Functional Ecology

Copyright © 2014 British Ecological Society

A Journal of the British Ecological Society

Edited by: Charles Fox, Duncan Irschick,  Alan Knapp, Ken Thompson and Craig White

Latest Videos & podcasts

Thomas Hasper and Johan Uddling talk to FE Editor Alan Knapp about their recent paper "Water use by Swedish boreal forests in a changing climate.Hasper, T. B., Wallin, G., Lamba, S., Hall, M., Jaramillo, F., Laudon, H., Linder, S., Medhurst, J. L., Räntfors, M., Sigurdsson, B. D. and Uddling, J. (2015), Water use by Swedish boreal forests in a changing climate. Funct Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2435.12546

Islands are often considered ideal biological laboratories as they are isolated and vary tremendously in size, structure, and habitats, imposing different selective pressures that can drive adaptations of organisms on islands. This study capitalizes on an island-size gradient in the Greek Archipelago to investigate inter-island divergence in the body size, head shape, and bite force of a lizard, Podarcis erhardii.
Donihue, C. M., Brock, K. M., Foufopoulos, J., Herrel, A. (2015), Feed or fight: testing the impact of food availability and intraspecific aggression on the functional ecology of an island lizard. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12550

Robbie Wilson talks to Amy Hahs about using urban ecosystems to expand fundamental ecological knowledge. Amy Hahs guest-edited our latest Special Feature: Ecology of Organisms in Urban Environments with Karl Evans. You can read the Special Feature here.

In this study, Isabelle Marechaux and her co-authors looked at leaf water potential at wilting or turgor loss point (πtlp), which determines tolerance of leaves to drought stress. Using a new method based on a demonstrated association between πtlp and another trait, the leaf osmotic water potential at full hydration, they were able to estimate πtlp for 165 trees of 71 species. This dataset is a significant increase in information for tropical tree species and indicates a potential for highly diverse species responses to drought within given forest communities.
Read the full paper online here: Maréchaux, I., Bartlett, M. K., Sack, L., Baraloto, C., Engel, J., Joetzjer, E., Chave, J. (2015), Drought tolerance as predicted by leaf water potential at turgor loss point varies strongly across species within an Amazonian forest. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12452 or the lay summary here.

Anolis lizards are well known for their colorful, expandable throat fan, called the dewlap, which they use to attract mates and repel rivals. The dewlap is a very thin structure and some of the light that strikes its surface shines through it, becoming colored and spreading in all directions as it does. Researchers Leo J. Fleishman, Brianna Ogas, David Steinberg and Manuel Leal look at why some Anolis lizard dewlaps glow in their video.
You can read their paper "Why do Anolis lizard dewlaps glow? An analysis of a translucent visual signal" free online here or the lay summary here.

Alan Knapp talks to Anita Narwani and Patrick Vernail about their new Extended Spotlight: Community Phylogenetics and Ecosystem Functioning.
Read the Extended Spotlight online here.

Duncan Irschick talks to Coleman M. Sheehy III about how arboreality and the associated gravitational stress on blood circulation have influenced the evolution of tail length in snakes.
Read the full paper online here: Coleman M. Sheehy, C. M., Albert, J. A., Lillywhite, H. B. (2015), The evolution of tail length in snakes associated with different gravitational environments. Functional Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.124725 or the lay summary here

Alan Knapp talks to the 2014 Haldane Prizewinner Scott Ferrenberg about his paper, "Smooth bark surfaces can defend trees against insect attack: resurrecting a ‘slippery’ hypothesis". See the winner's Virtual Issue here:

Ken Thompson talks to Katie Field about her Virtual Issue Mycorrhizal networks in ecosystem structure and functioning. The vast majority of land plants form mutualistic symbioses with soil-dwelling fungi known as mycorrhizas, which can link many plants through fungal hyphae in a common mycelial network. This Virtual Issue highlights three major themes in mycorrhizal research: the movement of plant-fixed carbon, reciprocal exchange of nutrients, and the wider impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem function.

In this study, the authors measured song frequency content and hearing sensitivity for nine species of songbird over a broad range of frequencies. If hearing correlates to song characteristics, then open habitat bird species should have higher sensitivity to high-frequency sounds than forest species. Surprisingly, although song frequency was highest in species from open habitats and lowest in forest species (as expected), song frequency and habitat were not correlated with high-frequency hearing sensitivity.
You can read the paper free online Vélez, A., Gall, M. D., Fu, J., Lucas, J. R. (2014), Song structure, not high-frequency song content, determines high-frequency auditory sensitivity in nine species of New World sparrows. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12352 or the lay summary here.

