Brown AM, Warton DI, Andrew NR, Binns M, Cassis G & Gibb H (2014) The fourth-corner solution – using predictive models to understand how species traits interact with the environment. Methods in Ecology and Evolution doi 10.1111/2041-210X.12163.
Nguyen, C., Bahar, H., Baker, G. & Andrew, N.R. (2014) Thermal tolerance limits of diamondback moth in ramping and plunging assays. PLOS ONE 9: e87535 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0087535.
Press release article for the manuscript “Potential impacts of climate change on insect communities: a transplant experiment”
Contact Sabine Nooten for media details
A warmer climate may lead to dramatic changes in insect communities, at least at the level of species identity. At the same time, these insect communities may remain relatively unchanged at a higher organisational level, that of the so-called feeding guild.
Current climate change has already had profound effects on the ecology and distribution of many plants, animals and ecological communities, and this will undoubtedly continue into the future. While the responses of some species to future climate change can be predicted with reasonable certainty, the responses of entire communities are much harder to predict due to the complexity of species interactions. For example, present day plant-insect associations respond idiosyncratically to a warmer climate, which could lead to a break down of current community structures. Thus, to date it is still incredibly challenging to understand how a warmer climate will affect plants and their associated animals. Macquarie University researcher Sabine Nooten and her team have successfully carried out a transplant experiment to assess the responses of entire plant-insect communities to warmer climates.
“Transplant experiments are rarely used but are very powerful tools to study climate change impacts, because they offer the most direct way to test what might happen in the future. We moved plants into a warmer climate – one that these plants will probably experience within their current location during the next few decades. We then investigated the colonisation of the plants by insects under natural conditions.” says the lead author Dr. Nooten.
Nooten and colleagues carried out a multispecies transplant experiment in coastal southeast Australia to investigate the potential effects of a warmer climate on the species composition of insect communities, and their structure. Eight Australian plant species were transplanted into sites 600 km closer to the equator, and 2.5ºC warmer (mean annual temperature) than the plants’ native range. As a control, plants were also transplanted into the centre of the plants’ native range. The insect colonisation of all these plants was then monitored for one year.
The researchers found that the composition of the community, in terms of the identity of the species, is dramatically changed in the warmer climate – that is, most of the insects colonising the transplanted plants in the warmer climate were different species to those that use the plant in its current range. Despite this, they found that the range of ecological roles performed by the new species was very similar to those of the original communities.
“Leaf chewing insects were replaced by leaf chewers, sap sucking insects by sap sucking insects, predators by predators, and so on. Our results suggest that as the climate warms, most species may be progressively replaced by others, but the distribution of feeding types may retain some elements of their present-day structure.” says Dr. Nooten.
“The high level of consistency in the insect community suggests that as insects migrate to track climate change, they may colonise new host plants by replacing species with the same foraging function.”
These findings are relevant to our understanding of community level responses to climate change. While field transplant experiments are time- and labour-intensive they are valuable tools for identifying broad impacts of future climate change on community structure and composition.
Michelle has had her third research manuscript accepted for publication. This research was in collaboration with Matt Binns, and Heloise Gibb from LaTrobe University
Morphological traits: predictable responses to macrohabitats across a 300 km scale
MICHELLE L. YATES, NIGEL R. ANDREW, MATTHEW BINNS, and HELOISE GIBB
The fourth-corner solution – using predictive models to understand how species traits interact with the environment
Alexandra M. Brown, David I. Warton, Nigel R. Andrew, Matthew Binns, Gerasimos Cassis & Heloise Gibb.
Journal: Methods in Ecology and Evolution
A poster of an earlier version of the manuscript was presented at INTECOL London August 2013. It can be viewed here:
A movie of the dung beetle presentation given by Nigel at Intecol, SICB and Australian Ecological Society meetings is available online
Nigel is at the 2014 SICB meeting in Austin, Texas. On Tuesday he will be presenting the dung beetle research that he and Zac have been working on.
Congrats to Chi for having her Masters research accepted for publication in PLoS One:
Thermal tolerance limits of diamondback moth in ramping and plunging assays
by Chi Nguyen; Md Habibullah Bahar; Greg Baker; Nigel R Andrew
Great way to finish 2013!
Well done Sabine!
SS Nooten, NR Andrew & L Hughes
Potential impacts of climate change on insect communities: a transplant experiment
Nigel will be giving his (and Zac’s) talk on ‘Dung beetles: biology, resource competition and responses to environmental change’ live at EcoTas 13 in Auckland on Monday morning and as a remote talk on Dung Beetles to the Ecological Networks group, based in Biology at Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany on Wednesday.