Department of Environment and Conservation (Western Australia)
Recent publications
Rangelands worldwide have been subject to broadscale modification, such as widespread predator control, introduction of permanent livestock water and altered vegetation to improve grazing. In Australia, these landscape changes have resulted in kangaroos populations (i.e. large macropods) increasing over the past 200 years. Kangaroos are a key contributor to total grazing pressure and in conjunction with livestock and feral herbivores have been linked to land degradation. We used 22 years of aerial survey data to investigate whether density of three macropod species in the southern rangelands of Western Australia was associated with: (1) land use, including type of livestock, total livestock, density of feral goats, type of land tenure, and kangaroo commercial harvest effort; (2) predator management, including permitted dingo control effort, estimated dingo abundance, and the State Barrier Fence (a dingo exclusion fence); and (3) environmental variables: ruggedness, rainfall, fractional cover, and total standing dry matter. Red kangaroos (Osphranter rufus) were most abundant in flat, open vegetation, on pastoral land, where area permitted for dingo control was high, and numbers were positively associated with antecedent rainfall with a 12‐month delay. Western grey kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus) were most abundant on flat, agricultural land, but less abundant in areas with high permitted dingo control. Euros (Osphranter robustus) were most abundant in rugged pastoral land with open vegetation, where permitted dingo control was high. While environmental variables are key drivers of landscape productivity and kangaroo populations, anthropogenic factors such as land use and permitted dingo control are strongly associated with kangaroo abundance. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
Enhanced efficiency fertilizers (EEFs) are used to minimize applied nitrogen (N) losses to the environment, but the benefits concerning preventing losses of applied N are unclear. On a wet subtropical sugarcane farm in Queensland, Australia, we conducted a field experiment to determine if blending commercially available EEFs with traditional urea is environmentally viable and to what degree N retention in soils by EEFs translates into crop productivity. Two EEFs, nitrification inhibitor (DMPP, applied as Urea with ENTEC®) and polymer‐coated urea (PCU, AgromasterTM, Everris), were tested along with conventional urea. These two EEFs were effective in decreasing nitrate in the soil profile compared with conventional urea. At least one month after fertilization, N release accumulation from PCU was markedly slower in the first one month after application, and DMPP was effective in reducing nitrification. EEFs application brought higher yields compared to unfertilized control treatment. Strategies should be developed to improve yield while decreasing nitrate movement in sugarcane production system.
Abstract Mammal declines across northern Australia are one of the major biodiversity loss events occurring globally. There has been no regional assessment of the implications of these species declines for genomic diversity. To address this, we conducted a species‐wide assessment of genomic diversity in the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus), an Endangered marsupial carnivore. We used next generation sequencing methods to genotype 10,191 SNPs in 352 individuals from across a 3220 km length of the continent, investigating patterns of population genomic structure and diversity, and identifying loci showing signals of putative selection. We found strong heterogeneity in the distribution of genomic diversity across the continent, characterised by (1) biogeographic barriers driving hierarchical population structure through long‐term isolation, and (2) severe reductions in diversity resulting from population declines, exacerbated by the spread of introduced toxic cane toads (Rhinella marina). These results warn of a large ongoing loss of genomic diversity and associated adaptive capacity as mammals decline across northern Australia. Encouragingly, populations of the northern quoll established on toad‐free islands by translocations appear to have maintained most of the initial genomic diversity after 16 years. By mapping patterns of genomic diversity within and among populations, and investigating these patterns in the context of population declines, we can provide conservation managers with data critical to informed decision‐making. This includes the identification of populations that are candidates for genetic management, the importance of remnant island and insurance/translocated populations for the conservation of genetic diversity, and the characterisation of putative evolutionarily significant units.
