Female reproductive success in gynodioecious Thymus vulgaris: Pollen versus nutrient limitation and pollinator foraging behaviour

Arnan X., Escola A., Rodrigo A., Bosch J. (2014) Female reproductive success in gynodioecious Thymus vulgaris: Pollen versus nutrient limitation and pollinator foraging behaviour. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 175: 395-408.
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Doi: 10.1111/boj.12173

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Gynodioecy is a dimorphic breeding system in which female individuals coexist with hermaphroditic individuals in the same population. Females only contribute to the next generation via ovules, and many studies have shown that they are usually less attractive than hermaphrodites to pollinators. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain how females manage to persist in populations despite these disadvantages. The 'resource reallocation hypothesis' (RRH) states that females channel resources not invested in pollen production and floral advertisement towards the production of more and/or larger seeds. We investigated pollination patterns and tested the RRH in a population of Thymus vulgaris. We measured flower display, flower size, nectar production, visitation rates, pollinator constancy and flower lifespan in the two morphs. In addition, we measured experimentally the effects of pollen and resource addition on female reproductive success (fruit set, seed set, seed weight) of the two morphs. Despite lower investment in floral advertisement, female individuals were no less attractive to pollinators than hermaphrodites on a per flower basis. Other measures of pollinator behaviour (number of flowers visited per plant, morph preference and morph constancy) also showed that pollinators did not discriminate against female flowers. In addition, stigma receptivity was longer in female flowers. Accordingly, and contrary to most studies on gynodioecious species, reproductive success of females was not pollen limited. Instead, seed production was pollen limited in hermaphrodites, suggesting low levels of cross-pollination in hermaphrodites. Seed production was resource limited in hermaphrodites, but not in females, thus providing support for the RRH. © 2014 The Linnean Society of London.

Llegeix més

The effects of fire on ant trophic assemblage and sex allocation

Caut S., Jowers M.J., Arnan X., Pearce-Duvet J., Rodrigo A., Cerda X., Boulay R.R. (2014) The effects of fire on ant trophic assemblage and sex allocation. Ecology and Evolution. 4: 35-49.
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Doi: 10.1002/ece3.714

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Fire plays a key role in ecosystem dynamics worldwide, altering energy flows and species community structure and composition. However, the functional mechanisms underlying these effects are not well understood. Many ground-dwelling animal species can shelter themselves from exposure to heat and therefore rarely suffer direct mortality. However, fire-induced alterations to the environment may change a species' relative trophic level within a food web and its mode of foraging. We assessed how fire could affect ant resource utilization at different scales in a Mediterranean forest. First, we conducted isotopic analyses on entire ant species assemblages and their potential food resources, which included plants and other arthropods, in burned and unburned plots 1 year postfire. Second, we measured the production of males and females by nests of a fire-resilient species, Aphaenogaster gibbosa, and analyzed the differences in isotopic values among workers, males, and females to test whether fire constrained resource allocation. We found that, in spite of major modifications in biotic and abiotic conditions, fire had little impact on the relative trophic position of ant species. The studied assemblage was composed of species with a wide array of diets. They ranged from being mostly herbivorous to completely omnivorous, and a given species' trophic level was the same in burned and unburned plots. In A. gibbosa nests, sexuals had greater δ15N values than workers in both burned and unburned plots, which suggests that the former had a more protein-rich diet than the latter. Fire also appeared to have a major effect on A. gibbosa sex allocation: The proportion of nests that produced male brood was greater on burned zones, as was the mean number of males produced per nest with the same reproductive investment. Our results show that generalist ants with relatively broad diets maintained a constant trophic position, even following a major disturbance like fire. However, the dramatically reduced production of females on burned zones compared to unburned zones 1 year postfire may result in considerably reduced recruitment of new colonies in the mid to long term, which could yield genetic bottlenecks and founder effects. Our study paves the way for future functional analyses of fire-induced modifications in ant populations and communities. © 2013 The Authors.

