For the first time, scientists have shown precisely how weather conditions cause multiple populations of a species within a large geographical area to have simultaneous increases or decreases in their abundance, a process known as "spatial synchrony." A paper published this week in the journal Nature reveals that occasional severe weather conditions directly cause the rapid increase or decrease in abundance and mobility of an intestinal parasite that infects populations of an important game bird hunted on country estates in Northern England, causing them all to either decline or thrive simultaneously in breeding success. The research is the first to pinpoint the specific role of climate in causing such incidents of spatial synchrony in animals.
"Our study shows that climate events can synchronize the growth trajectory of populations over large areas, having effects on ecological processes that could be large and far reaching, including an increased risk of extinctions in vulnerable populations, says Peter J. Hudson, the Willaman Chair in Biology at Penn State University and the director of The Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State. Other members of the research team include Isabella M. Cattadori, a postdoctoral research associate at Penn State, and Daniel T. Haydon, a lecturer at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom.
The researchers coupled their detailed field studies and ecological knowledge with statistical analyses of data that Hudson had obtained from the owners of 100 individual estates in Northern England, where populations of Red Grouse have been maintained as game birds for more than 100 years. The team used a statistical technique recently developed by Haydon -- a powerful new form of time-series analysis -- to analyze data on the numbers of Red Grouse that hunters annually harvested since as far back as 1840. The records provide a gauge of the abundance of each of the 100 independently managed populations fPage: 1 2 3 Related biology news :1
Contact: Barbara K. Kennedy
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