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  • Volume 4 Issue 4
    Research Articles
    Seline S. Meijer, Milena Holmgren, Wim H. Van der Putten
    2011, 4 (4): 193-200.
    Abstract ( 68 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Plants are able to influence their growing environment by changing biotic and abiotic soil conditions. These soil conditions in turn can influence plant growth conditions, which is called plant–soil feedback. Plant–soil feedback is known to be operative in a wide variety of ecosystems ranging from temperate grasslands to tropical rain forests. However, little is known about how it operates in arid environments. We examined the role of plant–soil feedbacks on tree seedling growth in relation to water availability as occurring in arid ecosystems along the west coast of South America.
    Methods In a two-phased greenhouse experiment, we compared plant–soil feedback effects under three water levels (no water, 10% gravimetric moisture and 15% gravimetric moisture). We used sterilized soil inoculated with soil collected from northwest Peru (Prosopis pallida forests) and from two sites in north-central Chile (Prosopis chilensis forest and scrublands without P. chilensis).
    Important findings Plant–soil feedbacks differed between plant species and soil origins, but water availability did not influence the feedback effects. Plant–soil feedbacks differed in direction and strength in the three soil origins studied. Plant–soil feedbacks of plants grown in Peruvian forest soil were negative for leaf biomass and positive for root length. In contrast, feedbacks were neutral for plants growing in Chilean scrubland soil and positive for leaf biomass for those growing in Chilean forest soil. Our results show that under arid conditions, effects of plant–soil feedback depend upon context. Moreover, the results suggest that plant–soil feedback can influence trade-offs between root growth and leaf biomass investment and as such that feedback interactions between plants and soil biota can make plants either more tolerant or vulnerable to droughts. Based on dissecting plant–soil feedbacks into aboveground and belowground tissue responses, we conclude that plant–soil feedback can enhance plant colonization in some arid ecosystems by promoting root growth.
    Anaïs Gibert, Laurent Hazard
    2011, 4 (4): 201-208.
    Abstract ( 52 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Symbiotic relationships between fungal endophytes and grass species are known to increase stress resistance in the grass host; however, there is little evidence to suggest that the positive effects occur early in the grass life cycle. In this study, we explored the effects of the endophyte Epichlo? festucae on the growth and survival of Festuca eskia seedlings under drought and frequent cutting stress.
    Methods Festuca eskia seedlings were collected from the western part of the plant repartition area in a non-symbiotic population located in a mesic and heavily grazed site (W-NS) and from the eastern part in a symbiotic population from a xeric and lightly grazed site (E-S). The E-S population was experimentally freed from its endophyte (E-F). Two greenhouse experiments were conducted to compare growth and survival between the three seedling types under drought stress and frequent cutting. In the first experiment, 126 seedlings per seedling type (n = 378) were grown for 6 weeks under non-limiting conditions before the cessation of watering. After 3 weeks without irrigation, full irrigation was restored for 10 days to measure the survival rate. Leaf length, leaf elongation rate and survival rate were assessed per population. In the second experiment, 156 seedlings per seedling type (n = 468) were grown under non-limiting conditions. All seedlings were cut to 3 cm high, twice a week, during the first month of growth. Leaf elongation and tillering were monitored on 52 seedlings per seedling type. For each type, seedling survival rate was determined by the number of plants alive after 10 days of regrowth, without cutting.
    Important findings The drought experiment revealed a phenotypic differentiation to drought in 30 F. eskia populations, suggesting adaptive differentiation: the eastern seedlings showed the highest survival rate. A trade-off between growth and survival was highlighted: the highest drought survival rate was associated with the lowest leaf elongation rate under non-limiting water conditions. Endophyte presence in the eastern population increased seedling drought survival. In contrast, cutting survival rate was similar between W-NS and E-S because the presence of the endophyte increased seedling survival to frequent cutting. However, this positive effect came with a cost: the endophyte reduced seedling tillering rate.
    Susan K. Ebeling, Jürg Stöcklin, Isabell Hensen, Harald Auge
    2011, 4 (4): 209-220.
    Abstract ( 62 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Adaptive evolution along geographic gradients of climatic conditions is suggested to facilitate the spread of invasive plant species, leading to clinal variation among populations in the introduced range. We investigated whether adaptation to climate is also involved in the invasive spread of an ornamental shrub, Buddleja davidii, across western and central Europe.
    Methods We combined a common garden experiment, replicated in three climatically different central European regions, with reciprocal transplantation to quantify genetic differentiation in growth and reproductive traits of 20 invasive B. davidii populations. Additionally, we compared compensatory regrowth among populations after clipping of stems to simulate mechanical damage.
