School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences - Research Publications

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    Building trait datasets: effect of methodological choice on a study of invasion.
    Palma, E ; Vesk, PA ; Catford, JA (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2022-08)
    Trait-based approaches are commonly used to understand ecological phenomena and processes. Trait data are typically gathered by measuring local specimens, retrieving published records, or a combination of the two. Implications of methodological choices in trait-based ecological studies-including source of data, imputation technique, and species selection criteria-are poorly understood. We ask: do different approaches for dataset-building lead to meaningful differences in trait datasets? If so, do these differences influence findings of a trait-based examination of plant invasiveness, measured as abundance and spread rate? We collected on-site (Victoria, Australia) and off-site (TRY database) height and specific leaf area records for as many species as possible out of 157 exotic herbaceous plants. For each trait, we built six datasets of species-level means using records collected on-site, off-site, on-site and off-site combined, and off-site supplemented via imputation based on phylogeny and/or trait correlations. For both traits, the six datasets were weakly correlated (ρ = 0.31-0.95 for height; ρ = 0.14-0.88 for SLA), reflecting differences in species' trait values from the various estimations. Inconsistencies in species' trait means across datasets did not translate into large differences in trait-invasion relationships. Although we did not find that methodological choices for building trait datasets greatly affected ecological inference about local invasion processes, we nevertheless recommend: (1) using on-site records to answer local-scale ecological questions whenever possible, and (2) transparency around methodological decisions related to selection of study species and estimation of missing trait values.
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    Permanent removal of livestock grazing in riparian systems benefits native vegetation
    Jones, CS ; Duncan, DH ; Rumpff, L ; Robinson, D ; Vesk, PA (ELSEVIER, 2022-01-01)
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    mixchar: An R Package for the Deconvolution of Thermal Decay Curves
    Windecker, SM ; Vesk, PA ; Trevathan-Tackett, SM ; Golding, N (Ubiquity Press, Ltd., 2021-01-01)
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    Understanding the spatiotemporal dynamics of understorey biomass in semi-Arid woodlands of south-eastern Australia
    Riquelme, L ; Rumpff, L ; Duncan, DH ; Vesk, PA (CSIRO Publishing, 2022-04-01)
    When managing grazing pressure for conservation, understanding forage dynamics is essential. In south-eastern Australia, ongoing grazing is inhibiting regeneration in several semi-arid woodland communities. Western grey kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus (Desmarest, 1817)) have been identified as a key component of total grazing pressure. They are thought to switch from grass to lower-quality browse, including tree seedlings, when grass biomass falls below 400 kg ha−1. One static threshold may not adequately capture the spatial and temporal hazard associated with kangaroo grazing, and this study aimed to explore how grassy biomass varies across a case-study landscape. Understorey biomass and species composition data were collected in the field on seven occasions between December 2016 and May 2019. We used Generalised Linear Mixed Models (GLMMs) to describe the influence of environmental and herbivory variables on total (live and dead) understorey, live understorey, and grass (live and dead) biomass. Canopy cover showed the strongest influence on understorey biomass, with more biomass found in open sites than in woodland. Understorey biomass levels were lowest in summer and autumn. Grass biomass, in particular, fell below the 400 kg ha−1 forage-switch threshold in wooded areas during this time. We anticipate that an increased understanding of understorey biomass dynamics will inform managers as to when and where to focus management efforts to promote regeneration and sustained recovery of these semi-arid woodlands. Results of this study suggest that conducting management efforts before the summer/autumn decline in understorey biomass, particularly in woodlands, is critical in reducing the browsing risk to seedlings.
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    Exploring how functional traits modulate species distributions along topographic gradients in Baxian Mountain, North China
    Tang, L ; Morris, WK ; Zhang, M ; Shi, F ; Vesk, PA (NATURE PORTFOLIO, 2022-01-19)
    The associations between functional traits and species distributions across environments have attracted increasing interest from ecologists and can enhance knowledge about how plants respond to the environments. Here, we applied a hierarchical generalized linear model to quantifying the role of functional traits in plant occurrence across topographic gradients. Functional trait data, including specific leaf area, maximum height, seed mass and stem wood density, together with elevation, aspect and slope, were used in the model. In our results, species responses to elevation and aspect were modulated by maximum height and seed mass. Generally, shorter tree species showed positive responses to incremental elevation, while this trend became negative as the maximum height exceeded 22 m. Most trees with heavy seeds (> 1 mg) preferred more southerly aspects where the soil was drier, and those light-seed trees were opposite. In this study, the roles of maximum height and seed mass in determining species distribution along elevation and aspect gradients were highlighted where plants are confronted with low-temperature and soil moisture deficit conditions. This work contributes to the understanding of how traits may be associated with species occurrence along mesoscale environmental gradients.
