Project description:Relationships between host and microbial diversity have important ecological and applied implications. Theory predicts that these relationships will depend on the spatio-temporal scale of the analysis and the niche breadth of the organisms in question, but representative data on host-microbial community assemblage in nature is lacking. We employed a natural gradient of rodent species richness and quantified bacterial communities in rodent blood at several hierarchical spatial scales to test the hypothesis that associations between host and microbial species diversity will be positive in communities dominated by organisms with broad niches sampled at large scales. Following pyrosequencing of rodent blood samples, bacterial communities were found to be comprised primarily of broad niche lineages. These communities exhibited positive correlations between host diversity, microbial diversity and the likelihood for rare pathogens at the regional scale but not at finer scales. These findings demonstrate how microbial diversity is affected by host diversity at different spatial scales and suggest that the relationships between host diversity and overall disease risk are not always negative, as the dilution hypothesis predicts.
Project description:Recent increases in the frequency and size of desert wildfires bring into question the impacts of fire on desert invertebrate communities. Furthermore, consumer communities can strongly impact invertebrates through predation and top-down effects on plant community assembly. We experimentally applied burn and rodent exclusion treatments in a full factorial design at sites in both the Mojave and Great Basin deserts to examine the impact that fire and rodent consumers have on invertebrate communities. Pitfall traps were used to survey invertebrates from April through September 2016 to determine changes in abundance, richness, and diversity of invertebrate communities in response to fire and rodent treatments. Generally speaking, rodent exclusion had very little effect on invertebrate abundance or ant abundance, richness or diversity. The one exception was ant abundance, which was higher in rodent access plots than in rodent exclusion plots in June 2016, but only at the Great Basin site. Fire had little effect on the abundances of invertebrate groups at either desert site, with the exception of a negative effect on flying-forager abundance at our Great Basin site. However, fire reduced ant species richness and Shannon's diversity at both desert sites. Fire did appear to indirectly affect ant community composition by altering plant community composition. Structural equation models suggest that fire increased invasive plant cover, which negatively impacted ant species richness and Shannon's diversity, a pattern that was consistent at both desert sites. These results suggest that invertebrate communities demonstrate some resilience to fire and invasions but increasing fire and spread of invasive due to invasive grass fire cycles may put increasing pressure on the stability of invertebrate communities.
Project description:Desert ecosystems are one of the fastest urbanizing areas on the planet. This rapid shift has the potential to alter the abundances and species richness of herbivore and plant communities. Herbivores, for example, are expected to be more abundant within urban desert remnant parks located within cities due to anthropogenic activities that concentrate food resources and reduce native predator populations. Despite this assumption, previous research conducted around Phoenix, AZ, USA has shown that top-down herbivory led to equally reduced plant biomass in both urban and outlying locations. It is unclear if this insignificant difference in herbivory at urban and outlying sites is due to unaltered desert herbivore populations or altered activity levels that counteract abundance differences. Small rodent herbivore/granivore populations were surveyed at four sites inside and four sites outside of the core of Phoenix during fall 2014 and spring 2015 in order to determine whether abundances and richness differ significantly between urban and rural sites. In order to survey species composition and abundance at these sites, 100 Sherman traps and eight larger wire traps that are designed to attract and capture small vertebrates such as mice, rats, and squirrels were set at each site for two consecutive trap nights. Results suggest that the commonly assumed effect of urbanization on herbivore abundances does not apply to small rodent populations in a desert city, as overall small rodent abundances were statistically similar regardless of location. Though a significant difference was not found for species richness, a significant difference between small rodent genus richness at these sites was observed, with altered community composition. The compositional differences likely reflect the altered vegetative community and may impact ecological interactions at these sites.
