Now showing 1 - 8 of 8
  • Publication
    The contribution of rare species to a community's resilience
    (British Ecological Society, 2018-07-09) ; ; ;
    Theoretical results for generalised Lotke-Volterra systems that demonstrate the role of rare species in determining the characteristic return time of the system.
  • Publication
    Effects of spatial heterogeneity in moisture content on the horizontal spread of peat fires
    The gravimetric moisture content of peat is the main factor limiting the ignition and spread propagation of smouldering fires. Our aim is to use controlled laboratory experiments to better understand how the spread of smouldering fires is influenced in natural landscape conditions where the moisture content of the top peat layer is not homogeneous. In this paper, we study for the first time the spread of peat fires across a sharp spatial gradient of two moisture contents (dry/wet) in the laboratory. The experiments were undertaken using an open-top insulated box (22×18×6 cm) filled with milled peat. The peat was ignited at one side of the box initiating smouldering and horizontal spread. Measurements of the peak temperature inside the peat, fire duration and longwave thermal radiation from the burning samples revealed local changes of the smouldering behaviour in response to sharp gradients in moisture content. Both, peak temperatures and radiation in the wetter peat (after the moisture gradient) were sensitive to the drier moisture conditions (preceeding the moisture gradient). Drier peat conditions before the moisture gradient led to higher temperatures and higher radiation flux from the fire during the first 6 cm of horizontal spread into a wet peat patch. The total spread distance into a wet peat patch was affected by the moisture content gradient. We predicted that in most peat moisture gradients of relevance to natural ecosystems the fire self-extinguishes within the first 10 cm of horizontal spread into a wet peat patch. Spread distances of more than 10 cm are limited to wet peat patches below 160% moisture content (mass of water per mass of dry peat). We found that spatial gradients of moisture content have important local effects on the horizontal spread and should be considered in field and modelling studies.
      469Scopus© Citations 38
  • Publication
    A potential role for rare species in ecosystem dynamics
    (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2019-07-31) ; ; ;
    The ecological importance of common species for many ecosystem processes and functions is unquestionably due to their high abundance. Yet, the importance of rare species is much less understood. Here we take a theoretical approach, exposing dynamical models of ecological networks to small perturbations, to explore the dynamical importance of rare and common species. We find that both species types contribute to the recovery of communities following generic perturbations (i.e. perturbations affecting all species). Yet, when perturbations are selective (i.e. affects only one species), perturbations to rare species have the most pronounced effect on community stability. We show that this is due to the strong indirect effects induced by perturbations to rare species. Because indirect effects typically set in at longer timescales, our results indicate that the importance of rare species may be easily overlooked and thus underrated. Hence, our study provides a potential ecological motive for the management and protection of rare species.
      404Scopus© Citations 23
  • Publication
    Larval Transport Modelling of Deep-sea Invertebrates Can Aid the Search for Undiscovered Populations
    (Public Library of Science, 2011-08-08) ;
    Background: Many deep-sea benthic animals occur in patchy distributions separated by thousands of kilometres, yet because deep-sea habitats are remote, little is known about their larval dispersal. Our novel method simulates dispersal by combining data from the Argo array of autonomous oceanographic probes, deep-sea ecological surveys, and comparative invertebrate physiology. The predicted particle tracks allow quantitative, testable predictions about the dispersal of benthic invertebrate larvae in the south-west Pacific. Principal Findings: In a test case presented here, using non-feeding, non-swimming (lecithotrophic trochophore) larvae of polyplacophoran molluscs (chitons), we show that the likely dispersal pathways in a single generation are significantly shorter than the distances between the three known population centres in our study region. The large-scale density of chiton populations throughout our study region is potentially much greater than present survey data suggest, with intermediate 'stepping stone' populations yet to be discovered. Conclusions/Significance: We present a new method that is broadly applicable to studies of the dispersal of deep-sea organisms. This test case demonstrates the power and potential applications of our new method, in generating quantitative, testable hypotheses at multiple levels to solve the mismatch between observed and expected distributions: probabilistic predictions of locations of intermediate populations, potential alternative dispersal mechanisms, and expected population genetic structure. The global Argo data have never previously been used to address benthic biology, and our method can be applied to any non-swimming larvae of the deep-sea, giving information upon dispersal corridors and population densities in habitats that remain intrinsically difficult to assess.
