Local adaptation is a central feature of most species occupying spatially heterogeneous environments, and may factor critically in responses to environmental change. However, most efforts to model the response of species to climate change ignore intraspecific variation due to local adaptation. Here, we present a new perspective on spatial modelling of organism-environment relationships that combines genomic data and community-level modelling to develop scenarios regarding the geographic distribution of genomic variation in response to environmental change. Rather than modelling species within communities, we use these techniques to model large numbers of loci across genomes. Using balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) as a case study, we demonstrate how our framework can accommodate nonlinear responses of loci to environmental gradients. We identify a threshold response to temperature in the circadian clock gene GIGANTEA-5 (GI5), suggesting that this gene has experienced strong local adaptation to temperature. We also demonstrate how these methods can map ecological adaptation from genomic data, including the identification of predicted differences in the genetic composition of populations under current and future climates. Community-level modelling of genomic variation represents an important advance in landscape genomics and spatial modelling of biodiversity that moves beyond species-level assessments of climate change vulnerability.
Climate refugia, locations where taxa survive periods of regionally adverse climate, are thought to be critical for maintaining biodiversity through the glacial-interglacial climate changes of the Quaternary. A critical research need is to better integrate and reconcile the three major lines of evidence used to infer the existence of past refugia - fossil records, species distribution models and phylogeographic surveys - in order to characterize the complex spatiotemporal trajectories of species and populations in and out of refugia. Here we review the complementary strengths, limitations and new advances for these three approaches. We provide case studies to illustrate their combined application, and point the way towards new opportunities for synthesizing these disparate lines of evidence. Case studies with European beech, Qinghai spruce and Douglas-fir illustrate how the combination of these three approaches successfully resolves complex species histories not attainable from any one approach. Promising new statistical techniques can capitalize on the strengths of each method and provide a robust quantitative reconstruction of species history. Studying past refugia can help identify contemporary refugia and clarify their conservation significance, in particular by elucidating the fine-scale processes and the particular geographic locations that buffer species against rapidly changing climate.
Biotic interactions drive key ecological and evolutionary processes and mediate ecosystem responses to climate change. The direction, frequency, and intensity of biotic interactions can in turn be altered by climate change. Understanding the complex interplay between climate and biotic interactions is thus essential for fully anticipating how ecosystems will respond to the fast rates of current warming, which are unprecedented since the end of the last glacial period. We highlight episodes of climate change that have disrupted ecosystems and trophic interactions over time scales ranging from years to millennia by changing species relative abundances and geographic ranges, causing extinctions, and creating transient and novel communities dominated by generalist species and interactions. These patterns emerge repeatedly across disparate temporal and spatial scales, suggesting the possibility of similar underlying processes. Based on these findings, we identify knowledge gaps and fruitful areas for research that will further our understanding of the effects of climate change on ecosystems.
"Space-for-time" substitution is widely used in biodiversity modeling to infer past or future trajectories of ecological systems from contemporary spatial patterns. However, the foundational assumption--that drivers of spatial gradients of species composition also drive temporal changes in diversity--rarely is tested. Here, we empirically test the space-for-time assumption by constructing orthogonal datasets of compositional turnover of plant taxa and climatic dissimilarity through time and across space from Late Quaternary pollen records in eastern North America, then modeling climate-driven compositional turnover. Predictions relying on space-for-time substitution were ?72% as accurate as "time-for-time" predictions. However, space-for-time substitution performed poorly during the Holocene when temporal variation in climate was small relative to spatial variation and required subsampling to match the extent of spatial and temporal climatic gradients. Despite this caution, our results generally support the judicious use of space-for-time substitution in modeling community responses to climate change.
Stream network density exerts a strong influence on ecohydrologic processes in watersheds, yet existing stream maps fail to capture most headwater streams and therefore underestimate stream density. Furthermore, discrepancies between mapped and actual stream length vary between watersheds, confounding efforts to understand the impacts of land use on stream ecosystems. Here we report on research that predicts stream presence from coupled field observations of headwater stream channels and terrain variables that were calculated both locally and as an average across the watershed upstream of any location on the landscape. Our approach used maximum entropy modeling (MaxEnt), a robust method commonly implemented to model species distributions that requires information only on the presence of the entity of interest. In validation, the method correctly predicts the presence of 86% of all 10-m stream segments and errors are low (<1%) for catchments larger than 10 ha. We apply this model to the entire Potomac River watershed (37,800 km(2)) and several adjacent watersheds to map stream density and compare our results with the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD). We find that NHD underestimates stream density by up to 250%, with errors being greatest in the densely urbanized cities of Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD and in regions where the NHD has never been updated from its original, coarse-grain mapping. This work is the most ambitious attempt yet to map stream networks over a large region and will have lasting implications for modeling and conservation efforts.
