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  • Volume 4 Issue 3
    Research Articles
    Amanda J. Tracey, Lonnie W. Aarssen
    2011, 4 (3): 115-122.
    Abstract ( 56 )   PDF   Save
    Aims According to traditional theory, superior competitive ability in plants generally requires relatively large plant body size. Yet even within the most crowded vegetation, most resident species are relatively small; species size distributions are right-skewed at virtually every scale. We examine a potential explanation for this paradox: small species coexist with and outnumber large species because they have greater 'reproductive economy', i.e. they are better equipped—and hence more likely—to produce offspring despite severe size suppression from intense competition.
    Methods Randomly placed plots within old-field vegetation were surveyed across the growing season. Within each plot, the largest (MAX) and smallest (MIN) reproductive individuals of each resident species were collected for above-ground dry mass measurement. We tested three hypotheses: (i) smaller resident species (with smaller MAX size) have generally smaller reproductive threshold sizes; (ii) smaller resident species have greater 'reproductive economy', i.e. a smaller MIN relative to MAX reproductive plant size; and (iii) MIN size predicts plot occupancy (species abundance within the community) better than MAX size.
    Important findings The results supported the first and third, but not the second hypothesis. However, we could not reject the hypothesis that smaller species have greater reproductive economy, as it was not possible to record data for the largest potential plant size for each species—since even the largest (MAX) plants collected from our sampled plots were subjected to competition from neighbours under these natural field conditions. Importantly, contrary to conventional competition theory, more successful species (in terms of greater plot occupancy) had smaller minimum not larger (or smaller) maximum reproductive sizes. These results suggest that a small reproductive threshold size, commonly associated with relatively small potential body size, is generally more effective in transmitting genes into future generations when selection from neighbourhood crowding/competition is intense—at least within natural old-field vegetation. Accordingly, we propose a simple conceptual model that represents the basis for a fundamental paradigm shift in the predicted selection effects of crowding/competition on plant body size evolution.
    Lara Souza, Jake F. Weltzin, Nathan J. Sanders
    2011, 4 (3): 123-131.
    Abstract ( 50 )   PDF   Save
    Aims In this study, we examined the effects of Solidago altissima (hereafter Solidago) and two species in the genus Verbesina, Verbesina virginica and Verbesina occidentalis (hereafter Verbesina), on the structure of an old-field plant community and establishment by an invasive plant species, Lespedeza cuneata (hereafter Lespedeza).
    Methods We removed Solidago, Verbesina and both Solidago and Verbesina from 4-m 2 plots in an intact old-field community during two growing seasons. We then quantified the effects of these removals on richness, evenness, diversity and composition of the subdominant plant community. We also measured the total aboveground biomass and the aboveground biomass of the subdominant community. To assess how these removals affected establishment by Lespedeza, we planted 20 seeds in each plot and tracked seedling emergence and survival for one growing season.
    Important findings Subdominant community evenness and Shannon diversity were higher in plots from which Solidago and Verbesina were removed relative to control plots. However, there were no effects of dominant species removal on species richness or composition of the subdominant community. Total aboveground biomass was not affected by dominant species removal, suggesting that the community of subdominant species exhibited compensation. In fact, subdominant community biomass was greater when Solidago, but not Verbesina, was removed. Light availability was also greater in plots where Solidago was removed relative to control plots throughout the growing season. In addition, removal of dominant species, in particular Solidago, indirectly reduced the emergence, but not survival, of Lespedeza seedlings by directly promoting subdominant community biomass. Taken together, our results suggest that dominant old-field plant species affect subdominant community structure and indirectly promote establishment by Lespedeza .
    Qinfeng Guo
    2011, 4 (3): 132-137.
    Abstract ( 63 )   PDF   Save
    Aims With a few exceptions, most well-known field biodiversity experiments on ecosystem functioning have been conducted in plant communities (especially grasslands) in which different numbers of species are planted as treatments. In these experiments, investigators have either kept the total seed weight or seed number constant across treatment plots. However, although in some cases attempts have been made to randomly choose species for planting from a designated species pool, the issue of possible 'hidden treatments' remains unsolved. Particularly, the total and relative abundance among species and across treatments could still affect the results. This study aims to determine whether treatments related to planted seed abundance and seed size may contribute to observed productivity.
