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  • Volume 7 Issue 5
    Research Articles
    Bing Song, Shuli Niu, Ruisen Luo, Yiqi Luo, Jiquan Chen, Guirui Yu, Janusz Olejnik, Georg Wohlfahrt, Gerard Kiely, Asko Noormets, Leonardo Montagnani, Alessandro Cescatti, Vincenzo Magliulo, Beverly Elizabeth Law, Magnus Lund, Andrej Varlagin, Antonio Raschi, Matthias Peichl, Mats B. Nilsson, Lutz Merbold
    2014, 7 (5): 419-428.
    Abstract ( 64 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Recent studies revealed convergent temperature sensitivity of ecosystem respiration (R e) within aquatic ecosystems and between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. We do not know yet whether various terrestrial ecosystems have consistent or divergent temperature sensitivity. Here, we synthesized 163 eddy covariance flux sites across the world and examined the global variation of the apparent activation energy (Ea), which characterizes the apparent temperature sensitivity of and its interannual variability (IAV) as well as their controlling factors.
    Methods We used carbon fluxes and meteorological data across FLUXNET sites to calculate mean annual temperature, temperature range, precipitation, global radiation, potential radiation, gross primary productivity and R e by averaging the daily values over the years in each site. Furthermore, we analyzed the sites with>8 years data to examine the IAV of Ea and calculated the standard deviation of Ea across years at each site to characterize IAV.
    Important findings The results showed a widely global variation of Ea, with significantly lower values in the tropical and subtropical areas than in temperate and boreal areas, and significantly higher values in grasslands and wetlands than that in deciduous broadleaf forests and evergreen forests. Globally, spatial variations of Ea were explained by changes in temperature and an index of water availability with differing contribution of each explaining variable among climate zones and biomes. IAV and the corresponding coefficient of variation of Ea decreased with increasing latitude, but increased with radiation and corresponding mean annual temperature. The revealed patterns in the spatial and temporal variations of Ea and its controlling factors indicate divergent temperature sensitivity of R e, which could help to improve our predictive understanding of R e in response to climate change.
    Michael L. Wellock, Rashad Rafique, Christina M. LaPerle, Matthias Peichl, Gerard Kiely
    2014, 7 (5): 429-438.
    Abstract ( 70 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Government policy in Ireland is to increase the national forest cover from the current 10% to 18% of the total land area by 2020. This represents a major land use change that is expected to impact on the national carbon (C) stocks. While the C stocks of ecosystem biomass and soils of Irish grasslands and coniferous forests have been quantified, little work has been done to assess the impact of broadleaf afforestation on C stocks.
    Methods In this study, we sampled a chronosequence of ash (Fraxinus excelsior) forests aged 12, 20, 27, 40 and 47 years on brown earth soils. A grassland site, representative of the pre-afforestation land use, was sampled as a control.
    Important findings Our results show that there was a significant decline (P < 0.05) in the carbon density of the soil (0–30cm) following afforestation from the grassland (90.2 Mg C ha-1) to the 27-year-old forest (66.7 Mg C ha-1). Subsequently, the forest soils switched from being a C source to a C sink and began to sequester C to 71.3 Mg C ha-1 at the 47-year-old forest. We found the amount of C stored in the above- and belowground biomass increased with age of the forest stands and offset the amount of C lost from the soil. The amount of C stored in the above- and belowground biomass increased on average by 1.83 Mg C ha-1 year-1. The increased storage of C in the biomass led to an increase in the total ecosystem C, from 90.2 Mg C ha-1 at the grassland site to 162.6 Mg C ha-1 at the 47-year-old forest. On a national scale, projected rates of ash afforestation to the year 2020 may cause a loss of 290 752 Mg C from the soil compared to 2 525 936 Mg C sequestered into the tree biomass. The effects of harvesting and reforestation may further modify the development of ecosystem C stocks over an entire ash rotation.
    Charlotte Ndiribe, Lo?c Pellissier, Anne Dubuis, Pascal Vittoz, Nicolas Salamin, Antoine Guisan
    2014, 7 (5): 439-450.
    Abstract ( 73 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Understanding the relative importance of historical and environmental processes in the structure and composition of communities is one of the longest quests in ecological research. Increasingly, researchers are relying on the functional and phylogenetic β-diversity of natural communities to provide concise explanations on the mechanistic basis of community assembly and the drivers of trait variation among species. The present study investigated how plant functional and phylogenetic β-diversity change along key environmental and spatial gradients in the Western Swiss Alps.
    Methods Using the quadratic diversity measure based on six functional traits—specific leaf area, leaf dry matter content, plant height, leaf carbon content, leaf nitrogen content and leaf carbon to nitrogen content alongside a species-resolved phylogenetic tree—we relate variations in climate, spatial geographic, land use and soil gradients to plant functional and phylogenetic turnover in mountain communities of the Western Swiss Alps.
