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Concept: Rare species


Community compensatory trend (CCT) is thought to facilitate persistence of rare species and thus stabilize species composition in tropical forests. However, whether CCT acts over broad geographical ranges is still in question. In this study, we tested for the presence of negative density dependence (NDD) and CCT in three forests along a tropical-temperate gradient. Inventory data were collected from forest communities located in three different latitudinal zones in China. Two widely used methods were used to test for NDD at the community level. The first method considered relationships between the relative abundance ratio and adult abundance. The second method emphasized the effect of adult abundance on abundance of established younger trees. Evidence for NDD acting on different growth forms was tested by using the first method, and the presence of CCT was tested by checking whether adult abundance of rare species affected that of established younger trees less than did abundance of common species. Both analyses indicated that NDD existed in seedling, sapling and pole stages in all three plant communities and that this effect increased with latitude. However, the extent of NDD varied among understory, midstory and canopy trees in the three communities along the gradient. Additionally, despite evidence of NDD for almost all common species, only a portion of rare species showed NDD, supporting the action of CCT in all three communities. So, we conclude that NDD and CCT prevail in the three recruitment stages of the tree communities studied; rare species achieve relative advantage through CCT and thus persist in these communities; CCT clearly facilitates newly established species and maintains tree diversity within communities across our latitudinal gradient.

Concepts: Plant, Forest, Tree, Plant morphology, Rainforest, Trees, Rare species, Common species


The term critical habitat is used to describe the subset of habitat that is essential to the survival and recovery of species. Some countries legally require that critical habitat of listed threatened and endangered species be identified and protected. However, there is little evidence to suggest that the identification of critical habitat has had much impact on species recovery. We hypothesized that this may be due at least partly to a mismatch between the intent of critical habitat identification, which is to protect sufficient habitat for species persistence and recovery, and its practice. We used content analysis to systematically review critical habitat documents from the United States, Canada, and Australia. In particular, we identified the major trends in type of information used to identify critical habitat and in occupancy of habitat identified as critical. Information about population viability was used to identify critical habitat for only 1% of the species reviewed, and for most species, designated critical habitat did not include unoccupied habitat. Without reference to population viability, it is difficult to determine how much of a species' occupied and unoccupied habitat will be required for persistence. We therefore conclude that the identification of critical habitat remains inconsistent with the goal of protecting sufficient habitat to support persistence and recovery of the species. Ensuring that critical habitat identification aligns more closely with its intent will improve the accuracy of the designations and may therefore help improve the benefits to species recovery when combined with adequate implementation and enforcement of legal protections.

Concepts: Species, Endangered species, Protection, Endangered Species Act, Biodiversity Action Plan, IUCN Red List, Threatened species, Rare species


Forty-two putative “C. laurentii” isolates identified by the Vitek 2 system were collected in China. The “gold-standard” ITS sequencing confirmed only two isolates were genuine C. laurentii. Bruker Biotyper matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry was able to identify the C. laurentii isolates with expanded custom database.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Mass spectrometry, Endangered species, Cryptococcus, Rare species


The conditions required by rare species are often only approximately known. Monitoring such species over time can help refine management of their protected areas. We report population trends of a rare moth, the Dark Bordered Beauty Epione vespertaria (Linnaeus, 1767) (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) at its last known English site on a protected lowland heath, and those of its host-plant, Salix repens (L.) (Malpighiales: Salicaceae). Between 2007 and 2014, adult moth density reduced by an average of 30-35% annually over the monitored area, and its range over the monitored area contracted in concert. By comparing data from before this decline (2005) with data taken in 2013, we show that the density of host-plants over the monitored area reduced three-fold overall, and ten-fold in the areas of highest host-plant density. In addition, plants were significantly smaller in 2013. In 2005, moth larvae tended to be found on plants that were significantly larger than average at the time. By 2013, far fewer plants were of an equivalent size. This suggests that the rapid decline of the moth population coincides with, and is likely driven by, changes in the host-plant population. Why the host-plant population has changed remains less certain, but fire, frost damage and grazing damage have probably contributed. It is likely that a reduction in grazing pressure in parts of the site would aid host-plant recovery, although grazing remains an important site management activity. Our work confirms the value of constant monitoring of rare or priority insect species, of the risks posed to species with few populations even when their populations are large, of the potential conflict between bespoke management for species and generic management of habitats, and hence the value of refining our knowledge of rare species' requirements so that their needs can be incorporated into the management of protected areas.

