Traditional fish farming carried out in wetland is declining in many countries of Mediterranean Europe. This decline can lead to a lack of management of the reeds that tend to age progressively. In this work we compared, through a wide temporal range (2001-2019), the densities of four habitat-specialized birds (warblers), strictly linked to Phragmites australis reed-beds in a coastal wetland on the Tyrrhenian central Italy. In this wetland, following the abandonment of fish farming, the average density of reeds significantly decreased, and both the average reed diameter and habitat heterogeneity showed a significant increase. Comparing 2001 to 2019, we observed an increase in the total density of breeding warblers. The two species of Acrocephalus (scirpaceus and arundinaceus), and Cettia cetti showed a marked increase in density, while Cisticola juncidis showed a clear decrease. More particularly, a significant increase in Cettia cetti (p < 0.001) and a decrease in Cisticola juncidis (p < 0.05) emerged when comparing bird biomasses. Species diversity and evenness were more high in 2019 than in 2001. Our data suggest that: (i) these species could be considered indicators of long-term reed-bed changes and (ii) their biomass may be used as a more effective metric when compared to abundance.

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution

Microbial biogeographical patterns in Mediterranean ecosystems are becoming widely documented; however, the influences of slope aspect on the microbial community composition and structure are poorly understood. This study tested the hypotheses that slope aspect and organic matter content would influence microbial diversity patterns and distribution. Sets of five soil samples were collected from different slope aspects (north slope, south slopes, and valley bottom) and bacterial and fungal communities were examined using the 16S rRNA gene and ITS1 region sequencing, respectively, on the Illumina HiSeq platform. Organic matter and soil moisture varied significantly across all sites but did not influence microbial diversity patterns. Community structure (Bray-Curtis dissimilarity) indicated that each site had a distinct microbial community, and soil moisture along with organic matter modulated the community structure. Relative abundance of key bacterial taxa (Actinobacteria and Bacteriodetes ) and fungal taxa (Ascomycota was significantly influenced by slope aspect. Our results show, for the first time, that the often reported slope aspect dynamics of the soil microbiomes do in fact influence bacterial and fungal community composition and structure. Overall, taken together with previous studies from the region, this study provides novel insight on the physio-chemical properties that modulate the biogeographical patterns of soil microbes and contributes to our knowledge of factors that mediate microbial ecology in Mediterranean ecosystems.

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution
Authors: Libin Liu and Jian Ni

Knowledge of the biodiversity and carbon (C) functions of karst forests is scarce. This study comprehensively compared the species diversity and floristic characteristics, biomass and its allocation, leaf and soil C and nitrogen (N) concentrations, and photosynthetic capacity of dominant tree species between peak clump depression (PCD)-type and plateau surface (PS)-type karst forests on the basis of two large plots (i.e., 1 and 2 ha, respectively) in southwestern China. Results showed that PCD-type karst forest exhibits higher biodiversity and more tropical family and genus types than PS-type karst forest. These two types of karst forest presented similar total biomass, but PCD-type karst forest allocated more biomass to supporting roots and less biomass to absorbing roots. PS-type karst forest had higher C/N ratios in leaves and soils than PCD-type karst forest. Deciduous tree species in PS-type karst forest had low net photosynthetic rates, resulting in lower net photosynthetic rate in PS-type karst forest than in PCD-type karst forest. Species richness and C storage in the karst morphologies would be considerably enhanced if degraded vegetation in different types of karst area could be successfully restored to forests according to respective morphological and vegetation features. A comprehensive understanding of the biodiversity and C functions of karst vegetation is essential to biodiversity conservation, regional C storage estimation, vegetation management and restoration, and potential global change mitigation.

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution

Plants utilizing C3 physiology have a more difficult time establishing in rooftop environments than plants with more heat and drought adapted constitutions, such as species that employ crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). CAM species are much less susceptible to limitations of shallow, infertile soil-less media under abiotic and biotic stress. It is thought that soil amendments might improve rooftop media in a way that allows for C3 species to prosper in rooftop environments. While compost is typically added to media to achieve this goal, we hypothesized that the addition of an anthropogenic pyrogenic carbon (PyC) supplement, instead, would enable better organic and mineral sorption and water retention, resulting in improved physiological performance of C3 species. To test this, we grew a C3 legume species, wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria L R.Br. ex), in control compost-amended media and media amended by PyC on a rooftop in Massachusetts, USA. We found PyC-amended media had greater mean organic and mineral nutrient sorption. We also found 16% greater soil water holding capacity (GWL/ψ g) than control media. In addition, wild indigo photosynthetic intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE) was significantly increased by 19% when grown in PyC-amended as compared to control media. We conclude that amending green roof media with PyC provides greater benefits than compost amendments for colonization of a C3 legume, wild indigo. Our results gathered over seven years suggest that PyC from converted waste stream cardboard could be used to improve the rooftop performance of other leguminous species, including agricultural crops.

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution

1935 gecko species (and 224 subspecies) were known in December 2019 in seven families and 124 genera. These nearly 2000 species were described by ~950 individuals of whom more than 100 described more than 10 gecko species each. Most gecko species were discovered during the past 40 years. The primary type specimens of all currently recognized geckos (including subspecies) are distributed over 161 collections worldwide, with 20 collections having about two thirds of all primary types. The primary type specimens of about 40 gecko taxa have been lost or unknown. The phylogeny of geckos is well studied, with DNA sequences being available for ~76% of all geckos (compared to ~63% in other reptiles) and morphological characters now being collected in databases. Geographically, geckos occur on five continents and many islands but are most species-rich in Australasia (which also houses the greatest diversity of family-level taxa), Southeast Asia, Africa, Madagascar, and the West Indies. Among countries, Australia has the highest number of geckos (241 species), with India, Madagascar, and Malaysia being the only other countries with more than 100 described species each. As expected, when correcting for land area, countries outside the tropics have fewer geckos.

