Institut für Ökologie, Evolution und Diversität
Impact of land-use on savanna vegetation and populations of non-timber forest product-providing tree species in West Africa
- Savannas are the most important timber and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) providing ecosystems in West Africa. They have been shaped by traditional human land-use (i.e. agriculture, grazing, and harvesting) for thousands of years. In the last decades, land-use has drastically changed due to the rapid population growth and the growing production of cash-crop in West Africa and this process is still continuing. The percentage of land intensively used for agriculture has increased, while the length of fallow periods has decreased. Such changes have enormous ecological, economic, and social consequences. In the context of land-use changes, there is an urgent need to better understand and evaluate the impact of land-use on savannas. Such an understanding provides insights on appropriate management activities that ensure the maintenance of savannas and guarantee the availability of savanna products for subsistence and commercial use of rural West African people.
The major objective of the present thesis was to study the impact of land-use on savanna vegetation and diversity as well as on populations of two important NTFP-providing tree species in a semi-arid area in West Africa. The study area was located in the south-eastern part of Burkina Faso and comprised the protected W National Park and its adjacent communal area.
In the first study (chapter 2), I investigated in cooperation with a colleague from Burkina Faso (Blandine Nacoulma) the impact of land-use on the savanna vegetation. We analyzed which environmental factors determine the occurrence of the vegetation types and investigated the effect of land-use on vegetation structure and the occurrence of life forms and highly valued tree species. Furthermore, we tested whether land-use has an impact on plant diversity pattern and if this impact differed between the vegetation types and layers (woody and herb layer). Vegetation relevés were performed and the vegetation and plant diversity of the protected W National Park were compared with those of its surrounding communal area. Our results reveal five vegetation types occurring in both areas. Elevation and physical soil characteristics and thus soil water availability for plants played the most important role for the occurrence of the vegetation types. The influence of land-use on plant diversity differed between the five vegetation types and the two layers. The impact was highest on the vegetation types with the most favorable soil conditions for cultivation and lowest on rocky habitats with poor soils. While the diversity of the woody layer was increased under human land-use, the diversity of the herb layer was diminished. Overall, as land-use effects were not only negative, our findings suggest that land-use does not automatically lead to a loss of plant species and to a degradation of savanna habitats. We conclude that both protected and communal areas are of great importance for the conservation of savanna vegetation and diversity. Our study highlights furthermore the importance of different management strategies for each vegetation type.
In the following two studies (chapter 3 and 4), the impact of land-use - and in particular of harvesting - on populations of Adansonia digitata L., the baobab tree, and Anogeissus leiocarpa (DC.) Guill. & Perr. was examined. These two tree species were chosen as they provide several NTFPs for the local population and as they show different levels of human protection and opposed life histories. Thus, they may react differently to land-use. Stands of the protected W National Park were compared with those of its surrounding communal area (in fallows, croplands, and villages). I applied dendrometric methods to study the population structures and combined it with rates and patterns of NTFP-harvesting (debarking and chopping/pruning). Furthermore, the impact of land-use and harvesting on the fruit production of A. digitata and on the sprouting ability of A. leiocarpa were studied. The inverse J-shaped size class distribution curve indicates that the stands of A. digitata were in a healthy state in the park, while the low number of smaller size classes in fallows, croplands, and villages may give evidence of an ageing population. However, a high number of seedlings were recorded in villages. The stands of A. leiocarpa were also in healthy states in the park and likewise in fallows. In contrast, the absence of saplings gives evidence of a declining population in croplands. Both species were strongly harvested by local people and harvesting was tree size-specific. Pruning in interaction with tree-size had a significant impact on fruit production of A. digitata. While smaller trees were more vulnerable to pruning, bigger trees benefited from slight-pruning. A. leiocarpa had a great ability to respond to chopping by sprouting. The sprouting ability increased even with higher chopping intensity. Results suggest that despite the intense harvesting and the land-use impact, populations of both species are still well preserved. While A. digitata can withstand the harvesting and land-use pressure by its longevity, extremely low adult mortality rates, and particularly due to positive human influences, A. leiocarpa is able to withstand the use pressure by its fast growing, high recruitment, and high sprouting ability. I conclude that a none protected tree species (A. leiocarpa) might not necessarily be at higher risk to the harvesting and land-use impact than a protected tree species (A. digitata) as the adverse impact of harvesting and land-use can be compensated by its specific life history.