Background Hemp ( Cannabis sativa L.) is a producer of cannabinoids. These organic compounds are of increasing interest due to their potential applications in the medicinal field. Advances in analytical methods of identifying and quantifying these molecules are needed. Method This study describes a new method of cannabinoid separation from plant material using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) as the analytical tool to detect low abundance cannabinoids that will likely have implications for future therapeutical treatments. A novel approach was adopted to separate trichomes from plant material to analyse cannabinoids of low abundance not observed in raw plant extract. Required plant sample used for analysis was greatly reduced compared to other methods. Derivatisation method was simplified and deconvolution software was utilised to recognise unknown cannabinoid compounds of low abundance. Results The method produces well-separated spectra and allows the detection of major and minor cannabinoids. Ten cannabinoids that had available standards could be identified and quantified and numerous unidentified cannabinoids or pathway intermediates based on GC-MS spectra similarities could be extracted and analysed simultaneously with this method. Conclusions This is a rapid novel extraction and analytical method from plant material that can identify major and minor cannabinoids using a simple technique. The method will be of use to future researchers seeking to study the multitude of cannabinoids whose values are currently not understood.
1. The residence, home range, and habitat use of juvenile (42.0–63.5 cm midline curved carapace length, CCL), subadult (68.6–84.6 cm CCL), and adult (81.9–104.2 cm CCL) green turtles (Chelonia mydas) was investigated using passive acoustic telemetry in Ningaloo Marine Park, north-western Australia. Eighty-one turtles ranging in size from 42 to 104 cm CCL were captured on their foraging grounds and tagged with acoustic tags. 2. Individuals were monitored for up to 913 days (range 48–913 days, median 367 days). Turtles of all sizes demonstrated very high fidelity to their foraging area. Residence declined with turtle body size and home range increased with turtle body size, with an average 50% kernel utilization distribution (KUD) area of 0.29, 0.47, and 0.57 km2 for juveniles, subadults, and adults, respectively. 3. Juveniles occurred only in shallow inshore habitat dominated by seagrass and macroalgae-covered pavement. Subadults and adults selected macroalgae-covered pavement, sandy areas of the lagoon, and macroalgae-dominated patch reefs within the lagoon. 4. At high tide, juveniles were approximately 200 m closer to the shore than at low tide, but there was no tidal pattern of space use in subadult and adult turtles. 5. Less than 5% of turtles departed the array within 6 months and there was no evidence of developmental migrations in subadults. 6. The results highlight the conservation potential for go-slow areas to minimize boat strike in areas of high turtle density, given the small and stable home ranges. Furthermore, the spatial segregation of juveniles, subadults, and adults will result in variability in the susceptibility of individuals to boat strike. 7. The influencing factors that drive the developmental migrations of turtles to consecutive habitats as they grow, as well as movement away from foraging grounds in response to changes in habitat quality, are complex. The ability of acoustic telemetry to provide long-term data on all size classes of turtles within foraging areas provides a tool to enable the long-term monitoring of turtle populations, which is required for at-risk populations and/or habitats.
Diving behaviour of ‘surfacers' such as sea snakes, cetaceans and turtles is complex and multi-dimensional, thus may be better captured by multi-sensor biologging data. However, analysing these large multi-faceted datasets remains challenging, though a high priority. We used high-resolution multi-sensor biologging data to provide the first detailed description of the environmental influences on flatback turtle (Natator depressus) diving behaviour, during its foraging life-history stage. We developed an analytical method to investigate seasonal, diel and tidal effects on diving behaviour for 24 adult flatback turtles tagged with biologgers. We extracted 16 dive variables associated with three-dimensional and kinematic characteristics for 4128 dives. K-means and hierarchical cluster analyses failed to identify distinct dive types. Instead, principal component analysis objectively condensed the dive variables, removing collinearity and highlighting the main features of diving behaviour. Generalized additive mixed models of the main principal components identified significant seasonal, diel and tidal effects on flatback turtle diving behaviour. Flatback turtles altered their diving behaviour in response to extreme tidal and water temperature ranges, displaying thermoregulation and predator avoidance strategies while likely optimizing foraging in this challenging environment. This study demonstrates an alternative statistical technique for objectively interpreting diving behaviour from multivariate collinear data derived from biologgers.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are a popular conservation strategy aimed at managing anthropogenic pressures and protecting habitats and the diversity of ocean flora and fauna. Robust, cost-effective sampling of fish assemblages is important in understanding the effects of these management strategies on ocean ecosystems. We compared the sampling effectiveness and efficiencies of three commonly used methods of sampling fish assemblages (underwater visual census (UVC), baited remote underwater stereo-video systems (stereo-BRUVs), and diver operated stereo-video (stereo-DOV) and one emerging method (remotely operated vehicle with stereo-video system (stereo-ROV)). We assessed the assemblage composition, numbers of species and individuals, and the statistical power to detect hypothetical changes in the number of species and individuals for each method. Stereo-BRUVs sampled a distinctive assemblage compared to all transect-based methods, with more individuals, total species, and predatory fishes from higher trophic groups that are targeted by commercial and recreational fishers. UVC also sampled a distinctive assemblage compared to stereo-ROV and stereo-BRUVs (comparisons with stereo-DOV were not possible due to sampling restrictions). The fish assemblage sampled by UVC consisted of more species and individuals than stereo-ROV and small bodied or cryptic species that were not detected by the video methods. Although stereo-DOV sampled more individuals than stereo-ROV with differences in small schooling species at a few sites, the assemblage composition was broadly comparable. To effectively monitor MPAs a combination of BRUVs, which more effectively sampled fisheries indicator species, and one of the transect based methods should be used. Given the similarities in the assemblages sampled by the stereo-video transect based methods and the advantages associated with health and safety, logistics and field efficiency with remote methods, we recommend stereo-ROV and stereo-BRUVs.
