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Ticks are important vectors of disease-causing pathogens of humans, wildlife, and livestock. Reducing tick abundance is an important but elusive goal. Chemical pesticides applied to habitats occupied by ticks can be effective but appear to have significant negative effects on nontarget organisms. Devices that apply insecticides directly to vertebrate hosts for ticks reduce nontarget effects, and recent field tests support their effectiveness, but securing the devices and avoiding food subsidies to tick hosts remain significant challenges. Recent research has identified several types of organisms that show potential as biological control agents for ticks. Probably the most promising are the entomopathogenic fungi Metarhizium anisopliae and Beauveria bassiana, which laboratory studies indicate are often highly lethal to several different tick species at multiple life stages. The few field tests undertaken show somewhat weaker impacts on tick survival, but suggest that the effectiveness of these fungi in controlling ticks could be enhanced by (a) identifying or selecting for highly lethal strains; (b) applying fungal spores directly to vertebrate hosts for ticks; and (c) optimizing the dose, delivery medium, and seasonal timing for environmental deployment. Thus both host-targeted chemical control and biocontrol of ticks show much promise, and would benefit from further research.
The forests of eastern North America have been subjected to repeated introductions of exotic insect pests and pathogens over the last century, and several new pests are currently invading, or threatening to invade, the region. These pests and pathogens can have major short- and long-term impacts on forest ecosystem processes such as productivity, nutrient cycling, and support of consumer food webs. We identify six key features of the biology of exotic animal pests and the ecology of their hosts that are critical to predicting the general nature and severity of those impacts. Using three examples of introduced pests and pathogens in eastern forest ecosystems, we provide a conceptual framework for assessing potential ecosystem-scale effects.
Different species, populations, and individuals disperse and migrate at different rates. The rate of movement that occurs in response to changes in climate, whether fast or slow, will shape the distribution of natural ecosystems in the decades to come. Moreover, land-use patterns associated with urban, suburban, rural, and agricultural development will complicate ecosystem adaptation to climate change by hindering migration. Here we examine how vegetation's capacity to disperse and migrate may affect the biophysical and biogeochemical characteristics of the land surface under anthropogenic climate change. We demonstrate that the effectiveness of plant migration strongly influences carbon storage, evapotranspiration, and the absorption of solar radiation by the land surface. As a result, plant migration affects the magnitude, and in some cases the sign, of feedbacks from the land surface to the climate system. We conclude that future climate projections depend on much better understanding of and accounting for dispersal and migration.
River and wetland restoration has emerged as a worldwide phenomenon and is becoming a highly profitable business. Although researchers worldwide know a lot about restoration practices in Europe and the United States, we have only scant information about the activities in Japan, where more than 23,000 river restoration projects have been conducted during the past 15 years. In Japan, restoration is a daunting business because of the high human population density, urbanization, and harsh environmental conditions. Here we provide an overview of the various restoration activities in Japan and discuss the lessons that we can draw from them.
We surveyed faculty in the biology departments of US institutions of higher education to compare the experience and training valued by faculty at hiring institutions with the experience and training most graduate students receive. Our data show that associate, baccalaureate, and master's institutions value teaching experience and skills more highly than research skills. In contrast, doctoral institutions place a higher value on the ability to publish research and obtain outside funding. These findings provide quantitative and qualitative insight into discrepancies between the values of those who train graduate students in biology and the expectations of the institutions likely to hire these individuals.
The use of incipient wings during ontogeny in living birds reveals not only the function of these developing forelimbs in growing birds' survival but also the possible employment of protowings during transitional stages in the evolution of flight. When startled, juvenile galliform birds attempt aerial flight even though their wings are not fully developed. They also flap their incipient wings when they run up precipitous inclines, a behavior we have described as wing-assisted incline running (WAIR), and when they launch from elevated structures. The functional benefit of beating these protowings has only recently been evaluated. We report the first ontogenetic aerial flight performance for any bird using a ground bird, the chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar), as a model species. We provide additional ontogenetic data on WAIR, a recently described locomotor mode in which fully or even partially developed flapping forelimbs are recruited to increase hindlimb traction and escape performance. We argue that avian ancestors may have used WAIR as an evolutionary transition from bipedal locomotion to flapping flight.