Survival of the weakest seems an unlikely title for an ecology paper, but that is exactly what Haldane prizewinner Kyle Demes and his co-authors found in their, as Kyle Demes explains in this podcast on his paper, Demes, K. W., Pruitt, J. N., Harley, C. D.G., Carrington, E. (2013), Survival of the weakest: increased frond mechanical strength in a wave-swept kelp inhibits self-pruning and increases whole-plant mortality. Functional Ecology, 27: 439–445. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12067

Now online

A male Anolis cristatellus feeding while perched at the top of a brick wall.  Photo by Jason J. Kolbe. Kolbe et al City slickers: poor performance does not deter Anolis lizards from using artificial substrates in human-modified habitats

Bacterial colonies growing on nutrient agar plates.  Competing strains are distinguishable by their colony colors. Picture by Lin Zhao. Zhao et al Coexistence resulting from being more different or more similar?

Spider mites as a model for experimental evolution (mature female, on bean). Photo credit by Gilles San Martin.. De Roissart et al Evolution in space: metapopulation structure and life history evolution

Different land uses in the Wairau Valley, taken by Robbie Holdaway. Orwin et al Soil microbial communities matter for carbon cycling during drought

Cogger's sunskink, from Australia's Wet Tropics Rainforest.  Populations of this species show strong, predictable geographic variation in heat-hardening; a physiological trait of importance under climate change.  Photograph by Ben Phillips. Phillips et al Heat hardening in a tropical lizard: geographic variation explained by the predictability and variance in environmental temperatures

Canary, Serinus canaria. ©David Costantini. Costantini et al Oxidative stress changes how birds make decisions

The peristome movements of Brachythecium rutabulum in response to relative air humidity (RH), when (a) open (RH; 40%), (b) closing (RH; 75%) and (c) closed (RH; 90%). Johansson et al Air humidity thresholds trigger active moss spore release to extend dispersal in space and time

Image provided by authors. Guillaume et al Transgenerational plasticity and environmental stress: do paternal effects act as a conduit or a buffer?

A banded Savannah sparrow perches upon a gooseberry shrub on its breeding territory, Kent Island (New Brunswick, Canada).  Photo credit: Stéphanie Doucet. Pakkala et al Experimental effects of early-life corticosterone on the HPA axis and pre-migratory behaviour in a wild songbird

Mayfly with eggs, taken by Nele Schuwirth. Schuwirth et al The importance of biotic interactions for the prediction of macroinvertebrate communities under multiple stressors

Semi-arid ecosystem in El Planerón, Zaragoza, Spain. Those two pictures were taken in areas that are close to each other. The one on the right was overgrazed until the 50ies. This lead to a drop in the vegetation cover, soil erosion and a change in the species composition. After its degradation, this land was abandoned but no regeneration has occurred since then.  Photo credits: S. Kéfi. Kéfi et al When can positive interactions cause alternative stable states in ecosystems?

Photo provided by authors. Tablado et al Diet determines movement rates and size of area used for herbivores

Invasive Rhododendron ponticum. Tiedeken et al Impacts of toxic nectar on three pollinators

Semi-arid field site at the end of the vegetation season with a rainout shelter for experimental rainfall reduction. The vegetation is dominated by the dwarf shrub Sarcopoterium spinosum and small annual plants in open patches. Photo credit: Johannes Metz. Johannes Metz and Katja Tielbörger Can dryland plants facilitate each other to cope with climate change?

After the experimental period, birds were released at the same location as they were captured. Photo: H. Jensen. Rønning et al Energy expenditure at rest affects reproduction and survival in house sparrows

The experimental set-up on the banks of a New Zealand stream. The insert shows a close-up of a channel simulating a stream ecosystem after colonisation by river organisms. Photo credit: P. Schenker. Bruder et al Agricultural stressors affect stream ecosystems in unexpected ways

Cushion of Silene acaulis hosting a suite of beneficiary species in the Apennine mountains (Italy). Bonanomi et al Friend or foe? Lessons from cushion alpine plants and their neighbours

Image provided by authors. Ryan et al Short-term rainfall, not temperature, controls lizard microhabitat use in a piñon-juniper woodland

Japanese knotweed encroaching into an old-field in Massachusetts. Suseela et al Biotic and abiotic interactions, but not plant chemistry alone, contribute to chemical identity of invaded soils

The nurse plant Retama sphaerocarpa and the associated community of beneficiary species. There is a strong contrast in vegetation between gaps and nurse plants. Photo by F.I. Pugnaire. Rodríguez-Echeverría et al Influence of soil microbiota in nurse plant systems

A classic example of facilitation in the Sonoran Desert: Parkinsonia microphylla benefactor and Carnegiea gigantea beneficiary. Butterfield et al Does the stress-gradient hypothesis hold water? Disentangling spatial and temporal variation in plant effects on soil moisture in dryland systems

Side-blotched lizard couple sharing a burrow. Photo credit: Chi-Yun Kuo. Kuo and Irschick Predation, food, and male-male competition drive natural variation in lizard tail autotomy

Common buckthorn on the forest edge in the native France (left) and invasive New York, USA (right). Photo by J.M. Heberling. Heberling et al Do non-native plants have the same traits at home? A comparison in France and New York

