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Genomics is the discipline that has grown up around the sequencing and analysis of complete genomes. It has typically emphasized questions that involve the biological function of individual organisms, and has been somewhat isolated from the fields of evolutionary biology and ecology. However, genomic approaches also provide powerful tools for studying populations, interactions among organisms, and evolutionary history. Because of the large number of microbial genomes available, the first widespread use of genomic methods in evolution and ecology was in the study of bacteria and archaea, but similar approaches are being applied to eukaryotes. Genomic approaches have revolutionized the study of in situ microbial populations and facilitated the reconstruction of early events in the evolution of photosynthetic eukaryotes. Fields that have been largely unaffected by genomics will feel its influence in the near future, and greater interaction will benefit all of these historically distinct fields of study.
Coastal habitats have recently received much attention from policymakers, but marine reserve theory still needs to integrate across scales, from local dynamics of communities to biogeographic patterns of species distribution, recognizing coastal ecosystems as complex adaptive systems in which local processes and anthropogenic disturbances can result in large-scale biological changes. We present a theoretical framework that provides a new perspective on the science underlying the design of marine reserve networks. Coastal marine systems may be usefully considered as metacommunities in which propagules are exchanged among components, and in which the persistence of one species depends on that of others. Our results suggest that the large-scale distribution of marine species can be dynamic and can result from local ecological processes. We discuss the potential implications of these findings for marine reserve design and the need for long-term monitoring programs to validate predictions from metacommunity models. Only through an integrated and dynamic global perspective can scientists and managers achieve the underlying goals of marine conservation.
Because the response of ecosystem patterns and processes to disturbance is rarely linear, the dynamic regime concept offers a more realistic construct than linear models for understanding ecosystems. Dynamic regimes, and shifts between them, have been reported for a diversity of ecosystem types (e.g., terrestrial, marine, aquatic) at a variety of scales (e.g., from small lakes to the global climate). Ecosystem regimes that are obvious at one scale may not be at another. Regimes are maintained by internal relationships and feedbacks between species, and these internal dynamics can interact with large-scale external forces (such as global weather patterns) and trigger shifts to alternative regimes. The dynamic regime concept is commonly used in ecosystem management, restoration, and sustainability efforts, in what are known as “state-and-transition,” “threshold,” or “alternative stable state” models. Here we review the application of this concept to ecosystem management and restoration, and discuss how dynamic processes at multiple scales can affect this application.
Coral reefs are continuing to deteriorate around the world, despite millions of dollars' worth of government effort per year, the commitment of more than 450 nongovernmental organizations, and a long list of successful accomplishments. Researchers and managers must become more aware of positive feedback, including the self-reinforcing ecological, technological, economic, cultural and conceptual processes that accelerate the degradation of coral reefs. Much of the research on coral reef damage has focused on its proximal causes (e.g., global warming, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, overfishing, pollution, sedimentation, and disease) rather than its ultimate causes, the increasing human population and associated economic demands. To stop the deterioration of coral reef ecosystems, management must be proactive, terminating the self-reinforcing processes of coral reef degradation rather than perpetually restoring reefs or resource stocks. This can be accomplished only by clarifying the entire economic picture to instill more responsible behavior in the public.
Recent changes in the forest policies, regulations, and laws affecting public lands encourage postfire salvage logging, an activity that all too often delays or prevents recovery. In contrast, the 10 recommendations proposed here can improve the condition of watersheds and aquatic ecosystems.
Computer technologies have transformed biology research, but the application of instructional technology tools to better connect teaching with learning has proceeded at a far slower pace. Especially in large-enrollment classes where many undergraduates are first introduced to biology, faculty can use computer-assisted instructional technologies to help gauge student understanding (and misunderstanding) of core science concepts and to better evaluate their own teaching practices. In this article, I report on two instructional technology tools, which prompt students to reflect on their learning and allow faculty to gauge student understanding of material almost simultaneously: (1) off-the-shelf personal response systems, modified for in-class assessment in introductory biology classes, and (2) a custom-designed Web-based assessment for use between lectures (Bio-Bytes). On the whole, both faculty and students reported that these technologies helped to improve students' overall understanding of biological principles and concepts.