Important additional information to such ecological findings can be provided by local people. Learning from traditional knowledge and management systems of local people will help to produce culturally and ecologically reasonable conservation and management strategies. Thus, I investigated local uses and management strategies of A. digitata and A. leiocarpa in the last two studies (chapter 5 and 6). Quantitative ethnobotanical surveys among the Gulimanceba people were conducted in the communal area in order to document uses of the different plant parts, harvesting modes, perceptions about the population status, and conservation status of both species. Hereby, differences in knowledge between gender, generations, and people from different villages were tested. Interviews reveal that both species are harvested for multipurpose and emphasize the high importance of both species for local people. Especially the leaves and fruits of A. digitata add valuable minerals and vitamins to the otherwise micronutrient-“poor” staple crops of the Gulimanceba people. In comparison with other studies in West Africa, it has turned out that people in this area could benefit even more from A. leiocarpa, e.g. for dyeing of clothes, for treatment of malaria and skin problems. Local knowledge did not differ between genders and generations, while it slightly differed between people from different villages. The lack of age differences suggests that the traditional knowledge about these two species is passed on from one generation to another. Differences between people from different villages might be explained by influences from the neighboring countries Niger and Benin. Current local harvesting modes and management strategies of both species resulted in sustainable use. However, ongoing land-use intensifications require adapted harvesting and management techniques to guarantee the persistence of these economically important species. These results provide, in combination with the ecological findings (chapter 3 and 4), appropriate management recommendations for A. digitata and A. leiocarpa that are reliable under currently practiced management strategies.
Genomic resources for a model in adaptation and speciation research: characterization of the Poecilia mexicana transcriptome
Joanna L. Kelley
Courtney N. Passow
Lenin Arias Rodriguez
- Background: Elucidating the genomic basis of adaptation and speciation is a major challenge in natural systems with large quantities of environmental and phenotypic data, mostly because of the scarcity of genomic resources for non-model organisms. The Atlantic molly (Poecilia mexicana, Poeciliidae) is a small livebearing fish that has been extensively studied for evolutionary ecology research, particularly because this species has repeatedly colonized extreme environments in the form of caves and toxic hydrogen sulfide containing springs. In such extreme environments, populations show strong patterns of adaptive trait divergence and the emergence of reproductive isolation. Here, we used RNA-sequencing to assemble and annotate the first transcriptome of P. mexicana to facilitate ecological genomics studies in the future and aid the identification of genes underlying adaptation and speciation in the system.
Description: We provide the first annotated reference transcriptome of P. mexicana. Our transcriptome shows high congruence with other published fish transcriptomes, including that of the guppy, medaka, zebrafish, and stickleback. Transcriptome annotation uncovered the presence of candidate genes relevant in the study of adaptation to extreme environments. We describe general and oxidative stress response genes as well as genes involved in pathways induced by hypoxia or involved in sulfide metabolism. To facilitate future comparative analyses, we also conducted quantitative comparisons between P. mexicana from different river drainages. 106,524 single nucleotide polymorphisms were detected in our dataset, including potential markers that are putatively fixed across drainages. Furthermore, specimens from different drainages exhibited some consistent differences in gene regulation.
Conclusions: Our study provides a valuable genomic resource to study the molecular underpinnings of adaptation to extreme environments in replicated sulfide spring and cave environments. In addition, this study adds to the increasing number of genomic resources in the family Poeciliidae, which are widely used in comparative analyses of behavior, ecology, evolution, and medical genetics.
Adaptive Radiation und Zoogeographie anisakider Nematoden verschiedener Klimazonen und Ozeane
- Anisakide Nematoden sind Parasiten aquatischer Organismen und weltweit in marinen Habitaten verbreitet. Ihre Übertragungswege sind tief im marinen Nahrungsnetz verwurzelt und schließen ein breites Spektrum pelagisch/benthischer Invertebraten (z.B. Cephalopoda, Gastropoda, Crustacea, Polychaeta) und Vertebraten (z.B. Teleostei, Elasmobranchia, Cetacea, Pinnipedia, Aves) als Zwischen- bzw. Endwirte ein. Aufgrund der hohen Befallszahlen u.a. in der Muskulatur und Viszera kommerziell intensiv genutzter Fischarten (z.B. Clupea harengus, Gadus morhua, Salmo salar) sowie ihrer Rolle als Auslöser der menschlichen Anisakiasis nehmen die Vertreter der Gattung Anisakis unter den anisakiden Nematoden eine Sonderstellung ein. Anhand der verbesserten Diagnostik und der Etablierung sowie Weiterentwicklung molekularbiologischer Methoden ist es in den letzten zwei Dekaden gelungen, die bestehende Taxonomie und Systematik der Gattung Anisakis zu erweitern bzw. zu revidieren. Aktuelle molekulare Analysen weisen auf die Existenz von insgesamt neun distinkten Arten hin, welche eine hohe genetische Heterogenität und Wirtsspezifität aufweisen, äußerlich jedoch nahezu identisch sind (sog. kryptische Arten). Trotz kontinuierlicher Forschung auf dem Gebiet ist das Wissen über die Biologie von Anisakis immer noch unzureichend.
Die vorliegende Dissertation ist in kumulativer Form verfasst und umfasst drei (ISI-) Einzelpublikationen. Die Zielsetzung der durchgeführten Studien bestand unter anderem darin, unter Verwendung molekularbiologischer und computergestützter Analyseverfahren, Fragestellungen zur Zoogeographie, (Co-)Phylogenie, Artdiagnostik, Lebenszyklus-Ökologie sowie des bioindikatorischen Potentials dieser Gattung zu bearbeiten und bestehende Wissenslücken zu schließen.
Die Verbreitung von Anisakis, welche bisher ausschließlich anhand von biogeographischen Einzelnachweisen abgeschätzt wurde, konnte durch den angewandten Modellierungsansatz erstmalig interpoliert und in Kartenform vergleichend dargestellt werden. Dabei wurde gezeigt, dass die Verbreitung von Anisakis spp. in den Ozeanen und Klimazonen nicht gleichmäßig ist. Die Analysen deuten auf die Existenz spezies-spezifischer horizontaler und vertikaler Verbreitungsmuster hin, welche neben abiotischen Faktoren durch die Verbreitung und Abundanz der jeweiligen Zwischen- und Endwirte sowie deren Tiefenverteilung und Nahrungspräferenzen geprägt sind.
Durch die umfangreiche Zusammenstellung und anschließende Kategorisierung der (mit molekularen Methoden) geführten Zwischenwirtsnachweise konnten indirekte Rückschlüsse über die vertikale Verbreitung von Anisakis spp. entlang der Tiefenhabitate gezogen werden.
Während Anisakis auf Gattungsebene in der gesamten Wassersäule entlang verschiedener Tiefenhabitate abundant ist, wurde für die stenoxene Art Anisakis paggiae ein meso-/bathypelagisch orientierter Lebenszyklus postuliert. Durch den Einbezug eines breiten Spektrums (paratenischer) Zwischen- und Transportwirte aus unterschiedlichen trophischen Ebenen werden Transmissionslücken im Lebenszyklus der Gattung weitestgehend minimiert und der Transmissionserfolg auf den Endwirt, und damit die Wahrscheinlichkeit einer erfolgreichen Reproduktion, erhöht. Ausgeprägte Wirtspräferenzen sowie phylogenetische Analysen des ribosomalen ITS-Markers stützen eine Theorie zur co-evolutiven Anpassung der Parasiten an ihre Endwirte. Anisakis eignet sich daher unter Einschränkungen als Bioindikator für die vertikale und horizontale Verbreitung und Abundanz der Endwirte und lässt Rückschlüsse auf trophische Interaktionen im Nahrungsnetz zu. Durch die weitere Beprobung von Zwischenwirten aus verschiedenen trophischen Ebenen in zukünftigen Studien, kann eine genauere Bewertung potentiell abweichender Lebenszyklus-Strategien gewährleistet werden. Insbesondere ist die Datenlage zur Prävalenz und Abundanz anisakider Nematoden in Cephalopoda und Crustacea noch unzureichend. Die Probennahme sollte dabei unter besonderer Berücksichtigung bislang wenig oder unbeprobter geographischer Regionen, Tiefenhabitate und Wirtsarten durchgeführt werden.