    Important findings Our results do not provide evidence for clinal variation among invasive B. davidii populations: populations responded similarly to the different environments, and trait values were not correlated to climatic conditions or geographic coordinates of their home sites. Moreover, we did not detect differences in the compensatory ability of populations. We suppose that the invasive spread of B. davidii has been facilitated by phenotypic plasticity rather than by adaptation to climate and that continent-wide shuffling of cultivars due to horticultural trade may have limited local adaptation so far.
    Susanne Wurst, Matthias C. Rillig
    2011, 4 (4): 221-227.
    Abstract ( 57 )   PDF   Save
    Aims In nature, plant communities are affected simultaneously by a variety of functionally dissimilar organisms both above and below the ground. However, there is a gap of knowledge on interactive effects of functionally dissimilar organisms on plant communities that is needed to be filled to better understand and predict the general impact of biotic factors on plant communities.
    Methods We conducted a full-factorial mesocosm study to investigate the individual and combined impacts of above- and belowground functionally dissimilar organisms on a grassland plant community. We studied the effects of aboveground herbivores (Helix aspersa, Gastropoda), arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF; Glomus spp., Glomeromycota) and endogeic earthworms (Aporrectodea spp., Lumbricidae) on the diversity, structure and productivity of an experimental grassland plant community and each other.
    Important findings Aboveground herbivory by snails decreased, AMF increased and earthworms had no effects on the diversity of the grassland plant community, while their combined effects were additive. The biomass of the plant community was negatively affected by snails and AMF, while no effects of earthworms or interaction effects were found. The plant species were differently affected by snails and AMF. No effects of the above- and belowground organisms on each other's performance were detected. Since the effects of the functionally dissimilar organisms on the grassland plant community were mainly independent, the results indicate that their combined effects may be predicted by knowing the individual effects, at least under the conditions used in the present mesocosm study.
    Xiaoli Cheng, Yiqi Luo, Bo Su, Shiqiang Wan, Dafeng Hui, Quanfa Zhang
    2011, 4 (4): 228-235.
    Abstract ( 48 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Land use management affects plant carbon (C) supply and soil environments and hence alters soil nitrogen (N) dynamics, with consequent feedbacks to terrestrial ecosystem productivity. The objective of this study was to better identify mechanisms by which land-use management (clipping and shading) regulates soil N in a tallgrass prairie, OK, USA.
    Methods We conducted 1-year clipping and shading experiment to investigate the effects of changes in land-use management (soil microclimates, plant C substrate supply and microbial activity) on soil inorganic N (NH 4 + ? N and NO 3 ? ? N), net N mineralization and nitrification in a tallgrass prairie.
    Important findings Land-use management through clipping and/or shading significantly increased annual mean inorganic N, possibly due to lowered plant N uptake and decreased microbial N immobilization into biomass growth. Shading significantly increased annual mean mineralization rates (P < 0.05). Clipping slightly decreased annual mean N nitrification rates whereas shading significantly increased annual mean N nitrification rates. Soil microclimate significantly explained 36% of the variation in NO 3 ? ? N concentrations (P = 0.004). However, soil respiration, a predictor of plant C substrate supply and microbial activity, was negatively correlated with NH 4 + ? N concentrations (P = 0.0009), net N mineralization (P = 0.0037) and nitrification rates (P = 0.0028) across treatments. Our results suggest that change in C substrate supply and microbial activity under clipping and/or shading is a critical control on NH 4 + ? N, net N mineralization and nitrification rates, whereas clipping and shading-induced soil microclimate change can be important for NO 3 ? ? N variation in the tallgrass prairie.
    Xinming Chen, Jay Dhungel, Surya P. Bhattarai, Manouchehr Torabi, Lance Pendergast, David J. Midmore
    2011, 4 (4): 236-248.
    Abstract ( 90 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Oxygation refers to irrigation of crops with aerated water, through air injection using the venturi principle or the supply of hydrogen peroxide in the root zone, both using subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) system. Oxygation improves water use efficiency (WUE), producing more yield and, and therefore, optimizes the use of drip and SDI. But the efficiency of oxygation is quite possibly dependent on a number of factors. The primary objective of this study was, therefore, to quantify the effects of oxygation, emitter depths and soil type on crop root zone oxygen content, soil respiration, plant physiological response, biomass yield, quality and WUE of three crop species.
