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  • Volume 13 Issue 6
    On the Cover: Eryngium maritimum is a native perennial hemicryptophyte, with a large taproot, spiny and leathery leaves and a pale bluish inflorescence. Photo taken by Marano and Grado Lagoon. See Vitti et al. in this issue.
      
    Research Articles
    Stefano Vitti, Elisa Pellegrini, Valentino Casolo, Giacomo Trotta and Francesco Boscutti
    2020, 13 (6): 667-675.
    Abstract ( 26 )   PDF   Save
    Aims

    Among terrestrial ecosystems, coastal sandy dunes are particularly prone to alien plant invasion. Many studies related the invasion of dune habitats to anthropic causes, but less is known about the role of soil properties and plant traits in plant invasion. In this study, we tested the relationships between soil features and alien plant invasion in dune systems, focusing on the interplay between soil nutrients, soil salinity and plant functional traits.

    Methods

    Study sites were sandy barrier islands of the Marano and Grado lagoon (northern Adriatic Sea). One hundred plots (4 m × 4 m) were selected within 10 areas according to the main habitats occurring along the ecological gradient of dune system (foredune, backdune and saltmarsh). In each plot, we recorded all plant species occurrence and abundance and we collected a soil core. For each soil sample, soil texture, conductivity (as proxy of soil salinity), organic carbon and nitrogen content were analyzed and related to the species number and cover of native and alien plants. Variation of main reproductive and vegetative functional traits among habitats was also analyzed for both alien and native species.

    Important Findings

    Soil properties were strongly related to overall plant diversity, by differently affecting alien and native species pools. In backdune, the most invaded habitat, a high soil conductivity limited the number of alien species, whereas the content of soil organic carbon increased along with alien plant abundance, suggesting also the occurrence of potential feedback processes between plant invasion and soil. We found a significant convergence between native and alien plant functional trait spectra only in backdune habitat, where environmental conditions ameliorate and plant competition increases. Our findings suggest that in harsh conditions only native specialized plants can thrive while at intermediate conditions, soil properties gradient acts in synergy with plant traits to curb/facilitate alien plant richness.

    Xi Luo, Yi Zheng, Xiaohong Xu, Rui Xiao and Hui Guo
    2020, 13 (6): 676-682.
    Abstract ( 11 )   PDF   Save
    Aims

    Global change factors (e.g. warming and nitrogen deposition) may influence biological invasions, but how these factors may influence the performance of invasive species and further mediate the interactions with native competitors remain still unknown.

    Methods

    Here, we conducted a 5-month greenhouse experiment to examine the effects of warming (using open-top chambers, +0.62°C) and N addition (adding NH4NO3 at a rate of 4.2 g m−2) on the performance of the native and invasive populations of an invasive species Plantago virginica in competition with a native Plantago asiatica.

    Important Findings

    Under warming treatment and its interaction with nitrogen addition treatment (W × N), invasive and native populations of P. virginica had different biomass allocation strategies to compete with native competitor P. asiatica. Native population of P. virginica (PV-Na) increased more below-ground biomass, whereas those from the invasive population (PV-In) increased more above-ground biomass. We also found that invasive species P. virginica had stronger responses to warming and N addition than the native species P. asiatica. The competitive ability of the invasive plants was significantly reduced by warming which indicated that the invasive plant were much stronger sensitivity to elevated temperature than native plant. Similarly, N addition and W × N reduced the competitive response of PV-In in below-ground biomass, but increased the competitive response of PV-Na in above-ground and total biomass when they grew with the P. asiatica. The results show that P. virginica have occurred differential biomass allocation strategies during its invasions and invasive population exhibit flexible competition ability to adapt to environmental changes (especially warming). These findings may potentially help to predict plant invasions and make management strategies in a world with changing climate.

    Honglang Duan, Defu Wang, Xiaohua Wei, Guomin Huang, Houbao Fan, Shuangxi Zhou, Jianping Wu, Wenfei Liu, David T. Tissue, and Songze Wan
    2020, 13 (6): 683-692.
    Abstract ( 9 )   PDF   Save
    Aims

    Drought stress and the degree of drought severity are predicted to rise under highly variable patterns of precipitation due to climate change, while the capacity of trees to cope with drought recovery through physiological and biochemical adjustment remains unclear. We aimed to examine the coupling of physiology and biochemistry in trees during drought and the following recovery.

