Current Issue
  • Volume 2 Issue 3
    Review Article
    Xinhua He, Minggang Xu, Guo Yu Qiu, Jianbin Zhou
    2009, 2 (3): 107-118.
    Abstract ( 45 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Mycorrhizas (fungal roots) play vital roles in plant nutrient acquisition, performance and productivity in terrestrial ecosystems. Arbuscular mycorrhizas (AM) and ectomycorrhizas (EM) are mostly important since soil nutrients, including NH4+, NO3? and phosphorus, are translocated from mycorrhizal fungi to plants. Individual species, genera and even families of plants could be interconnected by mycorrhizal mycelia to form common mycorrhizal networks (CMNs). The function of CMNs is to provide pathways for movement or transfer of nutrients from one plant to another. In the past four decades, both 15N external labeling or enrichment (usually expressed as atom%) and 15N naturally occurring abundance (δ15N, ‰) techniques have been employed to trace the direction and magnitude of N transfer between plants, with their own advantages and limitations.

    Important Findings

    The heavier stable isotope 15N is discriminated against 14N during biochemical, biogeochemical and physiological processes, due to a greater atomic mass. In general, non-N2-fixing plants had greater δ15N values than N2-fixing (~0‰) ones. Foliar δ15N often varied by 5 to 10‰ in the order: non-mycorrhizas/AMs > EMs ≥ ericoid mycorrhizas. Differences in δ15N (‰) or 15N (atom%) values could thus provide N transfer information between plants. A range of between 0 to 80% of one-way N transfer had been observed from N2-fixing mycorrhizal to non-N2-fixing mycorrhizal plants, but generally less than or around 10% in the reverse direction. Plant-to-plant N transfer may provide practical implications for plant performance in N-limited habitats. Considering that N translocation or cycling is crucial, and the potential benefits of N transfer are great in both agricultural and natural ecosystems, more research is warranted on either one-way or two-way N transfers mediated by CMNs with different species and under field conditions.

