Dennis Roedder
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Recent research highlites
On the brink of extinction? How climate change may affect global chelonian species richness and distribution
Anthropogenic global climate change has already led to alterations in biodiversity patterns by directly and indirectly affecting species distributions. It has been suggested that poikilothermic animals, including reptiles, will be particularly affected by global change and large-scale reptile declines have already been observed. Currently, half of the world’s freshwater turtles and tortoises are considered threatened with extinction, and climate change may exacerbate these declines. In this study, we assess how global chelonian species richness will change in the near future. We use species distribution models developed under current climate conditions for 78% of all extant species and project them onto different Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios for 2080. We detect a strong dependence of temperature shaping most species ranges, which coincide with their general temperature-related physiological traits (i.e., temperature-dependent sex determination). Furthermore, the extent and distribution of the current bioclimatic niches of most chelonians may change remarkably in the near future, likely leading to a substantial decrease of local species abundance and ultimately a reduction in species richness. Future climatic changes may cause the ranges of 86% of the species to contract, and of these ranges, nearly 12% are predicted to be situated completely outside their currently realized niches. Hence, the interplay of increasing habitat fragmentation and loss due to climatic stress may result in a serious threat for several chelonian species. (Photo: F. Ihlow)
Explanative power of variables used in species distribution modelling: an issue of general model transferability or niche shift in the invasive Greenhouse frog (Eleutherodactylus planirostris)?
The use of species distribution models (SDMs) to predict potential distributions of species is steadily increasing. A necessary assumption when projecting models throughout space or time is that climatic niches are conservative, but recent findings of niche shifts during biological invasion of particular plant and animal species have indicated that this assumption is not categorically valid. One reason for observed shifts may relate to variable selection for modeling. In this study, we assess differences in climatic niches in the native and invasive ranges of the Greenhouse frog (Eleutherodactylus planirostris). We analyze which variables are more ‘conserved’ in comparison to more ‘relaxed’ variables (i.e. subject to niche shift) and how they influence transferability of SDMs developed with Maxent on the basis of ten bioclimatic layers best describing the climatic requirements of the target species. We focus on degrees of niche similarity and conservatism using Schoener's index and Hellinger distance. Significance of results are tested with null models. Results indicate that the degrees of niche similarity and conservatism vary greatly among the predictive variables. Some shifts can be attributed to active habitat selection, whereas others apparently reflect variation in the availability of climate conditions or biotic interactions between the frogs' native and invasive ranges. Patterns suggesting active habitat selection also vary among variables. Our findings evoke considerable implications on the transferability of SDMs over space and time, which is strongly affected by the choice and number of predictors. The incorporation of ‘relaxed’ predictors not or only indirectly correlated with biologically meaningful predictors may lead to erroneous predictions when projecting SDMs. We recommend thorough assessments of invasive species' ecology for the identification biologically meaningful predictors facilitating transferability.
New species of reed frog from the Congo basin with discussion of paraphyly in Cinnamon-belly reed frogs
 
We describe a new species of Afrotropical reed frog, genus Hyperolius (Hyperoliidae), from Salonga National Park in the central Congo basin, Democratic Republic of Congo. Males and females have similar colour and pattern and are easily distinguished from other taxa by a relatively short and broad, bright yellow (in life), dorsolateral line ending in the sacral region and the presence of a light spot on the heel. In a 16S mitochondrial rRNA phylogeny, it clusters with samples allocable to the Cinnamon-belly reed frog, H. cinnamomeoventris. The new species, along with other morphologically well distinguished taxa, splits H. cinnamomeoventris into different non-sister clades. We discuss paraphyly of this reed frog in a taxonomic framework.
Population demography influences climatic niche evolution: evidence from diploid American Hordeum species (Poaceae)
 
In this study, we explore the interplay of population demography with the evolution of ecological niches during or after speciation in Hordeum. While large populations maintain a high level of standing genetic diversity, gene flow and recombination buffers against fast alterations in ecological adaptation. Small populations harbour lower allele diversity but can more easily shift to new niches if they initially survive under changed conditions. Thus, large populations should be more conservative regarding niche changes in comparison to small populations. We used environmental niche modelling together with phylogenetic, phylogeographic and population genetic analyses to infer the correlation of population demography with changes in ecological niche dimensions in 12 diploid Hordeum species from the New World, forming four monophyletic groups. Our analyses found both shifts and conservatism in distinct niche dimensions within and among clades. Speciation due to vicariance resulted in three species with no pronounced climate niche differences, while species originating due to long-distance dispersals or otherwise encountering genetic bottlenecks mostly revealed climate niche shifts. Niche convergence among clades indicates a niche-filling pattern during the last 2 million years in South American Hordeum. We provide evidence that species, which did not encounter population reductions mainly showed ecoclimatic niche conservatism, while major niche shifts occurred in species which have undergone population bottlenecks. Our data allow the conclusion that population demography influences adaptation and niche shifts or conservatism in South American Hordeum species.
Alien Invasive Slider Turtle in Unpredicted Habitat: A Matter of Niche Shift or of Predictors Studied?
Species Distribution Models (SDMs) aim on the characterization of a species' ecological niche and project it into geographic space. The result is a map of the species' potential distribution, which is, for instance, helpful to predict the capability of alien invasive species. With regard to alien invasive species, recently several authors observed a mismatch between potential distributions of native and invasive ranges derived from SDMs and, as an explanation, ecological niche shift during biological invasion has been suggested. We studied the physiologically well known Slider turtle from North America which today is widely distributed over the globe and address the issue of ecological niche shift versus choice of ecological predictors used for model building, i.e., by deriving SDMs using multiple sets of climatic predictor. In one SDM, predictors were used aiming to mirror the physiological limits of the Slider turtle. It was compared to numerous other models based on various sets of ecological predictors or predictors aiming at comprehensiveness. The SDM focusing on the study species' physiological limits depicts the target species' worldwide potential distribution better than any of the other approaches. These results suggest that a natural history-driven understanding is crucial in developing statistical models of ecological niches (as SDMs) while “comprehensive” or “standard” sets of ecological predictors may be of limited use.
Global Amphibian Extinction Risk Assessment for the Panzootic Chytrid Fungus
Species are being lost at increasing rates due to anthropogenic effects, leading to the recognition that we are witnessing the onset of a sixth mass extinction. Emerging infectious disease has been shown to increase species loss and any attempts to reduce extinction rates need to squarely confront this challenge. Here, we develop a procedure for identifying amphibian species that are most at risk from the effects of chytridiomycosis by combining spatial analyses of key host life-history variables with the pathogen's predicted distribution. We apply our rule set to the known global diversity of amphibians in order to prioritize species that are most at risk of loss from disease emergence. This risk assessment shows where limited conservation funds are best deployed in order to prevent further loss of species by enabling ex situ amphibian salvage operations and focusing any potential disease mitigation projects.