Functional Ecology

Copyright © 2014 British Ecological Society

A Journal of the British Ecological Society

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


Latest Videos & podcasts

In this podcast, Robbie Wilson discusses a recent paper showing that long term exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide ca damage bees’ ability to forage for pollen – and may be changing their choices of which flowers to visit – with co-author Nigel Raine.
Read the full paper online here:Gill, R. J., Raine, N. E. (2014), Chronic impairment of bumblebee natural foraging behaviour induced by sublethal pesticide exposure. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12292 or the lay summary here

Stag beetles are renowned for their spectacular male-male battles. In these scuffles, males fight each other with their long jaws over mates or desirable stumps of rotten wood. As a result of this, their jaw is strongly shaped by sexual selection and in some species, can become as long as their own body. How does this effect their ability to run? To investigate this, the authors made high speed video recordings of male and female stag beetles running on a miniature running track.
You can read the paper free online Goyens, J., Dirckx, J., Aerts, P. (2014), Costly sexual dimorphism in Cyclommatus metallifer stag beetles. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12294 or the lay summary here.

Cynthia Chang talks with Alan Knapp about why naturally co-occurring genotypes coexist, how genetic diversity within dominant plant species is maintained and how this can affect important ecosystem processes. Read the full paper here: Chang, C. C., Smith, M. D. (2014), Resource availability modulates above- and below-ground competitive interactions between genotypes of a dominant C4 grass. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12227

Hovering hummingbirds are rare among vertebrates in their ability to rapidly make use of ingested sugars to fuel energetically expensive hovering flight, powering up to 100% of their metabolic needs with the sugars they drink, while humans athletes max out at around 30%. Until now, we haven't understood to what extent hummingbirds can use the 50% of the sugar in their nectar meals that is glucose versus the 50% that is fructose. Our study shows that hummingbirds begin using newly ingested sugars to fuel hovering flight within minutes and can fuel as much as 100% of their intense hovering metabolism with either glucose or fructose.
You can read the paper free online Chen, C. C. W., Welch, K. C. (2013), Hummingbirds can fuel expensive hovering flight completely with either exogenous glucose or fructose. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12202 or the lay summary here.

Animals move within natural habitats in complicated ways, in response to many aspects of the environment. Advances in the technology available for recording and analysing animal movements enabled us to ask and answer questions that were inaccessible with previous methods. Our transmitters provided over 60,000 records of lizard location from 49 individuals monitored for a mean of 65 days each. Lizards primarily moved between widely scattered patches of core-habitat under fine, hot, clear weather conditions. Thus air pressure tended to predict lizard dispersal more accurately than did more commonly-analysed variables such as temperature and precipitation.
You can read the paper free online Price-Rees, S. J., Lindström, T., Brown, G. P., Shine, R. (2013), The effects of weather conditions on dispersal behaviour of free-ranging lizards (Tiliqua, Scincidae) in tropical Australia. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12189 or the lay summary here.

Bees and other pollinating insects are declining in many countries. One way that the general public can help is via their gardens, by growing ornamental plants that are also attractive to flower-visiting insects. But which plant varieties are attractive to flower-visiting insects? Given the great public interest, many lists of recommended plants have recently been produced, but where did this information come from? On a closer look, it appears that these lists are based largely on personal experiences, opinions and anecdotes. This study is an attempt to put these recommendations on a firmer scientific footing. You can read the paper free online Garbuzov, M., Ratnieks, F. L. W. (2013), Quantifying variation among garden plants in attractiveness to bees and other flower-visiting insects. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12178
Or the lay summary here.

Liesje Mommer's keynote speech for the Mechanisms of Plant Competition symposium on using molecular techniques to look at below-ground plant competition and facilitation. For other journal-sponsored symposia and workshops from INTECOL, check out the playlist here.

As part of our new Mechanisms of Plant Competition Special Feature, Susan Schwinning talks to Alan Knapp about plant competition in water-limited environments.
For more on this, read the lay summary or check out our Special Feature page.

Schwinning, S., Kelly, C. K. (2013), Plant competition, temporal niches and implications for productivity and adaptability to climate change in water-limited environments. Functional Ecology, 27: 886–897. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12115

Ken Thompson, senior editor for Functional Ecology, discusses Simon Pierce's new paper, "Implications for biodiversity conservation of the lack of consensus regarding the humped-back model of species richness and biomass production" Read an advance version of the article here.

Robbie Wilson interviews David Jachowski on his work "Unravelling complex associations between physiological state and movement in African elephants.". You can also read the lay summary and complete article online now.

Justin Wright talks to Alan Knapp about the results of examining the effects of varying nitrogen availability and water table depth on the form and function of leaves of over 20 species of wetland plants and what that means for ecologists looking to predict how the addition or subtraction of species will affect the way that ecosystems function.
Read the lay summary for more information or read the article online:
Wright, J. P., Sutton-Grier, A. (2012), Does the leaf economic spectrum hold within local species pools across varying environmental conditions?. Functional Ecology, 26: 1390–1398. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12001



Photograph caption: Giant panda feeding on wood bamboo shoot. Photo credited to Fuwen Wei. Nie et al Nutritional geometry of the giant panda.


A banded mongoose (Mungos mungo) pup on the Mweya Peninsular, Western Uganda. Photo credit: Jennifer Sanderson. Sanderson et al Stress hormones regulate how the past can affect the future in wild banded mongooses.

Murres in flight. Photo provided by authors. Elliott et al Ageing gracefully: physiology but not behaviour changes with age in a diving bird.

