Imperial College London

ProfessorRobertEwers

Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences (Silwood Park)

Professor of Ecology
 
 
 
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Contact

 

+44 (0)20 7594 2223r.ewers

 
 
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Location

 

1.4Centre for Population BiologySilwood Park

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Summary

 

Publications

Publication Type
Year
to

149 results found

Milodowski DT, Coomes DA, Swinfield T, Jucker T, Riutta T, Malhi Y, Svatek M, Kvasnica J, Burslem DFRP, Ewers RM, Teh YA, Williams Met al., 2021, The impact of logging on vertical canopy structure across a gradient of tropical forest degradation intensity in Borneo, JOURNAL OF APPLIED ECOLOGY, Vol: 58, Pages: 1764-1775, ISSN: 0021-8901

Journal article

Huaraca Huasco W, Riutta T, Girardin CAJ, Hancco Pacha F, Puma Vilca BL, Moore S, Rifai SW, del Aguila-Pasquel J, Araujo Murakami A, Freitag R, Morel AC, Demissie S, Doughty CE, Oliveras I, Galiano Cabrera DF, Durand Baca L, Farfan Amezquita F, Silva Espejo JE, da Costa ACL, Oblitas Mendoza E, Quesada CA, Evouna Ondo F, Edzang Ndong J, Jeffery KJ, Mihindou V, White LJT, N'ssi Bengone N, Ibrahim F, Addo-Danso SD, Duah-Gyamfi A, Djaney Djagbletey G, Owusu-Afriyie K, Amissah L, Mbou AT, Marthews TR, Metcalfe DB, Aragao LEO, Marimon-Junior BH, Marimon BS, Majalap N, Adu-Bredu S, Abernethy KA, Silman M, Ewers RM, Meir P, Malhi Yet al., 2021, Fine root dynamics across pantropical rainforest ecosystems, GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY, Vol: 27, Pages: 3657-3680, ISSN: 1354-1013

Journal article

Ewers RM, Nathan SKSS, Lee PAK, 2021, African swine fever ravaging Borneo's wild pigs, NATURE, Vol: 593, Pages: 37-37, ISSN: 0028-0836

Journal article

Boyle MJW, Bishop TR, Luke SH, van Breugel M, Evans TA, Pfeifer M, Fayle TM, Hardwick SR, Lane-Shaw RI, Yusah KM, Ashford ICR, Ashford OS, Garnett E, Turner EC, Wilkinson CL, Chung AYC, Ewers RMet al., 2021, Localised climate change defines ant communities in human-modified tropical landscapes, Functional Ecology, Vol: 35, Pages: 1094-1108, ISSN: 0269-8463

Logging and habitat conversion create hotter microclimates in tropical forest landscapes, representing a powerful form of localised anthropogenic climate change. It is widely believed that these emergent conditions are responsible for driving changes in communities of organisms found in modified tropical forests, although the empirical evidence base for this is lacking.Here we investigated how interactions between the physiological traits of genera and the environmental temperatures they experience lead to functional and compositional changes in communities of ants, a key organism in tropical forest ecosystems.We found that the abundance and activity of ant genera along a gradient of forest disturbance in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, was defined by an interaction between their thermal tolerance (CTmax) and environmental temperature. In more disturbed, warmer habitats, genera with high CTmax had increased relative abundance and functional activity, and those with low CTmax had decreased relative abundance and functional activity.This interaction determined abundance changes between primary and logged forest that differed in daily maximum temperature by a modest 1.1°C, and strengthened as the change in microclimate increased with disturbance. Between habitats that differed by 5.6°C (primary forest to oil palm) and 4.5°C (logged forest to oil palm), a 1°C difference in CTmax among genera led to a 23% and 16% change in relative abundance, and a 22% and 17% difference in functional activity. CTmax was negatively correlated with body size and trophic position, with ants becoming significantly smaller and less predatory as microclimate temperatures increased.Our results provide evidence to support the widely held, but never directly tested, assumption that physiological tolerances underpin the influence of disturbance‐induced microclimate change on the abundance and function of invertebrates in tropical landscapes.

Journal article

Nunes MH, Jucker T, Riutta T, Svatek M, Kvasnica J, Rejzek M, Matula R, Majalap N, Ewers RM, Swinfield T, Valbuena R, Vaughn NR, Asner GP, Coomes DAet al., 2021, Recovery of logged forest fragments in a human-modified tropical landscape during the 2015-16 El Nino, Nature Communications, Vol: 12, Pages: 1-11, ISSN: 2041-1723

The past 40 years in Southeast Asia have seen about 50% of lowland rainforests converted to oil palm and other plantations, and much of the remaining forest heavily logged. Little is known about how fragmentation influences recovery and whether climate change will hamper restoration. Here, we use repeat airborne LiDAR surveys spanning the hot and dry 2015-16 El Niño Southern Oscillation event to measure canopy height growth across 3,300 ha of regenerating tropical forests spanning a logging intensity gradient in Malaysian Borneo. We show that the drought led to increased leaf shedding and branch fall. Short forest, regenerating after heavy logging, continued to grow despite higher evaporative demand, except when it was located close to oil palm plantations. Edge effects from the plantations extended over 300 metres into the forests. Forest growth on hilltops and slopes was particularly impacted by the combination of fragmentation and drought, but even riparian forests located within 40 m of oil palm plantations lost canopy height during the drought. Our results suggest that small patches of logged forest within plantation landscapes will be slow to recover, particularly as ENSO events are becoming more frequent.

