Ecology Letters

Cover image for Vol. 17 Issue 5

Editor-in-Chief : Marcel Holyoak

Impact Factor: 17.949

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2012: 1/136 (Ecology)

Online ISSN: 1461-0248

Virtual Issues

Current Ecology Letters Virtual Special Issues:

Preserving and Sustaining Ecosystems in the Face of Anthrpogenic Change

The Ecology, Conservation and Management of Forests

Year of Biodiversity


Preserving and Sustaining Ecosystems

Preserving and Sustaining Ecosystems in the Face of Anthropogenic Change

As human populations continue to grow it becomes increasingly important to understand human effects on biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems. This (the theme of this Virtual Issue) coincides with the 97th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, “Life on Earth: Preserving, Utilizing, and Sustaining our Ecosystems.” The selected articles are intended to provoke thought about how to tackle a theme that challenges us all, as well as to promote a broader understanding of the problems involved. Our theme spans levels of biological organization from genes (Hughes et al. 2008) to ecosystems, and necessitates considering landscapes that incorporate multiple ecosystem types. An obvious challenge is to understand the responses of biodiversity to anthropogenic change (Knapp et al. 2008; Hahs et al. 2009, Graham et al. 2011). This difficulty is amplified again when we turn to ecosystems. Ecosystems represent complex systems where it is hard to identify relevant levels of biological organization (e.g., Hillebrand and Matthiessen 2009) and to understand how change in one factor leads to change in others (e.g., Bennett et al. 2009, Shears and Ross 2010, Compton et al. 2011, McMahon et al. 2012). Part of this complexity comes about because of the complexity of species interactions, and understanding the responses of interacting species to environmental change represent active areas of research (Tylianakis et al. 2008; Hunsicker et al. 2011; Ferrari et al. 2011). Landscape context is inescapable and it is increasingly realized that both biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are modified by connectivity and landscape composition (Lindenmayer et al. 2008, Staddon et al. 2010, Fahrig et al. 2011, Garibaldi et al. 2011). We hope that these articles provoke creative thinking and further research that will help us create and preserve diverse and functioning ecological systems.

Marcel Holyoak and Nathalie Espuno

Understanding relationships among multiple ecosystem services
Bennett E.M., Peterson G.D. & Gordon L.J.

Ecosystem services altered by human changes in the nitrogen cycle: a new perspective for US decision making
Compton J.E., Harrison J.A., Dennis R.L., Greaver T.L., Hill B.H., Jordan S.J., Walker H. & Campbell H.V.

Functional landscape heterogeneity and animal biodiversity in agricultural landscapes
Fahrig L., Baudry J., Brotons L., Burel F.G., Crist T.O., Fuller R.J., Sirami C., Siriwardena G.M. & Martin J.L.

Putting prey and predator into the CO2 equation - qualitative and quantitative effects of ocean acidification on predator-prey interactions
Ferrari M.C.O., McCormick M.I., Munday P.L., Meekan M.G., Dixson D.L., Lonnstedt O. & Chivers D.P.

Stability of pollination services decreases with isolation from natural areas despite honey bee visits
Garibaldi L.A., Steffan-Dewenter I., Kremen C., Morales J.M., Bommarco R., Cunningham S.A., Carvalheiro L.G., Chacoff N.P., Dudenhoffer J.H., Greenleaf S.S., Holzschuh A., Isaacs R., Krewenka K., Mandelik Y., Mayfield M.M., Morandin L.A., Potts S.G., Ricketts T.H., Szentgyorgyi H., Viana B.F., Westphal C., Winfree R. & Klein A.M.

Extinction vulnerability of coral reef fishes
Graham N.A.J., Chabanet P., Evans R.D., Jennings S., Letourneur Y., MacNeil M.A., McClanahan T.R., Ohman M.C., Polunin N.V.C. & Wilson S.K.

A global synthesis of plant extinction rates in urban areas
Hahs A.K., McDonnell M.J., McCarthy M.A., Vesk P.A., Corlett R.T., Norton B.A., Clemants S.E., Duncan R.P., Thompson K., Schwartz M.W. & Williams N.S.G.

Biodiversity in a complex world: consolidation and progress in functional biodiversity research
Hillebrand H. & Matthiessen B.