Movement behaviour and seed dispersal patterns of trumpeter hornbills (Bycanistes bucinator) in fragmented landscapes
- Long-distance seed dispersal is a crucial process allowing the dispersal of fleshy-fruited tree species among forest fragments. In particular, large frugivorous bird species have a high potential to provide inter-patch and long-distance seed transport, both important for maintaining fundamental genetic and demographic processes of plant populations in isolated forest fragments. In the face of increasing worldwide forest fragmentation, the investigation of long-distance seed dispersal and the factors influencing seed dispersal processes has recently become a central issue in ecology. In my thesis, I studied the movement behaviour and the seed dispersal patterns of the trumpeter hornbill (Bycanistes bucinator), a large obligate frugivorous bird, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. I investigated (i) the potential of trumpeter hornbills to provide long-distance seed dispersal within different landscape structures, (ii) seasonal variations in ranging behaviour of this species, and (iii) the potential of this species to enhance the functional connectivity of a fragmented landscape. I used highresolution GPS-data loggers to record temporally and spatially fine-scaled movement data of trumpeter hornbills within both continuous forests and fragmented agricultural landscapes during the breeding- and the non-breeding season. First, combining these data with data on seed-retention times, I calculated seed dispersal kernels, able to distinguish between seed dispersal kernels from the continuous forests and those from the fragmented agricultural landscapes. The seed dispersal distributions showed a generally high ability of trumpeter hornbills to generate seed transport over a distance of more than 100 m and for potential dispersal distances of up to 14.5 km. Seed dispersal distributions were considerably different between the two landscape types, with a bimodal distribution showing larger dispersal distances for fragmented agricultural landscapes and a unimodal one for continuous forests. My results showed that the landscape structure strongly influenced the movement behaviour of trumpeter hornbills, and this variation in behaviour is likely reflected in the shape of the seed dispersal distributions. Second, for each individual bird I calculated daily ranges and investigated differences in daily ranging behaviour and in the process of range expansion comparatively between the breeding- and the non-breeding season. I considered differences in habitat use and possible consequences resulting for seed dispersal function during different seasons. I found that within the breeding season multi-day ranges were built from strongly overlapping and nearly stationary daily ranges which were almost completely restricted to continuous forest. In the non-breeding season, however, birds assembled multi-day ranges by shifting their range site to a generally different area, frequently utilizing the fragmented agricultural landscape. Thereby, several small daily ranges and few large daily ranges composed larger multi-day ranges within the non-breeding season. Seasonal differences in ranging behaviour and range assembly processes resulted in important consequences for seed dispersal function, with short distances and less spatial variation during the breeding season and more inter-patch dispersal across the fragmented landscape during the non-breeding season. Last, I used a projection of simulated seed dispersal events on a high-resolution habitat map to assess the extent to which trumpeter hornbills potentially facilitate functional connectivity between plant populations of isolated forest fragments. About 7% of dispersal events resulted in potential between-patch dispersal and trumpeter hornbills connected a network of about 100 forest patches with an overall extent of about 50 km. Trumpeter hornbills increased the potential of functional connectivity of the landscape more than twofold and seed dispersal pathways revealed certain forest patches as important stepping-stones for seed dispersal among forest fragments. Overall, my study highlights the overriding role that large frugivorous bird species, like trumpeter hornbills, play in seed dispersal in fragmented landscapes. In addition, it shows the importance of fine-scaled movement data combined with high-resolution habitat data and consideration of different landscape structures and seasonality for a comprehensive understanding of seed dispersal function.