Journal article

Gray REJ, Ewers RM, 2021, Monitoring forest phenology in a changing world, Forests, Vol: 12, Pages: 1-24, ISSN: 1999-4907

Plant phenology is strongly interlinked with ecosystem processes and biodiversity. Like many other aspects of ecosystem functioning, it is affected by habitat and climate change, with both global change drivers altering the timings and frequency of phenological events. As such, there has been an increased focus in recent years to monitor phenology in different biomes. A range of approaches for monitoring phenology have been developed to increase our understanding on its role in ecosystems, ranging from the use of satellites and drones to collection traps, each with their own merits and limitations. Here, we outline the trade-offs between methods (spatial resolution, temporal resolution, cost, data processing), and discuss how their use can be optimised in different environments and for different goals. We also emphasise emerging technologies that will be the focus of monitoring in the years to follow and the challenges of monitoring phenology that still need to be addressed. We conclude that there is a need to integrate studies that incorporate multiple monitoring methods, allowing the strengths of one to compensate for the weaknesses of another, with a view to developing robust methods for upscaling phenological observations from point locations to biome and global scales and reconciling data from varied sources and environments. Such developments are needed if we are to accurately quantify the impacts of a changing world on plant phenology.

Journal article

Aguirre-Gutierrez J, Rifal S, Shenkin A, Oliveras I, Bentley LP, Svatek M, Girardin CAJ, Both S, Riutta T, Berenguer E, Kissling WD, Bauman D, Raab N, Moore S, Farfan-Rios W, Simoes Figueiredo AE, Reis SM, Ndong JE, Ondo FE, Bengone NN, Mihindou V, Moraes de Seixas MM, Adu-Bredu S, Abemethy K, Asner GP, Barlow J, Burstem DFRP, Coomes DA, Cernusak LA, Dargle GC, Enquist BJ, Ewers RM, Ferreira J, Jeffery KJ, Joly CA, Lewis SL, Marimon-Junior BH, Martin RE, Morandi PS, Phillips OL, Quesada CA, Salinas N, Marimon BS, Silman M, Teh YA, White LJT, Malhi Yet al., 2021, Pantropical modelling of canopy functional traits using Sentinel-2 remote sensing data, REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT, Vol: 252, ISSN: 0034-4257

Journal article

Banks-Leite C, Ewers R, Folkard-Tapp H, Fraser Aet al., 2020, Countering the effects of habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation through habitat restoration, One Earth, Vol: 3, Pages: 672-676, ISSN: 2590-3322

Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation impacts are the most direct threat to global biodiversity. In this Primer, we discuss how these three forms of habitat transformation are inextricably intertwined, and how their effects on biodiversity and ecosystems are often context-specific. We draw on recent analyses that have explored this context-dependence directly, to discuss how local-scale impacts of habitat transformation are mediated by biogeographic-scale variation in evolutionary histories and species’ geographic ranges. We also discuss how changes to ecosystem functions and services in modified habitats can be just as context-dependent – and how these changes are further obscured by high levels of ecological redundancy in species functions, which can confer resilience to habitat transformation. To avoid the impending extinction of millions of species, it is crucial that the impacts of habitat transformation are mitigated through a combination of preventing further habitat loss while simultaneously extending and repairing the habitats that remain.

Journal article

Sethi S, Ewers R, Jones N, Signorelli A, Picinali L, Orme CDLet al., 2020, SAFE Acoustics: an open-source, real-time eco-acoustic monitoring network in the tropical rainforests of Borneo, Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Vol: 11, Pages: 1182-1185, ISSN: 2041-210X

1. Automated monitoring approaches offer an avenue to unlocking large‐scale insight into how ecosystems respond to human pressures. However, since data collection and data analyses are often treated independently, there are currently no open‐source examples of end‐to‐end, real‐time ecological monitoring networks. 2. Here, we present the complete implementation of an autonomous acoustic monitoring network deployed in the tropical rainforests of Borneo. Real‐time audio is uploaded remotely from the field, indexed by a central database, and delivered via an API to a public‐facing website.3. We provide the open‐source code and design of our monitoring devices, the central web2py database, and the ReactJS website. Furthermore, we demonstrate an extension of this infrastructure to deliver real‐time analyses of the eco‐acoustic data. 4. By detailing a fully functional, open source, and extensively tested design, our work will accelerate the rate at which fully autonomous monitoring networks mature from technological curiosities, and towards genuinely impactful tools in ecology.

Journal article

Sethi SS, Ewers RM, Jones NS, Sleutel J, Shabrani A, Zulkifli N, Picinali Let al., 2020, Soundscapes predict species occurrence in tropical forests, Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Accurate occurrence data is necessary for the conservation of keystone or endangered species, but acquiring it is usually slow, laborious, and costly. Automated acoustic monitoring offers a scalable alternative to manual surveys, but identifying species vocalisations requires large manually annotated training datasets, and is not always possible (e.g., for silent species). A new, intermediate approach is needed that rapidly predicts species occurrence without requiring extensive labelled data.We investigated whether local soundscapes could be used to infer the presence of 32 avifaunal and seven herpetofaunal species across a tropical forest degradation gradient in Sabah, Malaysia. We developed a machine-learning based approach to characterise species indicative soundscapes, training our models on a coarsely labelled manual point-count dataset.Soundscapes successfully predicted the occurrence of 34 out of the 39 species across the two taxonomic groups, with area under the curve (AUC) metrics of up to 0.87 (Bold-striped Tit-babbler Macronus bornensis). The highest accuracies were achieved for common species with strong temporal occurrence patterns.Soundscapes were a better predictor of species occurrence than above-ground biomass – a metric often used to quantify habitat quality across forest degradation gradients.Synthesis and applications: Our results demonstrate that soundscapes can be used to efficiently predict the occurrence of a wide variety of species. This provides a new direction for audio data to deliver large-scale, accurate assessments of habitat suitability using cheap and easily obtained field datasets.

