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  • Volume 7 Issue 4
    An ex-arable field with medow buttercups. The field is located in a agricultural landscape that is a mosaic of ex-arable fields, semi-natural grasslands, arable-fields and forest patches; all these habitat types can be seen in the picture background. In the background there are also some grazing cows and a typical old swedish farm house. The picture is take by Bryndís Marteinsdóttir in Nynäs naturereserve SE-Sweden.
    Research Articles
    Werner Ulrich, Marcin Piwczyński, Markus K. Zaplata, Susanne Winter, Wolfgang Schaaf, Anton Fischer
    2014, 7 (4): 321-329.
    Abstract ( 56 )   PDF   Save
    Aims The total space of traits covered by the members of plant communities is an important parameter of ecosystem functioning and complexity. We trace the variability of trait space during early plant succession and ask how trait space co-varies with phylogenetic community structure and soil conditions. Particularly, we are interested in the small-scale variability in trait space and the influence of biotic and abiotic filters.
    Methods We use data on species richness and soil conditions from the first 7 years of initial succession of an artificial catchment in north-eastern Germany. Total functional attribute diversity serves as a proxy to total trait space.
    Important findings Total trait space steadily increased during succession. We observed high small-scale variability in total trait space that was positively correlated with species richness and phylogenetic segregation and negatively correlated with total plant cover. Trait space increased with soil carbonate content, while pH and the fraction of sandy material behaved indifferently. Our results indicate that during early succession, habitat filtering processes gain importance leading to a lesser increase in trait space than expected from the increase in species richness alone.
    Tomo Nishizawa, Lonnie W. Aarssen
    2014, 7 (4): 330-336.
    Abstract ( 57 )   PDF   Save
    Aims In most natural plant populations, there is a strong right-skewed distribution of body sizes for reproductive plants—i.e. the vast majority are relatively small, suppressed weaklings that manage not just to survive effects of crowding/competition and other hazards but also to produce offspring. Recent research has shown that because of their relatively large numbers, these relatively small resident plants collectively contribute most of the seed offspring production available for the population in the next generation. However, the success of these offspring will depend in part on their quality, e.g. reflected by seed size and resource content. Accordingly, in the present study, we used material from natural populations of herbaceous species to test the null hypothesis that there is no significant relationship between body size variation in resident plants—resulting from between-site variation in the intensity of crowding/competition—and variation in the mass or N content of their individual seeds.
    Methods Using populations of 56 herbaceous species common in eastern Ontario, total above-ground dry plant mass, mean mass per seed and mean nitrogen (N) content per seed were recorded for a sample of the largest resident plants and also for the smallest reproductive plants growing in local neighbourhoods with the most severe crowding/competition from near neighbours.
    Important findings Mass per seed was numerically smaller from the smallest resident plants for most study species, but with few exceptions, this was not significantly different (P> 0.05) from mass per seed from the largest resident plants. The results therefore showed no general effect of maternal plant body size on individual seed mass, or N content. This suggests that the reproductive output of the smaller half of the resident plant size distribution within these populations is likely to contribute not just most of the seed production available for the next generation but also seed offspring that are just as likely—on a per individual basis—to achieve seedling/juvenile recruitment success as the seed offspring produced by the largest resident plants. This conflicts with the traditional 'size-advantage' hypothesis for predicting plant fitness under severe competition, and instead supports the recent 'reproductive-economy-advantage' hypothesis, where competitive fitness is promoted by capacity to produce offspring that—despite severe body size suppression imposed by neighbour effects—in turn have capacity to produce grand-offspring.
    Lie Chen, Lei Wang, Yeerjiang Baiketuerhan, Chunyu Zhang, Xiuhai Zhao, Klaus von Gadow
    2014, 7 (4): 337-346.
    Abstract ( 59 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Spatial distribution of adult trees in a forest community is determined by patterns of both seed dispersal and seedling recruitment. The objectives of our study were to understand the processes of seed dispersal and seedling recruitment of dominant tree species in a temperate forest of northeastern China and to identify the factors constraining seed dispersal and seedling establishment at different stages of forest succession.
    Methods During three summer and autumn sessions between 2006 and 2008, altogether 113080 seeds from 22 different tree species were collected in three large field plots representing different forest types in the Changbai Mountain region of northeastern China. The spatial distribution of seed abundance was analyzed using a Syrjala test. Regeneration success of nine major tree species was assessed using variables defining 'limitations' in 'seeds' and 'seedling establishment'.
