Our February issue is now online now! This issue contains 32 articles about the latest methods in ecology and evolution, including a special feature on Leveraging Natural History Collections to Understand the Impacts of Global Change, robot herding and much more! Read to find out about this month’s featured articles and the article behind our cover.

Special Feature

This issue contains 11 articles which are part of our cross journal special feature with Journal of Animal ecology, Journal of Ecology and Functional Ecology. Natural history collections in museums herbaria, seed and tissue banks provide one of the most valuable information sources in an ecologist’s toolbox: time series data. These collections not only permanently archive preserved specimens, but also critical historical and contemporary information about how species distributions, interactions, and phenotypes respond to global change across time scales. Whether specimens are serving as indicators of environmental change or as the measurement of an ecological response, they remain critical to understanding ecological impacts of global change.

Featured Articles

Specimen-based data have played a central role in documenting body size shifts as a possible response to global warming over the last century. Identification of the drivers and patterns of these trends requires comparisons across taxa, often through meta-analyses; however, a lack of repeatability within and interoperability. This research article reviews published studies on mammal body-size changes in the Anthropocene, focusing on those that used museum specimens to analyse body-size trends over time.

Herbarium specimens that by their very nature capture multi-species relationships, such as certain parasites, fungi, and lichens, hold great potential to provide a broader and more integrative view of the ecology and evolution of symbiotic interactions. This particularly applies to parasite-host associations, which owing to their interconnectedness are especially vulnerable to global environmental change. This article presents an overview of how parasitic flowering plants is represented in herbarium collections, and how they can be used to understand global change impacts at multiple scales.

Semi-permeable barriers to geneflow in principle allow distantly related organisms to capture and exchange pre-adapted genes potentially speeding adaptation. However, describing barriers to geneflow on a genomic scale is non-trivial. Diagnostic index expectation maximisation (diem) polarises the labelling of bistate markers with respect to the sides of a barrier. An initial state of ignorance is enforced by starting with randomly generated marker polarisations.

The fate of migrating insects that encounter rainfall in flight is a critical consideration when modelling insect movement, but few field observations of this common phenomenon have ever been collected due to the logistical challenges of witnessing these encounters. This article presents a method that uses image processing techniques on cloud radar velocity spectra to examine the fate of migrating insects when they encounter precipitation. By analysing velocity spectra, we can distinguish flying insects from falling rain and compare the relative density of insects in flight before, during and after the rainfall.

In an experimental setting, the composition of ecological communities can be manipulated directly. Starting from a pool of species, it is possible to co-culture species in different combinations, ranging from monocultures, to pairs, and all the way up to the full species pool. Leveraging datasets with this experimental design, we advance methods to infer species interactions using density measurements taken at a single time point across a variety of distinct community compositions.

The forest on the cover

This months’s cover image features an old growth eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) forest on the property of the Huron Mountain Club, located in Marquette County, Upper Peninsula, Michigan, USA. This forest is one of many globally where light detection and ranging (lidar), a form of active remote sensing, has been used to quantify forest structure to address structure-function relationships. In this issue, Atkins et al. explore the scale-dependency of lidar-derived forest structural metrics, providing a statistical framing for the application of such metrics using the Representative Elementary Area concept.© J. W. Atkins, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station