    Important findings Our study highlights two main points. First, climate and land-use factors play an important role in mountain plant community turnover. Second, the overlap between plant functional and phylogenetic turnover along these gradients correlates with the low phylogenetic signal in traits, suggesting that in mountain landscapes, trait lability is likely an important factor in driving plant community assembly. Overall, we demonstrate the importance of climate and land-use factors in plant functional and phylogenetic community turnover and provide valuable complementary insights into understanding patterns of β-diversity along several ecological gradients.
    Michael W. Deal, Jianye Xu, Ranjeet John, Terenzio Zenone, Jiquan Chen, Housen Chu, Poonam Jasrotia, Kevin Kahmark, Jonathan Bossenbroek, Christine Mayer1Dea
    2014, 7 (5): 451-460.
    Abstract ( 93 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Identifying the amount of production and the partitioning to above- and belowground biomass is generally the first step toward selecting bioenergy systems. There are very few existing studies on the dynamics of production following land conversion. The objectives of this study were to (i) determine the differences in aboveground net primary production (ANPP), belowground net primary production (BNPP), shoot-to-root ratio (S:R) and leaf area index in three bioenergy crop systems and (ii) evaluate the production of these three systems in two different land use conversions.
    Methods This investigation included biometric analysis of NPP on three agricultural sites converted from conservation reserve program (CRP) management to bioenergy crop production (corn, switchgrass and prairie mix) and three sites converted from traditional agriculture production to bioenergy crop production.
    Important findings The site converted from conventional agriculture produced smaller ANPP in corn (19.03±1.90 standard error [SE] Mg ha-1 year-1) than the site converted from CRP to corn (24.54±1.43 SE Mg ha-1 year-1). The two land conversions were similar in terms of ANPP for switchgrass (4.88±0.43 SE for CRP and 2.04±0.23 SE Mg ha-1 year-1 for agriculture) and ANPP for prairie mix (4.70±0.50 SE for CRP and 3.38±0.33 SE Mg ha-1 year-1 for agriculture). The BNPP at the end of the growing season in all the bioenergy crop systems was not significantly different (P = 0.75, N = 8).
    Brandon M. Williams, Gregory R. Houseman
    2014, 7 (5): 461-469.
    Abstract ( 83 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Environmental heterogeneity is a primary mechanism explaining species coexistence and extant patterns of diversity. Despite strong theoretical support and ample observational evidence, few experimental studies in plant communities have been able to demonstrate a causal link between environmental heterogeneity and plant diversity. This lack of experimental evidence suggests that either fine-scale heterogeneity has weak effects on plant diversity or previous experiments have been unable to effectively manipulate heterogeneity. Here, we utilize a unique soil manipulation to test whether fine-scale soil heterogeneity will increase plant richness through species sorting among experimental patch types.
    Methods This experiment was conducted in the tallgrass prairie region of south-central Kansas, USA. We utilized the inherent variation found in the vertical soil profile, which varied in both biotic and abiotic characteristics, and redistributed these strata into either homogeneous or heterogeneous spatial arrangements in 2.4×2.4 m plots. After the soil manipulation, 34 native prairie species were sown into all plots. We conducted annual censuses at peak biomass to quantify species composition and plant density by species within the experimental communities.
    Important findings After 2 years, species richness was significantly higher in heterogeneous relative to homogeneous plots and this pattern was independent of total plant density. In the heterogeneous plots, 13 species had higher establishment in a specific patch type representing one of the three soil strata. Conversely, no species had greater establishment in the mixed stratum, which comprised the homogeneous plots, relative to the heterogeneous strata. These species sorting patterns suggest that fine-scale heterogeneity creates opportunities for plant establishment due to niche differences, which translates into increased plant diversity at the plot scale. Species richness was more strongly related to plant density among patches comprising homogenous plots—where fine-scale heterogeneity was minimized, but weak in heterogeneous plots. This pattern is consistent with the idea that richness–density relationships dominate when neutral processes are important but are weak when niche processes operate. Unlike many previous attempts, our results provide clear, experimental evidence that fine-scale soil heterogeneity increases species richness through species sorting during community assembly.
    Luis Salinas-Peba, Víctor Parra-Tabla, Julio Campo, Miguel A. Munguía-Rosas
    2014, 7 (5): 470-479.