A common approach for analysing geographical variation in biodiversity involves using linear models to determine the rate at which species similarity declines with geographical or environmental distance and comparing this rate among regions, taxa or communities. Implicit in this approach are weakly justified assumptions that the rate of species turnover remains constant along gradients and that this rate can therefore serve as a means to compare ecological systems. We use generalized dissimilarity modelling, a novel method that accommodates variation in rates of species turnover along gradients and between different gradients, to compare environmental and spatial controls on the floras of two regions with contrasting evolutionary and climatic histories: southwest Australia and northern Europe. We find stronger signals of climate history in the northern European flora and demonstrate that variation in rates of species turnover is persistent across regions, taxa and different gradients. Such variation may represent an important but often overlooked component of biodiversity that complicates comparisons of distance-decay relationships and underscores the importance of using methods that accommodate the curvilinear relationships expected when modelling beta diversity. Determining how rates of species turnover vary along and between gradients is relevant to understanding the sensitivity of ecological systems to environmental change.
The study of ecological boundaries and their dynamics is of fundamental importance to much of ecology, biogeography, and evolution. Over the past two decades, boundary analysis (of which wombling is a subfield) has received considerable research attention, resulting in multiple approaches for the quantification of ecological boundaries. Nonetheless, few methods have been developed that can simultaneously (1) analyze spatially homogenized data sets (i.e., areal data in the form of polygons rather than point-reference data); (2) account for spatial structure in these data and uncertainty associated with them; and (3) objectively assign probabilities to boundaries once detected. Here we describe the application of a Bayesian hierarchical framework for boundary detection developed in public health, which addresses these issues but which has seen limited application in ecology. As examples, we analyze simulated spread data and the historic pattern of spread of an invasive species, the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), using county-level summaries of the year of first reported infestation and several covariates potentially important to influencing the observed spread dynamics. Bayesian areal wombling is a promising approach for analyzing ecological boundaries and dynamics related to changes in the distributions of native and invasive species.
Monitoring programs increasingly are used to document the spread of invasive species in the hope of detecting and eradicating low-density infestations before they become established. However, interobserver variation in the detection and correct identification of low-density populations of invasive species remains largely unexplored. In this study, we compare the abilities of volunteer and experienced individuals to detect low-density populations of an actively spreading invasive species, and we explore how interobserver variation can bias estimates of the proportion of sites infested derived from occupancy models that allow for both false negative and false positive (misclassification) errors. We found that experienced individuals detected small infestations at sites where volunteers failed to find infestations. However, occupancy models erroneously suggested that experienced observers had a higher probability of falsely detecting the species as present than did volunteers. This unexpected finding is an artifact of the modeling framework and results from a failure of volunteers to detect low-density infestations rather than from false positive errors by experienced observers. Our findings reveal a potential issue with site occupancy models that can arise when volunteer and experienced observers are used together in surveys.
Although many taxa show a latitudinal gradient in richness, the relationship between latitude and species richness is often asymmetrical between the northern and southern hemispheres. Here we examine the latitudinal pattern of species richness across 1003 local ant assemblages. We find latitudinal asymmetry, with southern hemisphere sites being more diverse than northern hemisphere sites. Most of this asymmetry could be explained statistically by differences in contemporary climate. Local ant species richness was positively associated with temperature, but negatively (although weakly) associated with temperature range and precipitation. After contemporary climate was accounted for, a modest difference in diversity between hemispheres persisted, suggesting that factors other than contemporary climate contributed to the hemispherical asymmetry. The most parsimonious explanation for this remaining asymmetry is that greater climate change since the Eocene in the northern than in the southern hemisphere has led to more extinctions in the northern hemisphere with consequent effects on local ant species richness.
Range expansion by native and exotic species will continue to be a major component of global change. Anticipating the potential effects of changes in species distributions requires models capable of forecasting population spread across realistic, heterogeneous landscapes and subject to spatiotemporal variability in habitat suitability. Several decades of theory and model development, as well as increased computing power and availability of fine-resolution GIS data, now make such models possible. Still unanswered, however, is the question of how well this new generation of dynamic models will anticipate range expansion. Here we develop a spatially explicit stochastic model that combines dynamic dispersal and population processes with fine-resolution maps characterizing spatiotemporal heterogeneity in climate and habitat to model range expansion of the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA; Adelges tsugae). We parameterize this model using multiyear data sets describing population and dispersal dynamics of HWA and apply it to eastern North America over a 57-year period (1951-2008). To evaluate the model, the observed pattern of spread of HWA during this same period was compared to model predictions. Our model predicts considerable heterogeneity in the risk of HWA invasion across space and through time, and it suggests that spatiotemporal variation in winter temperature, rather than hemlock abundance, exerts a primary control on the spread of HWA. Although the simulations generally matched the observed current extent of the invasion of HWA and patterns of anisotropic spread, it did not correctly predict when HWA was observed to arrive in different geographic regions. We attribute differences between the modeled and observed dynamics to an inability to capture the timing and direction of long-distance dispersal events that substantially affected the ensuing pattern of spread.
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