Leaf litter layer in an Amazonian rainforest with fungi as key decomposer organisms. Photo credit: Stephan Hättenschwiler. García-Palacios et al Comparing the decomposition of plant litter in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems

Pinus nigra seedlings growing in the common garden in the Central Alps. Photograph by Christoph Bachofen. Bachofen et al Cold hardiness does not limit range shifts of Mediterranean pines to Central and Western Europe

Cover of Functional Ecology 28.1. Fox et al Gender differences in patterns of authorship do not affect peer review outcomes at an ecology journal

Song Sparrow. Image provided by authors. Losdat et al Additive genetic variance and effects of inbreeding, sex and age on heterophil to lymphocyte ratio in song sparrows

Yunhai Zhang worked in the field for simulation wet nitrogen deposition. Zhang et al Fewer new species colonize at low frequency N addition in a temperate grassland

Seed germination experiment in a plant growth chamber in which we provided a R: FR ratio by stick-type light-emitting diode lamps. Xia et al Environmental cue to germinate in gaps is closely associated with seed sizes

Rain exclusion shelters at the DRI-GRASS research platform. Johnson et al Dung beetles reduce drought stress in plants without increasing plant susceptibility to an aboveground herbivore

Left photo: Our field site in Santa Barbara County, CA, with bush lupine. Right photo: adult bordered plant bugs on bush lupine in the laboratory; note the yellow egg cluster on the bottom-right and adults preparing to mate on the top-left. Photo credits: Christopher A. Johnson Johnson et al Seasonal changes in temperature and bush lupine availability drive bordered plant bug abundance

Septate hyphae emanating from a microscopic leafy liverwort rhizoid following resynthesis with the ericoid mycorrhizal fungus isolate. Kowal et al Liverworts to the rescue: an investigation of their efficacy as mycorrhizal inoculum for vascular plants

Family of Isle of May shags, Phalacrocorx aristotelis. ©Lucie Bernardova. Herborn et al Old birds become worn and rusty too

Recently disturbed TDF in Sector Santa Rosa of Area de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG) in northwestern Costa Rica. Photo credited to Catherine Hulshof. Buzzard et al Re-growing a tropical dry forest: functional plant trait composition and community assembly during succession

 Removal of fish carcasses from ocean beaches, a key ecological function, is maintained across a continental scale via functional species replacement: scavenger assemblages on tropical beaches were dominated by raptors, such as white-bellied sea eagles (left image), and substantially different from temperate scavenger assemblages, which were dominated by red foxes (right image). Photographs taken while scavengers were actively removing beach carrion during the experiments. Credits: C. Huijbers.. Huijbers et al Functional replacement across species pools of vertebrate scavengers separated at a continental scale maintains an ecosystem function

A brown lemur (Eulemur fulvus) searches for fruits under daylight conditions in Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar. Photo credit: Travis Steffens. Valenta et al Visual ecology of Eulemur suggests a cathemeral origin for the primate cone opsin polymorphism

Female cricket housed in a flow-through respirometry chamber used to measure carbon dioxide production and oxygen consumption.  Photo by S.T. Behmer. Clark et al Food as fuel: How food protein-carbohydrate content affects resting metabolic rates

The wasp pollinator, Neozeleboria cryptoides, exhibiting the Forward orientation during attempted copulation with the orchid Chiloglottis trapeziformis, by Rod Peakall. De Jager and Peakall Does morphology matter in sexual deception?

Photo provided by authors. Sendall et al Trade-offs in juvenile growth potential vs. shade tolerance among subtropical rainforest trees on soils of contrasting fertility

Mimic (silver slipper orchid Paphiopedilum micranthum, centre) and its co-occurring food flowers on a background of their habitat, framed in bee hexagonal vision.  Image courtesy of Xiaokai Ma. Ma et al Colour pattern mimicry in flowers- the functional importance of complex floral colour pattern in a food-deceptive orchid

Root systems of six grasses widely distributed in the Inner Mongolia grassland. Cheng et al How do precipitation gradient and evolutionary history shape the variations in leaf and root traits in the Inner Mongolia grassland?

Horsetail plant (Equisetum arvense) in the field (left). Scanning electron micrograph of horsetail leaf (top right) and X-ray microanalysis mapping of silicon presence (bottom right). Deshmukh and Bélanger Molecular evolution of aquaporins and silicon influx in plants

This photo shows different fruit flies along a cold tolerance gradient, and how the phospholipid fatty acids in the membrane are expected to become more unsaturated with increasing cold tolerance. Photo provided by Heath A. MacMillan. Slotsbo et al Cold adaptation in insects involves adaptive modifications of the cell membrane phospholipid composition

Male Gnatocerus cornutus fight using an enlarged mandible which is a secondary sexual trait. Photo credit: Matthew Silk. House et al Macronutrients, weapons and genital traits in male broad horned beetles

Sometimes bird nests are not easily reachable, and creative thinking is required to access their contents. Photo provided by authors. Ton & Martin Why baby birds differ in the speed at which they grow?

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