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution

We describe a new species of gecko in the Lepidodactylus novaeguineae Group from Salawati Island, West Papua Province, Indonesia. The new species can be distinguished from all congeners by a unique combination of aspects of body size, shape, colouration, and scalation. The holotype and only known specimen is a mature male with a snout-vent length of less than 33 mm, suggesting it is the smallest species of Lepidodactylus; however, to confirm that, larger sample sizes of the nominate species and other species are required. The Lepidodactylus novaeguineae Group has a wide distribution across the western, northern, and eastern margins of New Guinea, but it seems to be most often associated with islands (including land-bridge islands) or geological terranes derived from former island arcs.

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution

Modern biological research often uses global datasets to answer broad-scale questions using various modelling techniques. But detailed information on species–habitat interactions are often only available for a few species. Australian geckos, a species-rich group of small nocturnal predators, are particularly data-deficient. For most species, information is available only as scattered, anecdotal, or descriptive entries in the taxonomic literature or in field guides. We surveyed gecko communities from 10 sites, and 15 locations across central and northern Queensland, Australia, to quantify ecological niche and habitat use of these communities. Our surveys included deserts, woodlands, and rainforests, examining 34 gecko species. We assigned species to habitat niche categories: arboreal (9 species), saxicoline (4), or terrestrial (13), if at least 75% of our observations fell in one microhabitat; otherwise we classified geckos as generalists (8). For arboreal species, we described perch height and perch diameter and assigned them to ecomorph categories, originally developed for Anolis lizards. There was lower species richness in rainforests than in habitats with lower relative humidity; the highest species richness occurred in woodlands. Most arboreal and generalist species fit the trunk-ground ecomorph, except those in the genus Strophurus, whose members preferred shrubs, twigs of small trees, or, in two cases, spinifex grass hummocks, thus occupying a perch space similar to that of grass-bush anoles. Habitat use by Pseudothecadactylus australis, Saltuarius cornutus, and Gehyra dubia fit the trunk-crown ecomorph. We provide quantified basic ecological data and habitat use for a large group of previously poorly documented species.

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution
Author: Shai Meiri

Geckos are a hyper-diverse, ancient, and globally distributed group. They have diverged early from other squamates and thus can be expected to differ from them along multiple ecological, life history, and biogeographic axes. I review a wide range of gecko traits, comparing them to those of other lizard taxa, to identify the unique, and unifying, attributes of geckos among lizards, based on comprehensive databases of lizard distributions and biological attributes. Few traits completely separate geckos from other lizard taxa, yet they differ to a large degree along many axes: they are more restricted to low latitudes and altitudes, are especially diverse on islands, but relatively scarce in America. They are small lizards, that lay small, fixed clutch sizes, for which they compensate only partially by laying frequently. Because they mature at relatively similar ages and have similar lifespans to other lizards, geckos produce fewer offspring over a year, and over their lifetimes, perhaps implying that they enjoy higher survival rates. While being the only large lizard clade of predominantly nocturnal lizards a large proportion of species is active by day. Gecko body temperatures and preferred temperatures are lower than those of other lizards –even when they are compared to lizards with similar activity times. Worryingly, most geckos have small ranges that often reside completely outside of protected areas – much more frequently than in other reptile and vertebrate taxa.

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution

Sclerophyll woodlands and open forests once covered vast areas of eastern Australia, but have been greatly fragmented and reduced in extent since European settlement. The biogeographic and evolutionary history of the biota of eastern Australia’s woodlands also remains poorly known, especially when compared to rainforests to the east, or the arid biome to the west. Here we present an analysis of patterns of mitochondrial genetic diversity in two species of Pygopodid geckos with distributions centred on the Brigalow Belt Bioregion of eastern Queensland. One moderately large and semi-arboreal species, Paradelma orientalis, shows low genetic diversity and no clear geographic structuring across its wide range. In contrast a small and semi-fossorial species, Delma torquata, consists of two moderately divergent clades, one from the ranges and upland of coastal areas of south-east Queensland, and other centred in upland areas further inland. These data point to varying histories of geneflow and refugial persistance in eastern Australia’s vast but now fragmented open woodlands. The Carnarvon Ranges of central Queensland are also highlighted as a zone of persistence for cool and/or wet-adapted taxa, however the evolutionary history and divergence of most outlying populations in these mountains remains unstudied.

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution

The majority of lizard clades are ancestrally and predominantly diurnal. The only major taxon in which most species are nocturnal is the Gekkota (geckos and pygopodids). As ectothermic thermoregulators, lizard metabolic rates are highly temperature dependent, and diurnal lizards therefore demonstrate higher metabolic rates than nocturnal ones. Furthermore, exposure to solar radiation is thought to reduce ectothermic longevity by increasing both metabolic costs and the rate of accumulating harmful mutations through UV radiation (UVC specifically). In being nocturnal, ectothermic species may reduce their intrinsic mortality rates and thus live longer. To test this hypothesis, we collected literature data on the maximum longevities of 740 lizard species, of which 185 are geckos. We examined whether geckos live longer than other lizards, and whether activity time affects gecko longevity. While geckos live relatively long for lizards of their size, their activity time was found to be unrelated to longevity, contradicting our predictions. We suggest that diurnal species may have evolved higher resistance to UV radiation via thicker, more keratinized skin. Elevated metabolic rates do not automatically equate with faster aging. Mortality through extrinsic causes (e.g., predation) may impose much stronger selective pressures than intrinsic causes.

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution