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Daniel Montesinos
Plant Ecologist
Plant Ecologist

Daniel's posts

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Simply ending the land use is sufficient for forests to recover, planting trees is not faster or better

Global forest restoration targets have been set, yet policy makers and land managers lack guiding principles on how to invest limited resources to achieve them. We conducted a meta-analysis of 166 studies in naturally regenerating and actively restored forests worldwide to answer: (1) To what extent do floral and faunal abundance and diversity and biogeochemical functions recover? (2) Does recovery vary as a function of past land use, time since restoration, forest region, or precipitation? (3) Does active restoration result in more complete or faster recovery than passive restoration? Overall, forests showed a high level of recovery, but the time to recovery depended on the metric type measured, past land use, and region. Abundance recovered quickly and completely, whereas diversity recovered slower in tropical than in temperate forests. Biogeochemical functions recovered more slowly after agriculture than after logging or mining. Formerly logged sites were mostly passively restored and generally recovered quickly. Mined sites were nearly always actively restored using a combination of planting and either soil amendments or recontouring topography, which resulted in rapid recovery of the metrics evaluated. Actively restoring former agricultural land, primarily by planting trees, did not result in consistently faster or more complete recovery than passively restored sites. Our results suggest that simply ending the land use is sufficient for forests to recover in many cases, but more studies are needed that directly compare the value added of active versus passive restoration strategies in the same system. Investments in active restoration should be evaluated relative to the past land use, the natural resilience of the system, and the specific objectives of each project.

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Inter-regional hybrids of native and non-native Centaurea sulphurea inherit increased competitive ability from the non-natives

Exotic species can rapidly develop adaptations to their non-native regions, such as increased size and competitive ability. Although these traits are believed to be responsible for invasive success, some non-invasive exotic species display them too. This suggests that increased size and competitive ability might be necessary but not sufficient to turn an exotic into a successful invader.

We experimentally produced a cohort of C. sulphurea individuals from the native range of the species in Spain, from its non-native range in California, as well as hybrids between the two regions. We grew these plants in pots in competition with the grass Bromus hordeaceus, or alone in control pots. Individuals from California were larger and better competitors than individuals from Spain. Furthermore, inter-regional hybrids showed competitive responses similar to that of individuals from California.

Our results confirm that increased competitive ability might be more frequent than previously thought among introduced species, since it can be detected in at least some exotic non-invasive species. They also illustrate the importance of maternal effects, how locally adapted traits are conserved and spread in the non-native ranges of exotic species, and suggest that plant size and competitive ability are not directly associated in this species.

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+João Carlos Filipe

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Happy evolutionary solstice everyone!

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Ants developed farming way before humans did

"(Ants) carefully planted them (seeds) in the nooks and crannies of the tree bark. Once the plant takes root in the tree and begins to grow, the ants climb inside its young stalks and fertilize it. The ants continue to nourish the plants with fertilizer even after they are fully grown, and the plants provide them with sugary fruit as well as shelter. (....) It's very possible that many of the structural changes we see in Squamelleria came from careful ant cultivation, much the way humans changed the structure of beans and corn over thousands of years of farming."

"P. nagasau aren't the only ants to become agriculturalists. Leaf cutter ants carefully grow fungus underground to feed their young, while Argentine ants shepherd vast farms of aphids in trees, milking them for a sugary substance called honeydew. What's different about P. nagasau is that its entire existence is dependent on the plant it farms. (...) Millions of years before humans ever dreamt of farming, these insects had devoted their entire societies to growing cities made out of plants."

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One hour of early writing a day, keeps evil away

First thing in the morning is when I'm at my mental best, and when I'm still most in control of my time, so I now use the first hour of my day to write. (...) This routine has transformed my work life. Instead of the frustration that frequently plagued me early in my career, now—no matter how work proceeds after I've completed my writing time—I go home at the end of the day with the satisfaction of having accomplished something.

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Invasive species #humor

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Invasive Species

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Our system selectively favors lame science

"In the model, as in real academia, positive results are easier to publish than negative one, and labs that publish more get more prestige, funding, and students. They also pass their practices on. With every generation, one of the oldest labs dies off, while one of the most productive one reproduces, creating an offspring that mimics the research style of the parent. That’s the equivalent of a student from a successful team starting a lab of their own. Over time, and across many simulations, the virtual labs inexorably slid towards less effort, poorer methods, and almost entirely unreliable results. And here’s the important thing: Unlike the hypothetical researcher I conjured up earlier, none of these simulated scientists are actively trying to cheat. They used no strategy, and they behaved with integrity. And yet, the community naturally slid towards poorer methods. What the model shows is that a world that rewards scientists for publications above all else—a world not unlike this one—naturally selects for weak science."

“An easy change is to ask the candidate to send three articles, which the committee can read and evaluate in detail. Now, the candidate's incentives are to produce three outstanding pieces of work.”

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Listed and categorized catalog of Youtube vids about statistics

"Truth be told, this post is a glorified Google search in many respects. In any case, I had intended for a long time to gather this information as to facilitate the often laborious task of finding pertinent resources for learning statistical science in a non-static format (i.e., videos) that is easily accessible, high-quality, instructive and free."

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The history of Earth's temperature

"(After setting your car on fire) Listen, your car's temperature has changed before."

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Excel automatic formatting is ruining one fifth of genetic papers

"The researchers claimed the problem is present in approximately one-fifth of papers that collated data in Excel documents (...) Gene symbols like SEPT2 (Septin 2) were found to be altered to "September 2"."

"Excel is able to display data and text in many different ways. Default settings are intended to work in most day-to-day scenarios (...) Excel offers a wide range of options, which customers with specific needs can use to change the way their data is represented."
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