A new species of flower flies is described from China (Sichuan & Yunnan: Hengduan Mountains), Sericomyia khamensis Thompson & Xie). A key is provided to the species of the subtribe Sericomyiina found in China along with nomenclatural and taxonomical notes on them.
Meconopsis Viguier (Papaveraceae) is an iconic genus of alpine forbs that includes medicinal and ornamental species. This study extends previous phylogenetic analyses of Meconopsis, using ITS sequences representing all the major Meconopsis clades. Phenotypic traits are also analysed for all described species. Our results show that Meconopsis evolved as a ? octaploid clade, with considerable interior structure reflecting further changes in ploidy levels as well as phenotypic differentiation. We support the exclusion of a few species as Cathcartia or Papaver, making Meconopsis a Tibetan region clade. Based on average rates of nucleotide substitution in angiosperm herbs we estimate that the Meconopsis clade diverged from the Meconella clade of Papaver approximately 16.6 Ma. This is soon after the 'hard' collision of the Indian continent with Asia caused uplift of the Himalaya and Hengduan ranges, greatly extended the Tibetan plateau, and initiated monsoonal climates. Eight major clades within Meconopsis are well supported and these correspond closely to previously recognised subgenus groups. However, the relationship among the clades is poorly resolved, probably because they diverged rapidly ?15-11 Ma. Two of these clades are ?dodecaploid but appear to have originated independently. The eight clades have distinct distributions, variously associated with the Himalaya, the eastern Plateau and Hengduan ranges. Some Meconopsis species were not monophyletic, suggesting that a combination of multilocus molecular and phenotypic traits is required when defining and revising species.
The diversity and abundance of wild insect pollinators have declined in many agricultural landscapes. Whether such declines reduce crop yields, or are mitigated by managed pollinators such as honey bees, is unclear. We found universally positive associations of fruit set with flower visitation by wild insects in 41 crop systems worldwide. In contrast, fruit set increased significantly with flower visitation by honey bees in only 14% of the systems surveyed. Overall, wild insects pollinated crops more effectively; an increase in wild insect visitation enhanced fruit set by twice as much as an equivalent increase in honey bee visitation. Visitation by wild insects and honey bees promoted fruit set independently, so pollination by managed honey bees supplemented, rather than substituted for, pollination by wild insects. Our results suggest that new practices for integrated management of both honey bees and diverse wild insect assemblages will enhance global crop yields.
Carrion is an ephemeral and spatially patchy resource that supports a diverse subset of species linked to nutrient cycling and the decomposition process. A number of studies have separately documented changes in the diversity of plants, arthropods and vertebrates at individual carcasses, but there are few studies that have examined how functional traits of different groups of organisms underpin their responses to carrion patches. We used a carrion addition experiment to compare changes in composition and functional traits of insect and plant assemblages at carcasses compared with control sites. We found that significant changes in insect assemblage evenness and heterogeneity was associated with species dispersal traits, and that plant assemblage responses to subsequent soil nitrogen changes was most apparent among graminoids and exotic species. Beetles at carcasses were twice as large as their counterparts at control sites during the first week of carrion decomposition, and also had higher wing loadings. Plants with high specific leaf area responded faster to the carcass addition, and twice as many species recolonised the centre of carcasses in exotic-dominated grassland compared with carcasses in native-dominated grassland. These results provide an example of how traits of opportunist species enable them to exploit patchy and dynamic resources. This increases our understanding of how carcasses can drive biodiversity dynamics, and has implications for the way carrion might be managed in ecosystems, such as appropriate consideration of spatial and temporal continuity in carrion resources to promote heterogeneity in nutrient cycling and species diversity within landscapes.
Bees provide essential pollination services that are potentially affected both by local farm management and the surrounding landscape. To better understand these different factors, we modelled the relative effects of landscape composition (nesting and floral resources within foraging distances), landscape configuration (patch shape, interpatch connectivity and habitat aggregation) and farm management (organic vs. conventional and local-scale field diversity), and their interactions, on wild bee abundance and richness for 39 crop systems globally. Bee abundance and richness were higher in diversified and organic fields and in landscapes comprising more high-quality habitats; bee richness on conventional fields with low diversity benefited most from high-quality surrounding land cover. Landscape configuration effects were weak. Bee responses varied slightly by biome. Our synthesis reveals that pollinator persistence will depend on both the maintenance of high-quality habitats around farms and on local management practices that may offset impacts of intensive monoculture agriculture.
Sustainable agricultural landscapes by definition provide high magnitude and stability of ecosystem services, biodiversity and crop productivity. However, few studies have considered landscape effects on the stability of ecosystem services. We tested whether isolation from florally diverse natural and semi-natural areas reduces the spatial and temporal stability of flower-visitor richness and pollination services in crop fields. We synthesised data from 29 studies with contrasting biomes, crop species and pollinator communities. Stability of flower-visitor richness, visitation rate (all insects except honey bees) and fruit set all decreased with distance from natural areas. At 1 km from adjacent natural areas, spatial stability decreased by 25, 16 and 9% for richness, visitation and fruit set, respectively, while temporal stability decreased by 39% for richness and 13% for visitation. Mean richness, visitation and fruit set also decreased with isolation, by 34, 27 and 16% at 1 km respectively. In contrast, honey bee visitation did not change with isolation and represented > 25% of crop visits in 21 studies. Therefore, wild pollinators are relevant for crop productivity and stability even when honey bees are abundant. Policies to preserve and restore natural areas in agricultural landscapes should enhance levels and reliability of pollination services.
Human welfare depends on the amount and stability of agricultural production, as determined by crop yield and cultivated area. Yield increases asymptotically with the resources provided by farmers inputs and environmentally sensitive ecosystem services. Declining yield growth with increased inputs prompts conversion of more land to cultivation, but at the risk of eroding ecosystem services. To explore the interdependence of agricultural production and its stability on ecosystem services, we present and test a general graphical model, based on Jensens inequality, of yield-resource relations and consider implications for land conversion. For the case of animal pollination as a resource influencing crop yield, this model predicts that incomplete and variable pollen delivery reduces yield mean and stability (inverse of variability) more for crops with greater dependence on pollinators. Data collected by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations during 1961-2008 support these predictions. Specifically, crops with greater pollinator dependence had lower mean and stability in relative yield and yield growth, despite global yield increases for most crops. Lower yield growth was compensated by increased land cultivation to enhance production of pollinator-dependent crops. Area stability also decreased with pollinator dependence, as it correlated positively with yield stability among crops. These results reveal that pollen limitation hinders yield growth of pollinator-dependent crops, decreasing temporal stability of global agricultural production, while promoting compensatory land conversion to agriculture. Although we examined crop pollination, our model applies to other ecosystem services for which the benefits to human welfare decelerate as the maximum is approached.
1. Trophic structure within a guild can be influenced by factors such as resource availability and competition. While ants occupy a wide range of positions in food webs, and ant community composition changes with habitat, it is not well understood if ant genera tend to maintain their position in the trophic structure, or if trophic position varies across habitats. 2. We used ratios of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen to test for differences in the trophic structure and position of assemblages of ants among habitat types. We tested for differences between assemblages in replicate sites of the land use categories: (i) pastures with old large trees; (ii) recently revegetated pastures with small young trees; and (iii) remnant woodlands. Known insect herbivores and predatory spiders provided baselines for herbivorous and predaceous arthropods. Soil samples were used to correct for the base level of isotopic enrichment at each site. 3. We found no significant interactions between land use and ant genus for isotope enrichment, indicating that trophic structure is conserved across land use categories. The fixed relative positions of genera in the trophic structure might be re-enforced by competition or some other factor. However, the entire ant assemblage had significantly lower ?(15) N values in revegetated sites, suggesting that ants feed lower down in the food chain i.e. they are more herbivorous in revegetated sites. This may be a result of the high availability of plant sugars, honeydew and herbivorous arthropod prey. 4. Surprisingly, ants in remnants and pastures with trees displayed similar isotopic compositions. Interactions within ant assemblages are thus likely to be resilient to changes in land use, but ant diets in early successional habitats may reflect the simplicity of communities, which may have comparatively lower rates of saprophagy and predation.
