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

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

Coping with stress: some species survive by breaking the rules, Lanna Desantis explains to Robbie Wilson
Part of the Special Feature: The Ecology of Stress For more information, read the lay summary and article:
Desantis, L. M., Delehanty, B., Weir, J. T., Boonstra, R. (2013), Mediating free glucocorticoid levels in the blood of vertebrates: are corticosteroid-binding proteins always necessary?. Functional Ecology, 27: 107–119. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12038

In an oak-dominated forest in Hampshire UK, photographs of the forest canopy were taken every half an hour over two years. The transition of colours showed the seasonality of the forest: when budbreak started, the green sharply increased, gradually decreased in summer, and returned to the original level when leaves were shed; the rise of red colour was shown when oak leaves turned yellow in autumn. Mizunuma et al modelled the photosynthesis of the forest using the extracted colours to compare with the flux measurements. Recent global warming has made the arrival of spring earlier, and leaves appear sooner. How does this influence the carbon cycle in forests?

Mizunuma, T., Wilkinson, M., L. Eaton, E., Mencuccini, M., I. L. Morison, J., Grace, J. (2012), The relationship between carbon dioxide uptake and canopy colour from two camera systems in a deciduous forest in southern England. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12026



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).

Size differences in offspring of mothers acclimated to different temperatures. Shama et al Transgenerational plasticity in marine sticklebacks: maternal effects mediate impacts of a warming ocean.

Photograph courtesy of author. Gerisch Non-random patterns of functional redundancy revealed in ground beetle communities facing an extreme flood event.

In the foreground is a large seedling of zebrawood (Microberlinia bisulcata) at Korup, Cameroon, with mature and new leaves that had been protected from insect herbivores. In the background is a typical mesh cage built to exclude these herbivores in the e. Norghauer et al Seedling resistance, tolerance and escape from herbivores: insights from co-dominant canopy tree species in a resource-poor African rain forest.

Photo by Johan Asplund. Asplund & Wardle Within-species variability is the main driver of community-level responses of traits of epiphytes across a long term chronosequence.

Prairie crocus (Pulsatilla patens), a native species, is part of the diverse natural community lost following invasion by introduced grasses. Credit: S. Wilson. Vaness et al Invasion and root heterogeneity.

Cantabrian forest and potential network of fleshy-fruited trees. Tree species are represented by coloured nodes potentially linked by dashed lines. Courtesy of Daniel Martínez. Rodríguez-Pérez et al Frugivorous birds use a network of fruiting trees to move seeds across the landscape.

Grévy´s Zebra (Equus grevyi). Photograph provided by authors. Steuer et al Does body mass convey a digestive advantage for large herbivores?

A flower of the distylous Primula elatior probed by a hairy-footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes). Photograph credit: Barbara Keller. Keller et al Outcrossing in sessile organisms: a feat perfected in Darwin’s primroses.

Ecologist at work. Photo provided by authors. Zimmerman et al Cytokines and Eco-immunology: Studying the signaling molecule of the immune system

Caterpillar. Photograph by Ellen Woods. Ali & Agrawal Asymmetry of plant-mediated interactions between specialist aphids and caterpillars on two milkweeds.

Roots interacting, Photograph provided by author. Teste et al Complementary plant nutrient-acquisition strategies promote growth of neighbour species.

Rainout shelter used in the rainfall manipulation experiment at the Jornada LTER. Dr. Reichmann (pictured) and Dr. Sala studied lags in the response of productivity to changes in precipitation. Reichmann & Sala Meristem limitation explains lags in the response of productivity to changes in precipitation in arid grasslands.

Drosophila melanogaster. Image provided by authors. Cooper et al Cellular adaptation to temperature in natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster.

Seven-spotted ladybird. Photo provided by authors. Winters et al Maternal effects and warning signal honesty in eggs and offspring of an aposematic ladybird beetle.

Photo provided by authors.. Slot et al Scaling leaf respiration in a tropical forest.

Caterpillar. Photo provided by authors.. Roeder & Behmer Lifetime consequences of food protein-carbohydrate content for an insect herbivore.

 Causal analysis of Grime’s Humped-Back Model involves converting his pictorial abstraction (left panel) into a causal diagram (right panel) where the logical connections between hypothesized processes are made explicit and testable implications are revealed. Grace et al Causal networks clarify productivity–richness interrelations, bivariate plots do not.

