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

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

Image provided by authors. Dial et al Effects of neonatal size on maturity and escape performance in the Trinidadian guppy

Zhang Shubin is sampling decaying wood from a living tree hollow for measurement of its decay rate by CO2 release, in the Ailao Mountain Forest of China. Picture by Zheng Zheng. Zheng et al Wood decomposition inside living trees shows that hollows develop slowly but cause a considerable loss of forest biomass

Photo by Matt Tillett. Flickr: via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.0. Henschen et al Black and yellow plumage signals resistance to oxidative stress in a bird

Four different Arabidopsis genotypes competing whilst under disease pressure. Creissen et al Every plant needs good neighbours

Podarcis erhardii from the Greek Islands with tell-tale bite scar on its belly. Donihue et al Feed or fight: Testing the impact of food availability and intraspecific aggression on the functional ecology of an island lizard

© Studio Asparagus. Fontana et al Individual-level trait diversity indices

Swedish boreal landscape (left; © Thomas B. Hasper) and Flakaliden Whole-Tree Chamber Experiment (right; © Bengt-Olof Vigren). Hasper et al Water use by Swedish boreal forests in a changing climate

Pinus sylvestris forests at the Southern limit of its distribution area, such as in this photo in a Pyrenees valley, are subject to several stresses, from drought to excess light, that threaten their survival. The impacts of these stresses on plant-soil nutrient cycles and nutrient ratios can be crucial for the future of this species in several parts of Europe. Credit Dr. Oriol Grau. Sardans et al Nitrogen deposition affects Scots pine stoichiometry

Corn farm in central Pennsylvania. Photo: fishhawk via Flickr (CC BY). Carey & Fulweiler The Importance of Agriculture in Global Biogenic Silicon Production

Zebras. Photo provided by authors. Young et al Unseen consequences of losing large wildlife: increases in rodent immune function following large mammal defaunation

 Laretia acaulis cushion harbouring native grasses in the high alpine of central Chile Andes. Cavieres et al Facilitation among plants as an insurance policy for diversity in Alpine communities

Male (left) and female (right) three-spined sticklebacks. Lee et al Perturbations in growth trajectory due to early diet affect age-related deterioration in performance

Black kite feeding its young. Photo credit: Fabrizio Sergio. López-Jiménez et al Ambient temperature, body condition and sibling rivalry explain feather corticosterone levels in developing black kites

Pink flowers of Costus arabicus, presumably avoiding bee-pollination.  Photo credit: Camila Silva Oliveira.Bergamo et al Flowers avoiding bees? The case of Costus arabicus colour variation sheds light on bee sensorial exclusion hypothesis for hummingbird red-flowers

A longleaf pine savanna experiencing a prescribed burn, Fort Bragg, NC. Photo by Gregory Ames, 2012. Ames et al Multiple environmental drivers structure plant traits at the community level in a pyrogenic

Photo credit: Philip J Bergmann. Mitchell & Bergmann Frog habitat preferences do not maximize jumping performance

Unattended black-legged kittiwake hatchling. Credit: Sabrina Tartu. Tartu et al Mercury could reduce parental care behaviour by disrupting parenting hormones in Arctic seabirds

A shrub-animal interaction captured using an animal camera at Panoche Hills Ecological Reserve, California. Lortie et al Functional assessment of animal interactions with shrub-facilitation complexes: a formal synthesis and conceptual framework

A view of the EucFACE study site from the top of a crane inside one of the study rings taken while making a gas-exchange measurement campaigns by Teresa E. Gimeno. Gimeno et al Tracking woodland water use efficiency under future atmospheric conditions

Cataglyphis hispanica worker ant collecting pollen of Spergularia purpurea (Caryophyllaceae). Aron et al Sperm production characteristics vary with level of sperm competition in Cataglyphis desert ants

Controlled screening experiment to relate Ellenberg Indicator Values for soil moisture to species plasticity in rooting depth. Photo by Jessica Rossow. Bartelheimer & Poschlod Functional characterizations of Ellenberg Indicator Values – a review on ecophysiological determinants

Issues of Functional Ecology. Photo Credit: Jennifer Meyer. Fox et al Editor and reviewer gender influence the peer review process but not peer review outcomes at an ecology journal

Intertidal stands of Cystoseira. Photo credit: L. Benedetti-Cecchi. Bulleri et al Facilitation and the niche: implications for coexistence, range shifts and ecosystem functioning

Image provided by authors. Killen et al Female guppies reduce energetic costs of being harassed by males by becoming more efficient swimmers

Hierarchal vein system in Quercus gilva (Fagaceae). Photo credited to authors.. Kawai & Okada How are leaf mechanical properties and water use traits coordinated by vein traits?—A case study in Fagaceae

Semi-arid grassland in Inner Mongolia of China (Image provided by Qingmin Pan). Chen et al Soil acidification exerts a greater control on soil respiration than soil nitrogen availability in grasslands subjected to long-term nitrogen enrichment

In this Mediterranean pineland, parasitized trees, constituting the only (or most abundant) nutritive resource offered on the canopy layer, are particularly noticeable for frugivorous birds. Frugivores respond to mistletoe patchiness by visiting parasitized trees preferentially to unparasitized ones, driving a differential deposition of mistletoe and co-fruiting species seeds towards parasitized trees. Photo by Ugo Mellone. Mellado & Zamora Mistletoe influences community seedfall patterns

Lolium multiflorum and Rhopalosiphum padi. Ueno et al Interactions under novel global change scenarios: How does ozone affect the triple interaction grass-endophyte-herbivore?

