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  • Volume 8 Issue 4
    The area above treeline in Lauribinayak (28°05’N, 85°22’E) in the Rasuwa district of the Langtang National Park. Alpine shrubs dominated by Rhododendron anthopogan are observed. Below is, the high-elevation subalpine forest dominated by Abies spectabilis. In addition to fir, the forest is composed of Betula utilis D. Don and Rhododendron campanulatum D. Don. The treeline ecotone extends between in this area is approx. 3770-3950 m a.s.l. Photo taken by Dr. Krishna Babu [Detail] ...
    Ally Ruttan, Christopher J. Lortie
    2015, 8 (4): 337-346.
    Abstract ( 40 )   PDF   Save
    Aims This systematic review highlights the relative support and implications of the attractant-decoy and repellent-plant hypotheses, discussing important linkages between these theories and the opportunity for novel integration into ecological and applied research.
    Methods An extensive systematic review of the current literature on the attractant-decoy and repellent-plant hypotheses was done to describe the following attributes of the research to date: (i) the geographic extent (country and biome) of studies on this topic, (ii) the scope of experimental designs used, (iii) the level of support for these hypotheses with respect to the breadth of ecological niches tested, (iv) the level of support for these hypotheses with respect to the classes of herbivores examined and, lastly, (v) the ecological impact or purpose of these studies. Herein, we summarize important research gaps in the empirical literature on this topic and identify novel opportunities for critical linkages between ecological and applied theories.
    Important findings A total of 37% of experiments testing these two associated hypotheses were done in North America, frequently in either temperate broadleaf (26% of studies) or taiga ecosystems (15% of studies). The majority of these studies involved experimental manipulations such as removing and transplanting vegetation and either tracked or excluded mammalian herbivores. Ecological implications were primarily examined (59% of studies), but there were also implications described for agriculture and commercial forestry in 22% of studies. The repellent-plant hypothesis was well supported in many ecological systems, particularly for mammalian herbivores, but the attractant-decoy hypothesis has been less frequently tested, thereby representing an important research gap. Insect herbivores were under-represented in all categories except in applied contexts such as commercial forestry and agriculture. There is a clear need for studies to connect these two ecological hypotheses with the management of agriculture and restoration efforts in many ecosystems. Research on the co-evolution and facilitation between palatable and unpalatable plants also represents another novel area of future study.
    Research Articles
    Krishna B. Shrestha, Annika Hofgaard, Vigdis Vandvik
    2015, 8 (4): 347-358.
    Abstract ( 32 )   PDF   Save
    Aims We investigated the treeline dynamics of two environmentally contrasting areas in the Nepalese Himalaya to address the following questions: (i) Does the timing of establishment of the current treeline differ between the two study areas, and can area-specific treeline developments be identified? (ii) Do recruitment patterns and height growth indicate recent climate-driven treeline advance, following the general prediction for the central Himalayan region, in the two study areas?
    Methods A dry-climate treeline dominated by Pinus wallichiana and a mesic-climate treeline with Abies spectabilis were selected for study. In each area, we sampled the size and age structure of the study species along three elevational transects (20-m wide) from the forest line to the tree species line crossing the treeline. We also sampled treeline trees from within and outside transects to reconstruct past treeline establishment dynamics.
    Important findings Despite differences in moisture regimes, tree species and recent climate trends, our two study areas showed very similar treeline dynamics over the past six decades. In both areas, the recruitment of treeline trees indicates stationary treelines over the past six decades with the current treelines being dominated by trees that were established around 1990. The mesic area has experienced an overall climatic warming trend, and the stationary Abies treeline is hypothesized to be regulated by non-climatic factors, notably grazing. The dry area has not experienced warming but increased climatic variability and some very cool summers in the recent decades may explain the stationary to weakly receding Pinus treeline, which appears more climatically controlled with decreased recruitment over the past decades and decreased growth towards higher elevations. In both areas, there is a potential for treeline advance, depending on future land use and climate change. Our results highlight the importance of conducting treeline ecotone analyses for several sites or areas, and considering both climatic and non-climatic drivers of the treeline dynamics within each of these areas, for understanding regional treeline dynamics.
    Cristiane Forgiarini, Alexandre F. Souza, Solon J. Longhi, Juliano M. Oliveira
    2015, 8 (4): 359-367.