Bumblebee foraging on clover. Photo and permission provided by Steve Gill.Gill & Raine Pesticide chronically affects bee foraging.


A hatchling painted turtle emerges from the nest after winter. Mitchell et al Maternal effects influence phenotypes and survival during early life stages in an aquatic turtle.

Song thrush eggs. Photo provided by authors.. Maurer et al Do eggshells act like sunscreen?

Female red squirrel with one of her pups outside of her grass nest. (Photo credit: Ryan W. Taylor). Fletcher et al Daily energy expenditure during lactation is strongly selected in a free-living mammal.

Rhoptropus afer pauses before ascending a granite outcrop. Collins et al Subdigital adhesive pad morphology varies in relation to structural habitat use in the Namib Day Gecko.

Image supplied by authors. Andersen et al How to best assess the cold tolerance of Drosophila.

Rhamnus lycioides radial growth rings. Photo courtesy of authors. Moreno-Gutiérrez et al Afforestation effects on understory shrubs in a semiarid Mediterranean ecosystem.

Photo of tree at different stages. Image provided by authors. Clark et al Tree phenology responses to winter chilling, spring warming, at north and south range limits.

Seed beetle. Photo by Markus Rehnberg. Berg et al Long-lived mothers reduce the negative effect of old age on their sons' lifespan in a seed beetle.

Plourde processing wood cores in second-growth forests at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. Photograph by Robin Chazdon. Plourde et al Wood varies dramatically during tropical forest succession.

Fire on the savanna. Photo provided by authors. Levick et al Long-lasting effects of fire management on the population structure of different savanna tree species.

Picture of a Cyclommatus metallifer male. Goyens et al Massive armature trumps running for stag beetles.

Primula minima is a typical alpine species, those seeds germinate under relatively high temperature. Rosbakh & Poschlod Temperature sensitivity of seed germination shapes species distribution patterns.

Embothrium coccineum, like most Proteaceae, produces cluster roots when grown at a low phosphorus supply (left).  The specialised root structures are suppressed at a high phosphorus supply (right).. Delgado et al Divergent functioning of Proteaceae species: the South American Embothrium coccineum displays a combination of adaptive traits to survive in high-phosphorus soils.

Spider abdomen after the removal of the cuticle, showing the guanine crystals that reflect ultraviolet light. Photo taken under the dissecting microscope. Gawryszewski et al How is the UV-Visible colouration of crab spiders produced?

Tenagogerris euphrosyne, photo provided by authors. Han & Brooks The interaction between genotype and juvenile and adult density environment in shaping multidimensional reaction norms of behaviour.

Willow leaves. Price et al Are leaf functional traits “invariant” with plant size, and what is “invariance” anyway?

Male great tit (credit: Simon Evans). Evans & Sheldon Colour in a new light: a spectral perspective on the quantitative genetics of carotenoid colouration.

Photo provided by authors. Killen et al Aerobic scope predicts dominance during early life in a tropical damselfish.

Spotted knapweed in USDA Field Station in Missoula, USA (left) and a knapweed individual (right). Courtesy of Norman E. Rees & Ivan Bliek. Sun et al Why do some plant species become so successful and wide-spread away from home?

 Evolution of the acceptance threshold (μ) is influenced by ecological factors that directly or indirectly affect the intensity of competition for breeding sites. The factors examined include: adult survivorship (max ØA), site-fidelity (WSLS rule), predator danger, and density-dependence (β). The acceptance threshold, μ, has an eco-evolutionary feedback through the territory game (evolutionary dynamic). Schmidt Site fidelity curbs sequential search and territory choice: A game theoretic approach.

A cool-temperate mixed forest of Abies firma and Fagus japonica. Miyashita & Tateno A newly defined Leaf Relative Growth Rate predicts shade tolerance of trees in a cool–temperate forest.

Primary organism, T. urticae (top, photo credit: Gilles San Martin) and infrared image of an apple leaf surface (bottom, photo credit: Amélie Ezanic). Caillon et al Warming homogenizes leaf surface temperatures

Measuring contrasting stomatal responses to leaf water status in the field: the author measures stomatal conductance and leaf water potential in co-occurring pines and oaks in a forest site in Israel. Photograph by Idan Springer. Klein The regulation of leaf water conductance across tree species: An entire spectrum revealed.

Early development of the Texas field cricket (Gryllus texensis). From left: egg within 1 day of being laid, egg during late incubation, and a hatchling within 1 day of hatching. Stahlschmidt & Adamo Food-limited mothers favor offspring quality over offspring number: a principal components approach.

A highly grazed Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadow (Jordi F. Pagès). Pagès et al Grazing mosaics: Seascape attributes drive differences in herbivory in seagrass meadows.

An individual of the African honeybee (Apis mellifera scutellata) approaches a Yellow Everlasting (Helichrysum ruderale).. Grass et al Natural habitat loss and exotic plants reduce the functional diversity of flower visitors.

Photograph provided by authors. Ishii et al Pushing the limits to tree height: succulent treetop leaves of coast redwood store water.

Caption: Mist nets in a field near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.  About 500 m of mist nets were used to catch birds from eight sites within and around the exclusion zone in 2010. Credit: T.A. Mousseau and A.P. Møller (c) 2010. Galván et al Chronic exposure to low-dose radiation at Chernobyl favours adaptation to oxidative stress in birds.

Tree. Photograph c. Cregger et al Nitrogen cycle response to precipitation change.

Yellow rattle in its natural setting. Photo credited to Sue Hartley. Rowntree et al You are what you eat (and what your food has eaten).


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