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Concept: Abundance of the chemical elements


Following the 1986 Chernobyl accident, 116,000 people were permanently evacuated from the 4,200 km(2) Chernobyl exclusion zone [1]. There is continuing scientific and public debate surrounding the fate of wildlife that remained in the abandoned area. Several previous studies of the Chernobyl exclusion zone (e.g. [2,3]) indicated major radiation effects and pronounced reductions in wildlife populations at dose rates well below those thought [4,5] to cause significant impacts. In contrast, our long-term empirical data showed no evidence of a negative influence of radiation on mammal abundance. Relative abundances of elk, roe deer, red deer and wild boar within the Chernobyl exclusion zone are similar to those in four (uncontaminated) nature reserves in the region and wolf abundance is more than 7 times higher. Additionally, our earlier helicopter survey data show rising trends in elk, roe deer and wild boar abundances from one to ten years post-accident. These results demonstrate for the first time that, regardless of potential radiation effects on individual animals, the Chernobyl exclusion zone supports an abundant mammal community after nearly three decades of chronic radiation exposures.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Deer, Zone of alienation, Abundance, Abundance of the chemical elements, Wildlife, Megafauna of Eurasia, Venison


The difficulty of censusing marine animal populations hampers effective ocean management. Analyzing water for DNA traces shed by organisms may aid assessment. Here we tested aquatic environmental DNA (eDNA) as an indicator of fish presence in the lower Hudson River estuary. A checklist of local marine fish and their relative abundance was prepared by compiling 12 traditional surveys conducted between 1988-2015. To improve eDNA identification success, 31 specimens representing 18 marine fish species were sequenced for two mitochondrial gene regions, boosting coverage of the 12S eDNA target sequence to 80% of local taxa. We collected 76 one-liter shoreline surface water samples at two contrasting estuary locations over six months beginning in January 2016. eDNA was amplified with vertebrate-specific 12S primers. Bioinformatic analysis of amplified DNA, using a reference library of GenBank and our newly generated 12S sequences, detected most (81%) locally abundant or common species and relatively few (23%) uncommon taxa, and corresponded to seasonal presence and habitat preference as determined by traditional surveys. Approximately 2% of fish reads were commonly consumed species that are rare or absent in local waters, consistent with wastewater input. Freshwater species were rarely detected despite Hudson River inflow. These results support further exploration and suggest eDNA will facilitate fine-scale geographic and temporal mapping of marine fish populations at relatively low cost.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Biology, Organism, Water, Sequence, Abundance of the chemical elements, Hudson River


Antibiotic resistance is increasingly widespread, largely due to human influence. Here, we explore the relationship between antibiotic resistance genes and the antimicrobial chemicals triclosan, triclocarban, and methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, and butylparaben in the dust microbiome. Dust samples from a mixed-use athletic and educational facility were subjected to microbial and chemical analyses using a combination of 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, shotgun metagenome sequencing, and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. The dust resistome was characterized by identifying antibiotic resistance genes annotated in the Comprehensive Antibiotic Resistance Database (CARD) from the metagenomes of each sample using the Short, Better Representative Extract Data set (ShortBRED). The three most highly abundant antibiotic resistance genes were tet(W), blaSRT-1, and erm(B). The complete dust resistome was then compared against the measured concentrations of antimicrobial chemicals, which for triclosan ranged from 0.5 to 1970 ng/g dust. We observed six significant positive associations between the concentration of an antimicrobial chemical and the relative abundance of an antibiotic resistance gene, including one between the ubiquitous antimicrobial triclosan and erm(X), a 23S rRNA methyltransferase implicated in resistance to several antibiotics. This study is the first to look for an association between antibiotic resistance genes and antimicrobial chemicals in dust.