    Methods This study investigated the potential of oxygation to enhance soil respiration, plant growth, yield and water use efficiencies (WUE) of cotton and wheat in experiments in enclosed heavy-duty concrete troughs (tubs) and pineapple and cotton in field experiments. Experimental treatments in tubs for wheat included comparisons between two soil types (vertisol and ferrosol) and superimposed were two oxygation methods (Mazzei air injector and Seair Diffusion System) compared to a control, and for cotton, emitters at two depths using Mazzei air injectors were compared to a control. The field experiments compared Mazzei air injectors and a control for cotton in Emerald and pineapple in Yeppoon, both in central Queensland, Australia.
    Important findings In all experiments, soil oxygen content and soil respiration markedly increased in response to the oxygation treatments. The O 2 concentration in the crop root zone increased by 2.4–32.6%, for oxygation compared to control at the same depth. The soil respiration increased by 42–100%. The number of wheat ears, leaf dry weight and total dry matter were significantly greater in Mazzei and Seair oxygation compared to the control. Fresh biomass of wheat increased by 11 and 8%, and dry weight of wheat increased by 8 and 3% in Mazzei and Seair oxygation treatments compared to the control, respectively. Likewise, the irrigation water use efficiency increased with oxygation compared to the control in wheat. The yield, WUE and number of other physiological parameters in wheat were enhanced in vertisol compared to ferrosol. The seed cotton yield in the tub experiment increased with oxygation by 14%, and significant differences for fresh biomass, dry matter and yield were also noted between oxygation and the control in the field. Lint yield and WUE both increased by 7% using Mazzei in the cotton field trial during 2008–09. There were significant effects of oxygation on pineapple fresh biomass, and dry matter weight, industry yield and a number of quality parameters were significantly improved. The total fruit yield and marketable increased by 17 and 4% and marketable WUE increased by 3% using Mazzei. Our data suggest that the benefits of oxygation are notable not only for dicotyledonous cotton but also for monocotyledonous wheat and pineapple representing different rooting morphologies and CO2 fixation pathways.
    Qi Li, Xue Yang, Janne Soininen, Cheng-Jin Chu, Jie-Qi Zhang, Kai-Liang Yu, Gang Wang
    2011, 4 (4): 249-258.
    Abstract ( 51 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Spatial processes and environmental control are the two distinct, yet not mutually exclusive forces of community structuring, but the relative importance of these factors is controversial due to the species-specific dispersal ability, sensitivity towards environmental variables, organism's abundance and the effect of spatial scale. In the present paper, we explored spatial versus environmental control in shaping community composition (i.e. β-diversity) and species turnover (i.e. change of β-diversity) at an alpine meadow along a slope aspect gradient on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau at different spatial scales of sampling (quadrats and plots), by taking account of seed dispersal mode and abundance.
    Methods We examined the relative importance of spatial processes and environmental factors using all species and four additional subsets of selected species. Moreover, we attempted to explore the effect of scale (quadrat refers to scale of ~0.3 m and plot of ~8 m) on their counter balance. The data were analyzed both by variation partitioning and multiple regressions on distance matrices. The spatial structure was modelled using Moran's eigenvector maps (MEM).
    Important findings Both spatial processes and environmental factors were important determinants of the community composition and species turnover. The community composition in the alpine meadow was controlled by spatially structured environment (17.6%), space independent of environment (18.0%) and a negligible effect of environment independent of space (4.4%) at the scale of quadrats. These three components contributed 21.8, 9.9 and 13.9%, respectively, at the scale of plots. The balance between the forces at different spatial scales drove community structures along the slope aspect gradient. The importance of environmental factors on β-diversity at alpine meadow increased with scale while that of spatial processes decreased or kept steady, depending on dispersal mode and abundance of species comprising the subset. But the 'pure' effect of spatial processes on species turnover increased with scale while that of environmental factors decreased. This discrepancy highlights that β-diversity and species turnover were determined jointly by spatial processes and environmental factors. We also found that the relative roles of these processes vary with spatial scale. These results underline the importance of considering species-specific dispersal ability and abundance of species comprising the communities and the appropriate spatial scale in understanding the mechanisms of community assembly.
    Manju V. Sharma, R. Uma Shaanker, Simon R. Leather, R. Vasudeva, Kundaranahalli R. Shivanna
    2011, 4 (4): 259-267.
    Abstract ( 56 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Nothapodytes nimmoniana (Family Icacinaceae) is a deciduous tree species distributed in Asia facing severe population decline. Wood chips from the tree are a source of camptothecin, a globally sought-after alkaloid with cancer-treating properties, and are harvested unsustainably in natural forests. We studied the pollination ecology of the species and asked if there are constraints in pollination and fruiting success in its natural populations. We also discuss the potential effects of wood extraction on pollinators and reproductive success in the population.
