Including ecosystem functions into restoration ecology has been repeatedly suggested, yet there is limited evidence that this is taking place without bias to certain habitats, species, or functions. We reviewed the inclusion of ecosystem functions in restoration and potential relations to habitats and species by extracting 224 publications from the literature (2004)(2005)(2006)(2007)(2008)(2009)(2010)(2011)(2012)(2013). Most studies investigated forests, fewer grasslands or freshwaters, and fewest wetlands or marine habitats. Of all studies, 14% analyzed only ecosystem functions, 44% considered both biotic composition and functions, 42% exclusively studied the biotic component, mostly vascular plants, more rarely invertebrates or vertebrates, and least often microbes. Most studies investigating ecosystem functions focused on nutrient cycling (26%), whereas productivity (18%), water relations (16%), and geomorphological processes (14%) were less covered; carbon sequestration (10%), decomposition (6%), and trophic interactions (6%) were rarely studied. Monitoring of ecosystem functions was common in forests and grasslands, but the functions considered depended on the study organisms. These associations indicate research opportunities for certain habitats, species, and functions. Overall, the call to include ecosystem functions in restoration has been heard; however, a lack of clarity about the ecosystem functions to be included and deficits of feasible field methods are major obstacles for a functional approach. Restoration ecology should learn from recent advances in rapid assessment of ecosystem functions, and by a closer integration with biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research. Not all functions need to be measured in all ecosystems, but more functions than the few commonly addressed would improve the understanding of restored ecosystems.
Disturbances induce changes on habitat proprieties that may filter organism's functional traits thereby shaping the structure and interactions of many trophic levels. We tested if communities of predators with foraging traits dependent on habitat structure respond to environmental change through cascades affecting the functional traits of plants. We monitored the response of spider and plant communities to fire in South Brazilian Grasslands using pairs of burned and unburned plots. Spiders were determined to the family level and described in feeding behavioral and morphological traits measured on each individual. Life form and morphological traits were recorded for plant species. One month after fire the abundance of vegetation hunters and the mean size of the chelicera increased due to the presence of suitable feeding sites in the regrowing vegetation, but irregular web builders decreased due to the absence of microhabitats and dense foliage into which they build their webs. Six months after fire rosette-form plants with broader leaves increased, creating a favourable habitat for orb web builders which became more abundant, while graminoids and tall plants were reduced, resulting in a decrease of proper shelters and microclimate in soil surface to ground hunters which became less abundant. Hence, fire triggered changes in vegetation structure that lead both to trait-convergence and trait-divergence assembly patterns of spiders along gradients of plant biomass and functional diversity. Spider individuals occurring in more functionally diverse plant communities were more diverse in their traits probably because increased possibility of resource exploitation, following the habitat heterogeneity hypothesis. Finally, as an indication of resilience, after twelve months spider communities did not differ from those of unburned plots. Our findings show that functional traits provide a mechanistic understanding of the response of communities to environmental change, especially when more than one trophic level is considered.
Grazing exclusion may lead to biodiversity loss and homogenization of naturally heterogeneous and species-rich grassland ecosystems, and these effects may cascade to higher trophic levels and ecosystem properties. Although grazing exclusion has been studied elsewhere, the consequences of alleviating the disturbance regime in grassland ecosystems remain unclear. In this paper, we present results of the first five years of an experiment in native grasslands of southern Brazil. Using a randomized block experimental design, we examined the effects of three grazing treatments on plant and arthropod communities: (i) deferred grazing (i.e., intermittent grazing), (ii) grazing exclusion and (iii) a control under traditional continuous grazing, which were applied to 70 x 70 m experimental plots, in six regionally distributed blocks. We evaluated plant community responses regarding taxonomic and functional diversity (life-forms) in separate spatial components: alpha (1 x 1 m subplots), beta, and gamma (70 x 70 m plots), as well as the cascading effects on arthropod high-taxa. By estimating effect sizes (treatments vs. control) by bootstrap resampling, both deferred grazing and grazing exclusion mostly increased vegetation height, plant biomass and standing dead biomass. The effect of grazing exclusion on plant taxonomic diversity was negative. Conversely, deferred grazing increased plant taxonomic diversity, but both treatments reduced plant functional diversity. Reduced grazing pressure in both treatments promoted the break of dominance by prostrate species, followed by fast homogenization of vegetation structure towards dominance of ligneous and erect species. These changes in the plant community led to increases in high-taxa richness and abundance of vegetationdwelling arthropod groups under both treatments, but had no detectable effects on epigeic arthropods. Our results indicate that decision-making regarding the conservation of southern Brazil grasslands should include both intensive and alleviated levels of grazing
Environmental gradients consist of sequential changes in the physical and structural characteristics of a region. These allow us to follow species responses and tolerances under different habitat conditions. Among them, forest fragmentation and succession comprise the most common examples of forest gradients, where organismal responses require distinct morphological, physiological, and behavioral adaptations. However, environmental changes can impose ecological and evolutionary constraints that act on species traits, as well as on local species assemblies through their phylogenetic history. In this study, we evaluated the differences in species distribution and composition on fruit‐feeding butterfly assemblages along forest fragmentation and succession gradients. We combine functional and phylogenetic methods for determining butterfly assemblages, and inferred species resistance and resilience according to habitat changes in tropical forests. We used a database of 471 fruit‐feeding butterflies of 60 species sampled from different environments in the central Amazon rainforest. A total of 13 functional traits were measured, and a phylogenetic tree was obtained for the sampled species. The trait–environment relationship was analyzed along both forest fragmentation and succession gradients, controlling for phylogenetic signal on species distribution and functional composition when necessary. Several traits presented phylogenetic signal, and phylogeny was also driving butterfly species distribution along the successional gradient. After controlling for phylogeny, individual characteristics related to flight speed (thoracic weight) and anti‐predatory strategies (camouflage) increased in early‐successional forests, with large butterflies (body length) prevailing in primary forests. No clear functional and phylogenetic pattern was identified for the fragmentation gradient. Our results are consistent with the idea that butterflies may be employing distinct functional strategies to attenuate habitat change effects. Larger butterflies, with lower dispersal ability, are preferentially susceptible to local extinctions in the early‐successional environments, mainly when forested habitat and its resources become spatially restricted. In addition, several anti‐predatory strategies related to conspicuous colors may be losing their functionality in open areas, where not being distinctive against the background becomes the primary defense against predation.