Concepts: Bacteria, Mass spectrometry, Ribosomal RNA, Antibiotic resistance, 16S ribosomal RNA, Analytical chemistry, Microorganism, Abundance of the chemical elements


Vibrio is a ubiquitous genus of marine bacteria, typically comprising a small fraction of the total microbial community in surface waters, but capable of becoming a dominant taxon in response to poorly characterized factors. Iron (Fe), often restricted by limited bioavailability and low external supply, is an essential micronutrient that can limit Vibrio growth. Vibrio species have robust metabolic capabilities and an array of Fe-acquisition mechanisms, and are able to respond rapidly to nutrient influx, yet Vibrio response to environmental pulses of Fe remains uncharacterized. Here we examined the population growth of Vibrio after natural and simulated pulses of atmospherically transported Saharan dust, an important and episodic source of Fe to tropical marine waters. As a model for opportunistic bacterial heterotrophs, we demonstrated that Vibrio proliferate in response to a broad range of dust-Fe additions at rapid timescales. Within 24 h of exposure, strains of Vibrio cholerae and Vibrio alginolyticus were able to directly use Saharan dust-Fe to support rapid growth. These findings were also confirmed with in situ field studies; arrival of Saharan dust in the Caribbean and subtropical Atlantic coincided with high levels of dissolved Fe, followed by up to a 30-fold increase of culturable Vibrio over background levels within 24 h. The relative abundance of Vibrio increased from ∼1 to ∼20% of the total microbial community. This study, to our knowledge, is the first to describe Vibrio response to Saharan dust nutrients, having implications at the intersection of marine ecology, Fe biogeochemistry, and both human and environmental health.

Concepts: Bacteria, Nutrition, Iron, Microbiology, Nutrient, Vibrio cholerae, Abundance of the chemical elements, Vibrio


Studies have demonstrated ways in which climate-related shifts in the distributions and relative abundances of marine species are expected to alter the dynamics and catch potential of global fisheries. While these studies assess impacts on large-scale commercial fisheries, few efforts have been made to quantitatively project impacts on small-scale subsistence and commercial fisheries that are economically, socially and culturally important to many coastal communities. This study uses a dynamic bioclimate envelope model to project scenarios of climate-related changes in the relative abundance, distribution and richness of 98 exploited marine fishes and invertebrates of commercial and cultural importance to First Nations in coastal British Columbia, Canada. Declines in abundance are projected for most of the sampled species under both the lower (Representative Concentration Pathway [RCP] 2.6) and higher (RCP 8.5) emission scenarios (-15.0% to -20.8%, respectively), with poleward range shifts occurring at a median rate of 10.3 to 18.0 km decade-1 by 2050 relative to 2000. While a cumulative decline in catch potential is projected coastwide (-4.5 to -10.7%), estimates suggest a strong positive correlation between the change in relative catch potential and latitude, with First Nations' territories along the northern and central coasts of British Columbia likely to experience less severe declines than those to the south. Furthermore, a strong negative correlation is projected between latitude and the number of species exhibiting declining abundance. These trends are shown to be robust to alternative species distribution models. This study concludes by discussing corresponding management challenges that are likely to be encountered under climate change, and by highlighting the value of joint-management frameworks and traditional fisheries management approaches that could aid in offsetting impacts and developing site-specific mitigation and adaptation strategies derived from local fishers' knowledge.

Concepts: Climate, Fisheries, Abundance of the chemical elements, Overfishing, British Columbia, Species distribution, Fisheries management, Fishery


Society is increasingly concerned with declining wild bee populations. Although most bees nest in the ground, considerable effort has centered on installing ‘bee hotels’-also known as nest boxes or trap nests-which artificially aggregate nest sites of above ground nesting bees. Campaigns to ‘save the bees’ often promote these devices despite the absence of data indicating they have a positive effect. From a survey of almost 600 bee hotels set up over a period of three years in Toronto, Canada, introduced bees nested at 32.9% of sites and represented 24.6% of more than 27,000 total bees and wasps recorded (47.1% of all bees recorded). Native bees were parasitized more than introduced bees and females of introduced bee species provisioned nests with significantly more female larva each year. Native wasps were significantly more abundant than both native and introduced bees and occupied almost ¾ of all bee hotels each year; further, introduced wasps were the only group to significantly increase in relative abundance year over year. More research is needed to elucidate the potential pitfalls and benefits of using bee hotels in the conservation and population dynamics of wild native bees.