    Methods The study was carried out during the flowering season in two populations with varying exploitation levels, both located in the Protected Area Network in the Western Ghats of Karnataka State. We assessed floral resource availability and measured pollinator diversity and activity in the canopy from the perspective of the biology of the species. We quantified pollinator abundance and percent fruit set as a function of population density.
    Important findings Flowers belong to the fly pollination syndrome and are open to visits by generalists such as Apis dorsata and Trigona iridipennis. Fruiting success did not vary between exploited and unexploited sites, but there was a significant difference in pollinator assemblage. In a lean male flowering year, fruit set was low, suggesting pollen limitation in the population. No fruiting was recorded in the second year at the site where trees were felled soon after the flowering period. We argue that when male floral resources are altered in exploited populations, pollinators of generalist nature may show a shift in foraging pattern. Also, generalist plants may be as susceptible to pollination loss as are specialist plants. The need for outcrossing in the species would probably exacerbate this vulnerability.
    Yuan Sui, Qingguo Cui, Ming Dong, Weiming He
    2011, 4 (4): 268-274.
    Abstract ( 40 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Legumes and non-legumes usually differ in using soil water and nutrients. Both water and nutrients are scarce in the semi-arid Mu Us Sandland where legume and/or non-legume shrubs coexist/dominate. Here, we addressed the responses of legume versus non-legume shrubs to different soil water and nutrient conditions.
    Methods We conducted an experiment in which a legume (Hedysarum laeve) and a non-legume (Artemisia ordosica) were used, both of which are dominant species in the Mu Us Sandland. Seedlings of these two species were subjected to three water levels (45.0, 67.5 and 90.0 ml every 3 days) and three nutrient treatments (0, 0.1% and 0.2% nutrient solution every week) during the experiment.
    Important findings Interactions between water and nutrients on total biomass, root weight ratio and rain use efficiency (RUE) were detected in A. ordosica but not in H. laeve, suggesting that water effects on A. ordosica but not on H. laeve are dependent on soil nutrients. Nutrient addition alleviated drought stress and increased RUE in A. ordosica. The interspecific differences in response to soil water and nutrients may be linked to the ability of plants to fix nitrogen. In addition, under low-soil water or nutrient conditions, H. laeve produced more biomass than A. ordosica, and the opposite was the case under high-soil resources. The relationship between relative growth rate (RGR) and RUE [or nutrient use efficiency (NUE)] varied with two species. RGR of A. ordosica was positively correlated with both RUE and NUE while RGR of H. laeve was negatively correlated with NUE. The different responses may be linked to the trade-off between high-growth rate and low-resource use efficiency.
    Buqing Yao, Jing Cao, Changming Zhao, Zed Rengel
    2011, 4 (4): 275-282.
    Abstract ( 63 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Selection of tree species with a high capacity to assimilate N and efficiently utilize N resources would facilitate the success of initial tree seedling establishment in infertile soils. The preference for N forms was tested using three pine species (Pinus densata, Pinus tabuliformis and Pinus yunnanensis). Pinus densata is a natural diploid hybrid between P. tabuliformis and P. yunnanensis .
    Methods Seedlings of three pine species were supplied with nitrate-N, ammonium-N (at two different pH regimes) or combined ammonium and nitrate as a nitrogen source in perlite culture in a controlled environment.
    Important findings Seedlings of P. densata had higher total biomass and net photosynthesis when supplied with nitrate-N and ammonium nitrate than with ammonium-N. In parental species, total biomass and net photosynthesis for P. yunnanensis seedlings was higher in ammonium-N than in nitrate-N, whereas the other parental species P. tabuliformis had the highest total biomass among species for all treatments except ammonium with CaCO 3. Most morphological traits in P. densata seedlings were intermediate between its two parental species. However, N-use efficiency and photosynthetic N-use efficiency of P. densata significantly exceeded both parents when supplied with nitrate-N and ammonium nitrate. The results suggested that the diploid hybrid tree species P. densata has a preference for nitrate and is not well adapted to ammonium-N as a sole nitrogen source regardless of the growth medium pH. Based on changes in environmental conditions, such as predicted future temperature increases in high altitude areas associated with climate change, P. densata is likely to be increasingly competitive and have wide adaptation in high altitude regions.
    Na-Na Xu, Xin Tong, Po-Kueug Eric Tsang, Hong Deng, Xiao-Yong Chen
    2011, 4 (4): 283-291.