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    Using data calibration to reconcile outputs from different survey methods in long-term or large-scale studies
    Jones, CS ; Duncan, DH ; Morris, WK ; Robinson, D ; Vesk, PA (SPRINGER, 2022-03-01)
    Understanding the impact of management interventions on the environment over decadal and longer timeframes is urgently required. Longitudinal or large-scale studies with consistent methods are best practice, but more commonly, small datasets with differing methods are used to achieve larger coverage. Changes in methods and interpretation affect our ability to understand data trends through time or across space, so an ability to understand and adjust for such discrepancies between datasets is important for applied ecologists. Calibration or double sampling is the key to unlocking the value from disparate datasets, allowing us to account for the differences between datasets while acknowledging the uncertainties. We use a case study of livestock grazing impacts on riparian vegetation in southeastern Australia to develop a flexible and powerful approach to this problem. Using double sampling, we estimated changes in vegetation attributes over a 12-year period using a pseudo-quantitative visual method as the starting point, and the same technique plus point-intercept survey for the second round. The disparate nature of the datasets produced uncertain estimates of change over time, but accounting for this uncertainty explicitly is precisely the objective and highlights the need to look more closely at this very common problem in environmental management, as well as the potential benefits of the double sampling approach.
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    AusTraits, a curated plant trait database for the Australian flora
    Falster, D ; Gallagher, R ; Wenk, EH ; Wright, IJ ; Indiarto, D ; Andrew, SC ; Baxter, C ; Lawson, J ; Allen, S ; Fuchs, A ; Monro, A ; Kar, F ; Adams, MA ; Ahrens, CW ; Alfonzetti, M ; Angevin, T ; Apgaua, DMG ; Arndt, S ; Atkin, OK ; Atkinson, J ; Auld, T ; Baker, A ; von Balthazar, M ; Bean, A ; Blackman, CJ ; Bloomfeld, K ; Bowman, DMJS ; Bragg, J ; Brodribb, TJ ; Buckton, G ; Burrows, G ; Caldwell, E ; Camac, J ; Carpenter, R ; Catford, J ; Cawthray, GR ; Cernusak, LA ; Chandler, G ; Chapman, AR ; Cheal, D ; Cheesman, AW ; Chen, S-C ; Choat, B ; Clinton, B ; Clode, PL ; Coleman, H ; Cornwell, WK ; Cosgrove, M ; Crisp, M ; Cross, E ; Crous, KY ; Cunningham, S ; Curran, T ; Curtis, E ; Daws, M ; DeGabriel, JL ; Denton, MD ; Dong, N ; Du, P ; Duan, H ; Duncan, DH ; Duncan, RP ; Duretto, M ; Dwyer, JM ; Edwards, C ; Esperon-Rodriguez, M ; Evans, JR ; Everingham, SE ; Farrell, C ; Firn, J ; Fonseca, CR ; French, BJ ; Frood, D ; Funk, JL ; Geange, SR ; Ghannoum, O ; Gleason, SM ; Gosper, CR ; Gray, E ; Groom, PK ; Grootemaat, S ; Gross, C ; Guerin, G ; Guja, L ; Hahs, AK ; Harrison, MT ; Hayes, PE ; Henery, M ; Hochuli, D ; Howell, J ; Huang, G ; Hughes, L ; Huisman, J ; Ilic, J ; Jagdish, A ; Jin, D ; Jordan, G ; Jurado, E ; Kanowski, J ; Kasel, S ; Kellermann, J ; Kenny, B ; Kohout, M ; Kooyman, RM ; Kotowska, MM ; Lai, HR ; Laliberte, E ; Lambers, H ; Lamont, BB ; Lanfear, R ; van Langevelde, F ; Laughlin, DC ; Laugier-kitchener, B-A ; Laurance, S ; Lehmann, CER ; Leigh, A ; Leishman, MR ; Lenz, T ; Lepschi, B ; Lewis, JD ; Lim, F ; Liu, U ; Lord, J ; Lusk, CH ; Macinnis-Ng, C ; McPherson, H ; Magallon, S ; Manea, A ; Lopez-Martinez, A ; Mayfeld, M ; McCarthy, JK ; Meers, T ; van der Merwe, M ; Metcalfe, DJ ; Milberg, P ; Mokany, K ; Moles, AT ; Moore, BD ; Moore, N ; Morgan, JW ; Morris, W ; Muir, A ; Munroe, S ; Nicholson, A ; Nicolle, D ; Nicotra, AB ; Niinemets, U ; North, T ; O'Reilly-Nugent, A ; O'Sullivan, OS ; Oberle, B ; Onoda, Y ; Ooi, MKJ ; Osborne, CP ; Paczkowska, G ; Pekin, B ; Pereira, CG ; Pickering, C ; Pickup, M ; Pollock, LJ ; Poot, P ; Powell, JR ; Power, S ; Prentice, IC ; Prior, L ; Prober, SM ; Read, J ; Reynolds, V ; Richards, AE ; Richardson, B ; Roderick, ML ; Rosell, JA ; Rossetto, M ; Rye, B ; Rymer, PD ; Sams, M ; Sanson, G ; Sauquet, H ; Schmidt, S ; Schoenenberger, J ; Schulze, E-D ; Sendall, K ; Sinclair, S ; Smith, B ; Smith, R ; Soper, F ; Sparrow, B ; Standish, RJ ; Staples, TL ; Stephens, R ; Szota, C ; Taseski, G ; Tasker, E ; Thomas, F ; Tissue, DT ; Tjoelker, MG ; Tng, DYP ; de Tombeur, F ; Tomlinson, K ; Turner, NC ; Veneklaas, EJ ; Venn, S ; Vesk, P ; Vlasveld, C ; Vorontsova, MS ; Warren, CA ; Warwick, N ; Weerasinghe, LK ; Wells, J ; Westoby, M ; White, M ; Williams, NSG ; Wills, J ; Wilson, PG ; Yates, C ; Zanne, AE ; Zemunik, G ; Zieminska, K (NATURE PORTFOLIO, 2021-09-30)
    We introduce the AusTraits database - a compilation of values of plant traits for taxa in the Australian flora (hereafter AusTraits). AusTraits synthesises data on 448 traits across 28,640 taxa from field campaigns, published literature, taxonomic monographs, and individual taxon descriptions. Traits vary in scope from physiological measures of performance (e.g. photosynthetic gas exchange, water-use efficiency) to morphological attributes (e.g. leaf area, seed mass, plant height) which link to aspects of ecological variation. AusTraits contains curated and harmonised individual- and species-level measurements coupled to, where available, contextual information on site properties and experimental conditions. This article provides information on version 3.0.2 of AusTraits which contains data for 997,808 trait-by-taxon combinations. We envision AusTraits as an ongoing collaborative initiative for easily archiving and sharing trait data, which also provides a template for other national or regional initiatives globally to fill persistent gaps in trait knowledge.
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    Predicting reliability through structured expert elicitation with repliCATS (Collaborative Assessments for Trustworthy Science)
    Fraser, H ; Bush, M ; Wintle, B ; Mody, F ; Smith, ET ; Hanea, A ; Gould, E ; Hemming, V ; Hamilton, DG ; Rumpff, L ; Wilkinson, DP ; Pearson, R ; Singleton Thorn, F ; Ashton, R ; Willcox, A ; Gray, CT ; Head, A ; Ross, M ; Groenewegen, R ; Marcoci, A ; Vercammen, A ; Parker, TH ; Hoekstra, R ; Nakagawa, S ; Mandel, DR ; van Ravenzwaaij, D ; McBride, M ; Sinnott, RO ; Vesk, PA ; Burgman, M ; Fidler, F (Early Release, 2021-02-22)

    Replication is a hallmark of scientific research. As replications of individual studies are resource intensive, techniques for predicting the replicability are required. We introduce a new technique to evaluating replicability, the repliCATS (Collaborative Assessments for Trustworthy Science) process, a structured expert elicitation approach based on the IDEA protocol. The repliCATS process is delivered through an underpinning online platform and applied to the evaluation of research claims in social and behavioural sciences. This process can be deployed for both rapid assessment of small numbers of claims, and assessment of high volumes of claims over an extended period. Pilot data suggests that the accuracy of the repliCATS process meets or exceeds that of other techniques used to predict replicability. An important advantage of the repliCATS process is that it collects qualitative data that has the potential to assist with problems like understanding the limits of generalizability of scientific claims. The repliCATS process has potential applications in alternative peer review and in the allocation of effort for replication studies.