    Methods

    Potted seedlings of Cinnamomum camphora were grown under well watered conditions prior to the experimental drought stress, which was initiated by withholding water. Seedlings were rewatered following attainment of two drought severities: mild drought (stomatal closure) and moderate drought (ψxylem = −1.5 MPa). We measured leaf-level water potential, gas exchange (photosynthesis and stomatal conductance), abscisic acid (ABA), proline and non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs) concentrations in seedlings of C. camphora during drought and a 4-day recovery.

    Important Findings

    We found that drought severity largely determined physiological and biochemical responses and affected the rate of recovery. Stomatal closure occurred at the mild drought stress, accompanied with ABA accumulation in leaves and decline in water potential, while leaf proline accumulation and variable NSC were evident at the moderate drought stress. More severe drought stress led to delayed recovery of gas exchange, but it did not have significant effect on water potential recovery. The relationships of water potential and gas exchange differed during drought stress and post-drought recovery. There was tight coupling between water potential and gas exchange during drought, but not during rewatering due to high ABA accumulation in leaves, thereby delaying recovery of stomatal conductance. Our results demonstrate that ABA could be an important factor in delaying the recovery of stomatal conductance following rewatering and after water potential recovery of C. camphora. Furthermore, greater drought severity had significant impacts on the rate of recovery of tree physiology and biochemistry.

    Yan Li, Jieyu Kang, Zhijun Li, Helena Korpelainen and Chunyang Li
    2020, 13 (6): 693-703.
    Abstract ( 8 )   PDF   Save
    Aims

    Populus deltoides and P. euramericana are widely used in China as major forestry species. At present, little is known about their responses to nitrogen (N) deficiency when grown in monocultures or mixed plantations. The aim of this investigation was to analyze the growth, and morphological and physiological responses of P. deltoides and P. euramericana to different N levels under competition conditions.

    Methods

    We employed two Populus species (P. deltoides and P. euramericana) to discover how N deficiency affects plant traits under different competition types (P. deltoides × P. deltoides, intraspecific competition; P. euramericana × P. euramericana, intraspecific competition; P. deltoides × P. euramericana, interspecific competition). Potted seedlings were exposed to two N levels (normal N, N deficiency), and nitrogen- and competition-driven differences in growth, morphology and physiology were examined.

    Important Findings

    Under normal N conditions, interspecific competition significantly decreased the total root weight, root mass fraction (RMF), root–shoot ratio (R/S) and carbon/nitrogen ratio (C/N), and increased the leaf dry weight, leaf mass fraction and total leaf area of P. euramericana compared with intraspecific competition. The same conditions significantly affected the growth and morphological variables of P. deltoides, except for the dry weight of fine roots, R/S, specific leaf area, RMF, total nitrogen content and C/N compared with intraspecific competition. In addition, chlorophyll a (Chla), total chlorophyll (Tchl), carotenoid contents (Caro) and the carbon isotope composition (δ 13C) of P. deltoides were significantly lower in interspecific competition than in intraspecific competition, but no difference was detected in P. euramericana. The effects of N deficiency on P. deltoides under intraspecific competition were stronger than under interspecific competition. In contrast, the effects of N deficiency on P. euramericana between intraspecific and interspecific competition were not significantly different. These results suggest that under normal N condition, P. deltoides is expected to gain an advantage in monocultures rather than in mixtures with P. euramericana. Under N deficiency, the growth performance of P. euramericana was more stable than that of P. deltoides under both cultivation modes.

    Ming-Hua Song, Johannes H.C. Cornelissen, Yi-Kang Li, Xing-Liang Xu, Hua-Kun Zhou, Xiao-Yong Cui, Yan-Fen Wang, Rong-Yan Xu and Qi Feng
    2020, 13 (6): 704-712.
    Abstract ( 6 )   PDF   Save
    Aims

    Grasslands are globally threatened by climate changes and unsustainable land-use, which often cause transitions among alternative stable states, and even catastrophic transition to desertification. Spatial vegetation patch configurations have been shown to signify such transitions at large spatial scale. Here, we demonstrate how small-scale patch configurations can also indicate state transitions.

    Methods

    The whole spatial series of degradation successions were chosen in alpine grasslands characterized as seven typical communities. Patch numbers, and perimeter and cover of each patch were recorded using adjacent quadrats along transects in each type of the communities. Species abundance within each patch was measured.

