Growing concern about biodiversity loss underscores the need to quantify and understand temporal change. Here, we review the opportunities presented by biodiversity time series, and address three related issues: (i) recognizing the characteristics of temporal data; (ii) selecting appropriate statistical procedures for analysing temporal data; and (iii) inferring and forecasting biodiversity change. With regard to the first issue, we draw attention to defining characteristics of biodiversity time series—lack of physical boundaries, uni-dimensionality, autocorrelation and directionality—that inform the choice of analytic methods. Second, we explore methods of quantifying change in biodiversity at different timescales, noting that autocorrelation can be viewed as a feature that sheds light on the underlying structure of temporal change. Finally, we address the transition from inferring to forecasting biodiversity change, highlighting potential pitfalls associated with phase-shifts and novel conditions.
biological diversity; time; legacy data; traits; global change; conservation
With increasing interest in the use of urban green space to promote human health, there is a need to understand the extent to which park users conceptualize these places as a resource for health and well-being. This study sought to examine park users’ own reasons for and benefits from green space usage and compare these with concepts and constructs in existing person-environment-health theories and models of health. Conducted in 13 public green spaces in Sheffield, UK, we undertook a qualitative content analysis of 312 park users’ responses to open-ended interview questions and identified a breadth, depth and salience of visit motivators and derived effects. Findings highlight a discrepancy between reasons for visiting and derived effects from the use of urban green space. Motivations emphasized walking, green space qualities, and children. Derived effects highlighted relaxation, positive emotions within the self and towards the place, and spiritual well-being. We generate a taxonomy of motivations and derived effects that could facilitate operationalization within empirical research and articulate a conceptual framework linking motivators to outcomes for investigating green space as a resource for human health and well-being.
green space; health; well-being; motivation; relaxation; physical activity; environment; restoration; place; stress.
Urbanization is widely presumed to degrade ecosystem services, but empirical evidence is now challenging these assumptions. We report the first city-wide organic carbon (OC) budget for vegetation and soils, including under impervious surfaces. Urban soil OC storage was significantly greater than in regional agricultural land at equivalent soil depths, however there was no significant difference in storage between soils sampled beneath urban greenspaces and impervious surfaces, at equivalent depths. For a typical U.K. city, total OC storage was 17.6 kg m−2 across the entire urban area (assuming 0 kg m−2 under 15% of land covered by buildings). The majority of OC (82%) was held in soils, with 13% found under impervious surfaces, and 18% stored in vegetation. We reveal that assumptions underpinning current national estimates of ecosystem OC stocks, as required by Kyoto Protocol signatories, are not robust and are likely to have seriously underestimated the contributions of urban areas.
The majority of the world's population now lives in towns and cities, and urban areas are expanding faster than any other land-use type. In response to this phenomenon, two opposing arguments have emerged: whether cities should ‘sprawl’ into the wider countryside, or ‘densify’ through the development of existing urban greenspace. However, these greenspaces are increasingly recognized as being central to the amelioration of urban living conditions, supporting biodiversity conservation and ecosystem service provision. Taking the highly urbanized region of England as a case study, we use data from a variety of sources to investigate the impact of national-level planning policy on temporal patterns in the extent of greenspace in cities. Between 1991 and 2006, greenspace showed a net increase in all but one of 13 cities. However, the majority of this gain occurred prior to 2001, and greenspace has subsequently declined in nine cities. Such a dramatic shift in land use coincides with policy reforms in 2000, which favoured densification. Here, we illustrate the dynamic and policy-responsive nature of urban land use, thereby highlighting the need for a detailed investigation of the trade-offs associated with different mechanisms of urban densification to optimize and secure the diverse benefits associated with greenspaces.
urbanization; ecosystem services; human population density; urban densification; urban ecology; urban greenspace
Soil compaction adversely influences most terrestrial ecosystem services on which humans depend. This global problem, affecting over 68 million ha of agricultural land alone, is a major driver of soil erosion, increases flood frequency and reduces groundwater recharge. Agricultural soil compaction has been intensively studied, but there are no systematic studies investigating the extent of compaction in urban ecosystems, despite the repercussions for ecosystem function. Urban areas are the fastest growing land-use type globally, and are often assumed to have highly compacted soils with compromised functionality. Here, we use bulk density (BD) measurements, taken to 14 cm depth at a citywide scale, to compare the extent of surface soil compaction between different urban greenspace classes and agricultural soils. Urban soils had a wider BD range than agricultural soils, but were significantly less compacted, with 12 per cent lower mean BD to 7 cm depth. Urban soil BD was lowest under trees and shrubs and highest under herbaceous vegetation (e.g. lawns). BD values were similar to many semi-natural habitats, particularly those underlying woody vegetation. These results establish that, across a typical UK city, urban soils were in better physical condition than agricultural soils and can contribute to ecosystem service provision.
