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 Schwimming talks to Alan Knapp about plant competition in water-limited environments.
Water is the primary factor limiting the growth and productivity of land plants, and fluctuations in plant-available water are ubiquitous in most terrestrial environments, due to variable and unpredictable rainfall. Evolution has produced numerous strategies of compromise between the conflicting goals of maximizing growth and reproduction when water is available and minimizing the risk of mortality when it is not. Because no species is able to pre-empt all opportunities for water and nutrient uptake, many plant species can coexist. However, the mechanisms responsible for making this stable, competitive coexistence possible are often hidden and difficult to study experimentally.
Understanding and predicting how plant communities will respond to contemporary climate change remains a challenge to science, but one that can be guided by addressing the fundamental ways in which fluctuations in plant-available water interact with competition, between either adults or seedlings.
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.quot;
Pierce, S. (2013), Implications for biodiversity conservation of the lack of consensus regarding the humped-back model of species richness and biomass production. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12147.
Understanding animal movements involves a complex association of factors. In addition to anatomical constraints and factors like the surrounding environment, more cryptic factors can play a role-- such as an animal's internal, physiological state, or navigational capacity. Complex movement models have been constructed in an attempt to infer an animal's internal state based on movement behaviours, but direct studies of the effect of an individual’s internal state on movement behaviour have been lacking.
African elephants are known to alter their behaviour in response to their physiological state, with elevated stress hormone concentrations being associated with reclusive behaviour and aggression towards humans. A better understanding of the link between internal, physiological state and the use of space in relation to the proximity of environmental features and refugia is important in mitigating human-elephant conflict. Read the lay summary for more information, or read the article online: Jachowski, D. S., Montgomery, R. A., Slotow, R., Millspaugh, J. J. (2013), Unravelling complex associations between physiological state and movement of African elephants. Functional Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12118.
Recent analysis of global datasets has shown that plants are constrained in how they allocate resources to their leaves, with trade-offs between building sturdy leaves with a long lifespan that are inefficient in capturing light or building flimsy leaves with a short lifespan and high efficiency. However, it is unknown whether similar patterns occur at more local scales, particularly when you consider the same plant species growing under different conditions. In this study, Justin P. Wright talks with Alan Knapp about the surprising 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, 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 in this interview with Robbie Wilson. This podcast is part of the Special Feature: The Ecology of Stress .
For more information, read the article online: 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
Alan Knapp interviews Brad Butterfield about his paper "A functional-comparative approach to facilitation between and its context-dependence", part of an upcoming Special Feature on Mechanisms of Plant Competition, and the importance of taking a trait-based approach to plant facilitation. A great deal of research has been conducted on the mechanisms and outcomes of plant competition, what traits help plants compete, but less well understood is how such traits affect the outcome of positive interactions among plants.
In this latest podcast, Alan Knapp, Editor of Functional Ecology, interviews Ryan Sponseller and his co-authors on their paper 'Variation in monsoon precipitation drives spatial and temporal patterns of Larrea tridentata growth in the Sonoran Desert'.
Julia Cooke is the Haldane Prize Winner for 2011. In this podcast, Alan Knapp, Editor, Functional Ecology interviews Julia Cooke about her paper: Silicon concentration and leaf longevity: is silicon a player in the leaf dry mass spectrum?
Read the paper:
Cooke, J., Leishman, M. R. (2011), Silicon concentration and leaf longevity: is silicon a player in the leaf dry mass spectrum?
For more details about the journal's Haldane Prize, Julia Cooke and past winners visit the British Ecological Society's website.
Alan Knapp interviews Amy Austin about her paper co-authored with Victoria Marchesini where they examined how a massive bamboo flowering event, which occurred in 2001 over 200,000 hectares in Patagonia, Argentina , impacted carbon and nutrient cycling in a native old-growth forest. Listen to the podcast at soundcloud and read the paper online:
Austin, A. T. and Marchesini, V. A. (2011), Gregarious flowering and death of understorey bamboo slow litter decomposition and nitrogen turnover in a southern temperate forest in Patagonia, Argentina.
Functional Ecology's First Podcast September 2011
In Functional Ecology's first podcast, Phil Hulme talks to Alan Knapp, about his study which is the first comparison testing for consistency in flowering phenology of species established in the wild in both their native Europe and as introduced aliens in North America.
Read the paper:
Hulme, P. E. (2011), Consistent flowering response to global warming by European plants introduced into North America. Functional Ecology, 25: 1189–1196.
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