To address a major knowledge gap for flatback sea turtles ( Natator depressus ), a species endemic to Australia and considered ‘Data Deficient’ for IUCN Red List assessment, we present the first-ever skeletochronology-derived age and growth rate estimates for this species. Using a rare collection of bone samples gathered from across northern Australia, we applied skeletochronology and characterized the length-at-age relationship, established baseline growth rates from the hatchling to adult life stages, and produced empirical estimates of age-at- and size-at-sexual-maturation (ASM, SSM). We analyzed humeri from 74 flatback sea turtles ranging in body size from 6.0–96.0 cm curved carapace length (CCL), and recovered from Western Australia (n = 48), Eastern Australia (n = 13), central Australia (n = 8; Northern Territory n = 3, the Gulf of Carpentaria n = 5), and unknown locations (n = 5). We identified the onset of sexual maturity for 29 turtles, based on rapprochement growth patterns in the bones. Estimates for ASM ranged from 12.0 to 23.0 years (mean: 16.3 ± 0.53 SE), SSM ranged from 76.1 to 94.0 cm CCL (mean: 84.9 ± 0.90 SE), and maximum observed reproductive longevity was 31 years for a 45-year old male flatback. Growth was modeled as a smoothing spline fit to the size-at-age relationship and at the mean SSM (84.9 cm CCL) corresponded with a spline-predicted maturity age of 18 years (95% CI: 16 to 24), while mean nesting sizes reported in the literature (86.4 to 94 cm CCL) corresponded to estimated ages of 24+ years. A bootstrapped von Bertalanffy growth model was also applied and showed consistencies with the spline curve, yielding an estimated upper size limit, L inf , at 89.2 ± 0.04 cm (95% CI: 85.5 to 95.9 cm) with the intrinsic growth rate parameter, k , at 0.185 ± 0.0004 (0.16 to 0.22); at the same mean SSM (84.9 cm CCL) the estimated ASM was 16.3 ± 0.05 years (95% CI: 12.8 to 27.7 years). Lastly, four of the samples analyzed were collected from deceased adult females that had previous sizes known from on-going mark/recapture studies at nesting sites in Western Australia. The paired CCL data (measured at nesting and back-calculated) did not significantly differ (p = 0.875). This first skeletochronology study for flatback sea turtles generates valuable empirical estimates for ongoing conservation and management efforts.