    Research Articles
    Laura M. Keating, Lonnie W. Aarssen
    2009, 2 (3): 119-124.
    Abstract ( 34 )   PDF   Save
    Aims According to conventional theory, larger plant species are likely to inflict more intense competition on other (smaller) species. We tested a deducible prediction from this: that a larger species should generally be expected to impose greater limits on the number of species that can coexist with it.
    Methods Species richness was sampled under plant canopies for a selection of woody species ('host' species) that display a wide range of adult sizes (from small shrubs to large trees), growing within natural vegetation of the Interior Douglas-fir zone of southern British Columbia, Canada. These data were compared with species richness levels sampled within randomly placed plots within the host species habitat.
    Important findings A prominent host species size effect on species richness was detected but only narrowly at the small end of the species size range. Across most (90%) of the increasing size range of host species, the number of species residing under the host canopy showed no significant decrease relative to the number expected by random assembly, based on species richness within randomly defined equivalent areas within the habitat of the host species. This apparent 'null effect', we suggest, is explained not because these larger species have no effect on community assembly. We postulate that larger species are indeed likely to be more effective in causing competitive exclusion of some smaller species (as expected from conventional theory), but that any potential limitation effect of this on resident species richness is offset for two reasons: (i) larger species also generate niche spaces that they cannot exploit under their own canopies and so have minimal impact (as competitors) on smaller species that can occupy these niches and (ii) certain other small species—despite small size—have effective competitive abilities under the severe competition that occurs within host neighbourhoods of larger species. These and other recent studies call for re-evaluation of traditional views on the role of plant size in affecting competitive ability and community assembly.
    Yann Hautier, Christophe F. Randin, Jürg Stöcklin, Antoine Guisan
    2009, 2 (3): 125-134.
    Abstract ( 37 )   PDF   Save
    Aims In perennial species, the allocation of resources to reproduction results in a reduction of allocation to vegetative growth and, therefore, impacts future reproductive success. As a consequence, variation in this trade-off is among the most important driving forces in the life-history evolution of perennial plants and can lead to locally adapted genotypes. In addition to genetic variation, phenotypic plasticity might also contribute to local adaptation of plants to local conditions by mediating changes in reproductive allocation. Knowledge on the importance of genetic and environmental effects on the trade-off between reproduction and vegetative growth is therefore essential to understand how plants may respond to environmental changes.
    Methods We conducted a transplant experiment along an altitudinal gradient from 425 to 1?921 m in the front range of the Western Alps of Switzerland to assess the influence of both altitudinal origin of populations and altitude of growing site on growth, reproductive investment and local adaptation in Poa alpina .
    Important findings In our study, the investment in reproduction increased with plant size. Plant growth and the relative importance of reproductive investment decreased in populations originating from higher altitudes compared to populations originating from lower altitudes. The changes in reproductive investment were mainly explained by differences in plant size. In contrast to genetic effects, phenotypic plasticity of all traits measured was low and not related to altitude. As a result, the population from the lowest altitude of origin performed best at all sites. Our results indicate that in P. alpina genetic differences in growth and reproductive investment are related to local conditions affecting growth, i.e. interspecific competition and soil moisture content.
    Chengjin Chu, Youshi Wang, Qi Li, Luqiang Zhao, Zhengwei Ren, Sa Xiao, Jianli Yuan, Gang Wang
    2009, 2 (3): 135-141.
    Abstract ( 37 )   PDF   Save
    Aims The prediction that facilitation is the dominant interaction in physically stressful conditions has been supported by many but not all field studies. In the present paper, we tested the effects of the identity of species, the local environmental conditions and the currencies of performance measurement on such variation.
    Methods Using contrasting two plots, six species, and up to five multiple traits, we comprehensively explored the effects of the above factors on the assessment of plant interactions in an alpine meadow of the Qing-Hai Tibetan Plateau. Additionally, we attempted to figure out the possible mechanisms underlying the responses observed. The data were analysed by both standard ANOVAs and multivariate statistics.
    Important findings Our results demonstrated that the response to the removal of neighbours was both species and trait specific, and the effect of the local environmental conditions was dependent on the species involved. The contrast between plots had crucial influence on the net interactions of Kobresia macrantha, but little effect on Elymus nutans. Regarding the abiotic conditions, neighbours had significant impact on soil temperature, moist and solar radiation. The results contribute to advance our knowledge on the potential underlying factors influencing the assessment of facilitation.
    Melanie Mehes, Kabwe K. Nkongolo, Paul Michael
    2009, 2 (3): 143-151.
    Abstract ( 40 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Many pine populations in Canada have fragmented distributions resulting from the effects of glaciations, overharvesting and white pine blister rust infections. Forest fragmentation can modify gene flow and reduce genetic diversity. Selective logging can reduce the density of trees, thereby altering mating patterns and increasing inbreeding. The hypothesis of the present study is that forest fragmentation will not increase inbreeding and will have no effect on genetic diversity parameters in the Canadian Pinus moniticola and P. strobus populations targeted because of (i) the long life span of the pine species, (ii) outbreeding and self-incompatibility of P. monticola and P. strobus and (iii) wind pollination resulting in high gene flow among populations. We studied the genetic diversity of P. strobus across its range in Canada, and we completed a detailed analysis of the genetic structure of P. monticola populations from western Canada using microsatellites genetic markers.
    Methods Seed samples from 10 P. monticola populations and 10 P. strobus populations were collected from western and eastern Canada, respectively. The mother trees included in seed lots were representative of each stand. Genomic DNA extracted from each sample was amplified with microsatellite primers. The intra- and interpopulation genetic diversity parameters were assessed using Popgene and Genepop softwares and the genetic distances among populations within each species using the PowerMarker software.
    Important findings Pinus monticola and P. strobus exhibited moderate to high genetic diversity. Also, both species showed low levels of inbreeding despite the geographic isolation and small stand size. Gene flow estimates were high and population differentiation values were relatively low for these fragmented forest sites.
    Margherita Gioria, Bruce Osborne
    2009, 2 (3): 153-167.
    Abstract ( 51 )   PDF   Save
    Aims In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the impact of invasive alien plant species on the soil seed bank. Soil seed banks play an important role in determining the composition and dynamics of the vegetation through time. Therefore, an ability to form a persistent seed bank and/or a capacity to alter the structure of the seed bank of invaded communities could be important factors in determining the success of many alien plant species. In this study, we report on a detailed assessment of the characteristics of the seed bank community associated with the herbaceous plant invader, Gunnera tinctoria, a newly emerging and potentially globally significant invasive plant species. This species, native to South America, is invasive in a range of wet habitats in Europe, Australasia and the USA.
    Methods A comprehensive assessment of the seed bank of invaded and comparable uninvaded areas was made at two points in time (May and October), at three sites in western Ireland. The seedling emergence approach was used to assess the structure (diversity, dominance and abundance) of the soil seed bank. Differences between invaded and uninvaded seed bank communities were investigated at the spatial scales of site, plot and depth.
    Important findings Gunnera tinctoria formed a large persistent seed bank at the study sites. Approximately 30-000 seedlings per square metre emerged from soils collected from invaded areas, of which 30% were found in deep soil layers. Seedlings of this invader represented 53–86% of the total number of seedlings associated with invaded areas. Both the transient and the more persistent component of the seed bank of invaded communities were significantly less diverse and abundant than those of uninvaded areas, and were characterized by higher dominance, even when seedlings of the invader were not included in the analysis. The seed bank of invaded areas was largely composed of seeds of agricultural weeds in addition to those of the invader. These results suggest that G. tinctoria has the capacity to profoundly alter the seed bank of invaded communities. These results have direct relevance for the development of control and management strategies, for this and other comparable invasive species, which should account for both quantitative and qualitative alterations in the seed bank community. Our study also suggests that control measures that result in disturbance of areas colonized by G. tinctoria could promote the germination of undesirable weeds.
Impact Factor
5 year Impact Factor
Wen-Hao Zhang
Bernhard Schmid