soil compaction; urbanization; greenspace; ecosystem services; urban ecology; land-use change
Interaction networks are central elements of ecological systems and have very complex structures. Historically, much effort has focused on niche-mediated processes to explain these structures, while an emerging consensus posits that both niche and neutral mechanisms simultaneously shape many features of ecological communities. However, the study of interaction networks still lacks a comprehensive neutral theory. Here we present a neutral model of predator-prey interactions and analyze the structural characteristics of the simulated networks. We find that connectance values (complexity) and complexity-diversity relationships of neutral networks are close to those observed in empirical bipartite networks. High nestedness and low modularity values observed in neutral networks fall in the range of those from empirical antagonist bipartite networks. Our results suggest that, as an alternative to niche-mediated processes that induce incompatibility between species (“niche forbidden links”), neutral processes create “neutral forbidden links” due to uneven species abundance distributions and the low probability of interaction between rare species. Neutral trophic networks must be seen as the missing endpoint of a continuum from niche to purely stochastic approaches of community organization.
Ameliorating pressures on the ecological condition of the wider landscape outside of protected areas is a key focus of conservation initiatives in the developed world. In highly urbanized nations, domestic gardens can play a significant role in maintaining biodiversity and facilitating human-wildlife interactions, which benefit personal and societal health and well-being. The extent to which sociodemographic and socioeconomic factors are associated with engagement in wildlife gardening activities remain largely unresolved. Using two household-level survey datasets gathered from across Britain, we determine whether and how the socioeconomic background of a household influences participation in food provision for wild birds, the most popular and widespread form of human-wildlife interaction. A majority of households feed birds (64% across rural and urban areas in England, and 53% within five British study cities). House type, household size and the age of the head of the household were all important predictors of bird feeding, whereas gross annual household income, the occupation of the head of the household, and whether the house is owned or rented were not. In both surveys, the prevalence of bird feeding rose as house type became more detached and as the age of the head of the household increased. A clear, consistent pattern between households of varying size was less evident. When regularity of food provision was examined in the study cities, just 29% of households provided food at least once a week. The proportion of households regularly feeding birds was positively related to the age of the head of the household, but declined with gross annual income. As concerns grow about the lack of engagement between people and the natural environment, such findings are important if conservation organizations are successfully to promote public participation in wildlife gardening specifically and environmentally beneficial behaviour in society more generally.
The Fynbos (FB) and Succulent Karoo biomes (SKB) have high regional plant diversity despite relatively low productivity. Local diversity in the region varies but is moderate. For insects, previous work suggests that strict phytophages, but not other taxa, may have high regional richness. However, what has yet to be investigated is whether the local insect species richness of FB and SKB is unusual for a region of this productivity level at this latitude, and whether regional richness is also high. Here we determine whether this is the case for ants.
We use species richness data from pitfall traps in the FB and SKB in the Western Cape Province, South Africa and a global dataset of local ant richness extracted from the literature. We then relate the globally derived values of local richness to two energy-related predictors—productive energy (NDVI) and temperature, and to precipitation, and compare the data from the FB and SKB with these relationships. We further compare our local richness estimates with that of similar habitats worldwide, and regional ant richness with estimates derived from other regions. The local ant species richness of the FB and SKB falls within the general global pattern relating ant richness to energy, and is similar to that in comparable habitats elsewhere. At a regional scale, the richness of ants across all of our sites is not exceptional by comparison with other regional estimates from across the globe.
Local richness of ants in the FB and SKB is not exceptional by global standards. Initial analyses suggest that regional diversity is also not exceptional for the group. It seems unlikely that the mechanisms which have contributed to the development of extraordinarily high regional plant diversity in these biomes have had a strong influence on the ants.