Neotropical Entomology 35(5): 616-624 (2006) Diversidade de Artrópodos Galhadores e Plantas Hospedeiras em uma Floresta Subtropical em Porto Alegre, Sul do Brasil RESUMO -Muitas hipóteses têm sido propostas para explicar os padrões de diversidade de insetos galhadores, porém existem evidências contraditórias quanto aos principais processos ecológicos e evolutivos responsáveis por esses padrões. Adicionalmente, questões como sazonalidade dos artrópodos, suficiência amostral e aprendizado dos amostradores têm sido praticamente ignoradas. Este estudo registra artrópodos galhadores e avalia essas questões. Amostragens sazonais de artrópodos galhadores e suas plantas hospedeiras foram realizadas numa floresta subtropical úmida. Quatro transectos foram amostrados duas vezes por estação, por duas pessoas, procurando galhas na vegetação durante 1h30min. Após 96h.pessoa de amostragem, 130 morfotipos de galhas foram encontrados em 84 espécies de plantas hospedeiras. A análise do número de galhas e morfotipos encontrados por transecto demonstrou que a experiência dos amostradores influencia os resultados sobre riqueza de galhadores e os dados relativos a sazonalidade. Diferentes espécies apresentaram distintos padrões sazonais. A riqueza de artrópodos galhadores demonstrou estar ligada à riqueza de plantas. Os resultados sugerem que a experiência dos amostradores é um fator essencial, bem como os padrões de sazonalidade das diferentes espécies, pelo menos em áreas tropicais/subtropicais. Apesar de a suficiência amostral não ter sido atingida, a heterogeneidade da fauna em escalas espaciais pequenas mostrou-se considerável: mesmo com a proximidade entre os locais amostrados (trilhas não distavam mais que 500 m entre si), estes mostraram possuir faunas específicas. Este trabalho adiciona à literatura registros sugerindo que tanto a riqueza florística quanto a composição específica da vegetação têm forte influência sobre a riqueza de galhadores, pelo menos em escalas locais. PALAVRAS-CHAVE: Morfotipo, amostrador, heterogeneidade ambiental, sazonalidadeABSTRACT -Many hypotheses have been proposed to explain diversity patterns of galling insects. However, there are contradictory evidences on the evolutionary and ecological factors responsible for the trends. Furthermore, questions such as arthropod seasonality, sampling sufficiency and sampling team experience have been almost ignored. This study records galling arthropod diversity while paying attention to these questions. Seasonal sampling of galling arthropods and host plants were conducted in a humid subtropical forest of southern Brazil. Four transects were sampled twice per season, with two persons searching the vegetation for galls during 1h30min. After 96h.persons of sampling, 130 gall morphotypes on 84 species of host plants were recorded. An analysis of the numbers of galls and gall morphotypes found per transect along time showed that sampling team experience influences galler richness results and the interpretation of galler seasonality patterns. Different specie...
Habitat loss is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, exerting negative effects on the ecological viability of natural vegetation remnants. The south Brazilian grasslands belong to one of the largest temperate grassland regions in the world, but have lost 50% of their natural extent in the past 35 years. To date, there is no empirical evidence for the effects of habitat loss on these grasslands' biological diversity, undermining their conservation. Using data from a large‐scale biodiversity survey, we asked if local plant communities respond to levels of habitat loss representative of the entire region (≤50%). Vegetation in grassland remnants was sampled in 24 landscapes at three localities each, using nine plots per locality. To investigate whether species losses were a consequence of stochastic or nonrandom local extinctions and whether plant communities became more homogenized, we evaluated species richness, beta‐diversity components (spatial turnover and nestedness), and phylogenetic diversity, in respect to landscape change. In part of the landscapes, arthropods were sampled to investigate if loss of plant diversity had a cascading effect on other trophic levels. We evaluated generic richness of ants, an omnivore group with high levels of plant associations, in respect to a plant community's phylogenetic diversity. Local plant communities in landscapes with less grassland cover had fewer species, less spatial turnover, increased nestedness and lower phylogenetic diversity. Our results suggest that the observed species loss can be linked to taxonomic homogenization and is nonrandom, decreasing evolutionary diversity within the community. Furthermore, ant richness declined by 50% in plant communities with the lowest phylogenetic diversity, suggesting that effects of habitat loss propagate to higher trophic levels. Policy implications. We conclude that the biological diversity of south Brazilian grasslands, at the producer and consumer level, is at risk under the current rate of land‐use conversion, even at habitat losses below 50%. To avoid substantial biodiversity loss, conservation and more restrictive policies for conversion of native grasslands to different land uses in South Brazil are urgently needed.
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