Working paper

Wilkinson CL, Chua KWJ, Fiala R, Liew JH, Kemp V, Hadi Fikri A, Ewers RM, Kratina P, Yeo DCJet al., 2020, Forest conversion to oil palm compresses food chain length in tropical streams., Ecology, Vol: 102, Pages: 1-10, ISSN: 0012-9658

In Southeast Asia, biodiversity-rich forests are being extensively logged and converted to oil palm monocultures. Although the impacts of these changes on biodiversity are largely well documented, we know little about how these large-scale impacts affect freshwater trophic ecology. We used stable isotope analyses (SIA) to determine the impacts of land-use changes on the relative contribution of allochthonous and autochthonous basal resources in 19 stream food webs. We also applied compound-specific SIA and bulk-SIA to determine the trophic position of fish apex predators and meso-predators (invertivores and omnivores). There was no difference in the contribution of autochthonous resources in either consumer group (70-82%) among streams with different land-use type. There was no change in trophic position for meso-predators, but trophic position decreased significantly for apex predators in oil palm plantation streams compared to forest streams. This change in maximum food chain length was due to turnover in identity of the apex predator among land-use types. Disruption of aquatic trophic ecology, through reduction in food chain length and shift in basal resources, may cause significant changes in biodiversity as well as ecosystem functions and services. Understanding this change can help develop more focused priorities for mediating the negative impacts of human activities on freshwater ecosystems.

Journal article

Wiederkehr F, Wilkinson CL, Zeng Y, Yeo DCJ, Ewers RM, O'Gorman EJet al., 2020, Urbanisation affects ecosystem functioning more than structure in tropical streams, Biological Conservation, Vol: 249, Pages: 1-19, ISSN: 0006-3207

Urbanisation poses a clear threat to tropical freshwater streams, yet fundamental knowledge gaps hinder our ability to effectively conserve stream biodiversity and preserve ecosystem functioning. Here, we studied the impact of urbanisation on structural and functional ecosystem responses in low-order streams in Singapore, a tropical city with a mosaic landscape of protected natural forests, managed buffer zones (between forest and open-country habitats), and built-up urban areas. We quantified an urbanisation gradient based on landscape, in-stream, and riparian conditions, and found an association between urbanisation and pollution-tolerant macroinvertebrates (e.g. freshwater snail and worm species) in litter bags. We also found greater macroinvertebrate abundance (mean individuals bag−1; forest: 30.3, buffer: 70.1, urban: 109.0) and richness (mean taxa bag−1; forest: 4.53, buffer: 4.75, urban: 7.50) in urban streams, but similar diversity across habitats. Higher levels of primary productivity (measured from algal accrual on ceramic tiles) and microbial decomposition (measured from litter-mass loss in mesh bags) at urban sites indicate rapid microbial activity at higher light, temperature, and nutrient levels. We found that urbanisation affected function 32% more than structure in the studied tropical streams, likely driven by greater algal growth in urban streams. These changes in ecological processes (i.e. ecosystem functioning) possibly lead to a loss of ecosystem services, which would negatively affect ecology, society, and economy. Our results point to possible management strategies (e.g. increasing vegetation density through buffer park creation) to reduce the impacts of urbanisation, restore vital ecosystem functions in tropical streams, and create habitat niches for native species.

Journal article

Muscarella R, Emilio T, Phillips OL, Lewis SL, Slik F, Baker WJ, Couvreur TLP, Eiserhardt WL, Svenning J, AffumBaffoe K, Aiba S, Almeida EC, Almeida SS, Oliveira EA, ÁlvarezDávila E, Alves LF, AlvezValles CM, Carvalho FA, Guarin FA, Andrade A, Aragão LEOC, Murakami AA, Arroyo L, Ashton PS, Corredor GAA, Baker TR, Camargo PB, Barlow J, Bastin J, Bengone NN, Berenguer E, Berry N, Blanc L, BöhningGaese K, Bonal D, Bongers F, Bradford M, Brambach F, Brearley FQ, Brewer SW, Camargo JLC, Campbell DG, Castilho CV, Castro W, Catchpole D, Cerón Martínez CE, Chen S, Chhang P, Cho P, Chutipong W, Clark C, Collins M, Comiskey JA, Medina MNC, Costa FRC, Culmsee H, DavidHiguita H, Davidar P, AguilaPasquel J, Derroire G, Di Fiore A, Van Do T, Doucet J, Dourdain A, Drake DR, Ensslin A, Erwin T, Ewango CEN, Ewers RM, Fauset S, Feldpausch TR, Ferreira J, Ferreira LV, Fischer M, Franklin J, Fredriksson GM, Gillespie TW, Gilpin M, Gonmadje C, Gunatilleke AUN, Hakeem KR, Hall JS, Hamer KC, Harris DJ, Harrison RD, Hector A, Hemp A, Herault B, Pizango CGH, Coronado ENH, Hubau W, Hussain MS, Ibrahim F, Imai N, Joly CA, Joseph S K A, Kartawinata K, Kassi J, Killeen TJ, Kitayama K, Klitgård BB, Kooyman R, Labrière N, Larney E, Laumonier Y, Laurance SG, Laurance WF, Lawes MJ, Levesley A, Lisingo J, Lovejoy T, Lovett JC, Lu X, Lykke AM, Magnusson WE, Mahayani NPD, Malhi Y, Mansor A, Peña JLM, MarimonJunior BH, Marshall AR, Melgaco K, Bautista CM, Mihindou V, Millet J, Milliken W, Mohandass D, Mendoza ALM, Mugerwa B, Nagamasu H, Nagy L, Seuaturien N, Nascimento MT, Neill DA, Neto LM, Nilus R, Vargas MPN, Nurtjahya E, Araújo RNO, Onrizal O, Palacios WA, PalaciosRamos S, Parren M, Paudel E, Morandi PS, Pennington RT, Pickavance G, Pipoly JJ, Pitman NCA, Poedjirahajoe E, Poorter L, Poulsen JR, Rama Chandra Prasad P, Prieto A, Puyravaud J, Qie L, Quesada CA, RamírezAngulo H, Razafimahaimodison JC, Reitsma JM, RequenaRojas EJ, Correa ZR, Rodriguez CR, Roopsind A, Rovero F, Rozak A, Lleraset al., 2020, The global abundance of tree palms, Global Ecology and Biogeography, Vol: 29, Pages: 1495-1514, ISSN: 1466-822X