Concepts: Biology, Insect, Botany, Population density, Endangered species, Lepidoptera, Rare species, Recovery Plan


Weed control is generally considered to be essential for crop production and herbicides have become the main method used for weed control in developed countries. However, concerns about harmful environmental consequences have led to strong pressure on farmers to reduce the use of herbicides. As food demand is forecast to increase by 50% over the next century, an in-depth quantitative analysis of crop yields, weeds and herbicides is required to balance economic and environmental issues. This study analysed the relationship between weeds, herbicides and winter wheat yields using data from 150 winter wheat fields in western France. A Bayesian hierarchical model was built to take account of farmers' behaviour, including implicitly their perception of weeds and weed control practices, on the effectiveness of treatment. No relationship was detected between crop yields and herbicide use. Herbicides were found to be more effective at controlling rare plant species than abundant weed species. These results suggest that reducing the use of herbicides by up to 50% could maintain crop production, a result confirmed by previous studies, while encouraging weed biodiversity. Food security and biodiversity conservation may, therefore, be achieved simultaneously in intensive agriculture simply by reducing the use of herbicides.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Agriculture, Sustainability, Yield, Weed, Herbicide, Rare species


Although temporal heterogeneity is a well-accepted driver of biodiversity, effects of interannual variation in land-use intensity (LUI) have not been addressed yet. Additionally, responses to land use can differ greatly among different organisms; therefore, overall effects of land-use on total local biodiversity are hardly known. To test for effects of LUI (quantified as the combined intensity of fertilization, grazing, and mowing) and interannual variation in LUI (SD in LUI across time), we introduce a unique measure of whole-ecosystem biodiversity, multidiversity. This synthesizes individual diversity measures across up to 49 taxonomic groups of plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria from 150 grasslands. Multidiversity declined with increasing LUI among grasslands, particularly for rarer species and aboveground organisms, whereas common species and belowground groups were less sensitive. However, a high level of interannual variation in LUI increased overall multidiversity at low LUI and was even more beneficial for rarer species because it slowed the rate at which the multidiversity of rare species declined with increasing LUI. In more intensively managed grasslands, the diversity of rarer species was, on average, 18% of the maximum diversity across all grasslands when LUI was static over time but increased to 31% of the maximum when LUI changed maximally over time. In addition to decreasing overall LUI, we suggest varying LUI across years as a complementary strategy to promote biodiversity conservation.

Concepts: DNA, Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Evolution, Life, Species, Endangered species, Rare species


Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiments have established that species richness and composition are both important determinants of ecosystem function in an experimental context. Determining whether this result holds for real-world ecosystem services has remained elusive, however, largely due to the lack of analytical methods appropriate for large-scale, associational data. Here, we use a novel analytical approach, the Price equation, to partition the contribution to ecosystem services made by species richness, composition and abundance in four large-scale data sets on crop pollination by native bees. We found that abundance fluctuations of dominant species drove ecosystem service delivery, whereas richness changes were relatively unimportant because they primarily involved rare species that contributed little to function. Thus, the mechanism behind our results was the skewed species-abundance distribution. Our finding that a few common species, not species richness, drive ecosystem service delivery could have broad generality given the ubiquity of skewed species-abundance distributions in nature.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Ecology, Ecosystem, Ecological economics, Ecosystem services, Systems ecology, Rare species, Common species