    Abstract ( 38 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Despite the growing interest in the topic of functional ecology, there are still forest regions that have not been examined, as most work has been done in the tropics. Unresolved issues include the strength of a growth-mortality trade-off in trees (originally identified for seedlings) and the nature of the association between plant traits and vital rates, if any. Our objectives were to examine whether (i) ecological strategies in South American mixed forests are organized along the fast competitor × slow stress-tolerator and height gradients as the main strategy axes depicted in the overall trait and vital rate correlation structure, and (ii) a tentative path model we proposed can explain the patterns of covariation among traits and vital rates.
    Methods We studied a different habitat (subtropical mixed conifer-hardwood forests) and region (Brazilian Atlantic Forest) from the majority of related studies in forests, carried out in the Neotropical region. Data on total height, stem slenderness, crown depth, wood density, specific leaf area, leaf and seed length, seed dispersal mode, annual mortality, diameter relative growth rate and relative growth rate under favorable conditions were measured in southern Brazil for 66 tree species. Data were subjected to principal components analysis and path analysis. Restricted data on saplings and treelets were analyzed through correlation.
    Important findings Studied traits were reduced to four principal components. Principal components analysis produced axes that fit the resource acquisition versus resource-conservation and the height-mortality trade-offs, although the former was split into two distinct axes. Seed size and seed dispersal mode appeared independently of these axes. A path model showed that leaf length and specific leaf area caused direct changes in trunk slenderness and, indirectly through growth, affected mortality. Expected trade-offs between growth and survivorship and between wood density and stem slenderness trade-offs were not found. This may result from the lack of extreme pioneers and over-representation of slow-growing hardwood species found in Atlantic subtropical forests of South America. This suggests that the fastest growing species in the region do not grow so fast as to compromise wood density and survivorship, but grow fast enough to benefit from increased size. Relationships between traits and vital rates seem to be mediated by the assembly process of regional floras, and the relative importance of traits like SLA and wood density may vary between floristic regions.
    Yun Zhang, Yves Bergeron, Xiu-Hai Zhao, Igor Drobyshev
    2015, 8 (4): 368-379.
    Abstract ( 36 )   PDF   Save
    Aims We examined growth of red maple (Acer rubrum L.) to evaluate environmental controls of its northern distributional limit in Eastern North America and its potential response to future climate change.
    Methods We collected growth data from nine sites located along a 300-km transect (47–49°N), which included frontier population of red maple and covered three bioclimatic domains in western Quebec. We analyzed three growth variables: growth rates during the first 30 years of maple lifespan, cumulative basal area increment (BAI) over the most recent decade (2000–2009) and annual growth rate over the whole tree lifespan ranging from 58 to 112 years. We also examined growth sensitivity to climate by using response function analysis.
    Important findings Three different proxies of maple absolute growth (initial growth rate, BAI during 2000–09 and mean diameter growth rate) indicated a better growth with an increase in latitude. We speculate that stand history effectively overrode the direct effects of colder climate on maple growth along the S-N gradient. Regeneration of maple in the southern sites likely occurred in canopy gaps, whereas in the north it was contingent upon large disturbances such as stand-replacing fires, which apparently provided more favorable light environment for maple growth than canopy gaps. The annual growth variability, which reflects effects of annual weather on growth and is largely independent from the absolute growth rate, was significantly affected by monthly climate, suggesting a positive effect of higher summer temperature in the northern part of the transect (48–49°N) and a negative effect of summer drought in the south (47–48°N). In the future, the natural and human disturbance regimes will be dominant controls of the actual biomass productivity of red maple at the northern limit of its present distribution range. Direct effects of climate on maple growth would likely be less important in this context, and will likely entail negative effect of increased summer drought in the southern part of the study area and positive effects of increased temperatures in the north.
    Javier Ramirez-Garcia, Helle J. Martens, Miguel Quemada, Kristian Thorup-Kristensen
    2015, 8 (4): 380-389.
    Abstract ( 34 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Intercropping legumes and non-legumes may affect the root growth of both components in the mixture, and the non-legume is known to be strongly favored by increasing nitrogen (N) supply. The knowledge of how root systems affect the growth of the individual species is useful for understanding the interactions in intercrops as well as for planning cover cropping strategies. The aim of this work was (i) to determine if different levels of N in the topsoil influence root depth (RD) and intensity of barley and vetch as sole crops or as an intercropped mixture and (ii) to test if the choice of a mixture or the N availability in the topsoil will influence the N uptake by deep roots.
