February 1 2018

5:00 pm 1100 TLSB

EcoEvoPub Series

Graduate Student Presentations


Gaurav S. Kandlikar
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA

"Functional traits and the drivers of plant species coexistence across a heterogeneous landscape"

Spatial heterogeneity has long been thought to mediate the outcome of community assembly, and plant ecologists are increasingly using functional traits to infer the processes structuring communities. However, we lack a clear understanding of how variation in plant functional traits is related to demographic drivers of species coexistence. Therefore, a better understanding of the relationship between trait differences and variation in demographic parameters across space is required to link functional trait patterns to community assembly processes. To begin building these links, we experimentally estimated the demographic responses of 17 annual plant species across a range of environmental variation, and then asked whether species differences in leaf, root, seed, and whole-plant traits are predictive of the degree to which their coexistence is stabilized.

We found that most species pairs have imperfectly correlated demographic responses across the sites in our experiment. This satisfies an important prerequisite for the spatial variation to promote species coexistence. Further, the degree to which species pairs responded to the environment in similar ways was correlated with differences in seed and whole-plant traits. Therefore, diversity in these traits may influence the landscape-level community dynamics in Sedgwick reserve and other annual plant communities. This study highlights the importance of understanding links between functional traits and the demographic drivers of competitive interactions at the landscape scale.

Brigit Harvey
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA

"Influences on Foraging Preference Development in an Endangered Species: Implications for a Novel Conservation Strategy"

Captive breeding and reintroduction programs face several challenges as a result of having limited knowledge about the target species nutritional ecology, such as the development of unintentional dietary preferences for captive diets and consequential ineffective foraging ability upon release. Additionally, historic landscapes are changing due to the pervasiveness of invasive species that threaten to replace native food sources of endangered populations. A novel management strategy to counteract these two factors is to expand the diet of a target species to also include palatable and nutritious invasive species, thereby increasing the foraging options of target species upon release and decreasing the spread of invasive species being consumed. Utilizing the captive breeding program for the endangered Pacific pocket mouse \(Perognathus longimembris pacificus, PPM\), I am experimentally determining if historic exposure, exposure during early developmental periods, and nutritional quality of 2 invasive plants, Erodium botrys and Bromus rubens, influence foraging preferences of PPM. Preferences are tested using the standard Cafeteria Method design and the nutritional quality of seeds is determined with NIRS analysis. This study will impact nutritional protocol and foraging training of PPM and potentially provide insights from this management strategy can be directly useful for other captive breeding programs with a similar conflict.
































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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