Despite two decades of agri-environment schemes (AESs) aimed at mitigating farmland biodiversity losses, the evidence that such programmes actually benefit biodiversity remains limited. Using field-level surveys, we assess the effectiveness of AESs in enhancing bird abundances in an upland area of England, where schemes have been operating for over 20 years. In such a region, the effects of AESs should be readily apparent, and we predict that bird abundances will co-vary with both field- and landscape-scale measures of implementation. Using an information theoretic approach, we found that, for abundances of species of conservation concern and upland specialists, measures of AES implementation and habitat type at both scales appear in the most parsimonious models. Field-level bird abundances are higher where more of the surrounding landscape is included in an AES. While habitat remains a more influential predictor, we suggest that landscape-scale implementation results in enhanced bird abundances. Hence, measures of the success of AESs should consider landscape-wide benefits as well as localized impacts.
landscape-scale conservation; peak district; environmentally sensitive area
Given the central importance of protected area systems in local, regional and global conservation strategies, it is vital that there is a good understanding of their effectiveness in maintaining ecological functioning. Here, we provide, to our knowledge, the first such global analysis, focusing on plant production, a “supporting” ecosystem function necessary for multiple other ecosystem services. We use data on the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) as a measure of variation in plant production in the core, boundary and surroundings of more than 1000 large protected areas over a 25 year period. Forested protected areas were higher (or similar), and those non-forested were lower (or similar), in NDVI than their surrounding areas, and these differences have been sustained. The differences from surrounding areas have increased for evergreen broadleaf forests and barren grounds, decreased for grasslands, and remained similar for deciduous forests, woodlands, and shrublands, reflecting different pressures on those surroundings. These results are consistent with protected areas being effective both in the representation and maintenance of plant production. However, widespread overall increases in NDVI during the study period suggest that plant production within the core of non-forested protected areas has become higher than it was in the surroundings of those areas in 1982, highlighting that whilst the distinctiveness of protected areas from their surroundings has persisted the nature of that difference has changed.
Although interspecific body size frequency distributions are well documented for many taxa, including the insects, intraspecific body size frequency distributions (IaBSFDs) are more poorly known, and their variation among mass-based and linear estimates of size has not been widely explored. Here we provide IaBSFDs for 16 species of insects based on both mass and linear estimates and large sample sizes (n≥100). In addition, we review the published IaBSFDs for insects, though doing so is complicated by their under-emphasis in the literature. The form of IaBSFDs can differ substantially between mass-based and linear measures. Nonetheless, in non-social insects they tend to be normally distributed (18 of 27 species) or in fewer instances positively skewed. Negatively skewed distributions are infrequently reported and log transformation readily removes the positive skew. Sexual size dimorphism does not generally cause bimodality in IaBSFDs. The available information on IaBSFDs in the social insects suggests that these distributions are usually positively skewed or bimodal (24 of 30 species). However, only c. 15% of ant genera are polymorphic, suggesting that normal distributions are probably more common, but less frequently investigated. Although only 57 species, representing seven of the 29 orders of insects, have been considered here, it appears that whilst IaBSFDs are usually normal, other distribution shapes can be found in several species, though most notably among the social insects. By contrast, the interspecific body size frequency distribution is typically right-skewed in insects and in most other taxa.
The hope among policy-makers and scientists alike is that conservation strategies designed to protect biodiversity also provide direct benefits to people by protecting other vital ecosystem services. The few studies that have examined the delivery of ecosystem services by existing conservation efforts have concentrated on large, ‘wilderness’-style biodiversity reserves. However, such reserves are not realistic options for densely populated regions. Here, we provide the first analyses that compare representation of biodiversity and three other ecosystem services across several contrasting conservation strategies in a human-dominated landscape (England). We show that small protected areas and protected landscapes (restrictive zoning) deliver high carbon storage and biodiversity, while existing incentive payment (agri-environment) schemes target areas that offer little advantage over other parts of England in terms of biodiversity, carbon storage and agricultural production. A fourth ecosystem service—recreation—is under-represented by all three strategies. Our findings are encouraging as they illustrate that restrictive zoning can play a major role in protecting natural capital assets in densely populated regions. However, trade-offs exist even among the four ecosystem services we considered, suggesting that a portfolio of conservation and sustainability investments will be needed to deliver both biodiversity and the other ecosystem services demanded by society.
biodiversity; ecosystem services; protected areas; sustainability; land management
Urban areas are expanding rapidly, but a few native species have successfully colonized them. The processes underlying such colonization events are poorly understood. Using the blackbird Turdus merula, a former forest specialist that is now one of the most common urban birds in its range, we provide the first assessment of two contrasting urban colonization models. First, that urbanization occurred independently. Second, that following initial urbanization, urban-adapted individuals colonized other urban areas in a leapfrog manner. Previous analyses of spatial patterns in the timing of blackbird urbanization, and experimental introductions of urban and rural blackbirds to uncolonized cities, suggest that the leapfrog model is likely to apply. We found that, across the western Palaearctic, urban blackbird populations contain less genetic diversity than rural ones, urban populations are more strongly differentiated from each other than from rural populations and assignment tests support a rural source population for most urban individuals. In combination, these results provide much stronger support for the independent urbanization model than the leapfrog one. If the former model predominates, colonization of multiple urban centres will be particularly difficult when urbanization requires genetic adaptations, having implications for urban species diversity.
colonization; dispersal; genetic divergence; genetic diversity; range expansion; urban
Most people on the planet live in dense aggregations, and policy directives emphasize green areas within cities to ameliorate some of the problems of urban living. Benefits of urban green spaces range from physical and psychological health to social cohesion, ecosystem service provision and biodiversity conservation. Green space coverage differs enormously among cities, yet little is known about the correlates or geography of this variation. This is important because urbanization is accelerating and the consequences for green space are unclear. Here, we use standardized major axis regression to explore the relationships between urban green space coverage, city area and population size across 386 European cities. We show that green space coverage increases more rapidly than city area, yet declines only weakly as human population density increases. Thus, green space provision within a city is primarily related to city area rather than the number of inhabitants that it serves, or a simple space-filling effect. Thus, compact cities (small size and high density) show very low per capita green space allocation. However, at high levels of urbanicity, the green space network is robust to further city compaction. As cities grow, interactions between people and nature depend increasingly on landscape quality outside formal green space networks, such as street plantings, or the size, composition and management of backyards and gardens.
urban green space; scaling; human population density
A global analysis shows that fishery management worldwide is lagging far behind international standards, and that the conversion of scientific advice into policy, through a participatory and transparent process, holds promise for achieving sustainable fisheries.
Ongoing declines in production of the world's fisheries may have serious ecological and socioeconomic consequences. As a result, a number of international efforts have sought to improve management and prevent overexploitation, while helping to maintain biodiversity and a sustainable food supply. Although these initiatives have received broad acceptance, the extent to which corrective measures have been implemented and are effective remains largely unknown. We used a survey approach, validated with empirical data, and enquiries to over 13,000 fisheries experts (of which 1,188 responded) to assess the current effectiveness of fisheries management regimes worldwide; for each of those regimes, we also calculated the probable sustainability of reported catches to determine how management affects fisheries sustainability. Our survey shows that 7% of all coastal states undergo rigorous scientific assessment for the generation of management policies, 1.4% also have a participatory and transparent processes to convert scientific recommendations into policy, and 0.95% also provide for robust mechanisms to ensure the compliance with regulations; none is also free of the effects of excess fishing capacity, subsidies, or access to foreign fishing. A comparison of fisheries management attributes with the sustainability of reported fisheries catches indicated that the conversion of scientific advice into policy, through a participatory and transparent process, is at the core of achieving fisheries sustainability, regardless of other attributes of the fisheries. Our results illustrate the great vulnerability of the world's fisheries and the urgent need to meet well-identified guidelines for sustainable management; they also provide a baseline against which future changes can be quantified.