    Methods We re-analyzed data from four biodiversity experiments based on a common seeding design (i.e. diversity treatments).
    Important findings We show that diversity (richness) treatments usually involve a hidden treatment related to the planted seeds (i.e. weight, number and seed size) that ultimately affect plant density. Thus, the un-intended hidden treatment of seeding more seeds on more diverse plots contributes to the productivity to some degree. Such derivative but often neglected hidden treatments are important for further improvement of experimental design and have significant implications in ecological restoration.
    Wei Li, Shujun Wen, Wenxiang Hu, Guozhen Du
    2011, 4 (3): 138-146.
    Abstract ( 68 )   PDF   Save
    Aims A decrease in species diversity after fertilization is a common phenomenon in grasslands; however, the mechanism causing it remains highly controversial. The light competition hypothesis to explain loss of diversity has received much attention. The aim of the present paper was to test this hypothesis.
    Methods Fertilization was used to control above- and belowground resources simultaneously, while shade was used to control aboveground resource in an alpine meadow on the Tibetan Plateau. Univariate general linear models was used to estimate the effects of fertilization and shade on above- and belowground vegetation characteristics, including photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) in the understory, aboveground biomass, belowground biomass, R:S ratio, species richness and Simpson's diversity index.
    Important findings PAR was similar in the understory of shaded and fertilized plots, but only fertilization reduced species richness and diversity, suggesting that light competition alone could not explain diversity loss after fertilization. The root biomass and R:S ratio had a significant increase in shaded plots, but the richness and diversity did not change, suggesting that root competition alone also could not explain diversity loss after fertilization in this community. Our results illustrated that the root–shoot competition interactions, investigated from a functional groups perspective, should be the most reasonable explanation leading to the diversity loss due to fertilization.
    Youhong Peng, Karl J. Niklas, Shucun Sun
    2011, 4 (3): 147-156.
    Abstract ( 57 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Recent theories indicate that N is more in demand for plant growth than P; therefore, N concentration and N : C and N : P ratios are predicted to be positively correlated with relative growth rate (RGR) in plants under nutrient-enriched conditions. This prediction was tested in this study.
    Methods We examined the whole-plant concentrations of C, N and P and RGR, as well as the relationship between RGR and the concentrations and the ratios of N : C, P : C and N : P, for different harvest stages (the days after seed germination) of the seedlings of seven shrub species and four herbaceous species grown in N and P non-limiting conditions. The relationships among plant size, nutrient concentrations and ratios were subsequently determined.
    Important findings RGR was positively correlated with N concentration and the ratios of N : P and N : C when the data were pooled for all species and for each shrub species, but not for individual herbaceous species. However, the relationship between RGR and P concentration and P : C was not significantly correlated for either shrubs or herbs. The variation of N among harvest stages and species was much greater than that of P, and the variation in N : P ratio was determined primarily by changes in N concentration. The shrub species differed from the herbaceous species in their N and P concentrations, nutrient ratios and in intraspecific relationships between RGR and nutrient ratios. These differences possibly reflect differences in the capacity for P storage and biomass allocation patterns. In general, our data support recent theoretical predictions regarding the relationship between RGR and C : N : P stoichiometry, but they also show that species with different life forms differ in the relationships among RGR and C : N : P stoichimetries.
    David J. Gibson, Jared Urban, Sara G. Baer
    2011, 4 (3): 157-168.
    Abstract ( 53 )   PDF   Save
    Aims We used a 10-year field experiment that consisted of mowing and fertilizer treatments to evaluate the role of niche limitation in seedling establishment of species from different functional groups and of varying local abundance in an old field undergoing succession.
    Methods Seedlings of nine different species were planted into a successional field subjected to mowing and fertilizer treatments for 10 years that resulted in different plant communities and resource availability. Species representative of the factorial combination of three functional groups (C 4 grasses, C3 grasses and legumes) and three abundance categories (abundant, present, or absent in the old field) were planted in four treatments resulting from the factorial combination of annual spring mowing (mowed and unmowed) and fertilizer application (annually fertilized and unfertilized). Survivorship, relative growth rate (RGR) and biomass were measured to determine the role of niche limitation on recruitment and growth.
