Human paths have positive impacts on plant richness and diversity: A meta-analysis.
ABSTRACT: We assess the impacts of human paths, trails, and roads on plant species richness and Shannon diversity. Most reviews of this topic have not considered community-level measures and have focused on excessive tourism impacts. We found significant positive effects of paths on plant richness and diversity. The effect size for richness was highest when studies included roads (paved) or trails (unpaved). The effect size found for diversity was highest when studies were in grasslands. We also found experimental designs comparing high levels of path use to low levels of path use, near-to-path versus far-from-path and path-presence versus path-absence comparisons obtained the largest effect sizes. There was no evidence that non-native species explained most increases in species richness or diversity. The effect sizes of human paths on plant communities are comparable in magnitude to those reported for other mammals' disturbance and ecosystem engineering activities.
Project description:Background:Details of how, why and in what conditions large felids make scrapes is unknown. Here, we examined the general hypothesis about the use of scrapes for marking proposals, as well as to communicate with other individuals to signalize particular points or areas of interest, by studying scrape-marking behaviour of jaguars and pumas. Methods:We surveyed by scrapes between five days and two months mainly during dry season in five study areas from Mexico (El Edén and San Ignacio), Belize (Cockscomb) and Brazil (Angatuba and Serra das Almas), which differed in presence and/or abundance of jaguars and pumas. Paths were slowly walked while searching for scrapes by teams normally composed of two people and tracks were stored in GPS, distinguishing the type of path surveyed (unpaved track roads, trails and cross-country). Results:We found a total of 269 felid scrapes along 467 km of paths surveyed, obtaining a finding rate of 0.576 scrapes per km. Most scrapes were found in car tracks (0.629 scrapes per km), followed by trails (0.581 scrapes per km), and rarely did we find scrapes in cross country (0.094 scrapes per km). In trails, scrapes were found in a similar frequency in the centre and edge, whereas in car tracks they were mainly found in the edge. There were also clear differences in the position of the scrapes between study areas that differed in presence and/or abundance of pumas and jaguars, with scrapes located mainly in the centre in areas only with pumas, in the centre and in the edge in areas with a similar number of jaguars and pumas, and in the edge in area mainly dominated by jaguars. The remarking rate tended to be higher in one of the areas with only pumas where natural vegetation was scarcer. Felids chose sites mainly covered by leaves and located in paths less wide, clean and rarely used. Discussion:Scraping was a frequent behaviour in the largest felids of America, although in some areas, scraping behaviour was rare. Scrapes seem to be signalizing some specific areas within territories and data suggest that they are made with the proposal of communication between individuals. It seems that a high scraping behaviour in pumas is not related to the presence of jaguars.
Project description:Roads may have an important negative effect on animal dispersal rate and mortality and thus the functioning of local populations. However, road verges may be surrogate habitats for invertebrates. This creates a conservation dilemma around the impact of roads on invertebrates. Further, the effect of roads on invertebrates is much less understood than that on vertebrates. We studied the effect of roads on butterflies by surveying abundance, species richness and composition, and mortality in ten grassland patches along high-traffic roads (?50-100 vehicles per hour) and ten reference grassland patches next to unpaved roads with very little traffic (<1 vehicle per day) in southern Poland. Five 200-m transects parallel to the road were established in every grassland patch: at a road verge, 25 m from the verge, in the patch interior, and 25 m from the boundary between the grassland and field and at the grassland-arable field boundary. Moreover, one 200-m transect located on a road was established to collect roadkilled butterflies. The butterfly species richness but not abundance was slightly higher in grassland patches adjacent to roads than in reference grassland patches. Butterfly species composition in grasslands adjacent to roads differed from that in the reference patches. Proximity of a road increased variability in butterfly abundances within grassland patches. Grassland patches bordering roads had higher butterfly abundance and variation in species composition in some parts of the grassland patch than in other parts. These effects were not found in reference grassland patches, where butterfly species and abundance were more homogenously distributed in a patch. Plant species composition did not explain butterfly species. However, variance partitioning revealed that the presence of a road explained the highest proportion of variation in butterfly species composition, followed by plant species richness and abundance in grassland patches. Road mortality was low, and the number of roadkilled butterflies was less than 5% of that of all live butterflies. Nevertheless, the number and species composition of roadkilled butterflies were well explained by the butterfly communities living in road verges but not by total butterfly community structure in grassland patches. This study is the first to show that butterfly assemblages are altered by roads. These results indicate that: (1) grassland patches located near roads are at least as good habitats for butterflies as reference grassland patches are, (2) roads create a gradient of local environmental conditions that increases variation in the abundance of certain species and perhaps increases total species richness in grassland patches located along roads, and (3) the impact of roads on butterflies is at least partially independent of the effect of plants on butterflies. Furthermore, (4) the direct impact of road mortality is probably spatially limited to butterflies living in close proximity to roads.