    Important findings We found that seed production fluctuated between years and varied greatly with forest types. Four tree species, Acer spp., Fraxinus mandshurica, Tilia amurensis and Betula spp., had the greatest seed production and the widest range of seed dispersal, whereas Quercus mongolica showed the most sustained seed production pattern. The spatial patterns of seed abundance differed significantly among forest types and years. The tree species investigated in this study differed in the degree of seed limitation, as well as in limitation of seedling establishment. There were both negative and positive correlations between seed density and seedling density, depending on site and parental tree density. Seeds of 16 tree species were found in the Populus davidiana–Betula platyphylla forest (PBF) plot, 11 in the conifer and broad-leaved mixed forest (CBF) plot but only 8 in the broad-leaved-Korean pine mixed forest (BKF) plot. The number of seed-contributing species was not only greater in the secondary forests (CBF and PBF plots) than in the primary forest (BKF plot) but was also more variable during the 3 years of assessment. Results from the correlations between seed density and seedling occurrence and that between parental tree density or seed weight and dispersal limitation confirm our intuitive expectations, i.e. heavy seeds had greater dispersal limitation but higher establishment success than light seeds.
    Bryndís Marteinsdóttir, Ove Eriksson
    2014, 7 (4): 347-355.
    Abstract ( 55 )   PDF   Save
    Aims For plants to establish in a local community from a pool of possible colonizers from the region, it must pass through a series of filters. Which of the filters is most important in this process has been much debated. In this study, we explored how species are filtered from the regional species pool into local communities. The aim was to determine if differences in species abundance and functional traits could explain which species from the regional species pool establish at the local scale and if the filtering differed between grassland communities.
    Methods This study took place in a cultivated landscape in southeastern Sweden. We estimated plant species abundance in 12 ex-arable field sites and 8 adjacent seminatural grassland sites and in a 100-m radius around the center of each site. We used Monte Carlo simulations to examine if species abundance and functional traits (height, seed mass, clonal abilities, specific leaf area and dispersal method) controlled the filtering of species from the regional pool into local communities.
    Important findings On average, only 28% of species found in the regional pool established in the ex-arable field sites and 45% in the seminatural grassland sites, indicating that the size of the regional species pool was not limiting local richness. For both grassland types, species abundance in the regional pool was positively correlated with species occurrence at the local scale. We found evidence for both species interaction filtering and dispersal limitation influencing the local assembly. Both local and regional processes were thus influencing the filtering of species from the regional species pool into local communities. In addition, the age of the communities influenced species filtering, indicating that community assembly and the importance of different filters in that process change over succession.
    Sanae Mori, Akira Itoh, Satoshi Nanami, Sylvester Tan, Lucy Chong, Takuo Yamakura
    2014, 7 (4): 356-363.
    Abstract ( 72 )   PDF   Save
    Aims A better understanding of wood litter decomposition is essential for predicting responses of forest ecosystems to global climate change. Recent studies suggest that chemical properties of wood litters, rather than physical ones such as wood density, are more important for interspecific differences in wood decomposition rates. However, empirical data are still limited, especially for tropical trees. In addition, decomposition rate of wood litter often varies with time, which makes interspecific comparison difficult. We studied the wood decomposition of 32 rainforest trees to elucidate (i) the degree of interspecific variation in wood decomposition rate of a given size and configuration and (ii) if initial wood density and water permeability are consistent predictors of the overall decomposition rate and its pattern over time.
    Methods A common garden decomposition experiment was conducted in a tropical rainforest in Malaysian Borneo for 32 native tree species. Small wood sticks were set on the forest floor and the weight loss was monitored monthly for 2.7 years.
    Important findings We found large variation in the wood decomposition rate (a 49-fold range), suggesting that we need to consider this variation when calculating community-level carbon dynamics of tropical rain forests. The physical traits of wood, i.e. wood density and water permeability, were related to wood decomposition rate and its pattern over time. Decomposition half-time related positively and negatively to initial wood density and water permeability, respectively. The time-dependent-rate model fitted better for 18 species (56% of the study species) that had higher water permeabilities than the others, suggesting that micelle porosity in wood relates to temporal changes in decomposition rate.
    Alberto L. Teixido
    2014, 7 (4): 364-372.
    Abstract ( 73 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Larger corollas receive more pollinator visits but involve higher production and maintenance costs, especially under hot and dry conditions. This can result in indirect costs on reproductive output, which may counteract the effects of pollinator-mediated phenotypic selection on corolla size. In this study, I explored the relationship between corolla size and indirect costs and whether these costs counteract the effects of pollinator-mediated phenotypic selection on this trait in the Mediterranean shrub Halimium atriplicifolium. I hypothesized that (i) corolla production entails direct costs in dry mass, N and P, (ii) corollas entail significant indirect costs in terms of fruit and seed production, (iii) indirect costs increase with corolla size, (iv) this species may suffer pollen limitation to a certain degree and (v) indirect costs counteract the effects of pollinator-mediated selection on corolla size.
    Methods I compared fruit set and seed production of petal-removed flowers (R flowers) and unmanipulated control flowers (C flowers) and evaluated the influence of individual mean corolla size on relative fruit and seed gain of R compared to C flowers. I also estimated phenotypic selection on corolla size mediated by indirect costs and the combined effect of costs and pollinators (i.e. total selection).
    Important findings Corollas allocated sizeable amount of resources in terms of dry mass relative to the other floral structures. Fruit set and seed per fruit were significantly higher in R flowers, while individual mean corolla size showed a positive relationship with relative fruit gain. Phenotypic selection analysis revealed cost-mediated negative directional selection and absence of positive directional total selection on corolla size through fruit set. This translated into stabilizing total selection. These results suggest that Mediterranean environments can impose constraints on corolla size, counteracting advantages of larger corollas from the pollination point of view with increased indirect costs of such flowers.
    Adriana Puentes, Jon Ågren
    2014, 7 (4): 373-383.
    Abstract ( 45 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Early models of plant defense conceived resistance and tolerance to herbivore damage as mutually exclusive strategies. Support for this idea has been equivocal and studies on these two strategies are still needed to understand the evolution of defenses in natural populations. In Arabidopsis lyrata, the production of trichomes, a documented resistance trait, has been associated with a fitness cost in the absence of herbivores. We examined whether trichome production is also associated with reduced tolerance to simulated herbivore damage.
    Methods We conducted a field experiment in a natural Swedish population of A. lyrata where we inflicted leaf (0 vs. 50% of the area of each leaf removed) and inflorescence damage (0 vs. 50% of inflorescences removed) to trichome-producing and glabrous plants in a factorial design. We examined the response (survival, growth and reproduction) of the plants to the imposed damage over 2 years.
    Important findings Trichome-producing plants were not less tolerant than glabrous plants to simulated herbivore damage (no significant morph × leaf damage or morph × inflorescence damage interactions). Inflorescence and leaf damage had independent negative effects on the performance of damaged plants. Leaf damage reduced rosette size the year of damage, but effects on reproductive output in the year of damage, and on survival and reproductive performance the following year were weak and not statistically significant. Inflorescence damage significantly reduced the number of flowers, fruits and seeds the year of damage, but not in the following year. Irrespective of morph, the study population was more tolerant to leaf than to inflorescence damage. The results indicated no trade-off between trichome production and tolerance, suggesting that these two defense mechanisms have the potential to evolve independently in this A. lyrata population.
    Joaquín Ortego, Raúl Bonal, Alberto Muñoz, José Miguel Aparicio
    2014, 7 (4): 384-395.
    Abstract ( 55 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Forest fragmentation and reduced tree population densities can potentially have negative impacts on mating patterns, offspring genetic diversity and reproductive performance. The aim of the present study is to test these hypotheses comparing an extremely fragmented, low tree density (~0.02 trees/ha) holm oak (Quercus ilex L.) stand from Central Spain with a nearby high tree density stand (~50 trees/ha).
    Methods We genotyped adult trees and seeds from the low-density stand (436 seeds from 15 families) and the high-density stand (404 seeds from 11 families) using nine microsatellite markers. With these data, we performed paternity analyses, determined pollen flow, mating patterns and pollen pool structure, and estimated progeny genetic diversity in both stands. We also studied seed set and production and performed a pollen supplementation experiment to determine whether reduced tree density has limited foreign pollen availability.
    Important findings We have found extensive pollen immigration (>75%) into the low tree density stand and Monte Carlo simulations revealed that pollen moves larger distances than expected from null models of random dispersal. Mating patterns and differentiation of pollen pools were similar in the high-density stand and the low-density stand but we found higher inter-annual differentiation of pollen pools in the former. Progeny genetic diversity and self-fertilization rates did not differ between the low-density stand and the high-density stand. Seed set rates were significantly lower in the low-density stand than in the high-density stand and experimental cross-pollen supplementation evidenced that foreign pollen availability is indeed a limiting factor in the former. However, seed crops did not differ between the low-density stand and the high-density stand, indicating that limitation of foreign pollen is not likely to be of great concern in terms of reduced seed production and potential recruitment. Poor forest regeneration due to other ecological and human factors is probably a more important threat for the persistence of fragmented and low tree density stands than reduced pollen flow and only extremely small and isolated tree populations would be expected to suffer severe loss of genetic diversity in the long term.
    Yan Gao, Hong-Wei Yu, Wei-Ming He
    2014, 7 (4): 396-402.
