Friday, February 16, 2018

Weekend reads

In time for the weekend this time - here in Canada a long one. Lots of interesting and diverse topics.

Arthropod communities in the tropics are increasingly impacted by rapid changes in land use. Because species showing distinct seasonal patterns of activity are thought to be at higher risk of climate-related extirpation, global warming is generally considered a lower threat to arthropod biodiversity in the tropics than in temperate regions. To examine changes associated with land use and weather variables in tropical arthropod communities, we deployed Malaise traps at three major anthropogenic forests (secondary reserve forest, oil palm forest, and urban ornamental forest (UOF)) in Peninsular Malaysia and collected arthropods continuously for 12 months. We used metabarcoding protocols to characterize the diversity within weekly samples. We found that changes in the composition of arthropod communities were significantly associated with maximum temperature in all the three forests, but shifts were reversed in the UOF compared with the other forests. This suggests arthropods in forests in Peninsular Malaysia face a double threat: community shifts and biodiversity loss due to exploitation and disturbance of forests which consequently put species at further risk related to global warming. We highlight the positive feedback mechanism of land use and temperature, which pose threats to the arthropod communities and further implicates ecosystem functioning and human well-being. Consequently, conservation and mitigation plans are urgently needed.

Currently, freshwater zooplankton sampling and identification methodologies have remained virtually unchanged since they were first established in the beginning of the XX century. One major contributing factor to this slow progress is the limited success of modern genetic methodologies, such as DNA barcoding, in several of the main groups. This study demonstrates improved protocols which enable the rapid assessment of most animal taxa inhabiting any freshwater system by combining the use of light traps, careful fixation at low temperatures using ethanol, and zooplankton-specific primers. We DNA-barcoded 2,136 specimens from a diverse array of taxonomic assemblages (rotifers, mollusks, mites, crustaceans, insects, and fishes) from several Canadian and Mexican lakes with an average sequence success rate of 85.3%. In total, 325 Barcode Index Numbers (BINs) were detected with only three BINs (two cladocerans and one copepod) shared between Canada and Mexico, suggesting a much narrower distribution range of freshwater zooplankton than previously thought. This study is the first to broadly explore the metazoan biodiversity of freshwater systems with DNA barcodes to construct a reference library that represents the first step for future programs which aim to monitor ecosystem health, track invasive species, or improve knowledge of the ecology and distribution of freshwater zooplankton.

During the past 50 years, the molecular clock has become one of the main tools for providing a time scale for the history of life. In the era of robust molecular evolutionary analysis, clock calibration is still one of the most basic steps needing attention. When fossil records are limited, well-dated geological events are the main resource for calibration. However, biogeographic calibrations have often been used in a simplistic manner, for example assuming simultaneous vicariant divergence of multiple sister lineages. Here, we propose a novel iterative calibration approach to define the most appropriate calibration date by seeking congruence between the dates assigned to multiple allopatric divergences and the geological history. Exploring patterns of molecular divergence in 16 trans-Bering sister clades of echinoderms, we demonstrate that the iterative calibration is predominantly advantageous when using complex geological or climatological events-such as the opening/reclosure of the Bering Strait-providing a powerful tool for clock dating that can be applied to other biogeographic calibration systems and further taxa. Using Bayesian analysis, we observed that evolutionary rate variability in the COI-5P gene is generally distributed in a clock-like fashion for Northern echinoderms. The results reveal a large range of genetic divergences, consistent with multiple pulses of trans-Bering migrations. A resulting rate of 2.8% pairwise Kimura-2-parameter sequence divergence per million years is suggested for the COI-5P gene in Northern echinoderms. Given that molecular rates may vary across latitudes and taxa, this study provides a new context for dating the evolutionary history of Arctic marine life.

Properly designed (randomized and/or balanced) experiments are standard in ecological research. Molecular methods are increasingly used in ecology, but studies generally do not report the detailed design of sample processing in the laboratory. This may strongly influence the interpretability of results if the laboratory procedures do not account for the confounding effects of unexpected laboratory events. We demonstrate this with a simple experiment where unexpected differences in laboratory processing of samples would have biased results if randomization in DNA extraction and PCR steps do not provide safeguards. We emphasize the need for proper experimental design and reporting of the laboratory phase of molecular ecology research to ensure the reliability and interpretability of results.

Metabarcoding of lake sediments may reveal current and past biodiversity, but little is known about the degree to which taxa growing in the vegetation are represented in environmental DNA (eDNA) records. We analysed composition of lake and catchment vegetation and vascular plant eDNA at 11 lakes in northern Norway. Out of 489 records of taxa growing within 2 m from the lake shore, 17-49% (mean 31%) of the identifiable taxa recorded were detected with eDNA. Of the 217 eDNA records, 73% and 12% matched taxa recorded in vegetation surveys within 2 m and up to about 50 m away from the lakeshore, respectively, whereas 16% were not recorded in the vegetation surveys of the same lake. The latter include taxa likely overlooked in the vegetation surveys or growing outside the survey area. The percentages detected were 61, 47, 25, and 15 for dominant, common, scattered, and rare taxa, respectively. Similar numbers for aquatic plants were 88, 88, 33 and 62%, respectively. Detection rate and taxonomic resolution varied among plant families and functional groups with good detection of e.g. Ericaceae, Roseaceae, deciduous trees, ferns, club mosses and aquatics. The representation of terrestrial taxa in eDNA depends on both their distance from the sampling site and their abundance and is sufficient for recording vegetation types. For aquatic vegetation, eDNA may be comparable with, or even superior to, inlake vegetation surveys and therefore be used as an tool for biomonitoring. For reconstruction of terrestrial vegetation, technical improvements and more intensive sampling is needed to detect a higher proportion of rare taxa although DNA of some taxa may never reach the lake sediments due to taphonomical constrains. Nevertheless, eDNA performs similar to conventional methods of pollen and macrofossil analyses and may therefore be an important tool for reconstruction of past vegetation.

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