Understanding why some species are rare while others are common remains a central and fascinating question in ecology. Recently, interactions with soil organisms have been shown to affect local abundances of plant species within communities, however, it is not known whether they might also drive patterns of rarity at large scales. Further, little is known about the specificity of soil-feedback effects, and whether closely related plants share more soil pathogens than more distantly related plants. In a multi-species soil-feedback experiment (using 19 species) we tested whether regionally and locally rare species differed in their response to soil biota. Regional rarity was measured using range size or IUCN status and local rarity by typical abundance within an area. All species were grown on soils trained by a variety of regionally and locally rare and common species, which also varied in their degree of relatedness to the target. We found that, in general, regionally rare species suffered more than twice as much from soil biota than regionally common species. Soil cultured by regionally rare species also had a more negative effect on subsequent plant growth, suggesting they may have also accumulated more pathogens. Local rarity did not predict feedback strength. Further, soil trained by closely related plants had a more negative effect on growth than soil trained by distant relatives, which indicates a phylogenetic signal in the host range of soil biota. We conclude that soil biota may well contribute to plant rarity at large spatial scales, which offers a novel explanation for plant rarity and commonness. Moreover, our results show that phylogenetic relatedness between plants was a good predictor of the likelihood that two plant species interacted negatively via soil biota, which might mean that soil pathogens could prevent the coexistence of closely related plants and could drive patterns of phylogenetic overdispersion. Our results suggest that soil pathogens could restrict the ability of rare species to shift their ranges and might need to be considered by conservation biologists seeking to protect populations of rare plants.

Concepts: Biology, Organism, Life, Species, Plant, Soil, Phylogenetics, Rare species


Declining plant biodiversity in agroecosystems has often been attributed to escalating use of chemical herbicides, but other changes in farming systems, including the clearing of seminatural habitat fragments, confound the influence of herbicides. The present study introduces a new approach to evaluate the impacts of herbicide pollution on plant communities at landscape or regional scales. If herbicides are in fact a key factor shaping agricultural plant diversity, one would expect to see the signal of past herbicide impacts in the current plant community composition of an intensively farmed region, with common, successful species more tolerant to widely used herbicides than rare or declining species. Data from an extensive field survey of plant diversity in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA, were compared with herbicide bioassay experiments in a greenhouse to test the hypothesis that common species possess higher herbicide tolerances than rare species. Five congeneric pairs of rare and common species were treated with 3 commonly used herbicide modes of action in bioassay experiments, and few significant differences were found in the tolerances of rare species relative to common species. These preliminary results suggest that other factors beyond herbicide exposure may be more important in shaping the distribution and abundance of plant species diversity across an agricultural landscape. Environ Toxicol Chem 2014;33:XX-XX. © 2014 SETAC.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Agriculture, Species, Plant, Endangered species, Herbicide, Rare species


Management of critical habitat for threatened species with small ranges requires location-specific, fine-scale survey data. The silver-headed antechinus (Antechinus argentus) is known from only two isolated, fire-prone locations. At least one of these populations, at Kroombit Tops National Park in central-eastern Queensland, Australia, possesses a very small range. Here, we present detailed vegetation species diversity and structure data from three sites comprising the known habitat of A. argentus at Kroombit Tops and relate it to capture data obtained over two years. We found differences in both vegetation and capture data between burnt and unburnt habitat. Leaf litter and grasstrees (Xanthorrhoea johnsonii) were the strongest vegetative predictors for A. argentus capture. The species declined considerably over the two years of the trapping study, and we raise concern for its survival at Kroombit Tops. We suggest that future work should focus on structural vegetative variables (specifically, the diameter and leaf density of grasstree crowns) and relate them to A. argentus occurrence. We also recommend a survey of invertebrate diversity in grasstrees and leaf litter with a comparison to A. argentus prey. The data presented here illustrates how critical detailed monitoring is for planning habitat management and fire regimes, and highlights the utility of a high-resolution approach to habitat mapping. While a traditional approach to fire management contends that pyrodiversity encourages biodiversity, the present study demonstrates that some species prefer long-unburnt habitat. Additionally, in predicting the distribution of rare species like A. argentus, data quality (i.e., spatial resolution) may prevail over data quantity (i.e., number of data).

Concepts: Time, Biodiversity, Plant, Endangered species, Millennium Development Goals, Biodiversity Action Plan, Threatened species, Rare species