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Jacobsen D.,Copenhagen University | Dangles O.,Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador | Dangles O.,French National Center for Scientific Research | Dangles O.,University Paris - Sud
Global Ecology and Biogeography | Year: 2012

Aim To test for a possible effect of environmental harshness on large-scale latitudinal and elevational patterns in taxon richness of macrofauna in arctic and alpine glacier-fed streams. Location Svalbard (79°N), Iceland (65°N), Norway (62°N), Switzerland and Italy (46°N), France (43°N), New Zealand (43°S) and Ecuador (0°), covering an elevational gradient from sea level to 4800m a.s.l. Methods We gathered data from 63 sites along 13 streams and created an index of glacial influence (the glacial index, GI) as an integrative proxy for environmental harshness. The explicative power of the GI, environmental variables, latitude and elevation on taxon richness was tested in generalized linear models. Taxon richness along geographical gradients was analysed at standardized levels of GI in contour plots. Beta diversity and assemblage similarity was calculated at different GI intervals and compared with a null-model. Results Overall, taxon richness decreased exponentially with increased GI (r 2= 0.64), and of all included factors, GI had the highest explicative power. At low values of GI we found that local taxon richness varied along the coupled gradients of latitude and elevation in a hump-shaped manner. However, this pattern disappeared at high values of GI, i.e. when environmental harshness increased. Beta diversity increased, while similarity among assemblages decreased towards high GI values. Main conclusions In our study system, the number of taxa able to cope with the harshest conditions was largely independent of the regional taxon pool, and environmental harshness constituted a 'fixed' constraint for local richness, irrespective of latitude and elevation. Contrary to expectations, we found that beta diversity was highest and similarity lowest among the harshest sites, suggesting that taxon richness was not solely driven by niche selection based on environmental tolerances, but also stochastic ecological drift, leading to dispersal-limited communities. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Source

Hietz P.,University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna | Valencia R.,Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador | Joseph Wright S.,Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Functional Ecology | Year: 2013

Wood density (WD) affects plant biomechanics, drought and decay resistance. As a consequence, WD is an important functional trait related to plant demography and ecosystem processes, which is also used to estimate tree biomass. Radial variation in WD (changes from the centre of the stem to the cambium) affects the strength of the entire stem, but also reflects any changes in wood functional properties that might occur during a tree's lifetime. To understand how WD and radial WD gradients, which were defined as the slope of the relationship between WD and distance to the centre, are related to demographic traits of species, we investigated WD in 335 tree species from a Panamanian moist forest and 501 species from an Ecuadorian rain forest and radial density gradients in 118 and 186 species, respectively, and compared WD with tree growth, mortality and size. WD was negatively related to tree growth and mortality. WD tended to increase towards the outside in trees with low initial density and to decrease towards the outside in trees with high initial density. Radial WD gradients were largely unrelated to tree size and demographic traits, but some families had higher or lower WD gradients at a given inner WD. Inner WD was by far the best predictor of radial WD gradients (r2 = 0·39 for Panama and 0·45 for Ecuador) and this relationship was indistinguishable between the two rain forests. This suggests a broadly uniform function of WD variation, likely responding to mechanical requirements during ontogeny. We discuss the factors potentially driving radial increases or decreases in WD and suggest ways to elucidate the relative importance of tree mechanics, hydraulic safety or decay resistance. We also discuss that not accounting for radial WD gradients may result in substantial errors in WD of the whole stem and consequently biomass estimates, and recommend sampling density gradients when obtaining density data from tree cores. © 2013 The Authors. Functional Ecology © 2013 British Ecological Society. Source

Paez-Moscoso D.J.,Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador | Guayasamin J.M.,Technological Amerindian University, Ambato
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution | Year: 2012

As Darwin observed, the differentiation among varieties, subspecies, and species seems, often times, arbitrary. Nowadays, however, novel tools provide the possibility of testing hypotheses of species. Using the Andean toad genus Osornophryne, we address the following questions: (1) How many species are within the genus? (2) Are morphological and molecular traits congruent when delimiting species? (3) Which morphological traits are the most divergent among species? We use recently developed methods for testing species boundaries and relationships using a multilocus data set consisting of two mitochondrial genes (12S, 16S; 1647. bp aligned matrix), one exon (RAG-1; 923 aligned matrix), and one intron (RPL3. Int5; 1410. bp aligned matrix). As another line of evidence for species delimitation, we integrated analyses of 12 morphometric variables and 10 discrete traits commonly used in amphibian systematics. The molecular and morphological approaches support the validity of most of the described species in Osornophryne. We find, however, contradictory lines of evidence regarding the status of O. angel. Within O. guacamayo, we found a genetically divergent population that, we argue, represents a new species. We consider that O. bufoniformis represents a species complex that deserves further study. We highlight the importance of incorporating morphological data when delimiting species, especially for lineages that have a recent origin and have not achieved reciprocal monophyly in molecular phylogenies. Finally, the most divergent morphological traits among Osornophryne species are associated with locomotion (finger, toes and limbs) and feeding (head), suggesting an association between morphology and the ecological habits of the species. © 2012 Elsevier Inc. Source

Cardenas R.E.,Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador
Insect Conservation and Diversity | Year: 2016

In montane systems, global warming may lead communities to disassemble by forcing organisms to shift their distributions to higher elevations or by causing the extinction of those that are unable to adapt. To predict which species are most at risk from environmental change, physiological responses to multiple factors must be measured in natural conditions at fine spatial and temporal scales. To examine the potential drivers of elevational distributions in tabanid flies, specimens were exhaustively sampled at three altitudes within a tropical montane cloud forest in Western Ecuador. Observed abundances were then correlated with seven environmental variables measured in situ. It was hypothesised that (1) tabanid distributions were significantly associated with particular environmental conditions measured in each altitudinal habitat, and (2) a greater proportion of lowland species were limited to a specific elevation than highland species. Most species occupied well-defined altitudinal niches corresponding to optimal climatic conditions. Colder weather, higher daily temperature variability, and higher levels of moisture seemed to limit most species from establishing in high elevation sites of this mountainous ecosystem. Despite the high dispersal potential of tabanids within the study area, results suggest that most tabanid flies are limited to the subset of altitudes where their climatic requirements are satisfied. © 2016 The Royal Entomological Society. Source

Menendez-Guerrero P.A.,Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador | Graham C.H.,State University of New York at Stony Brook
Ecography | Year: 2013

Amphibians are declining at alarming rates worldwide; however, the causes of these declines remain somewhat elusive. Here we evaluated three major threats implicated in declines of populations and disappearance of Ecuadorian amphibians: chytridiomicosis, climate change, and habitat loss. We assessed spatial patterns of these key threats to Ecuadorian amphibians using a multi-species database of endemic frogs along with information on the pathogen's distribution and environmental requirements, species sensitivity to climate change (indirectly based on species geographical distribution and ecological properties) and habitat loss. Our results show that amphibians display a non-random pattern of extinction risk, both geographically and taxonomically. Further, climate change, chytridiomicosis, and their synergetic effects, are likely currently exerting the greatest impact on amphibians in Ecuador, while habitat loss does not seem to be causing precipitous declines. The most threatened species under the IUCN extinction risk categories are exactly those that appear to be the most affected by these threats. By examining multiple potential causes of amphibian threat level in a spatially explicit framework our study provides new insights about what combination of factors are most important in amphibian declines in a tropical diversity hotspot. Further, our approach and conclusions are useful for studying declines in other regions of the world. © 2013 The Authors. Source

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