Background and Aims Knowledge of the evolutionary processes responsible for the distribution of threatened and highly localised species is important for their conservation. Population genomics can provide insights into evolutionary processes to inform management practices, including the translocation of threatened plant species. In this study, we focus on a critically endangered eucalypt, Eucalyptus sp. Cattai, which is restricted to a 40 km 2 area of Sydney, Australia and is threatened by increased urbanisation. Eucalyptus sp. Cattai is yet to be formally described in part due to its suspected hybrid origin. Here, we examined evolutionary processes and species boundaries in E. sp. Cattai to determine whether translocation was warranted. Methods We used genome-wide scans to investigate the evolutionary relationships of E. sp. Cattai with related species, and to assess levels of genetic health and admixture. Morphological trait and genomic data were obtained from seedlings of E. sp. Cattai propagated in a common garden to assess their genetic provenance and hybrid status. Key Results All analyses revealed that E. sp. Cattai was strongly supported as a distinct species. Genetic diversity varied across populations, and clonality was unexpectedly high. Interspecific hybridisation was detected, and was more prevalent in seedlings compared to in situ adult plants, indicating that post-zygotic barriers may restrict the establishment of hybrids. Conclusions Multiple evolutionary processes (e.g., hybridisation and clonality) can operate within the one rare and restricted species. Insights regarding evolutionary processes from our study were used to assist with the translocation of genetically ‘pure’ and healthy ex situ seedlings to nearby suitable habitat. Our findings demonstrate that it is vital to provide an understanding of evolutionary relationships and processes with an examination of population genomics in the design and implementation of an effective translocation strategy.
Abstract In tropical Australia, conditioned taste aversion (CTA) can buffer vulnerable native predators from the invasion of a toxic prey species (cane toads, Rhinella marina). Thus, we need to develop methods to deploy aversion‐inducing baits in the field, in ways that maximize uptake by vulnerable species (but not other taxa). We constructed and field‐tested baiting devices, in situ with wild animals. Apparatus were set next to waterbodies and baited concurrently at multiple locations (over water, water's edge, and on the bank). Baits were checked and replaced twice daily during the trial; remote cameras recorded visitation by native predators. Bait longevity was compared at sun‐exposed and shaded locations over 12 h. The strength required to remove baits from apparatus was measured in varanids and crocodiles. The device promoted high rates of bait uptake by freshwater crocodiles (47% baits consumed), varanid lizards (19% baits consumed), and non‐target taxa (34% baits consumed). Targeting specific predators can be achieved by manipulating bait location and time of deployment, as well as the force required to dislodge the bait. Crocodiles were best targeted with over‐water baits, whereas varanid lizards preferred baits located at the edges of waterbodies. When testing bait longevity in ambient conditions, during the daytime baits desiccated fully within 12 h, and faster in the sun than in the shade. Based on studies using captive animals, the “pulling force” strength of reptilian predators scaled with body size and was greater in crocodiles than in varanid lizards. We present the first conservation baiting protocol designed specifically for reptiles. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of widespread and taxon‐specific deployment of aversion‐inducing baits to buffer the impacts of invasive cane toads, and our methods are applicable (with modification) to other research and management programs globally.
Abstract Reptile populations are in decline globally, with total reptile abundance halving in the past half century, and approximately a fifth of species currently threatened with extinction. Research on reptile distributions, population trends, and trophic interactions can greatly improve the accuracy of conservation listings and planning for species recovery, but data deficiency is an impediment for many species. Environmental DNA (eDNA) can detect species and measure community diversity at diverse spatio‐temporal scales, and is especially useful for detection of elusive, cryptic, or rare species, making it potentially very valuable in herpetology. We aim to summarize the utility of eDNA as a tool for informing reptile conservation and management and discuss the benefits and limitations of this approach. A literature review was conducted to collect all studies that used eDNA and focus on reptile ecology, conservation, or management. Results of the literature search are summarized into key discussion points, and the review also draws on eDNA studies from other taxa to highlight methodological challenges and to identify future research directions. eDNA has had limited application to reptiles, relative to other vertebrate groups, and little use in regions with high species richness. eDNA techniques have been more successfully applied to aquatic reptiles than to terrestrial reptiles, and most (64%) of studies focused on aquatic habitats. Two of the four reptilian orders dominate the existing eDNA studies (56% Testudines, 49% Squamata, 5% Crocodilia, 0% Rhynchocephalia). Our review provides direction for the application of eDNA as an emerging tool in reptile ecology and conservation, especially when it can be paired with traditional monitoring approaches. Technologies associated with eDNA are rapidly advancing, and as techniques become more sensitive and accessible, we expect eDNA will be increasingly valuable for addressing key knowledge gaps for reptiles.