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    PHENOTYPIC PLASTICITY MASKS RANGE-WIDE GENETIC DIFFERENTIATION FOR VEGETATIVE BUT NOT REPRODUCTIVE TRAITS IN A SHORT-LIVED PLANT
    Villellas, J ; Ehrlen, J ; Crone, EE ; Csergo, AM ; Garcia, MB ; Laine, A-L ; Roach, DA ; Salguero-Gomez, R ; Wardle, GM ; Childs, DZ ; Elderd, BD ; Finn, A ; Munne-Bosch, S ; Bachelot, B ; Bodis, J ; Bucharova, A ; Caruso, CM ; Catford, JA ; Coghill, M ; Compagnoni, A ; Duncan, RP ; Dwyer, JM ; Ferguson, A ; Fraser, LH ; Griffoul, E ; Groenteman, R ; Hamre, LN ; Helm, A ; Kelly, R ; Laanisto, L ; Lonati, M ; Munzbergova, Z ; Nuche, P ; Olsen, SL ; Oprea, A ; Partel, M ; Petry, WK ; Ramula, S ; Rasmussen, PU ; Enri, SR ; Roeder, A ; Roscher, C ; Schultz, C ; Skarpaas, O ; Smith, AL ; Tack, AJM ; Topper, JP ; Vesk, PA ; Vose, GE ; Wandrag, E ; Wingler, A ; Buckley, YM ; Violle, C (WILEY, 2021-08-05)
    Genetic differentiation and phenotypic plasticity jointly shape intraspecific trait variation, but their roles differ among traits. In short-lived plants, reproductive traits may be more genetically determined due to their impact on fitness, whereas vegetative traits may show higher plasticity to buffer short-term perturbations. Combining a multi-treatment greenhouse experiment with observational field data throughout the range of a widespread short-lived herb, Plantago lanceolata, we (1) disentangled genetic and plastic responses of functional traits to a set of environmental drivers and (2) assessed how genetic differentiation and plasticity shape observational trait-environment relationships. Reproductive traits showed distinct genetic differentiation that largely determined observational patterns, but only when correcting traits for differences in biomass. Vegetative traits showed higher plasticity and opposite genetic and plastic responses, masking the genetic component underlying field-observed trait variation. Our study suggests that genetic differentiation may be inferred from observational data only for the traits most closely related to fitness.
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    Eliciting group judgements about replicability: A technical implementation of the IDEA Protocol
    Pearson, ER ; Fraser, H ; Bush, M ; Mody, F ; Widjaja, I ; Head, A ; Wilkinson, DP ; Wintle, B ; Sinnott, R ; Vesk, P ; Burgman, M ; Fidler, F (Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2021-01-01)
    In recent years there has been increased interest in replicating prior research. One of the biggest challenges to assessing replicability is the cost in resources and time that it takes to repeat studies. Thus there is an impetus to develop rapid elicitation protocols that can, in a practical manner, estimate the likelihood that research findings will successfully replicate. We employ a novel implementation of the IDEA ('Investigate', 'Discuss', 'Estimate' and 'Aggregate) protocol, realised through the repliCATS platform. The repliCATS platform is designed to scalably elicit expert opinion about replicability of social and behavioural science research. The IDEA protocol provides a structured methodology for eliciting judgements and reasoning from groups. This paper describes the repliCATS platform as a multi-user cloud-based software platform featuring (1) a technical implementation of the IDEA protocol for eliciting expert opinion on research replicability, (2) capture of consent and demographic data, (3) on-line training on replication concepts, and (4) exporting of completed judgements. The platform has, to date, evaluated 3432 social and behavioural science research claims from 637 participants.