    Methods In this study, we combined rhizotron studies with root extraction and species identification by microscopy with studies of growth, N uptake and 15 N uptake from deeper soil layers, for studying the root interactions of root growth and N foraging for barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and vetch (Vicia sativa L.), frequently grown in mixtures as cover crops. N was added at 0 (N0), 50 (N1) and 150 (N2) kg N ha-1. The roots discrimination relying on the anatomical and morphological differences observed between dicots and monocots proved to be a reliable method providing valuable data for the analysis.
    Important findings The intercrop and the barley attained slightly higher root intensity (RI) and RD than the vetch, with values around 150 crosses m-1 and 1.4 m, respectively, compared to 50 crosses m-1 and 0.9 m for the vetch. At deep soil layers, intercropping showed slightly larger RI values compared to the sole-cropped barley. The barley and the intercropping had larger root length density (RLD) values (200–600 m m ?3) than the vetch (25–130) at 0.8–1.2 m depth. The topsoil N supply did not show a clear effect on the RI, RD or RLD; however, increasing topsoil N favored the proliferation of vetch roots in the intercropping at deep soil layers, with the barley:vetch root ratio ranging from 25 at N0 to 5 at N2. The N uptake of the barley was enhanced in the intercropping at the expense of the vetch (from ~100mg plant-1 to 200). The intercropped barley roots took up more labeled nitrogen (0.6mg 15 N plant-1) than the sole-cropped barley roots (0.3mg 15 N plant-1) from deep layers.
    Biao Zhu, Kevin Panke-Buisse, Jenny Kao-Kniffin
    2015, 8 (4): 390-400.
    Abstract ( 46 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Plants generally respond to nitrogen (N) fertilization with increased growth, but N addition can also suppress rhizosphere effects, which consequently alters soil processes. We quantified the influence of N addition on rhizosphere effects of two C4 grasses: smooth crabgrass (Digitaria ischaemum) and bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon).
    Methods Plants were grown in nutrient-poor soil for 80 days with either 20 or 120 μg NH 4 NO 3 -N g dry soil-1. N mineralization rates, microbial biomass, extracellular enzyme activities and bacterial community structure were measured on both rhizosphere and bulk (unplanted) soils after plant harvest.
    Important findings Fertilization showed nominal differences in net N mineralization, extracellular enzyme activity and microbial biomass between the rhizosphere and bulk soils, indicating minimal influence of N on rhizosphere effects. Instead, the presence of plant roots showed the strongest impact (up to 80%) on rates of net N mineralization and activities of three soil enzymes indicative of N release from organic matter. Principal component analysis of terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) also reflected these trends by highlighting the importance of plant roots in structuring the soil bacterial community, followed by plant species and N fertilization (to a minor extent). Overall, the results indicate minor contributions of short-term N fertilization to changes in the magnitude of rhizosphere effects for both grass species.
    David Eichenberg, Stefan Trogisch, Yuanyuan Huang, Jin-Sheng He, Helge Bruelheide
    2015, 8 (4): 401-410.
    Abstract ( 46 )   PDF   Save
    Aims We investigated shifts in community-weighted mean traits (CWM) of 14 leaf functional traits along a secondary successional series in an evergreen broadleaf forest in subtropical southeast China. Most of the investigated traits have been reported to affect litter decomposition in previous studies. We asked whether changes in CWMs along secondary succession followed similar patterns for all investigated traits and whether the shifts in CWM indicated a change in resource use strategy along the successional gradient. Using community decomposition rates (k -rates) estimated from annual litter production and standing litter biomass, we asked whether the dynamics of litter decomposition were related to changes in leaf functional traits along the successional series.
    Methods Twenty-seven plots were examined for shifts in leaf CWM traits as well as in k -rates along a series of secondary forest succession covered in the framework of the BEF-China project. We investigated whether the changes in CWMs followed similar patterns for all traits with ongoing succession. Three alternative linear models were used to reveal the general patterns of shifts in CWM trait values. Moreover, multiple regression analysis was applied to investigate whether there were causal relationships between the changes in leaf functional traits and the dynamics of litter decomposition along secondary succession. We furthermore assessed which traits had the highest impact on community litter decomposition.