Almost 1 billion ha of land have been pledged for restoration globally under the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Seed‐based restoration will be essential to achieve native revegetation targets in a timely and effective manner. However, problematic seed germination, seeding environments, and seed handling can limit our ability to use native seeds in revegetation. Seed enhancement technologies (SETs) are post‐harvest seed treatments which may improve seed performance and handling, thereby optimizing seed use efficiency and success in restoration. We highlight SETs as a restoration tool accessible to anyone and which can also be used to deliver seed‐based restoration at scale. If SETs are to rise to the challenge of restoration targets in the coming decade, improving native seed supply, research efforts, knowledge and data sharing, and collaboration and funding will be essential. These actions are discussed within a roadmap for advancing SETs in the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Widespread plant species are expected to maintain genetic diversity and gene flow via pollen and seed dispersal. Stature is a key life history trait that affects seed and potentially pollen dispersal, with limited stature associated with limited dispersal and greater genetic differentiation. We sampled Hill’s tabletop wattle (Acacia hilliana) and curry wattle (Acacia spondylophylla), two co‐distributed, widespread, Acacia shrubs of low stature, across the arid Pilbara region of north‐western Australia. Using chloroplast sequence and nuclear microsatellite data we evaluated patterns of population genetic and phylogeographic diversity and structure, demographic signals, ratios of pollen to seed dispersal, evidence for historical refugia, and association between elevation and diversity. Results showed strong phylogeographic (chloroplast, GST = 0.831 and 0.898 for A. hilliana and A. spondylophylla, respectively) and contemporary (nuclear, FST = 0.260 and 0.349 for A. hilliana and A. spondylophylla, respectively) genetic structure in both species. This indicates limited genetic connectivity via seed and pollen dispersal associated with Acacia species of small stature compared to taller tree and shrub acacias across the Pilbara bioregion. This effect of stature on genetic structure is superimposed on moderate levels of genetic diversity that were expected based on widespread ranges (haplotype diversity h = 25 and 12; nuclear diversity He = 0.60 and 0.47 for A. hilliana and A. spondylophylla, respectively). Contemporary genetic structure was congruent at the greater landscape scale, especially in terms of strong genetic differentiation among geographically disjunct populations in less elevated areas. Measures of diversity and connectivity were associated with traits of greater geographic population proximity, population density, population size, and greater individual longevity, and some evidence for range expansion in A. hilliana. Results illustrate that low stature is associated with limited dispersal and greater patterns of genetic differentiation for congenerics in a common landscape and highlight the complex influence of taxon‐specific life history and ecological traits to seed and pollen dispersal. We assessed phylogeographic and population genetic diversity and structure in two Acacia shrubs of low stature with widespread ranges and co‐distributions across the arid Pilbara region of north‐western Australia: Hill’s tabletop wattle (Acacia hilliana) and curry wattle (Acacia spondylophylla). Both species showed strong phylogeographic and contemporary genetic structure indicating reduced genetic connectivity when compared to taller shrub and tree Acacias in the Pilbara but maintained levels of genetic diversity comparable to that of other widespread Acacia
Determine seasonal, annual, and decadal patterns of abundance in reptile species and assemblages occupying central Bold Park (~338 ha), an isolated urban bushland remnant in Perth, Southwestern Australia. Fenced pitfall trapping in four sampling sites, representing different habitats and fire history, over the primary reptile activity period for 35 consecutive years with over 17,000 individuals captured during 3300 days of sampling; the trapping regime was modified for the last 28 years. Sampling occurred in one of 35 global biodiversity hotspots that has a Mediterranean climate experiencing a 15% decline from the century average rainfall over the last 50 years. Twenty‐nine species were recorded, with 16 captured in 32 or more years and accounting for nearly 97% of all captures; the six most common for 81%. Three taxa became locally extinct. Activity predominates in warmer and dryer months (October to April), peaking in November–December. Species richness remained relatively constant between years with around 73% of known taxa captured annually. Assemblages did not change when analyzing the presence/absence data but moved through five statistically significant assemblages analyzing relative abundance data. Over the last 28 years, relative abundance was significantly and positively correlated with annual rainfall residuals, uniquely for the 4 years preceding annual sampling, resulting in significant changes in total assemblages and significantly similar patterns in four sample sites; the presence/absence data indicated only minor assemblage changes across sites. The number of species recorded annually remained relatively constant, but relative abundance illustrated significant temporal changes in assemblages over decades. The modeled relationship between relative abundance and annual rainfall residuals for 4 years preceding annual sampling is supported by known ecological responses and reptile demographics within this Mediterranean climate. Maintenance of urban biodiversity should consider impacts of a significantly drying climate exacerbating the extinction debt already inherent in isolated bushland populations experiencing limited immigration. Annual monitoring of an urban reptile assemblage over 35 years showed significant changes in relative abundance of individuals correlated with annual rainfall residuals for preceding years. Although local extinctions occurred, annual species numbers remained relatively constant throughout despite rainfall regime being around 15% below the 100 year mean.
The small size and large surface area of ultrafine particles (UFP) enhance their ability to deposit in the lung periphery and their reactivity. The Ultrafine Particles from Traffic Emissions and Children's Health (UPTECH) cross-sectional study was conducted in 8–11-year-old schoolchildren attending 25 primary (elementary) schools, randomly selected from the Brisbane Metropolitan Area, Queensland, Australia. Main study findings outlined indirect evidence of distal airway deposition (raised C reactive protein) but as yet, there is no direct evidence in the literature of effects of UFP exposure on peripheral airway function. We present further UPTECH study data from two sensitive peripheral airway function tests, Oscillometry and Multiple Breath Nitrogen Washout (MBNW), performed in 577 and 627 children (88% and 96% of UPTECH study cohort) respectively: mean(SD) age 10.1(0.9) years, 46% male, with 50% atopy and 14% current asthma. Bayesian generalised linear mixed effects regression models were used to estimate the effect of UFP particle number count (PNC) exposure on key oscillometry (airway resistance, (Rrs), and reactance, (Xrs)) and MBNW (lung clearance index, (LCI) and functional residual capacity, (FRC)) indices. We adjusted for age, sex, and height, and potential confounders including socio-economic disadvantage, PM2.5 and NO2 exposure. All models contained an interaction term between UFP PNC exposure and atopy, allowing estimation of the effect of exposure on non-atopic and atopic students. Increasing UFP PNC was associated with greater lung stiffness as evidenced by a decrease in Xrs [mean (95% credible interval) −1.63 (−3.36 to −0.05)%] per⁻³]. It was also associated with greater lung stiffness (decrease in Xrs) in atopic subjects across all models [mean change ranging from −2.06 to −2.40% per⁻³]. A paradoxical positive effect was observed for Rrs across all models [mean change ranging from −1.55 to −1.70% per⁻³] (decreases in Rrs indicating an increase in airway calibre), which was present for both atopic and non-atopic subjects. No effects on MBNW indices were observed. In conclusion, a modest detrimental effect of UFP on peripheral airway function among atopic subjects, as assessed by respiratory system reactance, was observed extending the main UPTECH study findings which reported a positive association with a biomarker for systemic inflammation, C-reactive protein (CRP). Further studies are warranted to explore the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying increased respiratory stiffness, and whether it persists through to adolescence and adulthood.
Abstract Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a tumor‐forming disease which affects all species of marine turtle, but predominantly the green turtle (Chelonia mydas). Expression of this disease is thought to be precipitated by poor environmental conditions and often linked to anthropogenically induced environmental changes. Although FP is a globally distributed disease, targeted studies on the spatial distribution of the disease in Australia are limited. Here, we present the first comprehensive report of FP prevalence in Queensland, Australia. A retrospective analysis of 25,645 capture records for 15 sites along the Queensland coast were used to determine FP prevalence and trends in foraging green turtles. Within this data set, 791 turtles (3.1%) with FP tumors were recorded. Our analysis showed that prevalence varies between sites and years, with juvenile turtles being the most frequently affected by the disease. We found that survey method has a significant influence on the apparent FP prevalence detected at each site. That is, surveys which were explicitly FP‐targeted detected higher numbers of individual turtles with FP, and therefore generated higher prevalence rates than comprehensive population surveys. We also report the first attempt at developing water quality indices (WQIs) to compare with FP prevalence data in foraging green turtles. The WQIs were built from metrics published in a range of peer‐reviewed papers, reports, and based on expert opinion. Despite utilizing an extensive data set, a relationship between FP prevalence and WQI rankings at each site could not be quantified. The analysis was confounded by a range of limitations, including data gaps, varying temporal scales and data capture methods in the FP prevalence, and water quality data sets. This study has significant implications for management as it highlights the benefits of designing and collecting centralized data that can be integrated and used across multiple projects or programs.