A pollinator decline caused by environmental degradation might be compromising the production of pollinator-dependent crops. In a recent article, we compared 45 year series (1961-2006) in yield, production and cultivated area of pollinator-dependent and nondependent crop around the world. If pollinator shortage is occurring globally, we expected a lower annual growth rate in yield for pollinator-dependent than nondependent crops, but a higher growth in cultivated area to compensate the lower yield. We have found little evidence for the first "yield" prediction but strong evidence for the second "area" prediction. Here, we present an additional analysis to show that the first and second predictions are both supported for crops that vary in dependency levels from nondependent to moderate dependence (i.e., up to 65% average yield reduction without pollinators). However, those crops for which animal pollination is essential (i.e., 95% average yield reduction without pollinators) showed higher growth in yield and lower expansion in area than expected in a pollination shortage scenario. We propose that pollination management for highly pollinator-dependent crops, such us renting hives or hand pollination, might have compensated for pollinator limitation of yield.
Ecohydrological models consider the relationship between tree size and structure (especially leaf area index) and water use but generally treat herbivory as a source of unwanted noise in the data. Little is known of how insect damage to leaves influences whole-plant water use in trees. Water use is driven by environmental demand and the total leaf area through which transpiration can occur, but the effects of insects are expected to be complex. Different kinds of insects could have different effects; for example, chewing insects reduce leaf area, whereas sucking and tissue mining insects reduce leaf function without reducing area. Further, plants respond to herbivory in a range of ways, such as by altering leaf production or abscising leaves. We examined the effect of insects on Eucalyptus blakelyi in a woodland near Canberra, Australia, using sap flow velocity as a measure of whole-plant water use. We applied insecticide to 16 trees matched to an untreated control group. After 6 months, we examined the effects on sap flow velocity and crown condition. There was a general increase in sap flow velocity as trees produced leaves over the growing season, but the increase in sap flow for trees without insecticide protection was half that of the protected trees (increase: 4.4 vs. 9.0 cm/h, respectively). This dramatic effect on sap flow was consistent with effects on crown condition. Unprotected trees had 20% less leaf mass per unit stem in the crown. In addition, unprotected trees had a 20% greater loss of leaf functional area from necrosis. It should be noted that these effects were detected in a year in which there was not an outbreak of the psyllids (Homoptera) that commonly cause severe leaf damage to this tree species. It is predicted that the effect in a psyllid outbreak year would be even more substantial. This result underscores the significant impact that insect herbivores can have on an ecological process of significance to the ecosystem, namely, the movement of water from the soil to the atmosphere.
Productivity of many crops benefits from the presence of pollinating insects, so a decline in pollinator abundance should compromise global agricultural production. Motivated by the lack of accurate estimates of the size of this threat, we quantified the effect of total loss of pollinators on global agricultural production and crop production diversity. The change in pollinator dependency over 46 years was also evaluated, considering the developed and developing world separately.
Carrion provides a resource for a subset of animal species that deliver a critical ecosystem service by consuming dead animal matter and recycling its nutrients. A growing number of studies have also shown various effects of carrion on different plant and microbial communities. However, there has been no review of these studies to bring this information together and identify priority areas for future research. We review carrion ecology studies from the last two decades and summarise the range of spatial and temporal effects of carrion on soil nutrients, microbes, plants, arthropods, and vertebrates. We identify key knowledge gaps in carrion ecology, and discuss how closing these gaps can be achieved by focusing future research on the (1) different kinds of carrion resources, (2) interactions between different components of the carrion community, (3) the ways that ecosystem context can moderate carrion effects, and (4) considerations for carrion management. To guide this research, we outline a framework that builds on the ephemeral resource patch concept, and helps to structure research questions that link localised effects of carrion with their consequences at landscape scales. This will enable improved characterisation of carrion as a unique resource pool, provide answers for land managers in a position to influence carrion availability, and establish the ways that carrion affects the dynamics of species diversity and ecological processes within landscapes.
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