Virtual Issue: 30 years of Functional Ecology

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November 2016

To celebrate 30 years of Functional Ecology current journal Editors Charles Fox, Alan Knapp, Craig White and Ken Thompson have each chosen their favourite papers from our back catalogue. We asked the Editors to choose papers they feel have had a major impact on their field and that continue to be relevant today. The resulting eclectic selection spans the full history and broad scope of the journal. The Editors' selections and their reasons for choosing them are included below. All the papers are free to access.

 Volume 1 - 10     Volume 11 - 20    Volume 21 - 30    


Volume 1 - 10

In situ photosynthetic responses to light, temperature and carbon dioxide in herbaceous plants from low and high altitude
Koerner, Ch.; Diemer, M.
Vol. 1, No. 3 (1987)

Selected by: Alan Knapp

This paper has been consistently cited every year since its publication in our first volume. Alan explains why he chose it: "This is a nice comparative study of photosynthesis in 12 pairs of herbs growing at low and high altitude. One doesn’t encounter such studies very often today, but some interesting questions are addressed."

Basal Metabolic Rates in Mammals: Allometry, Phylogeny and Ecology
M. A. Elgar and P. H. Harvey
Vol. 1, No. 1 (1987)
Selected by: Craig White

This paper has also been consistently cited every year since its publication. Craig says: "This is a classic comparative study of metabolic adaptation in animals, published in the first issue of Functional Ecology. This study drew two methodological critiques (McNab 1987; Derrickson 1989), and the responses to these critiques remain relevant 30 years later (Harvey & Elgar 1987; Harvey & Elgar 1989). The study has also been followed by a number of comparative studies of metabolic adaptation in Functional Ecology (e.g. Koteja 1991; McNab 1992; Kvist & Lindström 2001)"

The role of fluctuating temperatures in the germination and establishment of Sorghum halepense (L.) Pers. - regulation of germination under leaf canopies.
Benech Arnold, R.L., Ghersa, C.M., Sanchez, R.A. & Garcia Fernandez, A.E.
Vol.2, No. 3 (1988)
Selected by: Ken Thompson

Back to plants now with this paper from our second volume, selected by Ken Thompson, who simply says "This is a really neat experiment."

Spatial scaling in ecology
Wiens, J. A.
Vol.3, No. 4 (1989)
Selected by: Charles Fox

Chuck says "In the most cited paper ever published in Functional Ecology, both in terms of total citations and citations per year, Wiens provides an overview of the ways in which ecological pattern and process vary across spatial scales and calls persuasively for researchers to consider scale in research studies (with recommendations on how to do so) and develop a theory of scaling that generates predictable hypotheses. Wiens was not the only researcher in the late 1980s highlighting the importance of scale in ecological research (see, for example, papers by Simon Levin), but he did so very effectively." 

A comparative study of the germination characteristics of seeds from a moist tall grassland community
Washitani, I. & Masuda, M.
Vol.4, No. 4 (1990)
Selected by: Ken Thompson

Now to a grassland community ecology paper from 1990 using Japanese temperate grasslands as the study system. Here Ken says "This is just a lovely dataset!" which is probably why this paper has again been consistently cited right up to today.

Individual variation in metabolism and reproduction of Mus: are energetics and life history linked?
Hayes, J.P., Garland, T., Jr. & Dohm, M.R.
Vol.6, No. 1 (1992)
Selected by: Craig White

Another paper that very much accomplishes our remit of providing a mechanistic understanding of ecology here. Craig says "This is a pioneering study examining the consequences of inter-individual variation in metabolism for organismal performance; Functional Ecology has since gone on to publish many such studies, especially recently (e.g. Kvist & Lindström 2001; Walker et al. 2005; Sears et al. 2009; Reid, Armstrong & Metcalfe 2011; Killen et al. 2012; Fletcher et al. 2014; Rønning et al. 2016)"

Convergence of elaiosomes and insect prey: evidence from ant foraging behaviour and fatty acid composition
Hughes, L., Westoby, M. & Jurado, E.
Vol.8, No. 1 (1994)
Selected by: Ken Thompson

Here's another great mechanistic study on how plants attract ants to disperse their seeds. This time Ken says "Obvious really, but still a neat result."

Volume 11 - 20

The influence of the rate of temperature change on the activation of dormant seeds of Rumex obtusifolius L.
Van Assche, J.A. & Van Nerum, D.M.
Vol.11, No. 6 (1997)
Selected by: Ken Thompson

Next another of Ken's choices, he says "Germination is promoted by temperature alternations – but what are seeds really measuring?"

