Die Abteilung Aquatische Ökologie der Eawag besteht aus elf Forschungsgruppen und umfasst eine Vielzahl von verschiedenen Disziplinen der Ökologie und Evolutionsbiologie, wobei die gesamte Bandbreite vom individuellen Level über Vergesellschaftungen bis hin zu Ökosystemen abgedeckt wird. Erfahren Sie mehr
Am Dienstag, 25. August 2015, hat die Kommission für Umwelt, Raumplanung und Energie (UREK) des Nationalrats das Sitzungszimmer in Bern für einmal verlassen und ist an die Eawag zu Besuch gekommen. Weiterlesen
Mechanistic basis of adaptive maternal effects: egg jelly water balance mediates embryonic adaptation to acidity in Rana arvalis
Environmental stress, such as acidification, can challenge persistence of natural populations and act as a powerful evolutionary force at ecological time scales. The ecological and evolutionary responses of natural populations to environmental stress at early life-stages are often mediated via maternal effects. During early life-stages, maternal effects commonly arise from egg coats (the extracellular structures surrounding the embryo), but the role of egg coats has rarely been studied in the context of adaptation to environmental stress. Previous studies on the moor frog Rana arvalis found that the egg coat mediated adaptive divergence along an acidification gradient in embryonic acid stress tolerance. However, the exact mechanisms underlying these adaptive maternal effects remain unknown. Here, we investigated the role of water balance and charge state (zeta potential) of egg jelly coats in embryonic adaptation to acid stress in three populations of R. arvalis. We found that acidic pH causes severe water loss in the egg jelly coat, but that jelly coats from an acid-adapted population retained more water than jelly coats from populations not adapted to acidity. Moreover, embryonic acid tolerance (survival at pH 4.0) correlated with both water loss and charge state of the jelly, indicating that negatively charged glycans influence jelly water balance and contribute to embryonic adaptation to acidity. These results indicate that egg coats can harbor extensive intra-specific variation, probably facilitated in part via strong selection on water balance and glycosylation status of egg jelly coats. These findings shed light on the molecular mechanisms of environmental stress tolerance and adaptive maternal effects.
Species richness, but not phylogenetic diversity, influences community biomass production and temporal stability in a re-examination of 16 grassland biodiversity studies
Hundreds of experiments have now manipulated species richness (SR) of various groups of organisms and examined how this aspect of biological diversity influences ecosystem functioning. Ecologists have recently expanded this field to look at whether phylogenetic diversity (PD) among species, often quantified as the sum of branch lengths on a molecular phylogeny leading to all species in a community, also predicts ecological function. Some have hypothesized that phylogenetic divergence should be a superior predictor of ecological function than SR because evolutionary relatedness represents the degree of ecological and functional differentiation among species. But studies to date have provided mixed support for this hypothesis. Here, we reanalyse data from 16 experiments that have manipulated plant SR in grassland ecosystems and examined the impact on above-ground biomass production over multiple time points. Using a new molecular phylogeny of the plant species used in these experiments, we quantified how the PD of plants impacts average community biomass production as well as the stability of community biomass production through time. Using four complementary analyses, we show that, after statistically controlling for variation in SR, PD (the sum of branches in a molecular phylogenetic tree connecting all species in a community) is neither related to mean community biomass nor to the temporal stability of biomass. These results run counter to past claims. However, after controlling for SR, PD was positively related to variation in community biomass over time due to an increase in the variances of individual species, but this relationship was not strong enough to influence community stability. In contrast to the non-significant relationships between PD, biomass and stability, our analyses show that SR per se tends to increase the mean biomass production of plant communities, after controlling for PD. The relationship between SR and temporal variation in community biomass was either positive, non-significant or negative depending on which analysis was used. However, the increases in community biomass with SR, independently of PD, always led to increased stability. These results suggest that PD is no better as a predictor of ecosystem functioning than SR. Synthesis. Our study on grasslands offers a cautionary tale when trying to relate PD to ecosystem functioning suggesting that there may be ecologically important trait and functional variation among species that is not explained by phylogenetic relatedness. Our results fail to support the hypothesis that the conservation of evolutionarily distinct species would be more effective than the conservation of SR as a way to maintain productive and stable communities under changing environmental conditions.
Environmental thresholds and predictors of macrophyte species richness in aquatic habitats in central Europe
The degradation of habitats and species loss in freshwaters is far greater than in any other ecosystem. The decline in biodiversity has a strong potential to alter the functioning of the ecosystem and the services they provide to human society. Therefore, there is an urgent need for accurate information on patterns and drivers of diversity that could be used in the management of freshwater ecosystems. We present the results of an analysis of the relationships between macrophyte species richness and environmental characteristics using an extensive dataset collected from 160 sites in two central-European bioregions. We modelled macrophyte species richness using recursive partitioning methods to assess the diversity-environmental relationships and to estimate the environmental thresholds of species richness in rivers, streams, ditches and ponds. Several hydrological and chemical variables were identified as significant predictors of macrophyte richness. Among them, pH, conductivity, turbidity and substrate composition appeared as the most important. There is also evidence that natural ponds support a greater number of plant species than man-made ponds. Based on the detected environmental thresholds, we offer a series of simple rules for maintaining higher macrophyte species richness, which is potentially useful in the conservation and management of aquatic habitats in central Europe.