the most docile, calm animals of their size in eastern US forests,” Thomas Maigret, a researcher from the University of Kentucky, said. “On several occasions, I’ve witnessed spiders using a rattlesnake as an anchor for a web. Females, especially, move very infrequently, and pose almost no threat to a careful human.”

Unfortunately for the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) and other species in this region – both plant and animal – surface coal mining requires complete removal of mature forest cover and the upper soil layers. This means that soil is scraped away, rocks disturbed and dug out, plants and trees removed, or the ridgetop landscape flattened and made more uniform to reach the coal buried in the earth. This alteration eliminates many diverse, unique places for animals to live and hibernate. The central Appalachia region spans eastern Kentucky, northeastern Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and southern West Virginia and is one of the most diverse non-tropical ecosystems in the world with thousands of plant and animal species, many that are only found there.

Maigret and his colleagues tracked timber rattlesnakes in a study published today in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The researchers implanted radio transmitters in snakes of the Cumberland Plateau and tracked their movements until they retreated to hibernation sites in the fall. The data gathered provided a roadmap for identifying other potential hibernating sites, or “hibernacula,” across the study area.

“Snakes of the eastern U.S. vary in their hibernacula selection behavior, and for many species not much is known about hibernacula preferences,” Maigret explained. “For example, many aquatic snakes prefer damp hibernacula near the streams where they reside during the summer. But for other species, any warm, protected crevice they can fit into seems to suffice.”

By analyzing remote-sensing and satellite imagery, mining maps, and permit data from the USGS and other sources, the researchers were then able to determine how mining might affect a wide range of hibernation sites.

Timber rattlesnakes choose places to hibernate that are more likely to be surface mined due to their ridgetop locations. Mining thus puts this species at a disadvantage and reduces the biodiversity of the area. Photo courtesy of Thomas Maigret.

They found that because timber rattlesnakes tend to hibernate in the same places that make ideal mines, surface mining disproportionately alters or eliminates their preferred habitat. “Other species with habitat preferences similar to timber rattlesnakes – including some snakes – may also be affected disproportionately by mining. On the other hand,” Maigret said, “species associated with middle or lower slopes will not be affected by mining to the same extent.”

In other words, the mining operations here are selecting against timber rattlesnake habitat, effectively cutting into the region’s biodiversity.

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 does not require mining companies to reforest the area to the original mountaintop landscape after mining has wrapped up. The law does dictate that the “approximate original contours” of a site be re-established, in an attempt to not leave the area uninhabitable by the species that once lived there. However, it is rare for forests and biodiversity to fully recover from mining-related disturbances, to the detriment of many animals and their habitats.

Is the damage done to mountain-tops irreversible? While researchers are actively improving the ability to restore habitats on reclaimed mine lands, surface mining acts as an eraser of unique ecosystems, creating a uniform landscape where there once were diverse habitat options. In the Cumberland Plateau, mining leaves conservation and management efforts very little to work with even after an operation restores the approximate original mountaintop landscape.

Still, Maigret is optimistic about the future of restoring mined areas for the docile rattlesnakes. “Coal mining in central Appalachia has serious economic headwinds,” he stated, “and may never return to the rates of surface mining of the late 20th century. Timber rattlesnakes are resilient, and their ability to adapt to previous landscape changes – including massive deforestation in the 19th and early 20th century – should not be underestimated.”

 


 

Journal Article

Maigret T.A., Cox J.J., and Yang J. 2019. Persistent geophysical effects of mining threaten ridgetop biota of Appalachian forests. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. DOI: 10.1002/fee.1992

 

Authors

Thomas A. Maigret, Department of Biology, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Kentucky          

John J. Cox and Jian Yang, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Kentucky  

 

Author Contact

Thomas A Maigret (thomas.maigret@uky.edu)

 

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The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Birds can mistake some caterpillars for snakes; can robots help? 

Researchers observe a defense mechanism for caterpillars can attract unwanted attention

December 17, 2018 
For Immediate Release  

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org 

 

During the night, this caterpillar (Oxytenis modestia) moved onto and began feeding on a leaf directly above the nest of a rufous-tailed hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl), whose comings and goings disturbed the caterpillar, causing it to expand and reveal its “eyes” and rear up into its snake-mimic posture. Photo courtesy of James Marden.

When a caterpillar disguises itself as a snake to ward off potential predators, it should probably expect to be treated like one. 

This is exactly what happened in Costa Rica earlier this year, when researchers witnessed a hummingbird defending its nest from what it interpreted to be a snake, but was actually a larva of the moth Oxytenis modestia. The encounter is described in a new paper published in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecology

These moths — sometimes called the dead-leaf moth or the Costa Rica leaf moth — resemble flat dried leaves as adults. The caterpillars can inflate the top of their heads to expose a pair of eyespots. When disturbed, they raise their head up and move from side to side, increasing the snake-like appearance. In particular they resemble a green parrot snake, known to prey on nesting birds. 

The attacking hummingbird’s nest with eggs was about 10cm away from the caterpillar in a small tree. When the researchers went to look for an assumed snake, they instead found the caterpillar feeding on a leaf immediately above the nest. 

“Hummingbirds have a few stereotypical styles of flying: visiting flowers, preying on swarms of tiny insects, chasing each other, and mating/territorial display flights,” says lead author James H. Marden, professor with the Department of Biology at Pennsylvania State University. “Mobbing behavior directed against a threat to their nest is much less common but distinct and easy to recognize if you know their other flight behaviors… One can recognize this from a distance and only notice the source of their agitation upon close inspection.” 

Caterpillars and adults of a variety of butterflies and moths have eye-like spots that deter potential predators. Observations of how these eyespots affect animal interactions in natural settings are extremely rare. 

The interaction took place on a strip of secondary growth between the Pacific and primary rainforest on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. The authors believe that the comings and goings of the female rufous-tailed hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl) around its nest may have disturbed the caterpillar, causing it to expose its eyespots, which in turn prompted the hummingbird to defend its nest using what is referred to as ‘mobbing behavior’ by birds — darting flights and pecking at a threat, commonly snakes. 

The caterpillar was unable to feed during the 26-minutes of nearly continuous attacks. Most of the bird’s movements were cautious and exploratory, but included quick thrusts to peck or bite the eyespots (view video clip here).  

Marden stated that it was difficult for either the bird or caterpillar to disengage from the standoff, with the hummingbird protecting its nest and the caterpillar just trying to finish its leafy meal. “A snake-like creature so near to its nest was too much of a distraction or threat to ignore for very long,” he explained. “The caterpillar seemed more irreversibly committed. When a camouflaged animal reveals itself as threatening, it is committed and cannot easily go back to camouflage. Hence, I think that it had no choice but continue looking like a snake until the threat had passed.”  

A bite directly on the false eye. Photo courtesy of James Marden.

Eventually the caterpillar gave up on eating and crawled away while still under attack, and the hummingbird resumed normal nesting behavior.  

When birds exhibit this mobbing behavior targeting snake’s eyes, it often ends with snakes being killed by repeated bites and pecks near the head and collar area. As for creatures that mimic snakes to protect themselves from being eaten, can they in turn protect themselves from this mimicry backfiring, such as in this encounter? Because the hummingbird behavior was typical anti-snake behavior, it can be considered replicable. 

Marden is fascinated by this interaction, and he believes future studies of this behavior can be conducted using a tiny, caterpillar robot to experiment with eyespots. 

“You’d want a cylindrical shape and green color, with the ability to rear up in the front and reveal an eyespot,” he outlines. It should be remote controlled, light enough to attach to a leaf or stem, and wireless. “Many experiments have done this with clay or similar material, but those models lack the ability to combine eyespots with movement and behavior. That is what a robot could add.” 

When disturbed, the caterpillar increases its internal pressure, causing the area behind the head to expand and expose a pair of eyespots. Expansion and exposure of the “eyes” is accompanied by rearing up and side to side movements, which closely mimic a small snake. Photo courtesy of James Marden.

With such a robot, researchers could vary the eye-like nature and contrast of spots on the head of the robot to test various responses of nest-defending birds. A study like this could definitively test the effects of eye-like versus other mimicry patterning for provoking or repelling defensive attacks. 