    Important findings Shifts in CWM values generally followed logarithmic patterns for all investigated traits, whereas community k -rates remained stable along the successional gradient. In summary, the shifts in CWM values indicate a change in community resource use strategy from high nutrient acquisition to nutrient retention with ongoing succession. Stands with higher CWM values of traits related to nutrient acquisition had also higher CWM values of traits related to chemical resistance, whereas stands with higher CWM values of traits related to nutrient retention exhibited higher CWM values in leaf physical defense. Moreover, high values in CWM values related to nutritional quality (such as high leaf phosphorus concentrations) were found to promote community k -rates, whereas high values in physical or chemical defense traits (such as high contents in polyphenols or high leaf toughness) decreased litter decomposition rates. In consequence, litter decomposition, which was simultaneously affected by these characteristics, did not change significantly along succession. Our findings show that leaf decomposition within the investigated communities is dependent on the interplay of several traits and is a result from interactions of traits that affect decomposition in opposing directions.
    Yiyong Li, Juxiu Liu, Genyun Chen, Guoyi Zhou, Wenjuan Huang, Guangcai Yin, Deqiang Zhang, Yuelin Li
    2015, 8 (4): 411-419.
    Abstract ( 43 )   PDF   Save
    Aims We aimed to evaluate the changes in water-use efficiency (WUE) in native tree species in forests of subtropical China, and determine how coexisting species would be responding to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations and nitrogen (N) deposition.
    Methods We used model forest ecosystems in open-top chambers to study the effects of elevated CO2 (ca. 700 μmol mol-1) alone and together with N addition (NH 4 NO 3 applied at 100kg N ha-1 year-1) on WUE of four native tree species (Schima superba, Ormosia pinnata, Castanopsis hystrix and Acmena acuminatissima) from 2006 to 2010.
    Important findings Our result indicated that all species increased their WUE when they were exposed to elevated CO2. Although higher WUE was shown in faster-growing species (S. superba and O. pinnata) than that of slower-growing species (C. hystrix and Acmena acuminatissima), the increased extent of WUE induced by elevated CO2 was higher in the slower-growing species than that of the faster-growing species (P < 0.01). The N treatment decreased WUE of S. superba, while the effects on other species were not significant. The interactions between elevated CO2 and N addition increased intrinsic WUE of S. superba significantly (P < 0.001), however, it did not affect WUE of the other tree species significantly. We conclude that the responses of native tree species to elevated CO2 and N addition are different in subtropical China. The species-specific effects of elevated CO2 and N addition on WUE would have important implications on species composition in China's subtropics in response to global change.
    WeiWei Zhuang, Alison Downing, YuanMing Zhang
    2015, 8 (4): 420-428.
    Abstract ( 39 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Desert ecosystems are often characterized by patchy distribution of vascular plants, with biological soil crusts (BSC) covering interplant spaces. However, few studies have comprehensively examined the linkage between BSC and vascular plants through nitrogen (N) or element translocation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the ecological roles of BSC on N translocation from soil to the dominant herb Erodium oxyrrhynchum Bieb. (Geraniaceae) in a temperate desert in China.
    Methods Isotopes (including 15 N-Glu, 15 N-NH 4 Cl and 15 N-NaNO 3) were used as a tracer to detect translocation of N in two types of desert soil (BSC covered; bare) to the dominant herb E. oxyrrhynchum. Three different forms of 15 N-enriched N compounds were applied as a point source to small patches of BSC and to bare soil. And we measured isotopes (14 N and 15 N) and obtained the concentration of labeled- 15 N in both vascular plants and soils at different distances from substrate application
    Important findings Plants of E. oxyrrhynchum growing in BSC-covered plots accumulated more δ 15 N than those growing in the bare soil. Similarly, soil from BSC-covered plots showed a higher concentration of labeled-N irrespective of form of isotope, than did the bare soil. The concentration of dissolved organic N (15 N-Glu) in E. oxyrrhynchum was higher than that of dissolved inorganic N (15 N-NH 4 Cl and 15 N-NaNO 3). Soil covered by BSC also accumulated considerably more dissolved organic N than bare soil, whereas the dominant form of 15 N concentrated in bare soil was dissolved inorganic N. Correlation analysis showed that the concentration of labeled-N in plants was positively related to the concentration of labeled-N in soils and the N% recorded in E. oxyrrhynchum. Our study supports the hypothesis that BSC facilitates 15 N translocation in soils and vascular plants in a temperate desert of northwestern China.
    Feng Zhang, Guangsheng Zhou, Christer Nilsson
    2015, 8 (4): 429-435.
    Abstract ( 43 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Accurate remote estimation of the fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (fAPAR) is essential for the light use efficiency (LUE) models. Currently, one challenge for the LUE models is lack of knowledge about the relationship between fAPAR and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Few studies have tested this relationship against field measurements and evaluated the accuracy of the remote estimation method. This study aimed to reveal the empirical relationship between NDVI and fAPAR and to improve algorithms for remote estimation of fAPAR.
