New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 7 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Mendeley, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:
Re-Shuffling of Species with Climate Disruption: A No-Analog Future for California Birds?:

By facilitating independent shifts in species’ distributions, climate disruption may result in the rapid development of novel species assemblages that challenge the capacity of species to co-exist and adapt. We used a multivariate approach borrowed from paleoecology to quantify the potential change in California terrestrial breeding bird communities based on current and future species-distribution models for 60 focal species. Projections of future no-analog communities based on two climate models and two species-distribution-model algorithms indicate that by 2070 over half of California could be occupied by novel assemblages of bird species, implying the potential for dramatic community reshuffling and altered patterns of species interactions. The expected percentage of no-analog bird communities was dependent on the community scale examined, but consistent geographic patterns indicated several locations that are particularly likely to host novel bird communities in the future. These no-analog areas did not always coincide with areas of greatest projected species turnover. Efforts to conserve and manage biodiversity could be substantially improved by considering not just future changes in the distribution of individual species, but including the potential for unprecedented changes in community composition and unanticipated consequences of novel species assemblages.

Sources and Coverage of Medical News on Front Pages of US Newspapers:

Medical news that appears on newspaper front pages is intended to reach a wide audience, but how this type of medical news is prepared and distributed has not been systematically researched. We thus quantified the level of visibility achieved by front-page medical stories in the United States and analyzed their news sources. Using the online resource Newseum, we investigated front-page newspaper coverage of four prominent medical stories, and a high-profile non-medical news story as a control, reported in the US in 2007. Two characteristics were quantified by two raters: which newspaper titles carried each target front-page story (interrater agreement, >96%; kappa, >0.92) and the news sources of each target story (interrater agreement, >94%; kappa, >0.91). National rankings of the top 200 US newspapers by audited circulation were used to quantify the extent of coverage as the proportion of the total circulation of ranked newspapers in Newseum. In total, 1630 front pages were searched. Each medical story appeared on the front pages of 85 to 117 (67.5%-78.7%) ranked newspaper titles that had a cumulative daily circulation of 23.1 to 33.4 million, or 61.8% to 88.4% of all newspapers. In contrast, the non-medical story achieved front-page coverage in 152 (99.3%) newspaper titles with a total circulation of 41.0 million, or 99.8% of all newspapers. Front-page medical stories varied in their sources, but the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times and the Associated Press together supplied 61.7% of the total coverage of target front-page medical stories. Front-page coverage of medical news from different sources is more accurately revealed by analysis of circulation counts rather than of newspaper titles. Journals wishing to widen knowledge of research news and organizations with important health announcements should target at least the four dominant media organizations identified in this study.

More than Mere Numbers: The Impact of Lethal Control on the Social Stability of a Top-Order Predator:

Population control of socially complex species may have profound ecological implications that remain largely invisible if only their abundance is considered. Here we discuss the effects of control on a socially complex top-order predator, the dingo (Canis lupus dingo). Since European occupation of Australia, dingoes have been controlled over much of the continent. Our aim was to investigate the effects of control on their abundance and social stability. We hypothesized that dingo abundance and social stability are not linearly related, and proposed a theoretical model in which dingo populations may fluctuate between three main states: (A) below carrying capacity and socially fractured, (B) above carrying capacity and socially fractured, or (C) at carrying capacity and socially stable. We predicted that lethal control would drive dingoes into the unstable states A or B, and that relaxation of control would allow recovery towards C. We tested our predictions by surveying relative abundance (track density) and indicators of social stability (scent-marking and howling) at seven sites in the arid zone subject to differing degrees of control. We also monitored changes in dingo abundance and social stability following relaxation and intensification of control. Sites where dingoes had been controlled within the previous two years were characterized by low scent-marking activity, but abundance was similar at sites with and without control. Signs of social stability steadily increased the longer an area was allowed to recover from control, but change in abundance did not follow a consistent path. Comparison of abundance and stability among all sites and years demonstrated that control severely fractures social groups, but that the effect of control on abundance was neither consistent nor predictable. Management decisions involving large social predators must therefore consider social stability to ensure their conservation and ecological functioning.

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