Solitary bee Anthophora plumipes on flower; photo credit Pavel Krásenský ( Straka et al Lifespan in the wild: the role of activity and climate in bees.

Interacting classes of species in a community . Jaillard et al Community assembly effects shape the biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships.

Thermal tolerance landscapes describe how survival is affected concomitantly by temperature and exposure times. Rezende et al Tolerance landscapes in thermal ecology.

Female red deer (Cervus elaphus) with calf on the Isle of Rum, Scotland. Pavitt et al Variation in early life testosterone within a wild population of red deer.

Slimy salamander. Photo provided by authors. Careau et al Individual (co)variation in thermal reaction norms of standard and maximal metabolic rates in wild-caught slimy salamanders.

Tropical dry forest, Chamela Biological Reserve, Mexico. Photo by R. Bhaskar. Bhaskar et al Community assembly and functional diversity along succession post-management

Reef-scape, Lizard Island lagoon. Photograph by Dr Ruth Reef. Lovelock et al Variation in elemental stoichiometry and RNA:DNA in four phyla of benthic organisms from coral reefs.

 The cane toad (Rhinella marina, formerly Bufo marinus) is a large toxic anuran from South and Central America, currently spreading through its introduced range in Australia. Our studies on a montane cool-climate population of this invasive species show that toads can acclimate to low temperatures after only a few hours exposure. That rapid acclimation enhances the toad’s invasion success, and may allow it to spread into cooler regions than have been predicted by previous bioclimatic models. Photograph by Matt Greenlees. McCann et al Rapid acclimation to cold allows the cane toad to invade montane areas within its Australian range.

The English countryside: a mosaic of farmed and unfarmed components. Photo provided by authors.. Hodgson et al Changing leaf nitrogen and canopy height quantify processes leading to plant and butterfly diversity loss in agricultural landscapes.

Lay Summary Photograph Caption:  Ants on a young leaf outside an ant shelter or domatium. Photocredit: Joyshree Chanam. Chanam et al Interlopers pay the rent in nitrogen rather than protection in an ant-plant.

European spruce bark beetle, Ips typographus (left), and field trapping site (right). Photo courtesy of Fredrik Schlyter and Júlia Jankuvová. Binyameen et al A close arrangement of insect olfactory cells improves discrimination of odour sources.

Sibaria englemani feeding on an immature infructescence of Piper sancti-felicis. Photo credited to Susan R. Whitehead. Whitehead & Bowers Chemical compounds in fruits defend against pests.

Epiphytes such as these fog-soaked lichens can greatly change the microclimate of the host canopy in arid environments. Stanton et al Epiphytes improve host plant water use by microenvironment modification.

 Daphnia. Photo credited to James Hood and Robert Sterner. Hood & Sterner Carbon and phosphorus linkages in Daphnia growth are determined by growth rate, not species or diet.

Catching blue tits. Photo provided by authors. Merilaita & Dimitrova How to blend in.


 Drosophila melanogaster under starvation. Photo courtesy of authors. Lee & Jang Exploring the nutritional basis of starvation resistance in Drosophila melanogaster.

Photo provided by authors. Nardini & Luglio Leaf plumbing systems: efficiency and safety across biomes.

 Orange-and-black (left) and white-and-black (right) females of the Orange Sulfur butterfly, Colias eurytheme. Photo courtesy of authors. Limeri & Morehouse Confusing Females: Colour Differences May Make Female Butterflies Difficult for Males to Identify.

The study area in Chiapas, Mexico, where the landscape consists of a mosaic of agricultural fields, young secondary forest and old secondary forest. Lohbeck et al Changing drivers of species dominance during tropical forest succession.

 Observing the behavior of Cellana grata at Cape d’Aguilar, Hong Kong.  Photo credit: Avis Ngan. Santini et al Smart limpets: complex behaviour in "simple" animals.

Two male cycad plants in Brisbane Forest Park near Brisbane, Australia, each with a cone in the pollination phase.  The plant on the left is in about day 1 of the pollination period (of about 10 days duration) and the right hand plant’s cone is near day 3. Terry et al Cycad cones’ thermogenic signals govern pollinators’ behaviour


Search the Site


Site Adverts

Virtual Issue on Ecophysiological forecasting: predicting adaptation and limits to adaptation