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  • 1. Wind energy generation has become an important means to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and mitigate against human-induced climate change, but could also represent a significant human-wildlife conflict. Airborne taxa such as birds may be particularly sensitive to collision mortality with wind turbines, yet the relative vulnerability of species’ populations across their annual life cycles has not been evaluated. 2. Using GPS telemetry, we studied the movements of lesser black-backed gulls Larus fuscus from three UK breeding colonies through their annual cycle. We modelled the distance travelled by birds at altitudes between the minimum and maximum rotor sweep zone of turbines, combined with the probability of collision, to estimate sensitivity to collision. Sensitivity was then combined with turbine density (exposure) to evaluate spatio-temporal vulnerability. 3. Sensitivity was highest near to colonies during the breeding season, where a greater distance travelled by birds was in concentrated areas where they were exposed to turbines. 4. Consequently, vulnerability was high near to colonies but was also high at some migration bottlenecks and wintering sites where, despite a reduced sensitivity, exposure to turbines was greatest. 5. Synthesis and applications. Our framework combines bird-borne telemetry and spatial data on the location of wind turbines to identify potential areas of conflict for migratory populations throughout their annual cycle. This approach can aid the wind farm planning process by: (1) providing sensitivity maps to inform wind farm placement, helping minimise impacts; (2) identifying areas of high vulnerability where mitigation warrants exploration; (3) highlighting potential cumulative impacts of developments over international boundaries; and (4) informing the conservation status of species at protected sites. Our methods can identify pressures and linkages for populations using effect-specific metrics that are transferable and could help resolve other human-wildlife conflicts.
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  • Genomics is narrowing uncertainty in the phylogenetic structure for many amniote groups. For one of the most diverse and species-rich groups, the squamate reptiles (lizards and snakes, amphisbaenians), an inverse correlation between the number of taxa and loci sampled still persists across all publications using DNA sequence data and reaching a consensus on the relationships among them has been highly problematic. Here, we use high-throughput sequence data from 289 samples covering 75 families of squamates to address phylogenetic affinities, estimate divergence times, and characterize residual topological uncertainty in the presence of genome scale data. Importantly, we address genomic support for the traditional taxonomic groupings Scleroglossa and Macrostomata using novel machine-learning techniques. We interrogate genes using various metrics inherent to these loci, including parsimony-informative sites, phylogenetic informativeness, length, gaps, number of substitutions, and site concordance to understand why certain loci fail to find previously well-supported molecular clades and how they fail to support species-tree estimates. We show that both incomplete lineage sorting and poor gene-tree estimation (due to a few undesirable gene properties, such as an insufficient number of parsimony informative sites), may account for most gene and species-tree discordance. We find overwhelming signal for Toxicofera, and also show that none of the loci included in this study supports Scleroglossa or Macrostomata. We comment on the origins and diversification of Squamata throughout the Mesozoic and underscore remaining uncertainties that persist in both deeper parts of the tree (e.g., relationships between Dibamia, Gekkota, and remaining squamates; and between the three toxiferan clades Iguania, Serpentes, and Anguiformes) and within specific clades (e.g., affinities among gekkotan, pleurodont iguanians, and colubroid families).
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  • Aims: We aim to understand bird richness and variation in species composition (beta diversity) along a 630 km riparian landscape in the Altai Mountains of China, and to test whether vegetation cover is the main explanation of species diversity. Methods: We selected nine regions along a gradient of natural vegetation change. Bird surveys and environmental measurements were conducted at 10 points in each of the nine regions. We collected environmental land cover variables such as wood cover (area proportion of trees and shrubs with saplings in habitats; here trees are woody plant with a single trunk and higher than 3m, shrubs and saplings are distinguished from trees by their multiple trunks and shorter height) and tree cover, and two climate factors which were Annual Mean Temperature (AMT) and Annual Precipitation (AP). We used Liner Regression Models to explore the correlation between bird species richness and environmental variables. We used Sørensen’s dissimilarity index to measure birds’ beta diversity, and quantified the contribution of environmental variables to this pattern using a Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA). Results: Wood cover was the strongest predictor of overall, insectivore and omnivore bird richness. Regions with wood cover contained more bird species. Beta diversity was overall high in the studied regions, and turnover components occupied a major part of beta diversity. Wood cover and AP were significant predictors of bird species composition explaining 33.24% of bird beta diversity together. Conclusions: Wood vegetation including trees, shrubs and saplings, rather than only trees, contains high bird richness. High beta diversity suggests that expansion of the existing nature reserves is needed in the riparian landscapes to capture the variation in bird species composition. Thus all wood cover in the overall riparian landscapes of Altai Mountains should be protected from farming and grazing to improve bird conservation outcomes.