Evolution of microgastropods (Ellobioidea, Carychiidae): integrating taxonomic, phylogenetic and evolutionary hypotheses
- BACKGROUND: Current biodiversity patterns are considered largely the result of past climatic and tectonic changes. In an integrative approach, we combine taxonomic and phylogenetic hypotheses to analyze temporal and geographic diversification of epigean (Carychium) and subterranean (Zospeum) evolutionary lineages in Carychiidae (Eupulmonata, Ellobioidea). We explicitly test three hypotheses: 1) morphospecies encompass unrecognized evolutionary lineages, 2) limited dispersal results in a close genetic relationship of geographical proximally distributed taxa and 3) major climatic and tectonic events had an impact on lineage diversification within Carychiidae.
RESULTS: Initial morphospecies assignments were investigated by different molecular delimitation approaches (threshold, ABGD, GMYC and SP). Despite a conservative delimitation strategy, carychiid morphospecies comprise a great number of unrecognized evolutionary lineages. We attribute this phenomenon to historic underestimation of morphological stasis and phenotypic variability amongst lineages. The first molecular phylogenetic hypothesis for the Carychiidae (based on COI, 16S and H3) reveals Carychium and Zospeum to be reciprocally monophyletic. Geographical proximally distributed lineages are often closely related. The temporal diversification of Carychiidae is best described by a constant rate model of diversification. The evolution of Carychiidae is characterized by relatively few (long distance) colonization events. We find support for an Asian origin of Carychium. Zospeum may have arrived in Europe before extant members of Carychium. Distantly related Carychium clades inhabit a wide spectrum of the available bioclimatic niche and demonstrate considerable niche overlap.
CONCLUSIONS: Carychiid taxonomy is in dire need of revision. An inferred wide distribution and variable phenotype suggest underestimated diversity in Zospeum. Several Carychium morphospecies are results of past taxonomic lumping. By collecting populations at their type locality, molecular investigations are able to link historic morphospecies assignments to their respective evolutionary lineage. We propose that rare founder populations initially colonized a continent or cave system. Subsequent passive dispersal into adjacent areas led to in situ pan-continental or mountain range diversifications. Major environmental changes did not influence carychiid diversification. However, certain molecular delimitation methods indicated a recent decrease in diversification rate. We attribute this decrease to protracted speciation.
Ordnung des Fachbereichs Biowissenschaften der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität für den Masterstudiengang Ökologie und Evolution mit dem Abschluss "Master of Science" (M.Sc.) vom 16. Juni 2009 : genehmigt vom Präsidium der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt a. M. am 27.04.2010
Species distribution modelling of stream macroinvertebrates under climate change scenarios
- There is increasing evidence that climate change will have a severe impact on species’ distributions by altering the climatic conditions within their present ranges. Especially species inhabiting stream ecosystems are expected to be strongly affected due to warming temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns. The aim of this thesis was to
investigate how distributions of aquatic insects, i.e., benthic stream macroinvertebrates would be impacted by warming climates. The methods comprised of an ensemble forecasting technique based on species distribution models (SDMs) and climate change scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the year 2080. Future model projections were generated for a wide variety of species from a number of taxonomic orders for two spatial scales: a stream network within the lower mountain ranges of Germany, and the entire territory across Europe. In addition, the effect of the modelling technique on habitat suitability projections was investigated by modifying the choice of study area (continuous area vs. stream network) and the choice of predictors (standard vs. corrected set).
Projections of future habitat suitability showed that potential climate-change impacts would be dependent on species’ thermal preferences, and with a similar pattern for both spatial scales. Future habitat suitability was projected to remain for most or all of the modelled species, and species were projected to track their climatically suitable conditions by shifting uphill along the river continuum within the lower mountain ranges, and into a north-easterly direction across Europe. Cold-adapted headwater and high-latitude species were projected to lose suitable habitats, whereas gains would be expected for warm-adapted river and low-latitude species along the river continuum and across Europe, respectively. Additionally, habitat specialist species in terms of endemics of the Iberian Peninsula were identified as potential climate-change losers, highlighting their restricted habitat availability and therefore vulnerability to warming climates.