    Abstract ( 59 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Halophila ovalis is a dioecious seagrass with a wide geographical and water depth range. The objective of this study was to understand its plasticity in clonal characteristics and biomass and also its allocation between above- and belowground in seagrass beds at different water depths.
    Methods Four monospecific H. ovalis beds, Shabei, Xialongwei, Beimu and Yingluo, which have different water depths at maximum tide level (MTL) but otherwise similar environmental conditions, were studied. We measured main clonal characteristics, i.e. horizontal internodal length, branching angle, shoot height, leaf length and width, and rhizome diameter. Above- and belowground biomasses of H. ovalis were also estimated using a harvest method.
    Important findings We found no significant differences in coverage, leaf pair density or number of stem nodes per square meter between the four study sites. However, horizontal internodal length, leaf length, width, rhizome diameter and shoot height all increased significantly with the increases in water depth from 2- to 9-m MTL and decreased when the water depths were greater than 9-m MTL. No significant difference in above- or belowground biomass between the seagrass beds was found. However, the ratio of above- to belowground biomass was significantly higher in the shallowest site compared to the other three seagrass beds, indicating that more biomass was stored belowground in deeper water. The results demonstrated plastic responses in clonal characteristics and biomass allocation in H. ovalis across the water depth gradient.
    Liangmu Wang, Meirong Mu, Xiaofei Li, Peng Lin, Wenqing Wang
    2011, 4 (4): 292-301.
    Abstract ( 116 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Mangrove species are classified as true mangroves and mangrove associates. However, as for some fringe species found mainly on the landward transitional zones of mangroves, no consensus among scientists could be reached in favor of this classification and much debate arises. We hypothesized that true mangroves differ from mangrove associates physiologically and ecologically in their ability to survive in mangrove environment.
    Methods To test this hypothesis, leaf structural traits and osmotic properties were used to describe variation in 33 mangrove species (17 true mangroves, 6 mangrove associates and 10 controversial species).
    Important findings Specific leaf area (SLA) of true mangroves as well as leaf nitrogen concentration on a leaf mass (Nmass) were lower than that of mangrove associates; leaf succulence was, in general, twice as high in true mangroves compared to mangrove associates; true mangroves accumulated 8–9 times more Na and Cl than mangrove associates and the former had K/Na ratios <0.5, but the latter had K/Na ratios>0.5. These results indicated that true mangroves differed reliably from mangrove associates in leaf traits and osmotic properties. True mangroves are true halophytes and mangrove associates are glycophytes with certain salt tolerance. Combining distribution pattern information, the 10 controversial species were reclassified.
    Jianfeng Liu, Osbert Jianxin Sun, Hongmei Jin, Zhiyong Zhou, Xingguo Han
    2011, 4 (4): 302-312.
    Abstract ( 64 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Estimation of gross primary production (GPP) from remote sensing data is an important approach to study regional or global carbon cycle. However, for a given algorithm, it usually has its limitation on applications to a wide range of vegetation types and/or under diverse environmental conditions. This study was conducted to compare the performance of two remote sensing GPP algorithms, the MODIS GPP and the vegetation photosynthesis model (VPM), in a semiarid temperate grassland ecosystem.
    Methods The study was conducted at a typical grassland site in Ujimuqin of Inner Mongolia, North China, over 2 years in 2006 and 2007. Environmental controls on GPP measured by the eddy covariance (EC) technique at the study site were first investigated with path analysis of meteorological and soil moisture data at a daily and 8-day time steps. The estimates of GPP derived from the MODIS GPP and the VPM with site-specific inputs were then compared with the values of EC measurements as ground truthing at the site. Site-specific ? max (α) was estimated by using rectangular hyperbola function based on the 7-day flux data at 30-min intervals over the peak period of the growing season (May to September).
    Important findings Between the two remote sensing GPP algorithms and various estimates of the fraction of absorbed photosynthetic active radiation (FPAR), the VPM based on FPAR derived from the enhanced vegetation index (EVI) works the best in predicting GPP against the ground truthing of EC GPP. A path analysis indicates that the EC GPP in this semiarid temperate grassland ecosystem is controlled predominantly by both soil water and temperature. The site water condition is slightly better simulated by the moisture multiplier in the VPM than in the MODIS GPP algorithm, which is a most probable explanation for a better performance of the VPM than MODIS GPP algorithm in this semiarid grassland ecosystem.
Impact Factor
5 year Impact Factor
Wen-Hao Zhang
Bernhard Schmid