Project description:Excluding grazers is one of most efficient ways to restore degraded grasslands in desert-steppe communities, but may negatively affect the recovery of plant species diversity. However, diversity differences between grazed and fenced grasslands in desert-steppe are poorly known. In a Stipa breviflora desert steppe community in Northern China, we established six plots to examine spatial patterns of plant species diversity under grazed and fenced conditions, respectively. We addressed three aspects of species diversity: (1) The logistic, exponential and power models were used to describe the species-area curve (SAR). Species richness, abundance and Shannon diversity values change differently with increasing sampling areas inside and outside of the fence. The best fitted model for SAR was the logistic model. Excluding grazers had a significant impact on the shape of SAR. (2) Variograms was applied to examine the spatial characteristics of plant species diversity. We found strong spatial autocorrelations in the diversity variables both inside and outside the fence. After grazing exclusion, the spatial heterogeneity decreased in species richness, increased in abundance and did not change in Shannon diversity. (3) We used variance partitioning to determine the relative contributions of spatial and environmental factors to plant species diversity patterns. Environmental factors explained the largest proportion of variation in species diversity, while spatial factors contributed little. Our results suggest that grazing enclosures decreased species diversity patterns and the spatial pattern of the S. breviflora desert steppe community was predictable.
Project description:Spatial heterogeneity in microbial communities is observed in all natural ecosystems and can stem from both adaptations to local environmental conditions as well as stochastic processes. Extremophile microbial communities inhabiting evaporitic halite nodules (salt rocks) in the Atacama Desert, Chile, are a good model ecosystem for investigating factors leading to microbiome heterogeneity, due to their diverse taxonomic composition and the spatial segregation of individual nodules. We investigated the abiotic factors governing microbiome composition across different spatial scales, allowing for insight into the factors that govern halite colonization from regional desert-wide scales to micro-scales within individual nodules. We found that water availability and community drift account for microbiome assembly differently at different distance scales, with higher rates of cell dispersion at the smaller scales resulting in a more homogenous composition. This trend likely applies to other endoliths, and to non-desert communities, where dispersion between communities is limited. At the intra-nodule scales, a light availability gradient was most important in determining the distribution of microbial taxa despite intermixing by water displacement via capillary action.
Project description:Plague remains a threat to public health and is considered as a re-emerging infectious disease today. Rodents play an important role as major hosts in plague persistence and driving plague outbreaks in natural foci; however, few studies have tested the association between host diversity in ecosystems and human plague risk. Here we use zero-inflated generalized additive models to examine the association of species richness with human plague presence (where plague outbreaks could occur) and intensity (the average number of annual human cases when they occurred) in China during the Third Pandemic. We also account for transportation network density, annual precipitation levels and human population size. We found rodent species richness, particularly of rodent plague hosts, is positively associated with the presence of human plague. Further investigation shows that species richness of both wild and commensal rodent plague hosts are positively correlated with the presence, but only the latter correlated with the intensity. Our results indicated a positive relationship between rodent diversity and human plague, which may provide suggestions for the plague surveillance system.
Project description:The plant microbiome can affect host function in many ways and characterizing the ecological factors that shape endophytic (microbes living inside host plant tissues) community diversity is a key step in understanding the impacts of environmental change on these communities. Phylogenetic relatedness among members of a community offers a way of quantifying phylogenetic diversity of a community and can provide insight into the ecological factors that shape endophyte microbiomes. We examined the effects of experimental nutrient addition and herbivory exclusion on the phylogenetic diversity of foliar fungal endophyte communities of the grass species Andropogon gerardii at four sites in the Great Plains of the central USA. Using amplicon sequencing, we characterized the effects of fertilization and herbivory on fungal community phylogenetic diversity at spatial scales that spanned within-host to between sites across the Great Plains. Despite increasing fungal diversity and richness, at larger spatial scales, fungal microbiomes were composed of taxa showing random phylogenetic associations. Phylogenetic diversity did not differ systematically when summed across increasing spatial scales from a few meters within plots to hundreds of kilometers among sites. We observed substantial shifts in composition across sites, demonstrating distinct but similarly diverse fungal communities were maintained within sites across the region. In contrast, at the scale of within leaves, fungal communities tended to be comprised of closely related taxa regardless of the environment, but there were no shifts in phylogenetic composition among communities. We also found that nutrient addition (fertilization) and herbivory have varying effects at different sites. These results suggest that the direction and magnitude of the outcomes of environmental modifications likely depend on the spatial scale considered, and can also be constrained by regional site differences in microbial diversity and composition.