AimPalms are an iconic, diverse and often abundant component of tropical ecosystems that provide many ecosystem services. Being monocots, tree palms are evolutionarily, morphologically and physiologically distinct from other trees, and these differences have important consequences for ecosystem services (e.g., carbon sequestration and storage) and in terms of responses to climate change. We quantified global patterns of tree palm relative abundance to help improve understanding of tropical forests and reduce uncertainty about these ecosystems under climate change.LocationTropical and subtropical moist forests.Time periodCurrent.Major taxa studiedPalms (Arecaceae).MethodsWe assembled a pantropical dataset of 2,548 forest plots (covering 1,191 ha) and quantified tree palm (i.e., ≥10 cm diameter at breast height) abundance relative to co‐occurring non‐palm trees. We compared the relative abundance of tree palms across biogeographical realms and tested for associations with palaeoclimate stability, current climate, edaphic conditions and metrics of forest structure.ResultsOn average, the relative abundance of tree palms was more than five times larger between Neotropical locations and other biogeographical realms. Tree palms were absent in most locations outside the Neotropics but present in >80% of Neotropical locations. The relative abundance of tree palms was more strongly associated with local conditions (e.g., higher mean annual precipitation, lower soil fertility, shallower water table and lower plot mean wood density) than metrics of long‐term climate stability. Life‐form diversity also influenced the patterns; palm assemblages outside the Neotropics comprise many non‐tree (e.g., climbing) palms. Finally, we show that tree palms can influence estimates of above‐ground biomass, but the magnitude and direction of the effect require additional work.ConclusionsTree palms are not only quintessentially tropical, but they are also overwhelmingly Neotropical. Futur

Journal article

Sethi S, Jones NS, Fulcher B, Picinali L, Clink DJ, Klinck H, Orme CDLO, Wrege P, Ewers Ret al., 2020, Characterising soundscapes across diverse ecosystems using a universal acoustic feature set, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, Vol: 117, Pages: 17049-17055, ISSN: 0027-8424

Natural habitats are being impacted by human pressures at an alarming rate. Monitoring these ecosystem-level changes often requires labor-intensive surveys that are unable to detect rapid or unanticipated environmental changes. Here we have developed a generalizable, data-driven solution to this challenge using eco-acoustic data. We exploited a convolutional neural network to embed soundscapes from a variety of ecosystems into a common acoustic space. In both supervised and unsupervised modes, this allowed us to accurately quantify variation in habitat quality across space and in biodiversity through time. On the scale of seconds, we learned a typical soundscape model that allowed automatic identification of anomalous sounds in playback experiments, providing a potential route for real-time automated detection of irregular environmental behavior including illegal logging and hunting. Our highly generalizable approach, and the common set of features, will enable scientists to unlock previously hidden insights from acoustic data and offers promise as a backbone technology for global collaborative autonomous ecosystem monitoring efforts.

Journal article

Gregory N, 2020, Vectorial capacity across an environmental gradient

Disease transmitted by mosquitoes present some of the most pressing challenges facing human health today. Land-use change is a key driver of disease emergence, however the mechanisms linking environmental covariates of change, such as temperature, to the transmission potential of mosquitoes is poorly understood. Studies exploring these relationships have largely been correlative in nature, and thus have limited capacity to predict dynamics through space and time. Mechanistic approaches provide a valuable framework for understanding the processes underlying transmission, however they suffer from a dearth of field data on fundamental mosquito ecology. In both approaches, the environmental data used is typically coarse in scale and interpolated from weather stations located in open areas. In reality, local climatic conditions can vary considerably over fine spatial and temporal scales, particularly in dynamic working landscapes. Wild mosquitoes experience and respond to this highly dynamic environment, and failing to account for this variation may have significant implications for the accuracy of epidemiological models. This thesis uses an established epidemiological framework to explore the effects of tropical forest conversion to oil palm plantation on the potential for Ae. albopictus mosquitoes to transmit disease. Using field-derived microclimate data and published thermal responses of mosquito traits, I first examine how the scale of environmental data affects predictions of mosquito demography under land-use change. Next, I conduct field experiments to investigate whether microclimate heterogeneity across a land-use gradient drives variation in the rates of larval development. By pairing fine-scale microclimate data with temperature-dependent trait estimates, I find that forest conversion significantly increases the potential of Ae. albopictus to transmit disease. Together, these findings advance our understanding of Ae. albopictus ecology, and highlight the impo