Accurate and detailed reporting of methods is essential for scientific progress, yet it is widely accepted that authors across all scientific fields tend to provide insufficient methods detail. Given the recent proliferation of automated and semi-automated technologies for data collection, to address this widespread issue the details needed for interpretation and reproducibility for each specific technique first need to be identified. A systematic literature review assessed the comprehensiveness of method details reported by 116 peer-reviewed studies published between 2017 and 2020 using the FlowCam (a widely used imaging flow cytometer) to image phytoplank-ton, finding all to be lacking in critical details, inhibiting reproducibility, and limiting the veracity of some findings. Through this review and three case studies, we identify several key method details that should be reported by FlowCam studies to ensure their findings are credible, comparable, and replicable and illustrate the wide-reaching implications for not doing so. Future studies using FlowCam for phytoplankton analyses should ensure clear reporting of all relevant details relating to the FlowCam unit, sample preparation, run settings, post-processing of images, and the considered use of only verified measurement outputs. A methods reporting template is presented as a guideline intended to enhance the quality, interpretability, and repeatability of future FlowCam papers. The pervasiveness of inadequacies in FlowCam methods reporting identified here highlights how vital it is for users of any automated or semi-automated scientific technologies to have a clear understanding of the impact of all method details on their findings, and to report these details adequately.
Ecological niche theory dictates that sympatric species cannot occupy the same ecological niche at the same time. Sympatric granivorous finch species in tropical savannas appear to contradict this theory by moving in mixed‐species flocks and feeding together upon the same resources. Here, we explored this contradiction by tracking individuals from three finch species (Gouldian – Chloebia gouldiae, long‐tailed – Poephila acuticauda and masked finch – P. personata) often seen feeding together, whilst simultaneously determining the dietary composition during periods of high and low resource abundance. Dietary composition was characterised using stable isotope ratios of δ13C and δ15N within the blood, and foraging areas were determined from continuous detection using passive VHF‐radio telemetry. Individuals were sampled early in the dry season when grass seeds were abundant, in the middle of the dry season and at the end when seeds were very scarce. The results showed plasticity in ecological niche overlap among the three finch species depending on grass seed availability within the landscape. In the early dry season, the species foraged together on the abundant grass seed. As the dry season progressed and grass seed availability declined, masked and long‐tailed finches exhibited greater spatial partitioning, masked and Gouldian finches increased dietary partitioning, and long‐tailed and Gouldian finches increased both dietary and spatial partitioning. Our study showed that sympatric granivorous finches utilise trophic and spatiotemporal partitioning to enable co‐existence through periods of low resource availability in tropical savannas. Gouldian finches increased activity and ranging behaviour, while long‐tailed and masked finches diversified their diet.
Recent observations of elevated tree mortality following climate extremes, like heat and drought, raise concerns about climate change risks to global forest health. We currently lack both sufficient data and understanding to identify whether these observations represent a global trend toward increasing tree mortality. Here, we document events of sudden and unexpected elevated tree mortality following heat and drought events in ecosystems that previously were considered tolerant or not at risk of exposure. These events underscore the fact that climate change may affect forests with unexpected force in the future. We use the events as examples to highlight current difficulties and challenges for realistically predicting such tree mortality events and the uncertainties about future forest condition. Advances in remote sensing technology and greater availably of high-resolution data, from both field assessments and from satellites, are needed to improve both understanding and prediction of forest responses to future climate change. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Plant Biology, Volume 73 is May 2022. Please see for revised estimates.
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32 members
Thomas H. Holmes
  • Department of Parks and Wildlife (Western Australia)
Michael J Rule
  • Science and Conservation Division
Ian Radford
  • Science and Conservation Division
Scott David Whiting
  • Science and Conservation Division
248 Ivanhoe Rd, 6743, Perth, WA, Australia