    Important findings Mowing increased the establishment success of seedlings. Fertilization had little influence on seedling performance and survivorship. C3 grasses had the highest survivorship, while C4 grasses and legumes had equivalent RGRs, but higher than C3 grasses. By contrast, survivorship of legumes was unrelated to mowing or fertilizer, suggesting that establishment of this functional group was dependent on other, unmeasured conditions or processes. Species already present, but at low abundance, performed better than locally abundant or absent species. Propagule limitation may restrict the arrival of a species. However, recruitment and establishment was subject to niche limitation, which varied among species, functional groups and whether a species is already resident at the site and its abundance. Thus, species interactions restrict establishment during old-field succession, supporting the niche limitation hypothesis.
    Xiao-dong Zhang, Wen-ting Xu, Bo Yang, Ming Nie, Bo Li
    2011, 4 (3): 169-177.
    Abstract ( 57 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Salt stress resulting from soil salinization is one of the driving forces of the land degradation throughout the world. The modern Yellow River delta is one of the most saline areas in China. Phytoremediation can be an effective way to restore the salinized ecosystems, which requires selecting appropriate plant species. This study explored the germination responses of common plant species from contrasting habitats in the Yellow River delta to varying salinity, offering experimental information for ecosystem restoration in the Yellow River delta.
    Methods In this study, 15 common plant species from the Yellow River delta were divided into two groups (high-salinity and low-salinity groups) by their natural habitats using Canonical Correlation Analysis. Seeds of each species were treated with five salinity levels (0, 5, 10, 20 and 30 ppt), using a randomized complete block design, and germinated seeds were counted and removed daily for 28 days to calculate the final germination proportion and mean time to germination. The germination responses of seeds to salinity treatments were compared between the two groups.
    Important findings In relation to salinity, seed germination behavior of the test species was closely related to the salinity level of the habitats over which they were distributed. Species from the habitats with higher salinity had generally higher final germination proportion but shorter mean time to germination than those from the habitats with lower salinity in all of five salinity treatments used. The final germination proportion and mean time to germination of low-salinity group species were more sensitive to salinity than those of high-salinity group species. Selecting the species with high final germination proportion and short mean time to germination is important for restoration of salinized land.
    Ensheng Weng, Yiqi Luo, Chao Gao, Ram Oren
    2011, 4 (3): 178-191.
    Abstract ( 50 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Accurate forecast of ecosystem states is critical for improving natural resource management and climate change mitigation. Assimilating observed data into models is an effective way to reduce uncertainties in ecological forecasting. However, influences of measurement errors on parameter estimation and forecasted state changes have not been carefully examined. This study analyzed the parameter identifiability of a process-based ecosystem carbon cycle model, the sensitivity of parameter estimates and model forecasts to the magnitudes of measurement errors and the information contributions of the assimilated data to model forecasts with a data assimilation approach.
    Methods We applied a Markov Chain Monte Carlo method to assimilate eight biometric data sets into the Terrestrial ECOsystem model. The data were the observations of foliage biomass, wood biomass, fine root biomass, microbial biomass, litter fall, litter, soil carbon and soil respiration, collected at the Duke Forest free-air CO2 enrichment facilities from 1996 to 2005. Three levels of measurement errors were assigned to these data sets by halving and doubling their original standard deviations.
    Important findings Results showed that only less than half of the 30 parameters could be constrained, though the observations were extensive and the model was relatively simple. Higher measurement errors led to higher uncertainties in parameters estimates and forecasted carbon (C) pool sizes. The long-term predictions of the slow turnover pools were affected less by the measurement errors than those of fast turnover pools. Assimilated data contributed less information for the pools with long residence times in long-term forecasts. These results indicate the residence times of C pools played a key role in regulating propagation of errors from measurements to model forecasts in a data assimilation system. Improving the estimation of parameters of slow turnover C pools is the key to better forecast long-term ecosystem C dynamics.
    H. Asbjornsen, G. R. Goldsmith, M. S. Alvarado-Barrientos, K. Rebel, F. P. Van Osch, M. Rietkerk, J. Chen, S. Gotsch, C. Tobón, D. R. Geissert, A. Gómez-Tagle, K. Vache, T. E. Dawson
    2011, 4 (3): 192-192.
    Abstract ( 57 )   PDF   Save
Impact Factor
5 year Impact Factor
Wen-Hao Zhang
Bernhard Schmid