Thesis dissertation

Gregory N, 2020, Vectorial capacity across an environmental gradient

Disease transmitted by mosquitoes present some of the most pressing challenges facing human health today. Land-use change is a key driver of disease emergence, however the mechanisms linking environmental covariates of change, such as temperature, to the transmission potential of mosquitoes is poorly understood. Studies exploring these relationships have largely been correlative in nature, and thus have limited capacity to predict dynamics through space and time. Mechanistic approaches provide a valuable framework for understanding the processes underlying transmission, however they suffer from a dearth of field data on fundamental mosquito ecology. In both approaches, the environmental data used is typically coarse in scale and interpolated from weather stations located in open areas. In reality, local climatic conditions can vary considerably over fine spatial and temporal scales, particularly in dynamic working landscapes. Wild mosquitoes experience and respond to this highly dynamic environment, and failing to account for this variation may have significant implications for the accuracy of epidemiological models. This thesis uses an established epidemiological framework to explore the effects of tropical forest conversion to oil palm plantation on the potential for Ae. albopictus mosquitoes to transmit disease. Using field-derived microclimate data and published thermal responses of mosquito traits, I first examine how the scale of environmental data affects predictions of mosquito demography under land-use change. Next, I conduct field experiments to investigate whether microclimate heterogeneity across a land-use gradient drives variation in the rates of larval development. By pairing fine-scale microclimate data with temperature-dependent trait estimates, I find that forest conversion significantly increases the potential of Ae. albopictus to transmit disease. Together, these findings advance our understanding of Ae. albopictus ecology, and highlight the impo

Thesis dissertation

Swinfield T, Both S, Riutta T, Bongalov B, Elias D, Majalap-Lee N, Ostle N, Svatek M, Kvasnica J, Milodowski D, Jucker T, Ewers RM, Zhang Y, Johnson D, Teh YA, Burslem DFRP, Malhi Y, Coomes Det al., 2019, Imaging spectroscopy reveals the effects of topography and logging on the leaf chemistry of tropical forest canopy trees, Global Change Biology, Vol: 26, Pages: 989-1002, ISSN: 1354-1013

Logging, pervasive across the lowland tropics, affects millions of hectares of forest, yet its influence on nutrient cycling remains poorly understood. One hypothesis is that logging influences phosphorus (P) cycling, because this scarce nutrient is removed in extracted timber and eroded soil, leading to shifts in ecosystem functioning and community composition. However, testing this is challenging because P varies within landscapes as a function of geology, topography and climate. Superimposed upon these trends are compositional changes in logged forests, with species with more acquisitive traits, characterized by higher foliar P concentrations, more dominant. It is difficult to resolve these patterns using traditional field approaches alone. Here, we use airborne light detection and ranging‐guided hyperspectral imagery to map foliar nutrient (i.e. P, nitrogen [N]) concentrations, calibrated using field measured traits, over 400 km2 of northeastern Borneo, including a landscape‐level disturbance gradient spanning old‐growth to repeatedly logged forests. The maps reveal that canopy foliar P and N concentrations decrease with elevation. These relationships were not identified using traditional field measurements of leaf and soil nutrients. After controlling for topography, canopy foliar nutrient concentrations were lower in logged forest than in old‐growth areas, reflecting decreased nutrient availability. However, foliar nutrient concentrations and specific leaf area were greatest in relatively short patches in logged areas, reflecting a shift in composition to pioneer species with acquisitive traits. N:P ratio increased in logged forest, suggesting reduced soil P availability through disturbance. Through the first landscape scale assessment of how functional leaf traits change in response to logging, we find that differences from old‐growth forest become more pronounced as logged forests increase in stature over time, suggesting exacerbated phosphorus limitation as

Journal article

Betts MG, Wolf C, Pfeifer M, Banks-Leite C, Arroyo-Rodríguez V, Ribeiro DB, Barlow J, Eigenbrod F, Faria D, Fletcher RJ, Hadley AS, Hawes JE, Holt RD, Klingbeil B, Kormann U, Lens L, Levi T, Medina-Rangel GF, Melles SL, Mezger D, Morante-Filho JC, Orme CDL, Peres CA, Phalan BT, Pidgeon A, Possingham H, Ripple WJ, Slade EM, Somarriba E, Tobias JA, Tylianakis JM, Urbina-Cardona JN, Valente JJ, Watling JI, Wells K, Wearn OR, Wood E, Young R, Ewers RMet al., 2019, Extinction filters mediate the global effects of habitat fragmentation on animals, Science, Vol: 366, Pages: 1236-1239, ISSN: 0036-8075

Habitat loss is the primary driver of biodiversity decline worldwide, but the effects of fragmentation (the spatial arrangement of remaining habitat) are debated. We tested the hypothesis that forest fragmentation sensitivity-affected by avoidance of habitat edges-should be driven by historical exposure to, and therefore species' evolutionary responses to disturbance. Using a database containing 73 datasets collected worldwide (encompassing 4489 animal species), we found that the proportion of fragmentation-sensitive species was nearly three times as high in regions with low rates of historical disturbance compared with regions with high rates of disturbance (i.e., fires, glaciation, hurricanes, and deforestation). These disturbances coincide with a latitudinal gradient in which sensitivity increases sixfold at low versus high latitudes. We conclude that conservation efforts to limit edges created by fragmentation will be most important in the world's tropical forests.