Project description:Individual movement influences the spatial and social structuring of a population. Animals regularly use the same paths to move efficiently to familiar places, or to patrol and mark home ranges. We found that Australian sleepy lizards (Tiliqua rugosa), a monogamous species with stable pair-bonds, repeatedly used the same paths within their home ranges and investigated whether path re-use functions as a scent-marking behaviour, or whether it is influenced by site familiarity. Lizards can leave scent trails on the substrate when moving through the environment and have a well-developed vomeronasal system to detect and respond to those scents. Path re-use would allow sleepy lizards to concentrate scent marks along these well-used trails, advertising their presence. Hypotheses of mate attraction and mating competition predict that sleepy lizard males, which experience greater intra-sexual competition, mark more strongly. Consistent with those hypotheses, males re-used their paths more than females, and lizards that showed pairing behaviour with individuals of the opposite sex re-used paths more than unpaired lizards, particularly among females. Hinterland marking is most economic when home ranges are large and mobility is low, as is the case in the sleepy lizard. Consistent with this strategy, re-used paths were predominantly located in the inner 50% home range areas. Together, our detailed movement analyses suggest that path re-use is a scent marking behaviour in the sleepy lizard. We also investigated but found less support for alternative explanations of path re-use behaviour, such as site familiarity and spatial knowledge. Lizards established the same number of paths, and used them as often, whether they had occupied their home ranges for one or for more years. We discuss our findings in relation to maintenance of the monogamous mating system of this species, and the spatial and social structuring of the population.
Project description:Increased road-building activity in the arctic has the potential to impact adjacent ecosystems. Roads in permafrost regions are often built atop insulative gravel pads that generate dust plumes, altering soil chemistry and ecosystem function of nearby tundra. Here, we measure edaphic and vegetation characteristics along transects of decreasing dust deposition perpendicular to the Dalton Highway in northern Alaska. We quantify the impact of dust deposition on normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), a proxy for aboveground plant biomass. Deposition of calcium carbonate-rich dust declined from 1.625 grams m-2 day-1 immediately adjacent to the road, to negligible levels 625 meters away. Along these transects from the road, we found declines in soil moisture and temperature, thaw depth, shrub height, and foliar nitrogen content, indicating that tundra roads create corridors with edaphic conditions favorable to vascular plant growth. At sites nearest the road, dust deposited on leaf surfaces reduced measured NDVI values by 0.24 by blocking reflectance properties of the underlying leaves. Our findings on the impacts of roads and dust deposition on adjacent tundra may aid planning of future infrastructure projects. We caution that dust deposition may negatively bias NDVI-based estimates of plant biomass, especially where unpaved roads are common.
Project description:Soil respiration is an important pathway of the C cycle. However, it is still poorly understood how changes in plant community diversity can affect this ecosystem process. Here we used a long-term experiment consisting of a gradient of grassland plant species richness to test for effects of diversity on soil respiration. We hypothesized that plant diversity could affect soil respiration in two ways. On the one hand, more diverse plant communities have been shown to promote plant productivity, which could increase soil respiration. On the other hand, the nutrient concentration in the biomass produced has been shown to decrease with diversity, which could counteract the production-induced increase in soil respiration. Our results clearly show that soil respiration increased with species richness. Detailed analysis revealed that this effect was not due to differences in species composition. In general, soil respiration in mixtures was higher than would be expected from the monocultures. Path analysis revealed that species richness predominantly regulates soil respiration through changes in productivity. No evidence supporting the hypothesized negative effect of lower N concentration on soil respiration was found. We conclude that shifts in productivity are the main mechanism by which changes in plant diversity may affect soil respiration.
Project description:Grassland songbird populations across North America have experienced dramatic population declines due to habitat loss and degradation. In Canada, energy development continues to fragment and disturb prairie habitat, but effects of oil and gas development on reproductive success of songbirds in North American mixed-grass prairies remains largely unknown. From 2010-2012, in southeastern Alberta, Canada, we monitored 257 nests of two ground-nesting grassland songbird species, Savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) and chestnut-collared longspur (Calcarius ornatus). Nest locations varied with proximity to and density of conventional shallow gas well structures and associated roads in forty-two 258-ha mixed-grass prairie sites. We estimated the probabilities of nest success and clutch size relative to gas well structures and roads. There was little effect of distance to or density of gas well structure on nest success; however, Savannah sparrow experienced lower nest success near roads. Clutch sizes were lower near gas well structures and cattle water sources. Minimizing habitat disturbance surrounding gas well structures, and reducing abundance of roads and trails, would help minimize impacts on reproductive success for some grassland songbirds.