The main findings of this thesis underline the high susceptibility of stream macroinvertebrates to ongoing climate change, and give insights into patterns of possible consequences due to changes in species’ habitat suitability. Concerning the methodology, a clear recommendation can be given for future modelling approaches of stream macroinvertebrates by building models within a stream network and with a careful choice of environmental predictors, to reduce uncertainties and thus to improve model projections.
Mining herbaria for plant pathogen genomes: back to the future
Hernán A. Burbano
Gene loss rather than gene gain is associated with a host jump from monocots to dicots in the smut fungus Melanopsichium pennsylvanicum
- Smut fungi are well-suited to investigate the ecology and evolution of plant pathogens, as they are strictly biotrophic, yet cultivable on media. Here we report the genome sequence of Melanopsichium pennsylvanicum, closely related to Ustilago maydis and other Poaceae-infecting smuts, but parasitic to a dicot plant. To explore the evolutionary patterns resulting from host adaptation after this huge host jump, the genome of M. pennsylvanicum was sequenced and compared to the genomes of Ustilago maydis, Sporisorium reilianum, and Ustilago hordei. While all four genomes had a similar completeness in CEGMA analyses, gene absence was highest in M. pennsylvanicum, and most pronounced in putative secreted proteins, which are often considered as effector candidates. In contrast, the amount of private genes was similar among the species, highlighting that gene loss rather than gene gain is the hallmark of adaptation after the host jump to the dicot host. Our analyses revealed a trend of putative effectors to be next to another putative effector, but the majority of these are not in clusters and thus the focus on pathogenicity clusters might not be appropriate for all smut genomes. Positive selection studies revealed that M. pennsylvanicum has the highest number and proportion of genes under positive selection. In general, putative effectors showed a higher proportion of positively selected genes than non-effector candidates. The 248 putative secreted effectors found in all four smut genomes might constitute a core set needed for pathogenicity, while those 92 that are found in all grass-parasitic smuts, but have no ortholog in M. pennsylvanicum might constitute a set of effectors important for successful colonization of grass hosts.
Population Structure and Distribution Patterns of the Sibling Mosquito Species Culex pipiens and Culex torrentium (Diptera: Culicidae) Reveal Different Evolutionary Paths
Adriaan W. C. Dorresteijn
- Nowadays a number of endemic mosquito species are known to possess vector abilities for various diseases, as e.g. the sibling species Culex pipiens and Culex torrentium. Due to their morphological similarity, ecology, distribution and vector abilities, knowledge about these species' population structure is essential. Culicidae from 25 different sampling sites were collected from March till October 2012. All analyses were performed with aligned cox1 sequences with a total length of 658 bp. Population structure as well as distribution patterns of both species were analysed using molecular methods and different statistical tests like distance based redundancy analysis (dbDRA), analysis of molecular variances (AMOVA) or McDonald & Kreitman test and Tajima's D. Within both species, we could show a genetic variability among the cox1 fragment. The construction of haplotype networks revealed one dominating haplotype for Cx. pipiens, widely distributed within Germany and a more homogeneous pattern for Cx. torrentium. The low genetic differences within Cx. pipiens could be a result of an infection with Wolbachia which can induce a sweep through populations by passively taking the also maternally inherited mtDNA through the population, thereby reducing the mitochondrial diversity as an outcome of reproductive incompatibility. Pairwise population genetic differentiation (FST) ranged significantly from moderate to very great between populations of Cx. pipiens and Cx. torrentium. Analyses of molecular variances revealed for both species that the main genetic variability exists within the populations (Cx. pipiens [88.38%]; Cx. torrentium [66.54%]). Based on a distance based redundancy analysis geographical origin explained a small but significant part of the species' genetic variation. Overall, the results confirm that Cx. pipiens and Cx. torrentium underlie different factors regarding their mitochondrial differentiation, which could be a result of endosymbiosis, dispersal between nearly located populations or human introduction.