Global fisheries are in crisis: marine fisheries provide 15% of the animal protein consumed by humans, yet 80% of the world's fish stocks are either fully exploited, overexploited or have collapsed. Several international initiatives have sought to improve the management of marine fisheries, hoping to reduce the deleterious ecological and socioeconomic consequence of the crisis. Unfortunately, the extent to which countries are improving their management and whether such intervention ensures the sustainability of the fisheries remain unknown. Here, we surveyed 1,188 fisheries experts from every coastal country in the world for information about the effectiveness with which fisheries are being managed, and related those results to an index of the probable sustainability of reported catches. We show that the management of fisheries worldwide is lagging far behind international guidelines recommended to minimize the effects of overexploitation. Only a handful of countries have a robust scientific basis for management recommendations, and transparent and participatory processes to convert those recommendations into policy while also ensuring compliance with regulations. Our study also shows that the conversion of scientific advice into policy, through a participatory and transparent process, is at the core of achieving fisheries sustainability, regardless of other attributes of the fisheries. These results illustrate the benefits of participatory, transparent, and science-based management while highlighting the great vulnerability of the world's fisheries services. The data for each country can be viewed at http://as01.ucis.dal.ca/ramweb/surveys/fishery_assessment.
Understanding of the determinants of species' geographic range limits remains poorly integrated. In part, this is because of the diversity of perspectives on the issue, and because empirical studies have lagged substantially behind developments in theory. Here, I provide a broad overview, drawing together many of the disparate threads, considering, in turn, how influences on the terms of a simple single-population equation can determine range limits. There is theoretical and empirical evidence for systematic changes towards range limits under some circumstances in each of the demographic parameters. However, under other circumstances, no such changes may take place in particular parameters, or they may occur in a different direction, with limitation still occurring. This suggests that (i) little about range limitation can categorically be inferred from many empirical studies, which document change in only one demographic parameter, (ii) there is a need for studies that document variation in all of the parameters, and (iii) in agreement with theoretical evidence that range limits can be formed in the presence or absence of hard boundaries, environmental gradients or biotic interactions, there may be few general patterns as to the determinants of these limits, with most claimed generalities at least having many exceptions.
births; deaths; emigration; immigration; population size; range limits
The numerous studies examining where efforts to conserve biodiversity should be targeted are not matched by comparable research efforts addressing how conservation investments should be structured and what balance of conservation approaches works best in what contexts. An obvious starting point is to examine the past allocation of effort among conservation approaches and how this has evolved.
We examine the past allocation of conservation investment between conservation easements and fee simple acquisitions using the largest land trust in operation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), as a case study. We analyse the balance of investments across the whole of the US and in individual states when measured in terms of the area protected and upfront cost of protecting land.
Across the US as a whole, the proportion of conservation investment allocated to easements is growing exponentially. Already 70% of the area of land protected in a given year, and half of all the financial investment in land conservation, is allocated to easements. The growth rate of conservation easements varies by a factor of two across states when measured in terms of the area protected and by a factor of three in terms of financial expenditure. Yet, we were unable to find consistent predictors that explained this variation. Our results underscore the urgency of implementing best practice guidelines for designing easements and of initiating a wider discussion of what balance of conservation approaches is desirable.
The world's human population is becoming concentrated into cities, giving rise to concerns that it is becoming increasingly isolated from nature. Urban public greenspaces form the arena of many people's daily contact with nature and such contact has measurable physical and psychological benefits. Here we show that these psychological benefits increase with the species richness of urban greenspaces. Moreover, we demonstrate that greenspace users can more or less accurately perceive species richness depending on the taxonomic group in question. These results indicate that successful management of urban greenspaces should emphasize biological complexity to enhance human well-being in addition to biodiversity conservation.
urban greenspace; biodiversity; psychological well-being; Attention Restoration Theory
Ambient noise interferes with the propagation of acoustic signals through the environment from sender to receiver. Over the past few centuries, urbanization and the development of busy transport networks have led to dramatic increases in the levels of ambient noise with which animal acoustic communications must compete. Here we show that urban European robins Erithacus rubecula, highly territorial birds reliant on vocal communication, reduce acoustic interference by singing during the night in areas that are noisy during the day. The effect of ambient light pollution, to which nocturnal singing in urban birds is frequently attributed, is much weaker than that of daytime noise.
urbanization; ambient noise; vocal communication; nocturnal song
A common approach to estimating the total number of extant species in a taxonomic group is to extrapolate from the temporal pattern of known species descriptions. A formal statistical approach to this problem is provided. The approach is applied to a number of global datasets for birds, ants, mosses, lycophytes, monilophytes (ferns and horsetails), gymnosperms and also to New World grasses and UK flowering plants. Overall, our results suggest that unless the inventory of a group is nearly complete, estimating the total number of species is associated with very large margins of error. The strong influence of unpredictable variations in the discovery process on species accumulation curves makes these data unreliable in estimating total species numbers.
birds; ants; mosses; monilophytes; lycophytes; gymnosperms
Despite its wide implications for many ecological issues, the global pattern of spatial turnover in the occurrence of species has been little studied, unlike the global pattern of species richness. Here, using a database on the breeding distributions of birds, we present the first global maps of variation in spatial turnover for an entire taxonomic class, a pattern that has to date remained largely a matter of conjecture, based on theoretical expectations and extrapolation of inconsistent patterns from different biogeographic realms. We use these maps to test four predictions from niche theory as to the form that this variation should take, namely that turnover should increase with species richness, towards lower latitudes, and with the steepness of environmental gradients and that variation in turnover is determined principally by rare (restricted) species. Contrary to prediction, we show that turnover is high both in areas of extremely low and high species richness, does not increase strongly towards the tropics, and is related both to average environmental conditions and spatial variation in those conditions. These results are closely associated with a further important and novel finding, namely that global patterns of spatial turnover are driven principally by widespread species rather than the restricted ones. This complements recent demonstrations that spatial patterns of species richness are also driven principally by widespread species, and thus provides an important contribution towards a unified model of how terrestrial biodiversity varies both within and between the Earth's major land masses.
beta diversity; environmental gradients; global avifauna; niche theory; spatial turnover
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) has identified climate change, habitat destruction, invasive species, overexploitation and pollution as the major drivers of biodiversity loss and sources of concern for human well-being. Understanding how these drivers operate and interact and how they might be mitigated are among the most pressing questions facing humanity. Here, we show how macrophysiology—the investigation of variation in physiological traits over large geographical, temporal and phylogenetic scales—can contribute significantly to answering these questions. We do so by demonstrating, for each of the MA drivers, how a macrophysiological approach can or has helped elucidate the impacts of these drivers and their interactions. Moreover, we illustrate that a large-scale physiological perspective can provide insights into previously unrecognized threats to diversity, such as the erosion of physiological variation and stress tolerance, which are a consequence of the removal of large species and individuals from the biosphere. In so doing we demonstrate that environmental physiologists have much to offer the scientific quest to resolve major environmental problems.
biological invasions; conservation biology; evolutionary physiology; global climate change; macroecology
A major goal of ecology is to determine the causes of the latitudinal gradient in global distribution of species richness. Current evidence points to either energy availability or habitat heterogeneity as the most likely environmental drivers in terrestrial systems, but their relative importance is controversial in the absence of analyses of global (rather than continental or regional) extent. Here we use data on the global distribution of extant continental and continental island bird species to test the explanatory power of energy availability and habitat heterogeneity while simultaneously addressing issues of spatial resolution, spatial autocorrelation, geometric constraints upon species' range dynamics, and the impact of human populations and historical glacial ice-cover. At the finest resolution (1°), topographical variability and temperature are identified as the most important global predictors of avian species richness in multi-predictor models. Topographical variability is most important in single-predictor models, followed by productive energy. Adjusting for null expectations based on geometric constraints on species richness improves overall model fit but has negligible impact on tests of environmental predictors. Conclusions concerning the relative importance of environmental predictors of species richness cannot be extrapolated from one biogeographic realm to others or the globe. Rather a global perspective confirms the primary importance of mountain ranges in high-energy areas.
geometric constraints; global biodiversity; habitat heterogeneity; species richness; species-energy theory; topography
Understanding the global geographical distribution of extinction risk is a key challenge in conservation biology. It remains controversial, however, to what extent areas become threat hotspots simply because of high human impacts or due to predisposing ecological conditions. Limits to the taxonomic and geographical extent, resolution and quality of previously available data have precluded a full global assessment of the relative roles of these factors. Here, we use a new global database on the geographical distributions of birds on continents and continental islands to show that, after controlling for species richness, the best predictors of the global pattern of extinction risk are measures of human impact. Ecological gradients are of secondary importance at a global scale. The converse is true for individual biogeographic realms, within which variation in human impact is reduced and its influence on extinction risk globally is therefore underestimated. These results underline the importance of a global perspective on the mechanisms driving spatial patterns of extinction risk, and the key role of anthropogenic factors in driving the current extinction crisis.
extinction risk; global biodiversity; human population; species richness; threatened species