    Important Findings

    Across seven grazing-induced degradation stages in the world’s largest expanse of grassland, from dense ungrazed turf to bare black-soil crust, patch numbers and perimeters first increased as patch cover decreased. Numbers and perimeters then decreased rapidly beyond an intersection point at 68% of initial continuous vegetation cover. Around this point, the vegetation fluctuated back and forth between the sedge-dominated grassland breaking-up phase and the forb-dominated phase, suggesting impending shift of grassland state. This study thus demonstrates how ground-based small-scale vegetation surveys can provide a quantitative, easy-to-use signals for vegetation degradation, with promise for detecting the catastrophic transition to desertification.

    Di Wu, Xian-Wei Wang, Shi-Qi Xu, Chong-Juan Chen, Rong Mao and Xue-Yan Liu
    2020, 13 (6): 713-721.
    Abstract ( 3 )   PDF   Save
    Aims

    Climate warming and increasing nitrogen (N) deposition have influenced plant nutrient status and thus plant carbon (C) fixation and vegetation composition in boreal peatlands. Phenols, which are secondary metabolites in plants for defense and adaptation, also play important roles in regulating peatland C dynamics due to their anti-decomposition properties. However, how the phenolic levels of different functional types of plants vary depending on nutrient availability remain unclear in boreal peatlands.

    Methods

    Here, we investigated total phenols contents (TPC) and total tannins contents in leaves of 11 plant species in 18 peatlands of the Great Hing’an Mountains area in northeastern China, and examined their variations with leaf N and phosphorus (P) and underlying mechanisms.

    Important Findings

    Shrubs had higher TPC than graminoids, indicating less C allocation to defense and less uptake of organic N in faster-growing and nonmycorrhizal graminoids than in slower-growing and mycorrhizal shrubs. For shrubs, leaf TPC decreased with increasing N contents but was not influenced by changing leaf phosphorus (P) contents, which suggested that shrubs would reduce the C investment for defense with increasing N availability. Differently, leaf TPC of graminoids increased with leaf N contents and decreased with leaf P contents. As graminoids are more N-limited and less P-limited, we inferred that graminoids would increase the defensive C investment under increased nutrient availability. We concluded that shrubs would invest more C in growth than in defense with increasing N availability, but it was just opposite for graminoids, which might be an important mechanism to explain the resource competition and encroachment of shrubs in boreal peatlands in the context of climate warming and ever-increasing N deposition.

    Arie Vinograd, Eli Zaady and Jaime Kigel
    2020, 13 (6): 722-731.
    Abstract ( 6 )   PDF   Save
    Aims

    Management of silvo-pastoral systems in planted and natural forests in semi-arid Mediterranean regions often employs seasonal night corrals for animal protection. This management system changes the spatial distribution of animal excreta, resulting in a net transfer of soil mineral resources and their accumulation in the corrals. After abandonment, corrals are colonized by ruderal species, becoming focal sources for their spread in the forest. We aimed to implement a rational management of seasonal sheep corrals based on a better understanding of the vegetation processes occurring in abandoned corrals, in order to alleviate their negative impact in the forest.

    Methods

    Relationships between temporal changes in the vegetation, the soil seed-bank and levels of soil nutrients were studied in a chronosequence of abandoned sheep corrals and compared with nearby reference plots in planted Eucalyptus forests grazed by sheep in the semi-arid North-Western Negev, Israel. The region has a bi-seasonal Mediterranean climate, with high dominance of annual species in the grazing range.

    Important Findings

    Abandoned sheep corrals were colonized by seeds of ruderals originating in older abandoned corrals. Subsequent successional changes occur at a slow rate, driven by the depletion of soil resources in the abandoned corrals, and were still in progress 20 years after abandonment. Ruderals were gradually replaced, first by taller grasses and followed by short grasses, but most forbs and particularly geophytes did not recover during this period. Recovery of the original herbaceous vegetation in the corrals was through seed dispersal from the surrounding vegetation, not from the original soil seed-bank remaining in the corrals after abandonment. Ruderal species in the grazed, planted forests behave as patch-tracking metapopulations. Their persistency depends on constant creation of new corrals compensating for the gradually dwindling populations in older abandoned corrals, and on the availability of dispersal vectors.

Impact Factor
1.833
5 year Impact Factor
2.299
Editors-in-Chief
Wen-Hao Zhang
Bernhard Schmid