Populations are not declining and food webs are not collapsing at the Luquillo Experimental Forest

From PNAS

M. R. Willig, L. Woolbright, S. J. Presley, T. D. Schowalter, R. B. Waide, T. Heartsill Scalley, J. K. Zimmerman, G. González, and A. E. Lugo

PNAS first published May 29, 2019 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1820456116

This article has Replies. Please see:

In PNAS, Lister and Garcia report declines in abundances of understory arthropods and lizards between 1976 and 2012 and claim similar declines in populations of arthropods, frogs, and insectivorous birds based on data from the Luquillo Long-Term Ecological Research project (LUQ). Their conclusion, that increasing temperature has led to a collapse of the food web, has attracted considerable attention from public media, but this conclusion is not corroborated by empirical evidence from LUQ (see Supplementary Materials, https://luq.lter.network/pop-trends-yunque-luquillo). Also, the authors fail to consider the effects of hurricanes and subsequent changes during secondary succession.

Lister and Garcia (1) interpret temporal changes in abundance of the walking stick (Lamponius portoricensis), canopy arthropods, frogs (Eleutherodactylus coqui), and birds at El Verde to be a consequence of increasing annual

mean maximum daily temperature. In many cases, abundance data are not adjusted to consider variation in sampling effort. Moreover, the authors combine data files that are not compatible to create the temperature record for analyses. Indeed, maximum temperature from this record evinces a significant linear decrease at El Verde (cooling) in the period during which Lister and Garcia analyzed demographic data, a pattern evident in figure 1A of ref. 1 (see figures 1 and 2 of Supplementary Materials).

Using Lister and Garcia’s (1) analytical approach for temporal trends, we found a significant decline in density of Lamponius from 1993 to 2011, but density was not statistically related to temperature during this period (figures 3 and 4 of Supplementary Materials). These results contradict those of Lister and Garcia and suggest a more complex interplay of factors affecting variation in abundance of Lamponius (2). Canopy arthropod density does not decline between 1994 and 2009 but does increase significantly with increasing temperature (figures 5 and 6 of Supplementary Materials), even for the 10 most abundant taxa (tables 1 and 2 of Supplementary Materials), which Lister and Garcia claimed to have used (3).

Long-term data do not suggest a simple decline in adult frogs from 1987 to 2017 (figure 7 of Supplementary Materials) but do document an increase in numbers with increasing temperature (figure 8 of Supplementary Materials). Numbers vary in a consistent and nondirectional manner, except for short-term increases after Hurricanes Hugo and Georges, which modified habitat structure, followed by decreases to predisturbance levels (4) (figure S3B of ref. 1). Although prehurricane data exist for all 4 of Woolbright’s (4) plots, Lister and Garcia (1) do not include these data (figure S3A, C, or D of ref. 1). Stewart’s (5) data used by Lister and Garcia are consistent with this phenomenon [i.e., higher numbers after Hurricane David (1979)], followed by a decline to the typical range observed as recently as August 2017.

M. R. Williga, L. Woolbrightb, S. J. Presleya, T. D. Schowalterc, R. B. Waided, T. Heartsill Scalleye, J. K. Zimmermanf, G. Gonzáleze, and A. E. Lugoe,1

aInstitute of the Environment, Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-4210;

bBiology Department, Siena College, Loudonville, NY 12211;

cDepartment of Entomology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803;

dDepartment of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001;

eInternational Institute of Tropical Forestry, Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico 00926;

fDepartment of Environmental Science, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico 00936-8377

See full article here.

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Sara
June 8, 2019 7:36 pm

Frogs? They’re all over the place.

Understory losing critters? I’m part of the understory and my food supplies are not impaired in any way at all. In fact, I checked the label on the bell pepper I was cutting up for supper and it comes from Canada. Carrots from Florida. Celery from California. The onions I plan to make in to a pot of onion soup come from Mexico Lindo. No disruption to the food chain at all.

How do you get people like that to refund the grant money they leeched out of the system?

Isn’t it fraud to provide results that are completely wrong and insist that they are correct?

Curious George
Reply to  Sara
June 9, 2019 5:08 pm

Definitely not a fraud. Ask Dr. Michael Mann 🙂

Prjindigo
June 8, 2019 7:40 pm

So, basically, they committed fraud intentionally.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Prjindigo
June 8, 2019 11:04 pm

That, or they had an intentionally committed frog. (nyuk, nyuk)

HotScot
Reply to  Prjindigo
June 9, 2019 12:41 am

Prjindigo

Can fraud be committed unintentionally?

Mike Ozanne
Reply to  HotScot
June 9, 2019 2:21 am

No but incompetence can…

Prjindigo
Reply to  HotScot
June 9, 2019 10:36 pm

If you’re left holding the bill and didn’t think what you were doing was fraudulent that’d be called “unintentional”.

Culpability doesn’t care about intentions.

Jeff Alberts
June 8, 2019 7:56 pm

Maybe it was submitted by Lister, Rimmer, Kryten, and Cat.

H.R.
June 8, 2019 9:15 pm

This is getting worse than coffee studies. For 50 years, every other week the radio news highlights would have the results of a coffee or caffeine study.

Coffee bad.
Coffee good… sometimes.
Coffee BAD.
Coffee GOOD.
A little coffee good.
Too much coffee bad.
Coffee bad.
Coffee good.
Coffee BAD.
Coffee GOOD.
A little coffee good.
Too much coffee bad.
Too many people are caffeine deficient.
Coffee bad.
Coffee good.
Coffee BAD.
Coffee GOOD.
A little coffee good.
Too much coffee bad.

And on and on for years.

50 years, +/-! And that’s just my memory. hard to say how long the Coffee Study Wars have actually been going on.

Now we are getting into Frog Wars. Please… I like my frogs with Cajun seasoning.

rovingbroker
Reply to  H.R.
June 9, 2019 3:40 am

CNN, January 31, 2018: Coffee may come with a cancer warning in California
https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/31/health/cancer-coffee-warning/index.html

LA Times, June 3, 2019: Coffee won’t need cancer warning in California after all
https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-coffee-cancer-warning-20190603-story.html

California Prop. 65:
SECTION 1. The people of California find that hazardous chemicals pose a serious potential threat to their health and well-being, that state government agencies have failed to provide them with adequate protection, and that these failures have been serious enough to lead to investigations by federal agencies of the administration of California’s toxic protection programs. The people therefore declare their rights:
(a) To protect themselves and the water they drink against chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.
(b) To be informed about exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.
(c) To secure strict enforcement of the laws controlling hazardous chemicals and deter actions that threaten public health and safety.
(d) To shift the cost of hazardous waste cleanups more onto offenders and less onto law-abiding citizens.
The people hereby enact the provisions of this initiative in furtherance of their rights.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1986_California_Proposition_65

Sara
Reply to  rovingbroker
June 9, 2019 3:58 pm

Toxic? Tell them to get rid of the homeless bums living on the streets of L.A., leaving piles of trash everywhere that attract rodents with fleas that carry typhus and typhoid.

RayG
June 8, 2019 9:22 pm

The problem here is that the Garcia and Lister paper received widespread coverage in the MSM. To cite one version of an old quote attributed to many, A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  RayG
June 9, 2019 4:45 am

” A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.”

There’s a lot of that in climate science.

Kevin kilty
June 8, 2019 9:45 pm

Ouch.

Phillip Bratby
June 8, 2019 10:21 pm

How do they live with themselves?

Petit_Barde
June 8, 2019 11:56 pm

May be I’m wrong, but isn’t this fraud related to a fraud that has been exposed here on WUWT, by comparing El Verde temperature records with records from other weather stations in the neighborhood ?

By the way, I’m a (French) frog and I feel good !

Bob Vislocky
Reply to  Petit_Barde
June 9, 2019 4:38 am

Yup, it’s the same fraud first exposed on WUWT back in December:
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/12/21/debunked-insect-decline-in-rainforest-caused-by-climate-change/

Glad to see it was officially debunked in a PNAS article. Paul Homewood made a formal request to PNAS a few months ago to have the original erroneous study withdrawn. Unfortunately, like a previous poster stated, the original study already made it through the MSM but they will never post the truth.

commieBob
June 9, 2019 12:03 am

I hate postmodernists, that’s for sure. They’re mostly closet Marxists and SJWs. On the other hand, they’re not entirely wrong.

The postmodernists point out that science is socially constructed. The science realists point out that scientific truth exists and eventually wins out over any bad science that may happen. The controversy is called the science wars.

My favorite quote from the science wars is:

Anyone who believes that the laws of physics are mere social conventions is invited to try transgressing those conventions from the windows of my apartment. I live on the twenty-first floor. Alan Sokal

On the other hand, we’re seeing lots of evidence that science is highly influenced by social factors.

When scientists produce a paper that conforms to the warmist narrative, they are behaving in a rational manner. They are probably not even deliberately cheating. When someone suffers from confirmation bias, they aren’t aware of it. It’s something that takes conscious effort to guard against. In any event, if their paper doesn’t conform to the narrative, there’s a good chance it won’t get published and there’s an excellent chance their research funding will dry up. example

The result of all this is Cargo Cult science which results when scientists aren’t sufficiently rigorous.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that. Richard Feynman

Sadly, there is plenty of socially constructed science. And yes, the truth will win out eventually but that will take a long time and horrendous damage will occur in the meantime.

James Clarke
Reply to  commieBob
June 9, 2019 5:59 am

Nice post, commieBob! It is important to acknowledge that the post-modernists aren’t wrong when the proclaim that the field of science is socially constructed. Science, however, is not. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult for the lay person (or the philosopher) to understand the difference between science and the field of science; between the rationally rigorous exploration of the natural world, and the products of the social construct.

We humans are social beings, even the humans we call scientists. The peer review process is a social construct by definition. As long as humans are doing the science, the science will be subjected to the social construct.

But not all is lost. Social constructs are transitory beasts. Science is not. That’s why time is the great truth detector of science. In time, the social construct will change. The bias will change. The paradigm will change. And in that change, the true science will emerge, by remaining unchanged or only slightly modified. That is the history of science.

So it will take time, but maybe not as much time as it use to, thanks to the information age and those heroes who have taken advantage of it. The post-modernists have been working for well over 100 years to build their social construct through the slow infiltration of institutions, inflicting their paradigm on generations of unsuspecting students. But people like Anthony Watts, Jordan Peterson, Tony Heller (to name just a few) could undo all of that work in less than a generation, thanks to the information revolution.

Today, paradigms have a much shorter shelf-life.

The old maxim that science advances one death at a time may no longer be true, because it no longer takes death to change the social construct.

Editor
June 9, 2019 4:18 am

I exposed the incompatibility of the temperature datasets at the time, here:

https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/study-claiming-insect-decline-due-to-global-warming-is-based-on-faulty-temperature-data/

For the record, below is what the Luquillo Field Station have to say about the temperature datasets:

Background of QC procedures. Temperature data has been collected continuously at EVFS since 1975. The early part of that record (from 1975-1992) have been filled by extrapolating from other stations or from previous data from the EVFS station.

Subsequent manipulations make the EVFS record less valuable for interpreting long term trends. In particular, instrument problems toward the end of this early period led to changes in the thermometer and its housing (and perhaps in its location) in September 1992. We mark this as the end of the first measurement phase and the beginning of the
second.

After September 1992, recorded maximum temperatures increased substantially at this station, certainly as a result of the instrumentation changes that took place in that month. Noticing this, a correction was applied to the data collected after September 1992 to make it comparable to the data collected previously. The exact nature of this correction is not described in the metadata or temperature logs. This correction ceased to be applied to these maximum temperature data in 1997, and as a result, the EVFS maximum temperature record (LUQ data set 16) showed an abrupt increase in maximum temperature in 1997.

This partially corrected data set is the one we made accessible to people on our web site and through ClimDB until Feb 2014. At least one paper has reached erroneous conclusions about long term trends based on these data (Huey et al. 2009).

We are now (since March 26, 2014) treating the January 1975-August 1992 data and the October 1992-present uncorrected data as two different data sets. The differences in instrumentation have introduced differences in the data between these two periods, and treating them as a single data set misrepresents the data. Moreover, the extensive extrapolation of data in the earlier data set makes them suspect, and combining the two data sets pollutes the later record.

http://luq.lternet.edu/data/luqmetadata181

Editor
June 9, 2019 4:21 am

I exposed the incompatibility of the temperature data at the time here:

https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/study-claiming-insect-decline-due-to-global-warming-is-based-on-faulty-temperature-data/

For the record, below is what the Luquillo Field Station say about their temperature data:

Background of QC procedures. Temperature data has been collected continuously at EVFS since 1975. The early part of that record (from 1975-1992) have been filled by extrapolating from other stations or from previous data from the EVFS station.

Subsequent manipulations make the EVFS record less valuable for interpreting long term trends. In particular, instrument problems toward the end of this early period led to changes in the thermometer and its housing (and perhaps in its location) in September 1992. We mark this as the end of the first measurement phase and the beginning of the
second.

After September 1992, recorded maximum temperatures increased substantially at this station, certainly as a result of the instrumentation changes that took place in that month. Noticing this, a correction was applied to the data collected after September 1992 to make it comparable to the data collected previously. The exact nature of this correction is not described in the metadata or temperature logs. This correction ceased to be applied to these maximum temperature data in 1997, and as a result, the EVFS maximum temperature record (LUQ data set 16) showed an abrupt increase in maximum temperature in 1997.

This partially corrected data set is the one we made accessible to people on our web site and through ClimDB until Feb 2014. At least one paper has reached erroneous conclusions about long term trends based on these data (Huey et al. 2009).

We are now (since March 26, 2014) treating the January 1975-August 1992 data and the October 1992-present uncorrected data as two different data sets. The differences in instrumentation have introduced differences in the data between these two periods, and treating them as a single data set misrepresents the data. Moreover, the extensive extrapolation of data in the earlier data set makes them suspect, and combining the two data sets pollutes the later record.

http://luq.lternet.edu/data/luqmetadata181

Editor
Reply to  Paul Homewood
June 9, 2019 5:08 am

Sorry for the double post!

KaliforniaKook
Reply to  Paul Homewood
June 9, 2019 5:08 pm

No problem. I remember your original post well. This is just confirmation with other important comments.

Bob Vislocky
June 9, 2019 4:47 am

Of course the bug decline, if real, wasn’t the result of a 4* F temperature rise (even if real too). Anyone with common sense would have sought another explanation. If my house gets infested with ants, termites, beetles, fleas or roaches am I going to call an exterminator or would I simply raise the temp in my house by 4* F and subject the little critters to some climate change? LOL

Carbon Bigfoot
June 9, 2019 5:26 am

Here’s what is eating the frogs, snakes, lizards and alligators:

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/05/16/florida-government-pays-bounty-hunters-to-capture-pythons/22093415/

Shows on NatGeo ? Glade Warriors or something like that.

Sheri
June 9, 2019 5:32 am

Darwin has obviously been relegated to the dust heap and all so-called “evolution” is now humans (who are either aliens or God made them, not evolution as was posited) are responsible for every single thing that happens. Waaaaayyyyyy to go, climate scientists. You killed Darwin!!!!! A hundred years of argument between church and science and you people killed Darwin for them.

Pamela Gray
June 9, 2019 6:17 am

Winter cold, no grasshoppers for Pam to go fishing. Winter warm, tons of grasshoppers for Pam to go fishing. Pam loves warm. However, Box elder bugs apparently can survive anywhere between 0 k, and on the surface of the sun. I hate Box elder bugs.

Now that I am retired, I fully intend to lower my IQ 20 pts at the very least, to a simple life. Warm is good. Cold is bad.

PeterGB
June 9, 2019 8:09 am

Once again “bad science” has been exposed, the above being posted via a letter on the National Academy site with a signpost notice on the original work.

And that’s about all there is to it, at that point the matter is laid to rest. The “bad science” will perpetuate and probably proliferate. No lives have been lost, no bridge has collapsed, no plane has fallen from the sky. Peer review has been exposed for what it is (or isn’t), but the system remains unchanged with its multitude of flaws – the easy cash, the willing and sometimes conspiratorial publicity and the resulting plaudits. There is no disincentive to “bad science”, other than scrutiny before a relatively limited audience on sites such as this.

Some commenters here and on other threads feel that some form of retribution or punishment is justified, occasionally resorting to ad hom. tactics under these circumstances. I do not support this view, but find it understandable as it is born of the frustration in having no alternative course of action to correct the previous wrongdoing. Therein lies the problem, there is no recourse.

In this case, the original paper has a named academic editor, seventeen acknowledgements of advice and support, one of financial support, has been the subject of 151 news stories in 106 publications, has featured on 28 blogs (who the h@ll is “desdemona despair?”), has been tweeted about over 3,000 times ( with 6.7m followers) and has the dubious distinction of featuring in a Wiki article. All of these prior to Willig et al.

There is no existing or proposed mechanism for unravelling even a small part of this. No notification of Willig et als’ work will go to the supporters, funding institution or publishing journals and as the notification of letter was posted eight months after the Lister & Garcia paper was published, who will see it now? The truth might by now have its boots on, but the lie has been to the moon and back.

The refutation of “bad science” by scientific method is a non starter. (No denigration of the excellent work above is implied or intended). This war (it is a war, if only of minds) is being fought in the political, sociological and legal arenas. Distasteful though that might be, it is the future.

June 9, 2019 10:01 am

Has anybody read Mr. Lister’s response? First he selects a data set not suited for his purpose. Then he choses the bits of data within the data set that fit his argument and throws out the rest. Then he has the audacity to double down and demand that Willig et al. use a “quantitative method” to show the data is invalid, and worse yet, this charade gets the nod from PNAS which has clearly turned into an unscientific political tool.

Wow. Just wow.

I agree with the sentiment above: someone needs to go to jail for this kind of bad science.

Reply to  Joe Peck
June 9, 2019 10:15 am

Sorry chooses not choses.

Gary Pearse
June 9, 2019 5:25 pm

I would say that a longterm forest research station abused in this manner for crass political considerations of people calling themselves scientists is about as awful a scientific crime you could commit. Such a longterm experiment is a sacred trust for a scientist.

June 9, 2019 6:33 pm

Surprise surprise, I tried to send an email to Mr. Lister and the email address is incorrect. Surprise surprise.

Mark - Helsinki
June 11, 2019 12:59 am

get a degree and publish any old shite and hey presto you’re a “scientist”.

Imagine it was as easy to be a structural engineer. Buildings would be collapsing all over the place 😀

Science the institution, is self serving now just like journalism. Two institutions that can absolutely no longer be taken at face value

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