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  • Parasitic plants in the genus Striga, commonly known as witchweeds, cause major crop losses in sub-Saharan Africa and pose a threat to agriculture worldwide. An understanding of Striga parasite biology, which could lead to agricultural solutions, has been hampered by the lack of genome information. Here we report the draft genome sequence of Striga asiatica with 34,577 predicted protein-coding genes, which reflects gene family contractions and expansions that are consistent with a three-phase model of parasitic plant genome evolution. Striga seeds germinate in response to host-derived strigolactones (SLs) and then develop a specialised penetration structure, the haustorium, to invade the host root. A family of SL receptors has undergone a striking expansion, suggesting a molecular basis for the evolution of broad host range among Striga spp. We found that genes involved in lateral root development in non-parasitic model species are coordinately induced during haustorium development in Striga, suggesting a pathway that was partly co-opted during the evolution of the haustorium. In addition, we found evidence for horizontal transfer of host genes as well as retrotransposons, indicating gene flow to S. asiatica from hosts. Our results provide valuable insights into the evolution of parasitism and a key resource for the future development of Striga control strategies.
    Data Types:
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    • Sequencing Data
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  • The Asiatic wild dog or dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a highly elusive, monophyletic, forest dwelling, social canid distributed across south and Southeast Asia. Severe pressures from habitat loss, prey depletion, disease, human persecution and interspecific competition resulted in global population decline in dholes. Despite a declining population trend, detailed information on population size, ecology, demography and genetics is lacking. Generating reliable information at landscape level for dholes is challenging due to their secretive behaviour and monomorphic physical features. Recent advances in non-invasive DNA-based tools can be used to monitor populations and individuals across large landscapes. In this paper, we describe standardization and validation of faecal DNA-based methods for individual identification of dholes. We tested this method on 249 field-collected dhole faeces from five protected areas of the central Indian landscape in the state of Maharashtra, India. Results We tested a total of 18 cross-species markers and developed a panel of 12 markers for unambiguous individual identification of dholes. This marker panel identified 101 unique individuals from faecal samples collected across our pilot field study area. These loci showed varied level of amplification success (57-88%), polymorphism (3-9 alleles), heterozygosity (0.23-0.63) and produced a cumulative misidentification rate or PID(unbiased) and PID(sibs) value of 4.7x10-10 and 1.5x10-4, respectively, indicating a high statistical power in individual discrimination from poor quality samples. Conclusion Our results demonstrated that the selected panel of 12 microsatellite loci can conclusively identify dholes from poor quality, non-invasive biological samples and help in exploring various population parameters. This genetic approach would be useful in dhole population estimation across its range and will help in assessing population trends and other genetic parameters for this elusive, social carnivore.
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  • The genetic diversity of most global goat populations has been assessed in recent decades using nuclear markers but remains unstudied in the south Arabian Peninsula, particularly in Sultanate of Oman, despite the importance of these animals for the local economy and food supply. Therefore, the present study provides a comparative analysis of the genetic diversity of five native Omani goat populations and evaluates possible admixture rates with the four most frequently imported goat populations from geographically proximal countries. Quality control of 15 loci was conducted and molecular characterization of nine populations was performed with 11 microsatellite markers. Accordingly, a data set based on 11 high informative microsatellites loci genotypes from nine populations was used to estimate the population genetic parameters. The summary statistics for the parameters depicted relatively highly diverse populations (Ho = 0.667, He = 0.663) with relatively low and mostly non-significant levels of inbreeding (FIS). Furthermore, the population substructure estimators (AMOVA) and population differentiation coefficient (FST) were indicated weak genetic differentiation among populations (P < 0.001).A finer analysis of the population substructure and differentiation using STRUCTURE, discriminant analyses of principal components (DAPCs) and a neighbor-joining (NJ) tree were supported a scenario that a high level of gene flow between populations from close geographical locations are the main evolutionary driving force. Thus, any future conservation strategy and breeding programs should include to preserve unique alleles that might be contributing to with stand the limited feed and requirement in desert ecosystems as well as economic traits.