Project description:Both rural and urban development can lead to accelerated gully erosion. Quantifying gully erosion is challenging in environments where gullies are rapidly repaired, and in urban areas where microtopographic complexity complicates the delineation of contributing areas. This study used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and Structure-from-Motion (SfM) photogrammetric techniques to quantify gully erosion in the Los Laureles Canyon watershed, a rapidly urbanizing watershed in Tijuana, Mexico. Following a storm event, the gully network extent was mapped using an orthomosaic (0.038 m pixel size); the local slope and watershed area contributing to each gully head were mapped with a Digital Surface Model (0.3 m pixel size). Gullies formed almost exclusively on unpaved roads which had erodible soils and concentrated flow. Management practices (e.g. road maintenance that fill gullies after large storms) contributed to total sediment production at the watershed scale. Sediment production from gully erosion was higher and threshold values of slope and drainage area for gully incision were lower than ephemeral gullies reported for agricultural settings. This indicates high vulnerability of unpaved roads to gully erosion which is consistent with high soil erodibility and low critical shear stress measured in the laboratory with a mini jet-erosion-test device. Future studies that evaluate effects of different soil types on gully erosion rates for unpaved roads, as well as those that model effects of management practices such as road paving and their impact on runoff, soil erosion, and sediment loads are needed to advance sediment management and planning in urban watersheds.
Project description:Fermat's principle of least time states that light rays passing through different media follow the fastest (and not the most direct) path between two points, leading to refraction at medium borders. Humans intuitively employ this rule, e.g., when a lifeguard has to infer the fastest way to traverse both beach and water to reach a swimmer in need. Here, we tested whether foraging ants also follow Fermat's principle when forced to travel on two surfaces that differentially affected the ants' walking speed. Workers of the little fire ant, Wasmannia auropunctata, established "refracted" pheromone trails to a food source. These trails deviated from the most direct path, but were not different to paths predicted by Fermat's principle. Our results demonstrate a new aspect of decentralized optimization and underline the versatility of the simple yet robust rules governing the self-organization of group-living animals.
Project description:Forests with higher tree diversity are often assumed to be more resistant to insect herbivores but whether this effect depends on climatic conditions is so far poorly understood. In particular, a forest's resistance to herbivory may depend on mean annual temperature (MAT) as a key driver of plant and insect phenology. We carried out a global meta-analysis on regression coefficients between tree diversity and four aspects of insect herbivory, namely herbivore damage, abundance, incidence rate and species richness. To test for a potential shift of tree diversity effects along a global gradient of MAT we applied mixed-effects models and estimated grand mean effect sizes and the influence of MAT, experimental vs. observational studies and herbivores diet breadth. There was no overall effect of tree diversity on the pooled effect sizes of insect herbivore damage, abundance and incidence rate. However, when analysed separately, we found positive grand mean effect sizes for herbivore abundance and species richness. For herbivore damage and incidence rate we found a significant but opposing shift along a gradient of MAT indicating that with increasing MAT diversity effects on herbivore damage tend towards associational resistance whereas diversity effects on incidence rates tend towards associational susceptibility. Our results contradict previous meta-analyses reporting overall associational resistance to insect herbivores in mixed forests. Instead, we report that tree diversity effects on insect herbivores can follow a biogeographic pattern calling for further in-depth studies in this field.
Project description:Globally, biological invasions can have strong impacts on biodiversity as well as ecosystem functioning. While less conspicuous than introduced aboveground organisms, introduced belowground organisms may have similarly strong effects. Here, we synthesize for the first time the impacts of introduced earthworms on plant diversity and community composition in North American forests. We conducted a meta-analysis using a total of 645 observations to quantify mean effect sizes of associations between introduced earthworm communities and plant diversity, cover of plant functional groups, and cover of native and non-native plants. We found that plant diversity significantly declined with increasing richness of introduced earthworm ecological groups. While plant species richness or evenness did not change with earthworm invasion, our results indicate clear changes in plant community composition: cover of graminoids and non-native plant species significantly increased, and cover of native plant species (of all functional groups) tended to decrease, with increasing earthworm biomass. Overall, these findings support the hypothesis that introduced earthworms facilitate particular plant species adapted to the abiotic conditions of earthworm-invaded forests. Further, our study provides evidence that introduced earthworms are associated with declines in plant diversity in North American forests. Changing plant functional composition in these forests may have long-lasting effects on ecosystem functioning.