The causes of Sahul's megafauna extinctions remain uncertain, although several interacting factors were likely responsible. To examine the relative support for hypotheses regarding plausible ecological mechanisms underlying these extinctions, we constructed the first stochastic, age-structured models for 13 extinct megafauna species from five functional/taxonomic groups, as well as eight extant species within these groups for comparison. Perturbing specific demographic rates individually, we tested which species were more demographically susceptible to extinction, and then compared these relative sensitivities to the fossil-derived extinction chronology. Our models show that the macropodiformes were the least demographically susceptible to extinction, followed by carnivores, monotremes, vombatiform herbivores, and large birds. Five of the eight extant species were as or more susceptible than the extinct species. There was no clear relationship between extinction susceptibility and the extinction chronology for any perturbation scenario, while body mass and generation length explained much of the variation in relative risk. Our results reveal that the actual mechanisms leading to the observed extinction chronology were unlikely related to variation in demographic susceptibility per se, but were possibly driven instead by finer-scale variation in climate change and/or human prey choice and relative hunting success.
All data and are R code needed to reproduce the analyses are available for download at github.com/cjabradshaw/MegafaunaSusceptibility.
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- Corey J A Bradshaw
- Christopher N Johnson
- Vera Weisbecker
- Vera Weisbecker
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Jessica C Thompson, Yale University, United States
© 2021, Bradshaw et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Climate warming is releasing carbon from soils around the world, constituting a positive climate feedback. Warming is also causing species to expand their ranges into new ecosystems. Yet, in most ecosystems, whether range expanding species will amplify or buffer expected soil carbon loss is unknown. Here, we used two whole-community transplant experiments and a follow-up glasshouse experiment to determine whether the establishment of herbaceous lowland plants in alpine ecosystems influences soil carbon content under warming. We found that warming (transplantation to low elevation) led to a negligible decrease in alpine soil carbon content, but its effects became significant and 52% ± 31% (mean ± 95% confidence intervals) larger after lowland plants were introduced at low density into the ecosystem. We present evidence that decreases in soil carbon content likely occurred via lowland plants increasing rates of root exudation, soil microbial respiration, and CO2 release under warming. Our findings suggest that warming-induced range expansions of herbaceous plants have the potential to alter climate feedbacks from this system, and that plant range expansions among herbaceous communities may be an overlooked mediator of warming effects on carbon dynamics.
Background: The variation in the pathogen type as well as the spatial heterogeneity of predictors make the generality of any associations with pathogen discovery debatable. Our previous work confirmed that the association of a group of predictors differed across different types of RNA viruses, yet there have been no previous comparisons of the specific predictors for RNA virus discovery in different regions. The aim of the current study was to close the gap by investigating whether predictors of discovery rates within three regions-the United States, China, and Africa-differ from one another and from those at the global level.
Methods: Based on a comprehensive list of human-infective RNA viruses, we collated published data on first discovery of each species in each region. We used a Poisson boosted regression tree (BRT) model to examine the relationship between virus discovery and 33 predictors representing climate, socio-economics, land use, and biodiversity across each region separately. The discovery probability in three regions in 2010-2019 was mapped using the fitted models and historical predictors.
Results: The numbers of human-infective virus species discovered in the United States, China, and Africa up to 2019 were 95, 80 and 107 respectively, with China lagging behind the other two regions. In each region, discoveries were clustered in hotspots. BRT modelling suggested that in all three regions RNA virus discovery was better predicted by land use and socio-economic variables than climatic variables and biodiversity, though the relative importance of these predictors varied by region. Map of virus discovery probability in 2010-2019 indicated several new hotspots outside historical high-risk areas. Most new virus species since 2010 in each region (6/6 in the United States, 19/19 in China, 12/19 in Africa) were discovered in high-risk areas as predicted by our model.
Conclusions: The drivers of spatiotemporal variation in virus discovery rates vary in different regions of the world. Within regions virus discovery is driven mainly by land-use and socio-economic variables; climate and biodiversity variables are consistently less important predictors than at a global scale. Potential new discovery hotspots in 2010-2019 are identified. Results from the study could guide active surveillance for new human-infective viruses in local high-risk areas.
Funding: FFZ is funded by the Darwin Trust of Edinburgh (https://darwintrust.bio.ed.ac.uk/). MEJW has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 874735 (VEO) (https://www.veo-europe.eu/).