Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



CLIMATE SCIENCE
Periodic table of ecological niches could aid in predicting effects of climate change
by Staff Writers
Austin TX (SPX) Sep 04, 2017


A Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus) in the reptile house at Alice Springs Desert Park, Alice Springs, Australia.

A group of ecologists has started creating a periodic table of ecological niches similar to chemistry's periodic table. And just as chemists have used their periodic table as a point of reference to understand relationships among elements, the emerging table for ecologists shows relationships over time among animals, plants and their environments - acting as a critical resource for scientists seeking to understand how a warming climate may be spurring changes in species around the globe.

The University of Texas at Austin's Eric Pianka, lead author on a paper published online this week in The American Naturalist, joined four other researchers in producing the first parts of this new ordering framework for niches, the set of defining factors in a place that determine how its plants and animals live, reproduce and interact with one another and their surroundings.

"Summarizing major ecological traits in such simple schemes will allow ecologists to predict how species might react to new environmental conditions and the invasive potential of species," Pianka said. "It will inform us about how niches have evolved in the past and even how they will evolve in the future, all of which has direct bearing on impacts of climate change."

So many factors go into defining ecological niches that they are highly complex, and ecologists have never before succeeded in ordering them in a predictable way. Still, researchers have been intrigued by the idea since 1972, when evolutionary ecologist Robert MacArthur proposed ordering them in a way similar to chemistry's periodic table. In that table, elements are ordered by a combination of their atomic number (protons), configuration of electrons and certain chemical properties.

The notion in ecology would be to find a similar way to summarize the many variables of ecological niches and help predict how distantly related species, on different continents but in similar environments, might be expected to evolve with similar traits.

The framework described today draws on ecological data gathered by Pianka and his long-term colleague Laurie Vitt of the University of Oklahoma, who together conducted over roughly 50 years fieldwork in a variety of habitats on four continents. They used data related to five major niche dimensions (habitat, diet, life history, metabolism and defense, each with 7-15 variables) for 134 species of lizards.

Lizards that live on different continents evolved to fill identifiably similar niches and have similar traits. Patterns are repeated: Australian desert lizards solve problems in the same ways that African and American desert lizards do, even when they are not evolutionarily closely related. They forage for food, remain active or inactive at given times of day, lay eggs or give birth to babies and relate to their habitats - all in highly similar ways.

The periodic table capitalizes on this type of convergent evolution in lizards around the world and uses multidimensional analyses of more than 50 lizard-niche dimensions. Just three dimensions capture 62 percent of the total variation, an indication that lizard niches are tightly constrained.

In addition to the paper, the researchers have produced a website that allows ecologists to explore its findings. Because people perceive in only three dimensions, visualizing and understanding complex niches in more dimensions is difficult, so to make it easier to visualize their results on the website, Pianka and his colleagues produced rotating 3-dimensional graphics.

These allow users to explore constraints and tradeoffs in the evolution of lizard niches and reveal the manner in which species overlap or separate based on habitat, body size, foraging mode, diet, life history, metabolism, defensive tactics and/or time and place of activity.

Research paper

CLIMATE SCIENCE
Australia has hottest winter on record
Sydney (AFP) Sept 1, 2017
Australia experienced its hottest winter on record this year amid a long-term warming trend largely attributed to climate change, the weather bureau said Friday. Maximum daytime temperatures were 1.9 degrees Celsius (3.4 Fahrenheit) above the long-term national average of 21.8 during the June-August season, the Bureau of Meteorology said. Winter rainfall was the ninth-lowest on record, a ... read more

Related Links
University of Texas at Austin
Climate Science News - Modeling, Mitigation Adaptation


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

CLIMATE SCIENCE
US floods rescue workers sue over chemical plant fire

Germany rejects Polish call for more WWII reparations

St Martin, St Barts contemplate rebuilding in Irma's wake

Economic cost of Harvey, Irma could be $290 bn: forecaster

CLIMATE SCIENCE
New microscopy method for quick and reliable 3-D imaging of curvilinear nanostructures

Non-thermal atmospheric pressure plasma treatment for leather products

Bit data goes anti-skyrmions

NASA Awards $400,000 to Top Teams at Second Phase of 3D-Printing Competition

CLIMATE SCIENCE
More 'losers' than 'winners' predicted for Southern Ocean seafloor animals

Your tap water may contain plastic, researchers warn

Pacific corals in 'worrying' state: researchers

Your tap water may contain plastic, researchers warn

CLIMATE SCIENCE
Experts call for added focus on the impact of glacier mass loss on downstream systems

Massive Antarctic volcanic eruptions linked to abrupt Southern hemisphere climate changes

What changes when you warm the Antarctic Ocean just 1 degree

Record-low 2016 Antarctic sea ice due to 'perfect storm' of tropical, polar conditions

CLIMATE SCIENCE
Scientists developed 'smart fertilizer'

prices jump as Irma approaches Florida

Disneyland China falls a-fowl of huge turkey leg demand

Drought response in global crops may be as complex as day and night

CLIMATE SCIENCE
For Florida's low-lying Naples, surging seas pose deadly threat

Mourners sob, sift wreckage of huge Mexico quake

Irma weakens but continues to batter Florida

Floods kill at least five as storms thrash Italy

CLIMATE SCIENCE
DRCongo troops chasing reporter 'force entry' at UN base

Angolans vote as Dos Santos ends 38-year rule

Death toll in SLeone flood disaster reaches 441

Africa Endeavor 2017 communications conference starts in Malawi

CLIMATE SCIENCE
Large-scale study of genetic data shows humans still evolving

Groups are more likely to lie than individuals, new study shows

Human settlement in the Americas may have occurred in the late Pleistocene

Humans are still evolving, study suggests




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement