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      Towards an Integrated Framework for Assessing the Vulnerability of Species to Climate Change


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          Climate change is a major threat to global biodiversity. A novel integrated framework to assess vulnerability and prioritize research and management action aims to improve our ability to respond to this emerging crisis.

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          Most cited references44

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          Ecological and Evolutionary Responses to Recent Climate Change

          Ecological changes in the phenology and distribution of plants and animals are occurring in all well-studied marine, freshwater, and terrestrial groups. These observed changes are heavily biased in the directions predicted from global warming and have been linked to local or regional climate change through correlations between climate and biological variation, field and laboratory experiments, and physiological research. Range-restricted species, particularly polar and mountaintop species, show severe range contractions and have been the first groups in which entire species have gone extinct due to recent climate change. Tropical coral reefs and amphibians have been most negatively affected. Predator-prey and plant-insect interactions have been disrupted when interacting species have responded differently to warming. Evolutionary adaptations to warmer conditions have occurred in the interiors of species' ranges, and resource use and dispersal have evolved rapidly at expanding range margins. Observed genetic shifts modulate local effects of climate change, but there is little evidence that they will mitigate negative effects at the species level.
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            Testing for phylogenetic signal in comparative data: behavioral traits are more labile.

            The primary rationale for the use of phylogenetically based statistical methods is that phylogenetic signal, the tendency for related species to resemble each other, is ubiquitous. Whether this assertion is true for a given trait in a given lineage is an empirical question, but general tools for detecting and quantifying phylogenetic signal are inadequately developed. We present new methods for continuous-valued characters that can be implemented with either phylogenetically independent contrasts or generalized least-squares models. First, a simple randomization procedure allows one to test the null hypothesis of no pattern of similarity among relatives. The test demonstrates correct Type I error rate at a nominal alpha = 0.05 and good power (0.8) for simulated datasets with 20 or more species. Second, we derive a descriptive statistic, K, which allows valid comparisons of the amount of phylogenetic signal across traits and trees. Third, we provide two biologically motivated branch-length transformations, one based on the Ornstein-Uhlenbeck (OU) model of stabilizing selection, the other based on a new model in which character evolution can accelerate or decelerate (ACDC) in rate (e.g., as may occur during or after an adaptive radiation). Maximum likelihood estimation of the OU (d) and ACDC (g) parameters can serve as tests for phylogenetic signal because an estimate of d or g near zero implies that a phylogeny with little hierarchical structure (a star) offers a good fit to the data. Transformations that improve the fit of a tree to comparative data will increase power to detect phylogenetic signal and may also be preferable for further comparative analyses, such as of correlated character evolution. Application of the methods to data from the literature revealed that, for trees with 20 or more species, 92% of traits exhibited significant phylogenetic signal (randomization test), including behavioral and ecological ones that are thought to be relatively evolutionarily malleable (e.g., highly adaptive) and/or subject to relatively strong environmental (nongenetic) effects or high levels of measurement error. Irrespective of sample size, most traits (but not body size, on average) showed less signal than expected given the topology, branch lengths, and a Brownian motion model of evolution (i.e., K was less than one), which may be attributed to adaptation and/or measurement error in the broad sense (including errors in estimates of phenotypes, branch lengths, and topology). Analysis of variance of log K for all 121 traits (from 35 trees) indicated that behavioral traits exhibit lower signal than body size, morphological, life-history, or physiological traits. In addition, physiological traits (corrected for body size) showed less signal than did body size itself. For trees with 20 or more species, the estimated OU (25% of traits) and/or ACDC (40%) transformation parameter differed significantly from both zero and unity, indicating that a hierarchical tree with less (or occasionally more) structure than the original better fit the data and so could be preferred for comparative analyses.
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              Biological consequences of global warming: is the signal already apparent?

              Increasing greenhouse gas concentrations are expected to have significant impacts on the world's climate on a timescale of decades to centuries. Evidence from long-term monitoring studies is now accumulating and suggests that the climate of the past few decades is anomalous compared with past climate variation, and that recent climatic and atmospheric trends are already affecting species physiology, distribution and phenology.

                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                PLoS Biol
                PLoS Biology
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                December 2008
                23 December 2008
                : 6
                : 12
                University of California, Berkeley, United States of America
                Author notes
                * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: Stephen.williams@ 123456jcu.edu.au
                Copyright: © 2008 Williams et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 6
                Custom metadata
                Williams SE, Shoo LP, Isaac JL, Hoffmann AA, Langham G (2008) Towards an integrated framework for assessing the vulnerability of species to climate change. PLoS Biol 6(12): e325. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060325

                Life sciences
                Life sciences


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