The day following the initial encounter, the researchers found the caterpillar feeding on a leaf on the same plant, as far away from the nest as possible. It had some marks by the edge of the right eyespot that may be beak marks – apparently the caterpillar learned its lesson. 


 

Journal Article 

Marden, J.H., J.F.P. Carillo. 2018. “Anti‐predator behavior by a nesting hummingbird in response to a caterpillar with eyespots.” Ecology. DOI: 10.1002/ecy.2582

Authors 
James H. Marden, Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University  
José Freiner Perez Carillo, Campanario Biological Station, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica 

Author contact 
James H. Marden       jhm10@psu.edu 

 

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The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org

 

Ecologists Ask: Should We Be More Transparent with Data?

Open, readily-usable data sets and code will grow more important in future scientific research, saving time and effort for reviewers, investigators, and authors

 

October 26, 2018
For Immediate Release

Contact: Zoe Gentes, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, zgentes@esa.org

 

Computational reproducibility – the ability to accurately reproduce outcomes from data sets using the same code and software – will be an increasingly important factor in future scientific studies according to a new paper released in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecological Applications.

Authors Stephen M. Powers and Stephanie E. Hampton, researchers at Washington State University, highlight the importance of adapting to, providing, and using data sets that are open to and usable by the public and investigators in ecology and other field research.

Weather events like this tornado are unique events that cannot be reproduced, posing challenges for reproducibility in field ecology data. Photo courtesy of NOAA Photo Library.

“Increasingly, peers and the public want more transparency,” Powers explains.

Ecologists, finding themselves in an inherently field-oriented science, have long faced the challenge that it is impossible to perfectly repeat observational studies of the natural world – weather conditions vary, populations change over time, and many other conditions in field work are not reproducible. The paper argues that ecologists should focus more on data sharing and transparency in the future in order to increase scientific reproducibility.

An investigator may spend considerable time, effort, and cost attempting to generate results of someone else’s study from scratch. When both data and code used to obtain statistics and results are published, the investigator saves on these efforts, and can even improve or modify the original author’s computer code. Essentially, sharing this information means less time is wasted for reviewers, editors, and authors alike.

It’s not only scientists that benefit from reproducibility and transparency; “In natural resource management and similar policy issues, high transparency is essential to maintain public trust,” says Hampton, who is also director for the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Being open about data and code from the beginning of a project can help scientists minimize post-publication work to share or clarify the products or to answer questions about contentious results from outside audiences.

The authors also emphasize that it is imperative to prepare young researchers for the computational expectations of the future by engaging them in the process now: “It takes time to develop new practices and skills so it’s important to prepare for transparency at the beginning of a project. It’s no fun to scramble and address transparency requirements at the last possible moment,” said Powers.

To facilitate these efforts, code is frequently shared through web-based services and repositories that host thousands of data sets. Such tools are now widely accessible and attitudes and norms increasingly favor data reuse.

Fire personnel learn how to use technology in the field for fire ecology research in Alaska. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

Three years ago, Ecological Applications mandated that all data associated with manuscripts must be made available in a permanent, publicly accessible archive or repository. “When science is used to support decisions, transparency is paramount and the more consequential the decision, the more important it is that all of the stakeholders be able to examine the basis of a recommendation,” the journal’s chief editor, David Schimel, says. “Our open science policy ensures that work published in our journal meets the highest standards for actionable information.”

Other policies like this include the NASA Earth Science Data and Information Policy and the Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) program. The NSF has also mandated that submitted grant proposals include data management plans as well as the details of data publication from prior NSF support.

Powers, Hampton, and others argue that these developments in data requirements allow ecologists to examine studies and ideas with unprecedented power and to foster critical inquiry and new knowledge for the benefit of society amid global change.


Journal Article

Stephen M. Powers, S.E. Hampton (2018). Open science, reproducibility, and transparency in ecology. Ecological Applications. DOI: 10.1002/eap.1822

 

Authors

Stephen M. Powers, School of the Environment, Washington State University

Stephanie E. Hampton, School of the Environment, Washington State University; Director of the Division of Environmental Biology, National Science Foundation

 

Author contact:

Stephen M. Powers                      steve.powers@wsu.edu

Stephanie E. Hampton               s.hampton@wsu.edu

 

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The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in the science of ecology. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.