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The advent of new molecular technologies in genomics and proteomics is shifting traditional techniques for bacterial classification, identification, and characterization in the 21st century toward methods based on the elucidation of specific gene sequences or molecular components of a cell. We discuss current genotypic and proteomics technologies for bacterial identification and characterization, and present an overview of how these new technologies complement conventional approaches. The new methods can be rapid, offer high throughput, and produce unprecedented levels of discrimination among strains of bacteria and archaea. Remaining challenges include developing appropriate standards and methods for these techniques' routine application and establishing integrated databases that can handle the large amounts of data that they generate. We conclude by discussing the impacts of rapid bacterial identification on the environment and public health, as well as directions for future development in this field.
It has been nine years since West Nile virus (WNV) emerged in New York, and its initial impacts on avian hosts and humans are evident across North America. The direct effects of WNV on avian hosts include documented population declines, but other, indirect ecological consequences of these changed bird communities, such as changes in seed dispersal, insect abundances, and scavenging services, are probable and demand attention. Furthermore, climate (seasonal precipitation and temperature) and land use are likely to influence the intensity and frequency of disease outbreaks, and research is needed to improve mechanistic understanding of these interacting forces. This article reviews the growing body of research describing the ecology of WNV and highlights critical knowledge gaps that must be addressed if we hope to manage disease risk, implement conservation strategies, and make forecasts in the presence of both climate change and WNV—or the next emergent pathogen.
It is difficult for terrestrial vertebrates to invade the sea, and little is known about the transitional evolutionary processes that produce secondarily marine animals. The utilization of marine resources in the intertidal zone is likely to be an important first step for invasion. An example of this step is marine scavenging by the Florida cottonmouth snakes (Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti) that inhabit Gulf Coast islands. These snakes principally consume dead fish that are dropped from colonial nesting bird rookeries, but they also scavenge beaches for intertidal carrion, consuming dead fish and marine plants, and occasionally enter seawater. Thus, allochthonous marine productivity supports the insular cottonmouth population through two pathways, and one of these pathways connects the snakes directly to the sea. The trophic ecology and behaviors of this unusual snake population suggest a requisite evolutionary scenario for the successful transition of vertebrates from a terrestrial to a marine existence.
There is growing recognition that opportunities exist to use physiology as part of the conservation and management of populations and ecosystems. However, this idea has rarely been extended to the field of restoration ecology. Physiological metrics (e.g., gas exchange, energy transfer and metabolism, stress response, nutritional condition, gene expression) from a range of taxa can be used to understand the function of ecosystems as well as the factors that influence their structure. Such knowledge can assist the development and implementation of effective restoration strategies that recognize the role of habitat quality on organismal performance. Furthermore, physiological tools can be used to monitor the success of restoration projects during their implementation and as part of postproject monitoring. The often rapid response of physiological metrics provides more immediate information, enabling an adaptive approach to restoration, than can usually be obtained if the focus is solely on population- or ecosystem-level metrics. Greater integration of physiological responses into ecological restoration will provide practitioners with fundamental scientific information needed to design, implement, and monitor restoration activities to aid in repairing ecosystems around the globe.
Derived from funds of natural capital, ecosystem services contribute greatly to human welfare, yet are rarely traded in markets. Most supporting (e.g., soil formation) and regulating (e.g., water purification, pest regulation) ecosystem services, and some cultural (e.g., aesthetic enrichment) and provisioning (e.g., capture fisheries, fuel wood) ecosystem services are declining because of a complex social trap, the “tragedy of ecosystem services,” which results in part from the overconsumption of common-pool resources. Additionally, current economic incentives encourage the development of funds of natural capital on private lands for marketable commodities at the expense of ecosystem services that benefit the public. Such ecosystem services are therefore underprovided. Most critically, property law reinforces these market failures by creating incentives to convert funds of natural capital into marketable goods and by assigning no property rights to ecosystem service benefits. Although there is no one pathway out of this tragedy of ecosystem services, potentially effective remedies lie in the evolution of the common law of property, in the reform of economic incentives, and in the development of ecosystem service districts.
This study presents the findings of an analysis of evolutionary diagrams found in 31 biology textbooks for students ranging from middle school to the undergraduate level. Since the early 1990s, cladograms have found their way into high school biology textbooks, yet we know little about their effectiveness as interpretive and instructional tools in biology education. In this article we document the frequency and types of cladograms found in 31 textbooks, and classify and survey the other types of evolutionary diagrams used in the texts. Although cladograms comprised approximately 72 percent of the diagrams overall, we found virtually no attempt to explain their structure and theoretical underpinnings. Various other noncladogenic evolutionary diagrams, comprising 28 percent of the total, were distributed throughout all textbooks studied. On the basis of our analysis, we conclude that many of these evolutionary diagrams are confusing and may reinforce alternative conceptions of macroevolution. Biology educators should therefore recognize these problems and take measures to ameliorate their effects.