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Ecological management strategies — from conservation to fisheries — require ecosystem-level thinking. This Review describes the main types of ecosystem model, how to select an appropriate model for a given application, and how to manage complexity and uncertainty.
The causes of epistasis in nature are poorly understood. Measuring the genetic basis of cryptic colouration and survival in a field experiment with stick insects, the authors show that epistasis results from ecological variation in natural selection.
Analysing responses of biodiversity to changes in land use and climate across global ecoregions, the authors identify strong negative responses in both tropical and Mediterranean biomes, driven primarily by low climatic seasonality and the history of human disturbance.
Analysing a global metagenomic data set from the Tara Oceans expeditions, the authors find that the distribution of marine giant virus communities is tightly coupled to that of eukaryotic microorganisms, that these communities are particularly distinct in polar biomes, and that they may sometimes be highly similar both on the surface and at depth.
Minjinia turgenensis, an Early Devonian fish, preserves anatomical details consistent with it being a stem gnathostome, but also endochondral bone similar to that of osteichthyans. These findings suggest that endochondral bone is an ancestral condition subsequently lost in chondrichthyans.
Theory, simulations and empirical data are used to show that the phenotypic effect of a mutation varies substantially depending on the specific genetic background, thereby resolving an apparent contradiction between predictions of convex and concave fitness landscapes.
By combining an analysis of common garden and field experiments, together with a survey of wild hosts, the authors show that prior infection by a plant fungal parasite increases susceptibility to infection by other strains and that this priming effect influences the assembly of the parasite community.
Using a food systems approach, the authors show that scientifically guided insect biological control mitigated 43 pest targets between 1918 and 2018 in the Asia–Pacific region, allowing for yield-loss recoveries of up to 73–100% in non-rice critical crops, with strong impacts on rural economies.
Experimental evolution shows that epimutations driven by small silencing RNAs in the nematode Caenorhabditiselegans arise rapidly but most have limited stability, suggesting that these epimutations might contribute to evolutionary processes over a short timescale.
Examining skeletal traits within a time-calibrated phylogeny, the authors find that ocean geochemistry (particularly aragonite–calcite seas) has driven patterns of morphological evolution in anthozoans (corals, sea anemones) over time.
An analysis of the overlap between tropical forest restoration, human populations, development and national policies for community forest ownership shows that 294.5 million people live within forest restoration opportunity land in the Global South.
The authors infer that pelvic skeleton reduction in a fossil sequence of the Miocene stickleback fish, Gasterosteus doryssus, proceeds through the same gene of large effect and a similar suite of genes of small effect as in a closely related extant species, Gasterosteusaculeatus.
This study reports the depletion of young Neandertal and Denisovan introgressed SNPs from gene regulatory enhancers in modern human genomes, as well as an association of enhancer pleiotropy with both the magnitude of archaic SNP depletion and the degree of intolerance to new mutations.
By comparing data from real-world grassland communities with data from two of the longest-running grassland biodiversity–ecosystem functioning experiments, the authors show that conclusions derived from experimental systems are robust to the removal of unrealistic experimental communities.
The utility of the threshold paradigm, such that relatively small perturbations drive abrupt ecosystem changes, is challenged by a synthesis of 36 meta-analyses, which detected few signatures of thresholds from over 4,600 global change impacts on natural ecological communities.
There is an urgent need to ensure that marine ecosystems are able to support biodiversity and the services they sustain in the face of rapid global change. Here, the authors argue that a holistic approach of integrated ocean management can ensure a sustainable and resilient ocean economy.
Analysing global high-resolution three-dimensional maps of forest structure, the authors show that only half of the world’s remaining moist tropical forest has both high structural integrity and low human pressure, and they outline a framework for its conservation and restoration.
By exposing an experimental 34-species bacterial community to different levels of pulse antibiotic disturbance with or without immigration, the authors identify a highly repeatable community response, the magnitude of which increases with increasing antibiotic levels.
An automation-enabled evolution experiment in which genes from across the tree of life are introduced into Escherichia coli shows that mutations that upregulate the introduced gene can mitigate fitness defects without the need for coding changes.
Multiproxy archaeobotanical analyses of an abandoned agricultural terrace at Wagadagam document extensive, low-intensity forms of plant management from at least 2,145–1,930 cal yr bp and intensive forms of cultivation at 1,376–1,293 cal yr bp.
Analysing >5,000 population abundance time series for insects and other arthropods from 68 sites within the US Long Term Ecological Research network, the authors find high variation but no overall trend in abundance and diversity among sites and taxa.
Tulloch details a six-step timeline that improves ecology and conservation conference inclusion by embedding diversity and equity into planning, financing, marketing, scientific and social scheduling, evaluation and reporting.
Comparing historical records with contemporary camera trap surveys, the authors report widespread declines in the occurrence of four large carnivore species from protected areas within the distributional range of the giant panda.
Males of the malaria vector species Anopheles arabiensis and Anopheles gambiae produce and release aggregation pheromones that attract individuals to the swarm, enhancing mating success. The authors argue that manipulating such pheromones could increase the efficacy of malaria-vector control programmes.
Combining global eddy covariance observations and photosynthesis estimates from terrestrial biosphere models, the authors demonstrate widespread acclimation of photosynthesis to light in natural environments, with croplands showing stronger acclimation rates than forests or grasslands.
The evolutionary origin of insect wings is unclear. Gene expression and functional analyses show a gene network operating in the terga and proximal leg segments of the crustacean evo-devo model Parhyale hawaiensis, similar to the insect wing gene network.
In Africa, COVID-19 has created a perfect storm of reduced funding, restrictions on the operations of conservation agencies, and elevated human threats to nature. This Perspective discusses solutions to move beyond this immediate crisis.
Vaccines that can spread autonomously through animal populations could help to prevent zoonoses before they spillover into humans. This Perspective discusses the epidemiological theory and the practical challenges associated with transmissible and transferable vaccines.
Analysing archaic and modern human genomes, the authors show that Neanderthal introgression reintroduced thousands of lost ancestral variants with gene regulatory activity and that these reintroduced alleles are more tolerated by modern humans than introgressed Neanderthal-derived alleles.
Recent institutional and vertebrate conservation scientists’ publication data suggest that China has a growing conservation research capacity deficit. Here the authors outline steps China must take to build up this capacity in order to safeguard the country’s exceptionally rich biodiversity.
Screening >100 bee and >80 flower species for five common microparasites over 26 weeks, the authors show that parasite prevalence increases in bees toward the end of the growing season, but decreases on plants, and is related to bee diversity, abundance and community composition.
Comparing Mexican cavefish from rivers with those from caves, the authors show increased sensitivity of the innate and adaptive immune system that is accompanied by a reduced investment in the innate immune system as an evolutionary response to lower parasite diversity.
This Perspective uses a social–ecological systems framework to make recommendations for global targets that capture the interdependencies of biodiversity, ecosystem services and sustainable development to inform the Convention on Biological Diversity post-2020 process and the future of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The costs of echolocation during flight were thought to be negligible for bats, but here it is shown that this is true only below a certain intensity threshold. Above 130 dB, the costs of sound production become too expensive for small bats.
An analysis across multiple species groups and different facets of stand-level heterogeneity in temperate forests from Central Europe reveals that heterogeneity–diversity relationships are not generalizable and predictable as modelling approaches suggest, varying even between ecologically similar species groups.
Analysing data on egg size and planktonic duration from >750 marine species with a larval period, the authors show that temperature, life-history and oceanographic processes interact to shape peaks of dispersal at low and high latitudes.