Distinguishing between effects of natural and anthropogenic environmental factors on ecosystems is a fundamental problem in environmental science. In river systems the longitudinal gradient of environmental factors is one of the most relevant sources of dissimilarity between communities that could be confounded with anthropogenic disturbances. To test the hypothesis that in macroinvertebrate communities the distribution of species' sensitivity to organic toxicants is independent of natural longitudinal factors, but depends on contamination with organic toxicants, we analysed the relationship between community sensitivity SPEAR(organic) (average community sensitivity to organic toxicants) and natural and anthropogenic environmental factors in a large-scale river system, from alpine streams to a lowland river. The results show that SPEAR(organic) is largely independent of natural longitudinal factors, but strongly dependent on contamination with organic toxicants (petrochemicals and synthetic surfactants). Usage of SPEAR(organic) as a stressor-specific longitude-independent measure will facilitate detection of community disturbance by organic toxicants.
Birds and other animals are frequently killed by cars, causing the death of many million individuals per year. Why some species are killed more often than others has never been investigated. In this work hypothesized that risk taking behavior may affect the probability of certain kinds of individuals being killed disproportionately often. Furthermore, behavior of individuals on roads, abundance, habitat preferences, breeding sociality, and health status may all potentially affect the risk of being killed on roads. We used information on the abundance of road kills and the abundance in the surrounding environment of 50 species of birds obtained during regular censuses in 2001-2006 in a rural site in Denmark to test these predictions. The frequency of road kills increased linearly with abundance, while the proportion of individuals sitting on the road or flying low across the road only explained little additional variation in frequency of road casualties. After having accounted for abundance, we found that species with a short flight distance and hence taking greater risks when approached by a potential cause of danger were killed disproportionately often. In addition, solitary species, species with a high prevalence of Plasmodium infection, and species with a large bursa of Fabricius for their body size had a high susceptibility to being killed by cars. These findings suggest that a range of different factors indicative of risk-taking behavior, visual acuity and health status cause certain bird species to be susceptible to casualties due to cars.
Depletion of stratospheric ozone over the Antarctic has been re-occurring yearly since 1974, leading to enhanced UV-B radiation. Arctic ozone depletion has been observed since 1990. Ozone recovery has been predicted by 2050, but no signs of recovery occur. Here we review responses of polar plants to experimentally varied UV-B through supplementation or exclusion. In supplementation studies comparing ambient and above ambient UV-B, no effect on growth occurred. UV-B-induced DNA damage, as measured in polar bryophytes, is repaired overnight by photoreactivation. With UV exclusion, growth at near ambient may be less than at below ambient UV-B levels, which relates to the UV response curve of polar plants. UV-B screening foils also alter PAR, humidity, and temperature and interactions of UV with environmental factors may occur. Plant phenolics induced by solar UV-B, as in pollen, spores and lignin, may serve as a climate proxy for past UV. Since the Antarctic and Arctic terrestrial ecosystems differ essentially, (e.g. higher species diversity and more trophic interactions in the Arctic), generalization of polar plant responses to UV-B needs caution.