    Methods To investigate the method of remote estimation of fAPAR seasonal dynamics, the CASA (Carnegie–Ames–Stanford Approach) model and spectral vegetation indices (VIs) were used for in situ measurements of spectral reflectance and fAPAR during the growing season of a maize canopy in Northeast China.
    Important findings The results showed that the fAPAR increased rapidly with the day of year during the vegetative stage, it remained relatively stable at the stage of reproduction, and finally decreased slowly during the senescence stage. In addition, fAPAR green [fAPAR green = fAPAR × (green LAI/green LAI max)] showed clearer seasonal trends than fAPAR. The NDVI, red-edge NDVI, wide dynamic range vegetation index, red-edge position (REP) and REP with Sentinel-2 bands derived from hyperspectral remote sensing data were all significantly positively related to fAPAR green during the entire growing season. In a comparison of the predictive performance of VIs for the whole growing season, REP was the most appropriate spectral index, and can be recommended for monitoring seasonal dynamics of fAPAR in a maize canopy.
    Shujuan Zhang, Li Wang, Fang Ma, Keith J. Bloomfield, Jixian Yang, Owen K. Atkin
    2015, 8 (4): 436-448.
    Abstract ( 38 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Our study quantified the combined effects of fertilization and inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) on grain yield and allocation of biomass and nutrients in field-grown rice (Oryza sativa L.).
    Methods A two-factor experiment was conducted at a field site in northeast of China (in Shuangcheng, Heilongjiang Province, Songhua River basin): six nitrogen–phosphorus–potassium fertilizer levels were provided (0, 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100% of the local norm of fertilizer supply), with or without inoculation with Glomus mosseae. At maturity, we quantified the percentage of root length colonization by AMF, grain yield, shoot:root ratios, shoot N and P contents and nutrients allocated to panicles, leaves and stems.
    Important findings As expected, inoculation resulted in greatly increased AMF colonization, which in turn led to higher shoot:root ratios and greater shoot N contents. Shoot:root ratios of inoculated rice increased with increasing fertilization while there was a significant interaction between fertilization and inoculation on shoot:root ratio. Additionally, AMF inoculation increased panicle:shoot ratios, panicle N:shoot N ratios and panicle P:shoot P ratios, especially in plants grown at low fertilizer levels. Importantly, inoculated rice exhibited higher grain yield, with the maximum improvement (near 62%) at the lower fertilizer end. Our results showed that (i) AMF-inoculated plants conform to the functional equilibrium theory, albeit to a reduced extent compared to non-inoculated plants and (ii) AMF inoculation resulted in greater allocation of shoot biomass to panicles and increased grain yield by stimulating N and P redistribution to panicles.
    Katherina Ng, Don A. Driscoll
    2015, 8 (4): 449-455.
    Abstract ( 39 )   PDF   Save
    Aims To determine the detectability of a global weedy perennial weed Hypochaeris radicata and its relationship with five common observer, species and environmental variables.
    Methods Trained independent observers conducted time-limited repeat surveys of H. radicata during autumn in an endangered grassy box-gum woodland ecosystem in south-east Australia. Single-species single-season site-occupancy modelling was used to determine if detectability of H. radicata was altered by five covariates, observer, litter height, grazing, maximum plant height and flowering state.
    Important findings Detectability for H. radicata varied significantly with observer, litter height, plant maximum height and flowering state, but not with grazing. Despite significant observer-specific variation, there was a consistent increase in detectability with plant height and when plants are in flower for all observers. Detectability generally decreased as litter height increases. Perfect or constant detection rates cannot be assumed in plant surveys, even for easily recognizable plants in simple survey conditions. Understanding how detectability is influenced by common survey variables can help improve the efficacy of plant monitoring programs by quantifying the extent of uncertainty in inferences made from survey data, or by determining optimal survey conditions to increase the reliability of collected data. For plants with traits similar to H. radicata, surveying when most plants are at maximum height or in flower, increasing search intensity when litter levels are high and minimizing observer-related heterogeneity are potentially simple and effective ways to reduce detection errors. We speculate that detection rates may be lower, more variable and involve additional covariates when surveying during the peak flowering spring season with the presence of more warm season and taller annual species.
    Chuanhua Wang, Tianhua He, Fangqing Chen
    2015, 8 (4): 456-456.
    Abstract ( 43 )   PDF   Save
Impact Factor
5 year Impact Factor
Wen-Hao Zhang
Bernhard Schmid