Ecological consequences of genetic diversity
Hughes A.R., Inouye B.D., Johnson M.T.J., Underwood N. & Vellend M.

Functional responses and scaling in predator-prey interactions of marine fishes: contemporary issues and emerging concepts
Hunsicker M.E., Ciannelli L., Bailey K.M., Buckel J.A., White J.W., Link J.S., Essington T.E., Gaichas S., Anderson T.W., Brodeur R.D., Chan K.S., Chen K., Englund G., Frank K.T., Freitas V., Hixon M.A., Hurst T., Johnson D.W., Kitchell J.F., Reese D., Rose G.A., Sjodin H., Sydeman W.J., van der Veer H.W., Vollset K. & Zador S.

Challenging urban species diversity: contrasting phylogenetic patterns across plant functional groups in Germany
Knapp S., Kuhn I., Schweiger O. & Klotz S.

A checklist for ecological management of landscapes for conservation
Lindenmayer D., Hobbs R.J., Montague-Drake R., Alexandra J., Bennett A., Burgman M., Cale P., Calhoun A., Cramer V., Cullen P., Driscoll D., Fahrig L., Fischer J., Franklin J., Haila Y., Hunter M., Gibbons P., Lake S., Luck G., MacGregor C., McIntyre S., Mac Nally R., Manning A., Miller J., Mooney H., Noss R., Possingham H., Saunders D., Schmiegelow F., Scott M., Simberloff D., Sisk T., Tabor G., Walker B., Wiens J., Woinarski J. & Zavaleta E.

Fungicide-induced declines of freshwater biodiversity modify ecosystem functions and services
McMahon T.A., Halstead N.T., Johnson S., Raffel T.R., Romansic J.M., Crumrine P.W. & Rohr J.R.

Toxic cascades: multiple anthropogenic stressors have complex and unanticipated interactive effects on temperate reefs
Shears N.T. & Ross P.M.

Connectivity, non-random extinction and ecosystem function in experimental metacommunities
Staddon P., Lindo Z., Crittenden P.D., Gilbert F. & Gonzalez A.

Global change and species interactions in terrestrial ecosystems
Tylianakis J.M., Didham R.K., Bascompte J. & Wardle D.A.


Forests virtual special issue - Ecology Letters
Compiled by Marcel Holyoak, Editor-in-Chief

This special issue marks The UN International Year of Forests by bringing together articles about forest conservation, climate change, and how species traits relate to emergent patterns and processes.

A timely synthesis of how current human and ecological processes jointly drive spatial and temporal biodiversity patterns in tropical forests is provided by Gardner et al. (2009). These authors develop an adaptive-landscape planning framework to aid us in understanding the role of humans in forest degradation and in identifying key areas of uncertainty. Conservation and management are inseparable from understanding the mechanisms of forest dynamics. Gap dynamics are an important theme in forest dynamics. For instance, Norden et al. (2009) show how the resilient convergence of secondary forest with primary forest depends on the abundance and connectivity of species within habitat fragments within a region.

Understanding the effects of climate change and global change are major challenges. Murphy et al. (2010) and Nathan et al. (2011) explore factors explaining how climate change will influence future dispersal and distribution of temperate tree species. Three selected articles investigate effects of climate change on forest composition and ecosystem properties. Schnitzer and Bongers (2011) demonstrate large-scale increases in the abundance and biomass of lianas in lowland tropical and subtropical forests, and Schnitzer and Bongers (2010) show that lianas hinder regeneration of trees in treefall gaps. Drake et al. (2011) exemplify some of the important consequences of climate change for ecosystem functioning. They show dual effects of experimental CO2 enrichment on tree growth and decomposition processes, producing complex interactions between the C and N cycles, with important consequences for carbon sequestration.

An increasing theme in forest ecology is to understand the linkages between species traits, community assembly and diversity. Messier et al. (2010) make the case for the need for a trait-based ecology to understand how biodiversity varies across spatial scales. Other works seek to link traits and species’ life-history or physiology, which might eventually provide mechanisms for scaling biodiversity and/or ecosystem functioning. Three final papers on this theme relate leaf, wood and stem mechanical and physiological properties to ecosystem functioning in forests (Blonder et al. 2011), vegetation types (Baraloto et al. 2010; Chave et al. 2009) and demography more generally (Chave et al. 2009).