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Two thresholds determine climatic control of forest fire size in Europe and northern Africa

Loepfe L., Rodrigo A., Lloret F. (2014) Two thresholds determine climatic control of forest fire size in Europe and northern Africa. Regional Environmental Change. 14: 1395-1404.
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Doi: 10.1007/s10113-013-0583-7

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Fire weather indices predict fire extent from meteorological conditions assuming a monotonic function; this approach is frequently used to predict future fire patterns under climate change scenarios using linear extrapolation. However, the relationship between weather and fire extent may potentially depend on the existence of fuel moisture content thresholds above which this relationship changes dramatically, challenging this statistical approach. Here, we combine the continuous and the threshold approaches to analyze satellite-detected fires in Europe during 2001-2010 in relation to meteorological conditions, showing that fire size response to decreasing fuel moisture content follows a ramp function, i.e., with two plateaus separated by a phase of monotonic increase. This study confirms that at continental and high-resolution temporal scales, large fires are very unlikely to occur under moist conditions, but it also reveals that fire size stops to be controlled by fuel moisture content above a given threshold of dryness. Thus, fuel moisture content control only applies when fire is not limited by other factors such as fuel load, as large fires were virtually absent during the considered period in dry regions with less than 500 mm of average annual precipitation, i.e., low-productive areas where fuel amount would be scarce and discontinuous. In regions with sufficient fuel, other factors such as fire suppression or fuel discontinuity can impede large fires even under very dry weather conditions. These findings are relevant under current climatic trends in which the fire season length, in terms of number of days with drought code values above the observed thresholds (break points), is increasing in many parts of the Mediterranean, while it is decreasing in eastern Europe and remains unchanged in central Europe. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

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Post-fire selective thinning of Arbutus unedo L. coppices keeps animal diversity unchanged: The case of ants

Quevedo L., Arnan X., Boet O., Rodrigo A. (2014) Post-fire selective thinning of Arbutus unedo L. coppices keeps animal diversity unchanged: The case of ants. Annals of Forest Science. 71: 897-905.
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Doi: 10.1007/s13595-014-0381-5

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Context: In the Mediterranean area, different post-fire management strategies are used for coppices of resprouting species to promote a more regular forest structure, enhance plant growth, and reduce fire risk. However, the effects of these management treatments on forest-associated fauna are unknown, which in turn could be limiting their beneficial effects.Aims: The aim of this work was to determine whether forest management of a recently burned area dominated by a vigorous resprouting tree species (Arbutus unedo L.) affects ant communities.Methods: Ant communities, sampled using pitfall traps, were examined from unmanaged and selective thinning coppices of A. unedo. Ants are here used as bioindicators of ecosystem health and surrogates for other animal groups.Results: Very limited effects of these post-fire management strategies on the structure and composition of ant communities were found. The lack of effects could be due to the reported small changes in physical conditions among treatments; or either, the most sensitive ant species to these post-fire management treatments might be the same ones affected by fire and, consequently, the ant species that would potentially be affected most were no longer in the study area.Conclusion: The lack of any significant effects caused by these post-fire management practices on the associated fauna of A. unedo coppices points out the suitability of these treatments in these circumstances. © 2014, INRA and Springer-Verlag France.

Llegeix més

Determinants of spatial distribution in a bee community: Nesting resources, flower resources, and body size

Torne-Noguera A., Rodrigo A., Arnan X., Osorio S., Barril-Graells H., Da Rocha-Filho L.C., Bosch J. (2014) Determinants of spatial distribution in a bee community: Nesting resources, flower resources, and body size. PLoS ONE. 9: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097255

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Understanding biodiversity distribution is a primary goal of community ecology. At a landscape scale, bee communities are affected by habitat composition, anthropogenic land use, and fragmentation. However, little information is available on local-scale spatial distribution of bee communities within habitats that are uniform at the landscape scale. We studied a bee community along with floral and nesting resources over a 32 km2 area of uninterrupted Mediterranean scrubland. Our objectives were (i) to analyze floral and nesting resource composition at the habitat scale. We ask whether these resources follow a geographical pattern across the scrubland at bee-foraging relevant distances; (ii) to analyze the distribution of bee composition across the scrubland. Bees being highly mobile organisms, we ask whether bee composition shows a homogeneous distribution or else varies spatially. If so, we ask whether this variation is irregular or follows a geographical pattern and whether bees respond primarily to flower or to nesting resources; and (iii) to establish whether body size influences the response to local resource availability and ultimately spatial distribution. We obtained 6580 specimens belonging to 98 species. Despite bee mobility and the absence of environmental barriers, our bee community shows a clear geographical pattern. This pattern is mostly attributable to heterogeneous distribution of small (<55 mg) species (with presumed smaller foraging ranges), and is mostly explained by flower resources rather than nesting substrates. Even then, a large proportion (54.8%) of spatial variability remains unexplained by flower or nesting resources. We conclude that bee communities are strongly conditioned by local effects and may exhibit spatial heterogeneity patterns at a scale as low as 500-1000 m in patches of homogeneous habitat. These results have important implications for local pollination dynamics and spatial variation of plant-pollinator networks. © 2014 Torné-Noguera et al.

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