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  • Rapid climate change at high latitudes is projected to increase wildfire extent in tundra ecosystems by up to five-fold by the end of the century. Tundra wildfire could alter terrestrial silica (SiO2) cycling by restructuring surface vegetation and by deepening the seasonally-thawed active layer. These changes could influence the availability of silica in terrestrial permafrost ecosystems and alter lateral exports to downstream marine waters, where silica is often a limiting nutrient. In this context, we investigated the long-term effects of the largest Arctic tundra fire in recent times on plant and peat amorphous silica content and dissolved silica concentration in streams. Ten-years after the fire, vegetation in burned areas had 73% more silica in aboveground biomass compared to adjacent, unburned areas. This increase in plant silica was attributable to significantly higher plant silica concentration in bryophytes and increased prevalence of silica-rich gramminoids in burned areas. Tundra fire redistributed peat silica, with burned areas containing significantly higher amorphous silica concentrations in the O-layer, but 29% less silica in peat overall due to shallower peat depth post burn. Despite these dramatic differences in terrestrial silica dynamics, dissolved silica concentration in tributaries draining burned catchments did not differ from unburned catchments, potentially due to the increased uptake by terrestrial vegetation. Together, these results suggest that tundra wildfire enhances terrestrial availability of silica via permafrost degradation and associated weathering, but that changes in lateral silica export may depend on vegetation uptake during the first decade of post-wildfire succession.
    Data Types:
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  • Freshwater is one of the most critical elements for sustainable development of ecosystems and societies. River basins, concomitant with administrative zones, form a common unit for freshwater management. So far, no comprehensive, global analysis exists that would link the ecological challenges of the planet's river basins to the capacity of the societies to cope with them. We address this gap by performing a geospatial resilience analysis for a global set of 541 river basins. We use the social‐ecological systems (SES) approach by relating three ecological vulnerability factors (human footprint, natural hazards, water scarcity) with three adaptive capacity factors (governance, economy, human development), based on temporal trajectories from 1990 to 2015. Additionally, we examine resilience by subtracting ecological vulnerability from adaptive capacity. The most striking result is the fundamentally different patterns of controlling factors of the resilience in different developing regions, particularly those of Africa and Asia. Their root causes are particularly low adaptive capacity in Africa, and high ecological vulnerability in Asia. Alarmingly, the difference between those continents grew within the study period. Finally, this study highlights the rapid dynamics of adaptive capacity in comparison to ecological vulnerability, the latter having more inertia. Their fragile balance is of our interest; they can either support or counteract each other depending on the geographic location.
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  • Ni-Ce three-dimensional material with macropore diameter of 146.6±8.4 nm were synthesized and used for methanation catalyst. Firstly, H2-reduction of catalyst was conducted in thermal fixed bed and plasma reactor respectively, then X-ray diffraction (XRD) and CO2 Temperature Programmed Desorption (TPD) experiments on the two reduced samples were carried out to reveal the plasma effect on catalyst’s physicochemical properties. It was found that plasma reduction created more abundant basic sites for CO2 adsorption, especially the medium basic sites were even doubled compared with the thermal reduced catalysts. The plasma reduced catalyst exhibited excellent low-temperature activity, ca. 50~60 oC lower than the thermal catalyst (the maximum CO2 conversion point). Based on the optimum reduced catalyst, plasma effect in the reactor level was further investigated under high gas hour space velocity (GHSV) ~50000 h-1. The plasma reactor showed higher CO2 conversion capacity and efficiency than the thermal reactor.
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    • Tabular Data
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  • Novel parasites can have wide-ranging impacts, not only on host populations, but also on the resident parasite community. Historically, impacts of novel parasites have been assessed by examining pairwise interactions between parasite species. However, parasite communities are complex networks of interacting species. Here, we used multivariate taxonomic and trait-based approaches to determine how parasite community composition changed when African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) acquired an emerging disease, bovine tuberculosis (BTB). Both taxonomic and functional parasite richness increased significantly in animals that acquired BTB than in those that did not. Thus, the presence of BTB seems to catalyze extraordinary shifts in community composition. There were, however, no differences in overall parasite taxonomic composition between infected and uninfected individuals. The trait-based analysis revealed that direct-transmitted, quickly replicating parasites increased following BTB infection. This study demonstrates that trait-based approaches provide novel insight for understanding parasite community dynamics in the context of emerging infections.
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    • Tabular Data
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