Increases in the flux of carbon belowground stimulate nitrogen uptake and sustain the long-term enhancement of forest productivity under elevated CO2
John E. Drake, Anne Gallet-Budynek, Kirsten S. Hofmockel et al.

Increasing liana abundance and biomass in tropical forests: emerging patterns and putative mechanisms
Stefan A. Schnitzer, Frans Bongers

Venation networks and the origin of the leaf economics spectrum
Benjamin Blonder, Cyrille Violle, Lisa Patrick Bentley, Brian J. Enquist

Decoupled leaf and stem economics in rain forest trees
Christopher Baraloto, C. E. Timothy Paine, Lourens Poorter et al.

Tropical forests are not flat: how mountains affect herbivore diversity
Genoveva Rodríguez-Castañeda, Lee A. Dyer, Gunnar Brehm et al.

How do traits vary across ecological scales? A case for trait-based ecology
Julie Messier, Brian J. McGill, Martin J. Lechowicz

Lianas suppress tree regeneration and diversity in treefall gaps
Stefan A. Schnitzer, Walter P. Carson

Towards a worldwide wood economics spectrum
Jerome Chave, David Coomes, Steven Jansen et al.

Prospects for tropical forest biodiversity in a human-modified world
Toby A. Gardner, Jos Barlow, Robin Chazdon

Resilience of tropical rain forests: tree community reassembly in secondary forests
Natalia Norden, Robin L. Chazdon, Anne Chao


Year of Biodiversity, September 2010

Edited by Marcel Holyoak (Editor-in-Chief) and Nathalie Espuno (Managing Editor)

The United Nations declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity.

Early naturalists such as Darwin were fascinated by both the diversity and complexity of nature. Today we understand that biodiversity encompasses an enormous variety of levels, from taxonomic, to phylogenetic, functional and cultural. Over the last several decades we have increasingly started to come to terms with the importance of these various levels for understanding the functioning of ecosystems and the relationship to ecosystem services. As we have entered what conservation biologists have termed the Anthropocene, an era of human domination of our planet, we have developed practical and reactive disciplines such as conservation biology, invasion biology, urban ecology, bioeconomics, and human ecology. The challenges have become even greater since our recognition of the impending reality of global climate change. In compiling this issue to mark The Year of Biodiversity we have selected articles that discuss the future of biodiversity, how we can assess biodiversity given imperfect knowledge, connections with anthropogenic impacts and ecosystem functioning. We end with a challenging question, with an economic look at the consequences of delaying conservation action until we have better information versus acting more immediately.

Prospects for tropical forest biodiversity in a human-modified world
Gardner, TA; Barlow, J; Chazdon, R; et al.

The cost-effectiveness of biodiversity surveys in tropical forests
Gardner, TA; Barlow, J; Araujo, IS; et al.

Towards a collaborative, global infrastructure for biodiversity assessment
Guralnick, RP; Hill, AW; Lane, M

A global synthesis of plant extinction rates in urban areas
Hahs, AK; McDonnell, MJ; McCarthy, MA; et al.

Challenging urban species diversity: contrasting phylogenetic patterns across plant functional groups in Germany
Knapp, S; Kuhn, I; Schweiger, O; et al.

Human impacts on the species-area relationship reef fish assemblages
Tittensor, DP; Micheli, F; Nystrom, M; et al.

Scale dependence of the correlation between human population presence and vertebrate and plant species richness
Pautasso, M

The functional role of biodiversity in ecosystems: incorporating trophic complexity
Duffy, JE; Cardinale, BJ; France, KE; et al.

The unseen majority: soil microbes as drivers of plant diversity and productivity in terrestrial ecosystems
van der Heijden, MGA; Bardgett, RD; van Straalen, NM

Landscape effects on crop pollination services: are there general patterns?
Ricketts, TH; Regetz, J; Steffan-Dewenter, I; et al.

Delaying conservation actions for improved knowledge: how long should we wait?
Grantham, HS; Wilson, KA; Moilanen, A; et al.