Concepts: Insect, Population, Larva, Bee, Wasp, Nest, Abundance of the chemical elements, Nest box


The microbial communities living in the human intestine can have profound impact on our well-being and health. However, we have limited understanding of the mechanisms that control this complex ecosystem. Here, based on a deep phylogenetic analysis of the intestinal microbiota in a thousand western adults, we identify groups of bacteria that exhibit robust bistable abundance distributions. These bacteria are either abundant or nearly absent in most individuals, and exhibit decreased temporal stability at the intermediate abundance range. The abundances of these bimodally distributed bacteria vary independently, and their abundance distributions are not affected by short-term dietary interventions. However, their contrasting alternative states are associated with host factors such as ageing and overweight. We propose that the bistable groups reflect tipping elements of the intestinal microbiota, whose critical transitions may have profound health implications and diagnostic potential.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Nutrition, Microbiology, Intestine, Abundance, Abundance of the chemical elements, Beth Henley


The (13)C/(12)C carbon isotope ratio is a chemical parameter with many important applications in several scientific area and the technique of choice currently used for the δ(13)C determination is the isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS). This latter is highly accurate (0.1‰) and sensitive (up to 0.01‰), but at the same time expensive and complex. The objective of this work was to assess the reliability of FTIR and NDIRS techniques for the measurement of carbon stable isotope ratio of food sample, in comparison to IRMS. IRMS, NDIRS and FTIR were used to analyze samples of food, such as oil, durum, cocoa, pasta and sugar, in order to determine the natural abundance isotopic ratio of carbon in a parallel way. The results were comparable, showing a close relationship among the three techniques. The main advantage in using FTIR and NDIRS is related to their cheapness and easy-to-operate in comparison to IRMS.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Chemical element, Carbon, Isotope, Carbon-13, Abundance of the chemical elements, Isotopes, Isotope ratio mass spectrometry


The oxidation of molecular hydrogen (H2) is thought to be a major source of metabolic energy for life in the deep subsurface on Earth, and it could likewise support any extant biosphere on Mars, where stable habitable environments are probably limited to the subsurface. Faulting and fracturing may stimulate the supply of H2 from several sources. We report the H2 content of fluids present in terrestrial rocks formed by brittle fracturing on fault planes (pseudotachylites and cataclasites), along with protolith control samples. The fluids are dominated by water and include H2 at abundances sufficient to support hydrogenotrophic microorganisms, with strong H2 enrichments in the pseudotachylites compared to the controls. Weaker and less consistent H2 enrichments are observed in the cataclasites, which represent less intense seismic friction than the pseudotachylites. The enrichments agree quantitatively with previous experimental measurements of frictionally driven H2 formation during rock fracturing. We find that conservative estimates of current martian global seismicity predict episodic H2 generation by Marsquakes in quantities useful to hydrogenotrophs over a range of scales and recurrence times. On both Earth and Mars, secondary release of H2 may also accompany the breakdown of ancient fault rocks, which are particularly abundant in the pervasively fractured martian crust. This study strengthens the case for the astrobiological investigation of ancient martian fracture systems.

Concepts: Oxygen, Iron, Water, Earth, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Earthquake, Abundance of the chemical elements


As extinctions continue across the globe, conservation biologists are turning to species reintroduction programs as one optimistic tool for addressing the biodiversity crisis. For repatriation to become a viable strategy, fundamental prerequisites include determining the causes of declines and assessing whether the causes persist in the environment. Invasive species-especially pathogens-are an increasingly significant factor contributing to biodiversity loss. We hypothesized that Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the causative agent of the deadly amphibian disease chytridiomycosis, was important in the rapid (<10 years) localized extirpation of a North American frog (Rana boylii) and that Bd remains widespread among extant amphibians in the region of extirpation. We used an interdisciplinary approach, combining interviews with herpetological experts, analysis of archived field notes and museum specimen collections, and field sampling of the extant amphibian assemblage to examine (1) historical relative abundance of R. boylii; (2) potential causes of R. boylii declines; and (3) historical and contemporary prevalence of Bd. We found that R. boylii were relatively abundant prior to their rapid extirpation, and an increase in Bd prevalence coincided with R. boylii declines during a time of rapid change in the region, wherein backcountry recreation, urban development, and the amphibian pet trade were all on the rise. In addition, extreme flooding during the winter of 1969 coincided with localized extirpations in R. boylii populations observed by interview respondents. We conclude that Bd likely played an important role in the rapid extirpation of R. boylii from southern California and that multiple natural and anthropogenic factors may have worked in concert to make this possible in a relatively short period of time. This study emphasizes the importance of recognizing historical ecological contexts in making future management and reintroduction decisions.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Extinction, Abundance of the chemical elements, Amphibian, Reintroduction, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, Decline in amphibian populations