      211Scopus© Citations 30
  • Publication
    Charring temperatures are driven by the fuel types burned in a peatland wildfire
    Peatlands represent a globally important carbon store; however, the human exploitation of this ecosystem is increasing both the frequency and severity of fires on drained peatlands. Yet, the interactions between the hydrological conditions (ecotopes), the fuel types being burned, the burn severity, and the charring temperatures (pyrolysis intensity) remain poorly understood. Here we present a post-burn assessment of a fire on a lowland raised bog in Co. Offaly, Ireland (All Saints Bog). Three burn severities were identified in the field (light, moderate, and deeply burned), and surface charcoals were taken from 17 sites across all burn severities. Charcoals were classified into two fuel type categories (either ground or aboveground fuel) and the reflectance of each charcoal particle was measured under oil using reflectance microscopy. Charcoal reflectance shows a positive relationship with charring temperature and as such can be used as a temperature proxy to reconstruct minimum charring temperatures after a fire event. Resulting median reflectance values for ground fuels are 1.09 ± 0.32%Romedian, corresponding to estimated minimum charring temperatures of 447°C ± 49°C. In contrast, the median charring temperatures of aboveground fuels were found to be considerably higher, 646°C ± 73°C (3.58 ± 0.77%Romedian). A mixed-effects modeling approach was used to demonstrate that the interaction effects of burn severity, as well as ecotope classes, on the charcoal reflectance is small compared to the main effect of fuel type. Our findings reveal that the different fuel types on raised bogs are capable of charring at different temperatures within the same fire, and that the pyrolysis intensity of the fire on All Saints Bog was primarily driven by the fuel types burning, with only a weak association to the burn severity or ecotope classes.
      463Scopus© Citations 29
  • Publication
    Propagation probability and spread rate of self-sustained smouldering fires under controlled moisture content and bulk density conditions
    The consumption of large areas of peat during wildfires is due to self-sustained smouldering fronts that can remain active for weeks. We studied the effect of peat moisture content and bulk density on the horizontal propagation of smouldering fire in laboratory-scale experiments. We used milled peat with moisture contents between 25 and 250% (mass of water per mass of dry peat) and bulk densities between 50 and 150 kg m–3. An infrared camera monitored ignition, spread and extinction of each smouldering combustion front. Peats with a bulk density below 75 kg m–3 and a moisture content below 150% self-sustained smouldering propagation for more than 12 cm. Peat with a bulk density of 150 kg m–3 could self-sustain smouldering propagation up to a critical moisture content of 115%. A linear model estimated that increasing both moisture content and bulk density significantly reduced the median fire spread rate (which ranged between 1 and 5 cm h–1). Moisture content had a stronger effect size on the spread rate than bulk density. However, the effect of bulk density on spread rate depends upon the moisture content, with the largest effect of bulk density at low moisture contents.
      314Scopus© Citations 58
  • Publication
    Invading and Expanding: Range Dynamics and Ecological Consequences of the Greater White-Toothed Shrew (Crocidura russula) Invasion in Ireland
    Establishing how invasive species impact upon pre-existing species is a fundamental question in ecology and conservation biology. The greater white-toothed shrew (Crocidura russula) is an invasive species in Ireland that was first recorded in 2007 and which, according to initial data, may be limiting the abundance/distribution of the pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus), previously Ireland's only shrew species. Because of these concerns, we undertook an intensive live-trapping survey (and used other data from live-trapping, sightings and bird of prey pellets/nest inspections collected between 2006 and 2013) to model the distribution and expansion of C. russula in Ireland and its impacts on Ireland's small mammal community. The main distribution range of C. russula was found to be approximately 7,600 km2 in 2013, with established outlier populations suggesting that the species is dispersing with human assistance within the island. The species is expanding rapidly for a small mammal, with a radial expansion rate of 5.5 km/yr overall (2008–2013), and independent estimates from live-trapping in 2012–2013 showing rates of 2.4–14.1 km/yr, 0.5–7.1 km/yr and 0–5.6 km/yr depending on the landscape features present. S. minutus is negatively associated with C. russula. S. minutus is completely absent at sites where C. russula is established and is only present at sites at the edge of and beyond the invasion range of C. russula. The speed of this invasion and the homogenous nature of the Irish landscape may mean that S. minutus has not had sufficient time to adapt to the sudden appearance of C. russula. This may mean the continued decline/disappearance of S. minutus as C. russula spreads throughout the island.
      266Scopus© Citations 27
  • Publication
    Does size matter? Atmospheric CO2 may be a stronger driver of stomatal closing rate than stomatal size in taxa that diversified under low CO2
    (1) One strategy for plants to optimise stomatal function is to open and close their stomata quickly in response to environmental signals.  It is generally assumed that small stomata can alter aperture faster than large stomata. (2) We tested the hypothesis that species with small stomata close faster than species with larger stomata in response to darkness by comparing rate of stomatal closure across an evolutionary range of species including ferns, cycads, conifers and angiosperms under controlled ambient conditions (380ppm CO2; 20.9% O2).  (3) The two species with fastest half-closure time and the two species with slowest half-closure time had large stomata while the remaining three species had small stomata, implying that closing rate was not correlated with stomatal size in these species. Neither was response time correlated with stomatal density, phylogeny, functional group or life strategy. (4) Our results suggest that past atmospheric CO2 concentration during time of taxa diversification may influence stomatal response time.  We show that species which last diversified under low or declining atmospheric CO2 concentration close stomata faster than species that last diversified in a high CO2 world.  Low atmospheric [CO2] during taxa diversification may have placed a selection pressure on plants to accelerate stomatal closing to maintain adequate internal CO2 and optimise water use efficiency.
      1006Scopus© Citations 78