One of the greatest concerns in community ecology is to find how species composition patterns are related to different environmental and spatial conditions. This approach is especially interesting when applied to high diversity heterogeneous forests such as the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest sensu lato. The present study aims to verify the existence of indicator species in four southern Atlantic Rainforest formations and identify relationships among distributions of tree species with environmental and spatial variables. For that, tree species density data of 21 phytosociological surveys were collected from the literature. The data were analyzed using indicator species and partial canonical redundancy analysis (partial RDA). Sandy coastal formation contained the greatest number of indicator species (17), followed by Atlantic rainforest (10), cloud forest (4) and Araucaria forest (3). The partial RDA analysis explained 22% of total data variation, of which 11% was assigned to the environment, 5% to space, 6% to spatial component of environmental influence, and 78% remained undetermined. The forest formations present different sets of indicator species suggesting replacement of species along the forest formations. The largest and significant fraction of variation in the composition and abundance of tree species explained by environmental variables reflects the heterogeneity and complexity of habitats throughout the region of Atlantic Forest. The low spatial influence and the environmental results indicate a pattern of structured communities due to different requirements of niches by species (niche theory).
Authors:F. Nieto-Rabiela, G. Suzán, A. Wiratsudakul, and O. Rico-Chávez
One of the main goals of community ecology is to measure the relative importance of environmental filters to understand patterns of species distribution at different temporal and spatial scales. Likewise, the identification of factors that shape symbiont metacommunity structures is important in disease ecology because resulting structures drive disease transmission. We tested the hypothesis that distributions of virus species and viral families from rodents and bats are defined by shared responses to host phylogeny and host functional characteristics, shaping the viral metacommunity structures at four spatial scales (Continental, Biogeographical, Zoogeographical, and Regional). The contribution of host phylogeny and host traits to the metacommunity of viruses at each spatial scale was calculated using a redundant analysis of canonical ordering (RDA). For rodents, at American Continental scale the coherence of viral species metacommunity increased while the spatial scale decreased and Quasi-Clementsian structures were observed. This pattern suggests a restricted distribution of viruses through their hosts, while in the Big Mass (Europe, Africa, and Asia), the coherence decreased as spatial scale decreased. Viral species metacommunities associated with bats was dominated by random structures along all spatial scales. We suggest that this random pattern is a result of the presence of viruses with high occupancy range such as rabies (73%) and coronavirus (27%), that disrupt such structures. At viral family scale, viral metacommunities associated with bats showed coherent structures, with the emergence of Quasi- Clementsian and Checkerboard structures. RDA analysis indicates that the assemblage of viral diversity associated with rodents and bats responds to phylogenetic and functional characteristics, which alternate between spatial scales. Several of these variations could be subject to the spatial scale, in spite of this, we could identify patterns at macro ecological scale. The application of metacommunity theory at symbiont scales is particularly useful for large-scale ecological analysis. Understanding the rules of host-virus association can be useful to take better decisions in epidemiological surveillance, control and even predictions of viral distribution and dissemination.
Authors:M. Carlucci, F. Teixeira, F. Brum, and L. Duarte
The vegetation in the southern Brazilian highlands is characterized by Araucaria forest and Campos grassland. Evidences indicate that Araucaria forest is currently expanding over grassland and that this expansion may occur by nucleation or edge dynamics. Nucleation mechanisms of Araucaria forest expansion are well documented, whereas mechanisms of expansion starting from the forest edge are not. In this study, we aimed (1) to assess how prominent is Araucaria forest expansion over Campos grassland starting from the forest edge, and (2) to discuss about the possible mechanisms underlying sapling community colonization in grassland. We conducted our sampling in 11 transects disposed from the forest edge towards the grassland. The transects were distributed in four study sites. Each transect was 50 m long and was divided into 25 plots with area of 8 m2. All forest woody sapling individuals were identified and registered. We considered distance from forest edge, presence of dead shrubs, Baccharis uncinella cover, nurse tree cover and rock cover as predictors of forest plant abundance and composition. Niche and distance contribution on the explanation of sapling composition and abundance were partitioned using, respectively, canonical correspondence analysis and multiple regressions. Cover of nurse trees explained almost 31% of total variation in sapling abundance, followed by the distance from the forest edge that explained 6.9%. Site explained 7.6% of total variation in sapling species composition, followed by distance from the forest edge, which explained 2.3%, whereas niche had a minor (2.1%) and non-significant proportion of variation explanation. Our findings show that Araucaria forest expansion over native grasslands in southern Brazil relies deeply on the nurse plant effect. Previous studies have demonstrated that Araucaria forest forms nuclei scattered in the grassland where nurse plants or nurse rocks are established. Here, we bring evidences that nurse plants are important also to the tree encroachment starting closer to the forest edge. This study provides new information on the mechanisms involved in the forest expansion over native grasslands.
Authors:J. Traba, M. B. Morales, C. P. Carmona, and M. Paula Delgado
Niche theory predicts that coexisting species will partition resources to limit the effects of interspecific competition. We examined microhabitat partitioning in six sets of steppe birds associated to agroecosystems in central Spain (female and male Great Bustards Otis tarda, female and male Little Bustards Tetrax tetrax, Red-legged Partridges Alectoris rufa and Eurasian Stone-curlews Burhinus oedicnemus) to estimate realized niche breadth, overlap and segregation. Principal Components Analysis on data from used and random microhabitat locations produced two axes we retained for analysis related with two key factors: cover-visibility and food availability. Non-parametric kernel density functions were calculated for each of the PCA axes and species (or sexes), and niche overlap estimated as the area shared between species’ density functions. Null models were run to evaluate overlap significance. In analyses of microhabitat selection by the six sets of birds, 13 out of 15 pairs had significant resource partitioning and niche segregation, except for the pairs partridge and female Great Bustard and the two sexes of Great Bustard. Eurasian Stone-curlew showed wider trophic niche breadth, although segregated from the other species, probably because of its higher invertebrate requirements. Great and Little Bustards segregated in both niche axes, selecting microhabitat according to their body size. Accessibility to food resources and shelter seems to be similar for partridges and female Great Bustards, overlapping in their selection, which may indicate the existence of segregation in other niche factors (e.g., feeding habits). Great Bustard males showed niche overlap with females. Little Bustard males showed feeding microhabitat selection patterns similar to those of females, although they preferred more open microhabitats to meet their sexual display requirements. The entire assemblage had significantly less overlap than expected by chance, suggesting that differential microhabitat selection and realized niche partitioning may explain coexistence in steppe bird communities. Our results suggest that the maintenance of different microhabitat structure should be a priority in the management of agricultural environments.