Journal article

Sethi S, Jones N, Fulcher B, Picinali L, Clink D, Klinck H, Orme D, Wrege P, Ewers Ret al., 2019, Combining machine learning and a universal acoustic feature-set yields efficient automated monitoring of ecosystems, Publisher: bioRxiv

Natural habitats are being impacted by human pressures at an alarming rate. Monitoring these ecosystem-level changes often requires labour-intensive surveys that are unable to detect rapid or unanticipated environmental changes. Here we developed a generalisable, data-driven solution to this challenge using eco-acoustic data. We exploited a convolutional neural network to embed ecosystem soundscapes from a wide variety of biomes into a common acoustic space. In both supervised and unsupervised modes, this allowed us to accurately quantify variation in habitat quality across space and in biodiversity through time. On the scale of seconds, we learned a typical soundscape model that allowed automatic identification of anomalous sounds in playback experiments, paving the way for real-time detection of irregular environmental behaviour including illegal activity. Our highly generalisable approach, and the common set of features, will enable scientists to unlock previously hidden insights from eco-acoustic data and offers promise as a backbone technology for global collaborative autonomous ecosystem monitoring efforts.

Working paper

Ewers RM, Barlow J, Banks-Leite C, Rahbek Cet al., 2019, Separate authorship categories to recognize data collectors and code developers, NATURE ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION, Vol: 3, Pages: 1610-1610, ISSN: 2397-334X

Journal article

Davison CW, Chapman PM, Wearn OR, Bernard H, Ewers RMet al., 2019, Shifts in the demographics and behavior of bearded pigs (Sus barbatus) across a land-use gradient, Biotropica, Vol: 51, Pages: 938-948, ISSN: 0006-3606

Beyond broad‐scale investigations of species diversity and abundance, there is little information on how land conversion in the tropics is affecting the behavior and demographics of surviving species. To fill these knowledge gaps, we explored the effects of land‐use change on the ecologically important and threatened bearded pig (Sus barbatus) over seven years in Borneo. Random placement of camera traps across a land‐use gradient of primary forest, logged forest, and oil palm plantations (32,542 trap nights) resulted in 2,303 independent capture events. Land‐use was associated with changes in the age structure and activity patterns of photographed individuals, alongside large changes in abundance shown previously. The proportion of adults recorded declined from 92% in primary forests to 76% in logged forests, and 67% in plantations, likely indicating increased fecundity in secondary forests. Activity level (capture rate) did not vary, but activity patterns changed markedly, from diurnal in primary forests, crepuscular in logged forests, to nocturnal in plantations. These changes corresponded with avoidance of diurnal human activity and may also protect bearded pigs from increased thermal stress in warmer degraded forests. The percentage of adult captures that were groups rather than individuals increased five‐fold from primary forests (4%) to logged forests (20%), possibly due to increased mating or in response to perceived threats from indirect human disturbance. We recommend further investigation of the demographic and behavioral effects of land‐use change on keystone species as altered population structure, activity patterns, and social behavior may have knock‐on effects for entire ecosystems.

Journal article

Sharp AC, Barclay MVL, Chung AYC, Ewers RMet al., 2019, Tropical logging and deforestation impacts multiple scales of weevil beta-diversity, Biological Conservation, Vol: 234, Pages: 172-179, ISSN: 0006-3207

Half of Borneo's forest has been logged and oil palm plantations have replaced millions of hectares of forest since the 1970's. While this extensive land-use change has been shown to reduce species richness across landscapes, there is limited current knowledge on how deforestation affects the spatial arrangement of ecological communities. Identifying responses of beta-diversity to land-use change may reveal processes which could mitigate total biodiversity loss. We sampled weevils (superfamily: Curculionoidea) at multiple spatial scales across a land-use gradient at the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project in Sabah, Malaysia, in 2011–2012. We caught 160 taxa of weevil and calculated the response of alpha-diversity (1-ha scale) and beta-diversity (10-, 100-, and 1000-ha scales) to disturbance. Alpha-diversity of weevils was greatest in unlogged forest but landscape-level beta-diversity (100- and 1000-ha scale) was maintained across logged and unlogged due to high rates of spatial turnover. Turnover at smallest spatial scales (10-ha) in unlogged forest was highest in rough, flat terrain but smooth, sloping terrain had highest turnover in logged forest. Logging of flat terrain at small spatial scales has potential to decrease beta-diversity at greater scales. Beta-diversity at landscape-level in oil palm plantation remained high but was propagated by abundance shifts of few species instead of spatial turnover of many species. High temporal beta-diversity in unlogged forest was evident through periodic fluxes in abundance of many weevil species. We conclude that unlogged forest is irreplaceable for high beetle biodiversity but increased spatial turnover in some terrains may help conserve beetle communities in heavily-degraded landscapes.