    Abstract ( 66 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Seasonally tropical dry forests of the Yucatan Peninsula are typically found in sites with nutrient-poor soils because of the recent geological origin of the region. The landscape is dominated by extensive karstic plates that shape environments where vegetation regeneration through seed germination may be limited by the availability of suitable microsites. In this study, we documented the survival and growth of seedlings from three dominant tree species (Bursera simaruba, Piscidia piscipula and Lysiloma latisiliquum) in seasonally tropical dry forests in Yucatan. Specifically, we evaluated the effect of nutrient addition (N and P, separately and in combination) on seedling survival and growth across three sites with differing levels of precipitation.
    Methods We conducted a nutrient addition experiment, whereby we established 12 plots of dimensions 10×10 m (100 m 2) at each site, from which three plots were randomly selected to receive one of four treatments: N addition, P addition, N and P addition and no nutrient addition (controls). Prior to treatment application, in each plot, we planted 10 seedlings of each species in October 2010 and subsequently conducted surveys of plant growth and survival every 20 days from November 2010 to April 2011.
    Important findings Overall, nutrient addition increased seedling survival and the magnitude of this effect was similar among sites. We did not observe an additive effect of the N + P treatment on survival. Similarly, we observed a positive effect of nutrient addition on seedling growth, but this effect was contingent upon site; regarding survival, the effects of N and P on seedling growth were not additive. These results suggest that seedling recruitment and growth in the three dominant species of trees in Yucatan are limited by nutrient availability but that the magnitude of this effect, particularly on seedling growth, is specific for species and site.
    Richard P. Kipling, John Warren
    2014, 7 (5): 480-489.
    Abstract ( 69 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Competition for pollinators between phenotypically similar flowers is believed to play an important role in floral trait diversification in the angiosperms. However, in many plant communities, species with apparently similar floral phenotypes and generalist pollination systems co-flower. Here, the pollination systems of Ranunculus acris L. and Ranunculus repens L. were investigated to determine the factors enabling the species to coexist within apparently overlapping pollination niches.
    Methods Sympatrically flowering populations of R. acris and R. repens were investigated at three study sites in West Wales. The floral phenotypes of the two species were compared using measurements of floral morphology and spectral analyses of petal reflectance, using principal component analysis and bee and fly colour-space models. Evidence of inter-specific discrimination by foraging insects was tested for in the field and using floral arrays. The relative roles of behavioural constancy and spatial patchiness in maintaining pollinator fidelity were estimated.
    Important findings The floral phenotypes of R. acris and R. repens differed significantly. Social bees were highly constant when foraging at flowers of the two species and patchy floral distribution explained some of the observed fidelity. Dipterans visiting mixed floral arrays appeared to discriminate between the species, visiting more R. acris than R. repens flowers, but there was no difference in the number of visits to single-species arrays. Social bees were more likely to display constancy to flowers of R. repens in the field. Patchiness in floral distribution, subtle differences in floral phenotype, pollinator preferences and behavioural constancy are all likely to contribute to the continued coexistence of R. acris and R. repens, despite apparent overlap in their pollination niches. Such differences have the potential to facilitate the maintenance of species diversity in plant communities, even where plants appear to share similar floral phenotypes.
    Carmen Börschig, Alexandra-M. Klein, Jochen Krauss
    2014, 7 (5): 490-498.
    Abstract ( 60 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Fungal endophytes of cool-season grass species produce alkaloids toxic to herbivores, affecting food webs in agricultural and natural ecosystems. Field studies about the effects of endophytes on herbivores are rare and show contradictory results, leading to uncertain conclusions about the nature of endophyte–grass symbiosis. We asked whether the environmental contexts of local and regional scales and predation could modify the effects of endophytes on herbivores.
    Methods In a full factorial field experiment, we quantified the abundance of the aphid species Rhopalosiphum padi on the potted host grass Lolium perenne, which was either infected or uninfected with the endophytic fungus Neotyphodium lolii. Predators were either excluded or had free access to the pots with the aphids. One hundred and sixty grass pots were located in two regions on altogether 40 grassland sites, half of the sites intensively and half extensively managed. We tested the importance of endophyte infection, study region, management intensity of grasslands, predation and all two-way interactions on aphid abundance.
    Important findings Endophyte infection reduced aphid abundance significantly in one study region only. In both regions, we found that the impacts of aphidophagous predators and grassland management intensity on aphid abundance were substantially stronger and more consistent than that of endophytes on aphid abundance. Pots excluding predators and pots placed on extensive grasslands contained higher aphid abundance. The impact of predators and management on aphid abundance were not modified by the endophyte. We conclude that the effect of endophytes on herbivores can be weak in field experiments and depends on environmental context at a regional scale. Hence, more field research efforts are necessary to detect the relative importance of endophytes and the environmental context on biotic interactions in ecosystems.
Impact Factor
5 year Impact Factor
Wen-Hao Zhang
Bernhard Schmid