    Abstract ( 75 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Invasive plants commonly occupy disturbed soils, thereby providing a stage for understanding the role of disturbance-enhanced resources in plant invasions. Here, we addressed how soil space and soil nutrients affect the growth and competitive effect of invasive plants and whether this effect varies with different invaders.
    Methods We conducted an experiment in which two invasive plants (Bromus tectorum and Centaurea maculosa) and one native species (Poa pratensis) were grown alone or together in four habitats consisting of two levels of soil space and nutrients. At the end of the experiment, we determined the total biomass, biomass allocation and relative interaction intensity of B. tectorum, C. maculosa and P. pratensis .
    Important findings Across two invaders, B. tectorum and C. maculosa, increased soil nutrients had greater positive effects on their growth than increased soil space, the effects of soil space on root weight ratio were greater than those of soil nutrients, and their competitive effect decreased with soil space but increased with soil nutrients. These findings suggest that changing soil space and nutrients differentially influence the growth and competitive advantages of two invaders. Bromus tectorum benefited more from increased soil resources than C. maculosa. Soil space and nutrients affected the biomass allocation of C. maculosa but not B. tectorum. The competitive effect of B. tectorum was unaffected by soil space and soil nutrients, but the opposite was the case for C. maculosa. Thus, the effects of soil space and nutrients on growth and competitive ability depend on invasive species identity.
    Jesús M. Bastida, Pedro J. Rey, Julio M. Alcántara
    2014, 7 (4): 403-412.
    Abstract ( 65 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Experimental studies of the response to environmental variation of closely related taxa are needed to understand the mechanisms underlying phenotypic divergence, habitat segregation and range span within a radiating genus. We explored the magnitude of phenotypic differentiation and adaptive plasticity in relation to edaphic variation and its significance for habitat segregation and range span in Iberian columbines.
    Methods We performed a common garden experiment varying soil type (calcareous vs. siliceous) and depth (rocky-shallow vs. deep) with two pairs of widespread and narrowly distributed subspecies of Iberian columbines: Aquilegia vulgaris (subspp. vulgaris and nevadensis) and Aquilegia pyrenaica (subspp. pyrenaica and cazorlensis). We compared tolerance to edaphic variation, trait differentiation and adaptive plasticity of 10 morpho-functional traits between species and distribution ranges. Additionally, we obtained estimates of the competitive environment faced by each taxon in two to four populations per taxa.
    Important findings Results partially support hypotheses of higher competitive ability and tolerance to edaphic variation in widespread than in narrow endemic taxa. At the species level, the widely distributed taxon was the most tolerant to edaphic variation. Within species, no consistent pattern emerged since the population from the most widespread subspecies was the most tolerant in A. vulgaris but not in A. pyrenaica. Columbines were differentiated in many traits at species and range level. However, the pattern of differentiation does not fully support the hypothesis of higher specialization and stress tolerance in narrow endemics. Although plasticity was generally low, the results support the hypothesis of adaptive plasticity in widespread but not in restricted taxa at least at species level. Ecological differences (adaptive plasticity and competitive ability among others) may have contributed to phenotypic divergence and edaphic niche segregation, as well as to differences in range span among columbines.
    Sergio R. Roiloa, Susana Rodríguez-Echeverría, Helena Freitas
    2014, 7 (4): 413-418.
    Abstract ( 60 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Biological invasions represent one of the most important threats to the conservation of biodiversity; however, the mechanisms underlying successful invaders remain unsolved. Many of the most aggressive invaders show clonal growth, and capacity for clonal integration has been pointed out recently as an important trait explaining the success of invasive plants. We aim to determine the role of physiological integration in the capacity for self/non-self genotype recognition in the clonal invader Carpobrotus edulis and the implications of this capacity for the expansion of this aggressive invader.
    Methods We used connected and severed ramets of identical or different genotype and we determined the capacity for self/non-self recognition by comparing changes in biomass partitioning to avoid competition for resources between pairs of ramets.
    Important findings Physiological integration allowed self/non-self genotype recognition in the invader C. edulis. Results showed a significant effect of physiological integration on the biomass allocated to roots by genetically identical ramets: older ramets specialize in acquisition of soil-based resources and younger ramets specialize in lateral expansion. This specialization could be considered a form of division of labour, which reduce intra-genotype competition. This is the first evidence that division of labour could be interpreted as a form of self/non-self recognition between genetically identical ramets. Capacity for self/non-self discrimination could contribute to increase the colonization capacity of the aggressive invader C. edulis. This is the first study showing an association between self/non-self recognition and invasiveness in a clonal plant.
Impact Factor
5 year Impact Factor
Wen-Hao Zhang
Bernhard Schmid