Journal article

Heon SP, Chapman PM, Bernard H, Ewers RMet al., 2019, Small logging roads do not restrict movements of forest rats in Bornean logged forests, Biotropica, Vol: 51, Pages: 412-420, ISSN: 0006-3606

Selective logging is driving the proliferation of roads throughout tropical rain forests, particularly narrow, unpaved logging roads. However, little is known about the extent of road edge effects or their influence on the movements of tropical understory animal species. Here, we used forest rats to address the following questions: (a) Does the occupancy of rats differ from road edges to forest interior within logged forests? (b) Do roads inhibit the movements of rats within these forests? We established trapping grids along a road edge‐to‐forest interior gradient at four roads and in three control sites within a logged forest in Sabah, Malaysia. To quantify the probability of road crossing, rats were captured, translocated across a road, and then recaptured on subsequent nights. We caught 216 individuals of eight species on 3,024 trap nights. Rat occupancy did not differ across the gradient from road edge to interior, and 48 percent of the 105 translocated individuals crossed the roads and were recaptured. This proportion was not significantly different from that of rats returning in control sites (38% of 60 individuals), suggesting that small roads were not barriers to rat movements within logged forests. Subadults were significantly more likely to return from translocation than adults in both road and control sites. Our results are encouraging for the ecology of small mammal communities in heavily logged forests, because small logging roads do not restrict the movements of rats and therefore are unlikely to create an edge effect or influence habitat selection.

Journal article

Qie L, Telford E, Massam MR, Tangki H, Nilus R, Hector A, Ewers Ret al., 2019, Drought cuts back regeneration in logged tropical forests, Environmental Research Letters, Vol: 14, ISSN: 1748-9326

Logged tropical forests represent a major opportunity for preserving biodiversity and sequestering carbon, playing a large role in meeting global forest restoration targets. Left alone, these ecosystems have been expected to undergo natural regeneration and succession towards old growth forests, but extreme drought events may challenge this process. While old growth forests possess a certain level of resilience, we lack understanding as to how logging may affect forest responses to drought. This study examines the drought–logging interaction in seedling dynamics within a landscape of logged and unlogged forests in Sabah Malaysia, based on 73 plots monitored before and after the 2015-16 El Niño drought. Drought increased seedling mortality in all forests, but the magnitude of this impact was modulated by logging intensity, with forests with lower canopy leaf area index (LAI) and above ground biomass (AGB) experiencing greater drought induced mortality. Moreover, community traits in more heavily logged forests shifted towards being more ruderal after drought, suggesting that the trajectory of forest succession had been reversed. These results indicate that with reoccurring strong droughts under a changing climate, logged forests that have had over half of their biomass removed may suffer permanently arrested succession. Targeted management interventions may therefore be necessary to lift the vulnerable forests above the biomass threshold.

Journal article

Wilkinson CL, Yeo DCJ, Tan HH, Hadi Fikri A, Ewers RMet al., 2019, Resilience of tropical, freshwater fish (Nematabramis everetti) populations to severe drought over a land-use gradient in Borneo, Environmental Research Letters, Vol: 14, ISSN: 1748-9326

Biodiversity-rich forests in tropical Southeast Asia are being extensively logged and converted to oil-palm monocultures. In addition, extreme climatic events such as droughts are becoming more common. Land-use change and extreme climatic events are thought to have synergistic impacts on aquatic biodiversity, but few studies have directly tested this. A severe El Niño drought in Southeast Asia in early 2016 caused 16 low-order hill streams across a land-use gradient encompassing primary forest, logged forest and oil palm plantations in Sabah, Malaysia, to dry up into series of disconnected pools. The resulting disturbance (specifically, increased water temperature and decreased dissolved oxygen concentration) tolerated by the fish during the drought exceeded any worst-case scenario for climate change-induced warming. We quantified the biomass, density and movement of the dominant freshwater fish species, Nematabramis everetti (Cyprinidae), in these streams across this land-use gradient before, during, and after the 2016 El Niño drought period. Density of N. everetti was significantly lower in logged forest streams than primary forest or oil palm streams, and the biomass of individuals captured was lower during drought than prior to the drought; however, there was no change in the biomass density of individuals during drought. The distance moved by N. everetti was significantly lower during and after the drought compared to before the drought. We detected a significant antagonistic interaction on biomass of captured fish, with the magnitude of the drought impact reduced according to land-use. Populations of N. everetti were surprisingly resilient to drought and seem most affected instead by land-use. Despite this resilience, it is important to monitor how this widespread and abundant species, which provides an important ecosystem service to local human communities, is affected by future land-use and climate change, as logging, deforestation and conversi

Journal article

Chapman P, Loveridge R, Rowcliffe JM, Carbone C, Bernard H, Davison CW, Ewers RMet al., 2019, Minimal spillover of native small mammals from Bornean tropical forests into adjacent oil palm plantations, Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, Vol: 2, ISSN: 2624-893X

In the face of rapid tropical agricultural expansion, preservation of tropical forest remnants is crucially important. Forest remnants often abut the edges of new or established plantations, so landscape-level conservation requires an understanding of the balance between ecosystem services and disservices provided by forest, including potential crop yield reductions caused by species such as rodents, an important pest group in oil palm plantations. However, very little is known about the scale of any spillover of native species which inhabit forest into adjacent agricultural areas. We examined the distribution and behaviour of small mammals across an edge separating logged tropical forest and oil palm plantations in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, using a dual approach. We used a trapping grid to reveal patterns of species relative abundance across the forest-plantation edge, and tracked individuals of forest species using a spool-and-line. We uncovered little evidence that the native forest small mammal community crosses the edge and uses the plantation, although two invasive small mammal species were found across the whole edge gradient. Of 10 forest species detected, we found only the adaptable murid Maxomys whiteheadi in the plantation, where it persisted at low abundances across all sampling points, including in the plantation interior control site. This pattern is more consistent with persistence of M. whiteheadi throughout plantations than with spill-over from forest fragments. On the forest side, observed species richness of small mammals increased with distance into the interior, suggesting a negative edge effect may exist within forest remnants. Of 23 successfully tracked small mammals, only one M. whiteheadi crossed the forest-plantation edge, and overall, this species was significantly repelled from crossing into plantation habitat. Our results suggest that spillover of native small mammals contributes little to oil palm damage close to forest-plantation edges