A Stripe-headed Round-eared Bat (Tonatia saurophila). Photo credit: Sharlene Santana. Santana Open wide! How and why gape reduces bite force in bats

Manly Dam, image provided by authors. Kazerouni et al Swimming in UV


The milkweed aphids Aphis nerii and Aphis asclepiadis sharing their host plant, the common milkweed Asclepias syriaca. T. Züst. Züst & Agrawal Population growth and sequestration of plant toxins along a gradient of specialization in four aphid species on a common milkweed

Photo by Louis Santiago. Pivovaroff et al What features do plants use to survive drought?

Image provided by authors. Larsdotter-Mellström et al Butterfly males can smell the mating status of females and use this information to design their ejaculate

The thorny-headed worm Polymorphus minutus : larvae dissected from the crustacean host, and infective to the definitive host, a waterbird. Perrot-Minnot et al Breath of death: how a parasite favours its transmission through hijacking its host’s hypoxia-acclimation processes

Female elephant seal and her pup on Kerguelen Island. Photograph by Joffrey Jouma’a. Jouma’a et al Are elephant seals optimal divers?

 View of typical steppe, Inner Mongolia, China (left) and experimental site of nitrogen addition (right). Photo by Qingmin Pan. Tian et al Nonlinear responses of ecosystem carbon fluxes and water use efficiency to nitrogen addition

Connectedness food web visualizing qualitative feeding relationships in the investigated arable soil (Photo credit: B. Lang). Pausch et al Small but active – pool size does not matter for carbon incorporation in belowground food webs

A pot with one individual of each of the four species competing in soil. McNickle et al Nutrient foraging behaviour of four co-occuring perennial grassland plant species alone does not predict behaviour with neighbours

A Hoverfly visiting a Black Mustard flower. Photograph credits: Dani Lucas-Barbosa. Lucas-Barbosa et al Visual and odour cues: how plants change after herbivore damage and pollination

Cushion of Thylacospermum caespitosum facilitating beneficiary species in the Qilian Shan range (China). Michalet et al The dark side of facilitating grasses

Tiliqua rugosa (sleepy lizard) in a South Australian agricultural landscape. Macrophysiology provides a means to understand life’s responses to such impacts at broad scales. Chown and Gaston Macrophysiology – a decade of novel insights

European starling. Image provided by authors. Fronstin et al Experimental reduction of hematocrit affects reproductive performance in European starlings

Beata Ujvari and Thomas Madsen catching water pythons in the “good old days” when the snakes were common. Ujvari et al Climate-induced collapse of a tropical predator-prey community

Red-eyed treefrog, Agalychnis callidryas, metamorph.  Photo credited to Karen M. Warkentin. Bouchard et al How tadpole competition affects frog guts and feeding

Female northern elephant seal with suckling pup. Photo provided by authors. Peck et al Immune response in breeding elephant seals

Shorebirds gather in large numbers at tidal flats of Bijagós archipelago, Guinea-Bissau. Catry et al Structure and functioning of intertidal food webs along a shorebird flyway

Drosophila melanogaster. Photo provided by authors. Hangartner & Hoffmann Assessing the ability of flies to adapt to heat

Juvenile barramundi. Photo by Timothy Clark. Norin et al Individual plasticity of fish metabolic rate

A glowing dewlap. Photo Credit: Manuel Leal. The lizard Anolis lineatopus inhabits shaded forests throughout the island of Jamaica.  Territorial males extend a colorful throat fan – the dewlap – in visual displays that attract females and repel male rivals. The dewlap is translucent: it transmits and diffuses light striking its back surface.  In this picture the sun is located behind the animal, and the sunlight transmitted through the dewlap makes it appear to glow.  The translucent properties of the dewlap make its colors more vivid and easier to see. Fleishman et al Why do lizard dewlaps glow?

Harvesting a study of the impact of barley mixtures on rare and common weed species. Brooker et al Plants helping plants for sustainable agriculture

Songnen Grassland. Photo provided by authors. Huang et al How should the number of leaves along branches in a plant canopy change with leaf size?

Image provided by authors. Ferrari et al The effects of background risk on behavioural lateralization in a coral reef fish

Research crane at the San Lorenzo Canopy Crane Site in Panama (left). Prosthechea sp. (Orchidaceae) in flower; leaves of Serpocaulon wagneri (Polypodiaceae) and Stenospermation angustifolium (Araceae; right, from top to bottom). (Photos by G. Petter). Petter et al Leaf traits of vascular epiphytes shift with height above the forest floor

Hawaiian prickly poppy. Photo provided by author. Barton Plants respond to herbivory by producing more prickles, thorns, and spines

Grass layer of the savanna in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Photo provided by authors. Barot et al Evolution of nutrient acquisition: when space matters

Photo credit: Paul Kardol. De Long et al Defenders in the Tundra: Plant defense is determined by nutrient availability and elevation

Blue tit brood. Photo credit: Wendt Müller. Lucass et al Parent-offspring co-adaptation in a wild bird

The eyes of  Megalagrion n. nigrolineatum, an example of a Hawaiian damselfly that breeds along pools. Scales & Butler The relationship between microhabitat use, allometry, and functional variation in the eyes of Hawaiian Megalagrion damselflies

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