Project description:Diverse host communities commonly inhibit the spread of parasites at small scales. However, the generality of this effect remains controversial. Here, we present the analysis of 205 biodiversity-disease relationships on 67 parasite species to test whether biodiversity-disease relationships are generally nonlinear, moderated by spatial scale, and sensitive to underrepresentation in the literature. Our analysis of the published literature reveals that biodiversity-disease relationships are generally hump-shaped (i.e., nonlinear) and biodiversity generally inhibits disease at local scales, but this effect weakens as spatial scale increases. Spatial scale is, however, related to study design and parasite type, highlighting the need for additional multiscale research. Few studies are unrepresentative of communities at low diversity, but missing data at low diversity from field studies could result in underreporting of amplification effects. Experiments appear to underrepresent high-diversity communities, which could result in underreporting of dilution effects. Despite context dependence, biodiversity loss at local scales appears to increase disease, suggesting that at local scales, biodiversity loss could negatively impact human and wildlife populations.
Project description:The influence of host diversity on multi-host pathogen transmission and persistence can be confounded by the large number of species and biological interactions that can characterize many transmission systems. For vector-borne pathogens, the composition of host communities has been hypothesized to affect transmission; however, the specific characteristics of host communities that affect transmission remain largely unknown. We tested the hypothesis that vector host use and force of infection (i.e., the summed number of infectious mosquitoes resulting from feeding upon each vertebrate host within a community of hosts), and not simply host diversity or richness, determine local infection rates of West Nile virus (WNV) in mosquito vectors. In suburban Chicago, Illinois, USA, we estimated community force of infection for West Nile virus using data on Culex pipiens mosquito host selection and WNV vertebrate reservoir competence for each host species in multiple residential and semi-natural study sites. We found host community force of infection interacted with avian diversity to influence WNV infection in Culex mosquitoes across the study area. Two avian species, the American robin (Turdus migratorius) and the house sparrow (Passer domesticus), produced 95.8% of the infectious Cx. pipiens mosquitoes and showed a significant positive association with WNV infection in Culex spp. mosquitoes. Therefore, indices of community structure, such as species diversity or richness, may not be reliable indicators of transmission risk at fine spatial scales in vector-borne disease systems. Rather, robust assessment of local transmission risk should incorporate heterogeneity in vector host feeding and variation in vertebrate reservoir competence at the spatial scale of vector-host interaction.
Project description:In hot deserts, plants cope with aridity, high temperatures, and nutrient-poor soils with morphological and biochemical adaptations that encompass intimate microbial symbioses. Whereas the root microbiomes of arid-land plants have received increasing attention, factors influencing assemblages of symbionts in aboveground tissues have not been evaluated for many woody plants that flourish in desert environments. We evaluated the diversity, host affiliations, and distributions of endophytic fungi associated with photosynthetic tissues of desert trees and shrubs, focusing on nonsucculent woody plants in the species-rich Sonoran Desert. To inform our strength of inference, we evaluated the effects of two different nutrient media, incubation temperatures, and collection seasons on the apparent structure of endophyte assemblages. Analysis of >22,000 tissue segments revealed that endophytes were isolated four times more frequently from photosynthetic stems than leaves. Isolation frequency was lower than expected given the latitude of the study region and varied among species a function of sampling site and abiotic factors. However, endophytes were very species-rich and phylogenetically diverse, consistent with less arid sites of a similar latitudinal position. Community composition differed among host species, but not as a function of tissue type, sampling site, sampling month, or exposure. Estimates of abundance, diversity, and composition were not influenced by isolation medium or incubation temperature. Phylogenetic analyses of the most commonly isolated genus (Preussia) revealed multiple evolutionary origins of desert-plant endophytism and little phylogenetic structure with regard to seasonality, tissue preference, or optimal temperatures and nutrients for growth in vitro. Together, these results provide insight into endophytic symbioses in desert-plant communities and can be used to optimize strategies for capturing endophyte biodiversity at regional scales.