Journal article

Gregory N, Ewers RM, Chung AYC, Cator LJet al., 2019, El Niño drought and tropical forest conversion synergistically determine mosquito development rate, Environmental Research Letters, Vol: 14, ISSN: 1748-9326

Extreme warming events can profoundly alter the transmission dynamics of mosquito–borne diseases by affecting the physiology of mosquito vectors. At local scales, temperatures are determined largely by vegetation structure and can be dramatically altered by drivers of land-use change (e.g. forest conversion). Disturbance activities can also hinder the buffering capacity of natural habitats, making them more susceptible to seasonal climate variation and extreme weather events (e.g. droughts). Using experiments spanning three years, we demonstrate that variation in microclimates due to forest conversion dramatically increases development rates in Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. However, this effect was mediated by an El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) drought event. In normal years, mean temperatures did not differ between land-use types, however mosquitoes reared in oil palm plantations typically emerged 2-3 days faster than in logged forests. During an ENSO drought, mean temperatures did differ between land-use types, but surprisingly this did not result in different mosquito development rates. Driving this idiosyncratic response may be the differences in daily temperature fluctuations between the land-use types that either push mosquito larvae towards optimal development, or over the thermal optimum, thereby reducing fitness. This work highlights the importance of considering the synergistic effects of land-use and seasonal climate variations for predicting a key disease transmission-relevant mosquito trait.

Journal article

Woon JS, Boyle MJW, Ewers RM, Chung A, Eggleton Pet al., 2019, Termite environmental tolerances are more linked to desiccation than temperature in modified tropical forests, Insectes Sociaux, Vol: 66, Pages: 57-64, ISSN: 0020-1812

Termites are vital members of old-growth tropical forests, being perhaps the main decomposers of dead plant material at all stages of humification (decay). Termite abundance and diversity drop in selectively logged forest, and it has been hypothesised that this drop is due to a low tolerance to changing micro-climatic conditions. Specifically, the thermal adaptation hypothesis suggests that tropical species are operating at, or close to, their thermal optimum, and therefore, small temperature increases can have drastic effects on abundance, however, other climatic variables such as humidity might also cause termite abundance to drop. We tested termite tolerance to these two climatic variables (temperature and humidity). We found that termites had a higher CTmax than expected, and that three traits, feeding group, body sclerotisation, and nesting type, were significantly correlated with CTmax. We found that termite desiccation tolerance was low, however, and that all termite genera lost significantly more water in a desiccated environment than in a control. Body sclerotisation, the only trait that was tested, was surprisingly not significantly correlated with desiccation tolerance. Our results suggest that desiccation, rather than ambient temperature, may be the determining factor in dictating termite distributions in modified forests. Should climate change lead to reduced humidity within tropical rainforests, termite abundances and the rates of the functions they perform could be severely reduced.

Journal article

Galan-Acedo C, Arroyo-Rodriguez V, Andresen E, Verde Arregoitia L, Vega E, Peres CA, Ewers RMet al., 2019, The conservation value of human-modified landscapes for the world's primates, Nature Communications, Vol: 10, ISSN: 2041-1723

Land-use change pushes biodiversity into human-modified landscapes, where native ecosystems are surrounded by anthropic land covers (ALCs). Yet, the ability of species to use these emerging covers remains poorly understood. We quantified the use of ALCs by primates worldwide, and analyzed species’ attributes that predict such use. Most species use secondary forests and tree plantations, while only few use human settlements. ALCs are used for foraging by at least 86 species with an important conservation outcome: those that tolerate heavily modified ALCs are 26% more likely to have stable or increasing populations than the global average for all primates. There is no phylogenetic signal in ALCs use. Compared to all primates on Earth, species using ALCs are less often threatened with extinction, but more often diurnal, medium or large-bodied, not strictly arboreal, and habitat generalists. These findings provide valuable quantitative information for improving management practices for primate conservation worldwide.

Journal article

Qie L, Elsy A, Stumvoll A, Kwasnicka M, Peel A, Sullivan JA, Ettinger MS, Robertson AJ, Brisbane JK, Sawyer AL, Lui YN, Ow SN, Sebastianelli M, Majcher B, Duan M, Vigus H, Pounsin G, Nilus R, Ewers Ret al., 2019, Impending regeneration failure of the IUCN vulnerable Borneo ironwood (Eusideroxylon zwageri), Tropical Conservation Science, Vol: 12, Pages: 1-6, ISSN: 1940-0829

The regeneration of many climax species in tropical forest critically depends on adequate seed dispersal and seedling establishment. Here, we report the decreased abundance and increased spatial aggregation of younger trees of the Borneo ironwood (Eusideroxylon zwageri) in a protected forest in Sabah Malaysia. We observed a high level of seedling herbivory with strong density dependence, likely exacerbated by local aggregation and contributing to the progressively shrinking size distribution. We also note the largely undocumented selective herbivory by sambar deer on E. zwageri seedlings. This study highlights the combined impact of altered megafauna community on a tree population through interlinked ecological processes and the need for targeted conservation intervention for this iconic tropical tree species.

Journal article

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