Repeatability estimates do not always set an upper limit to heritability
Dohm, M.R.
Vol.16, No. 2 (2002)
Selected by: Craig White

Now another of Craig's selections - of this he says "An important paper describing the circumstances in which the relatively easily measured metric of repeatability does not, contrary to often-stated opinion, represent an upper limit to the more difficult to measure metric of heritability. Since the publication of this paper, explicit consideration of the genetic architecture of functional traits has become more commonplace in Functional Ecology (e.g. Chown et al. 2009; Mitchell & Hoffmann 2010; Rezende, Tejedo & Santos 2011; Nespolo et al. 2013; Fletcher et al. 2014; Losdat et al. 2016).

Metabolic cold adaptation in insects: a large-scale perspective.
Addo-Bediako, A., Chown, S.L. & Gaston, K.J.
Vol.16, No. 3 (2002)
Selected by: Craig White

This paper tests an age old hypothesis, as Craig explains "A broad-scale comparative study of the metabolic cold adaptation hypothesis, which was first proposed by Nobel Laureate August Krogh (Krogh 1916). Publication of this paper also led to an important discussion regarding the problems and benefits of broad-scale studies (Chown, Addo-Bediako & Gaston 2003; Hodkinson 2003). Metabolic cold adaptation, or Krogh’s rule, is one of many “rules” in macrophysiology (sensu Chown, Gaston & Robinson 2004) that are worthy of ongoing investigation (see e.g. Table 1 of Gaston et al. 2009)."

Why does metabolism scale with temperature?
Clarke, A. & Fraser, K.P.P.
Vol.18, No. 2 (2004)
Selected by: Charles Fox and Craig White

This is the first of two papers in our collection to be selected by two of our Editors independently. Chuck says "Like Kozłowski & Konarzewski discussed below, Clarke & Fraser are critical of assumptions underlying the metabolic scaling theory that was so influential at the time. In this paper, Clarke & Fraser examine the universal temperature dependence of metabolism; they argue that it is incompatible with what we know of cellular physiology and mechanisms of acclimation and adaptation to temperature, and call for theory that is better ground in physiology."
Craig says "Part of a broader discussion regarding the theoretical and empirical support for the Fractal Network Theory of metabolic scaling (Kozłowski & Konarzewski 2004; Savage et al. 2004; West, Brown & Enquist 2004; Brown, West & Enquist 2005; Kozłowski & Konarzewski 2005; Etienne, Apol & Olff 2006; Gillooly et al. 2006), and one of many studies examining the scaling of functional traits that appeared in Functional Ecology around this time (e.g. Makarieva, Gorshkov & Li 2005; Halsey, Blackburn & Butler 2006; Makarieva et al. 2006; Chown et al. 2007; Clarke & Rothery 2008; White et al. 2008; Glazier 2009)."

Is West, Brown and Enquist's model of allometric scaling mathematically correct and biologically relevant?
Kozłowski, J., & Konarzewski, M.
Vol.18, No. 2 (2004)
Selected by: Charles Fox

This paper is a comment on a famous series of papers. Chuck explains why he chose it "Few papers have had as much and as immediate influence on discussion and research in ecology as did a series of papers by West, Brown, Enquist (WBE) and colleagues published in the late 1990s and early 2000s on allometric scaling and a metabolic theory of ecology. Though not the first to question the generality and realism of this metabolic scaling theory, Kozłowski & Konarzewski provide a thorough critique of the 3/4 power scaling of metabolic rate that underlies much of this theory and call for increased biological realism in subsequent models."

Neutral theory in community ecology and the hypothesis of functional equivalence
Hubbell, SP
Vol.19, No. 1 (2005)
Selected by: Charles Fox and Alan Knapp

Here's the second paper to be selected by two Editors. Chuck says "In this paper, Hubbell discusses "the empirical observations that led me to question my own long-held beliefs about the assembly rules for ecological communities" and which led to his classic, albeit controversial, 2001 book on neutral theory and biodiversity. Hubbell reflects on how his ideas developed over many years as he tried to reconcile outcomes of research on species diversity and niche differentiation with, e.g., classic niche theory."
Alan says "A well written and thought provoking forum paper on a controversial topic. The reflective and open-minded tone at the end is quite enjoyable."

Volume 21 - 30

Nutrition, ecology and nutritional ecology: toward an integrated framework
Raubenheimer, D., Simpson, S. J., & Mayntz, D.
Vol.23, No. 1 (2009)
Selected by: Charles Fox

Looking to the future of nutritional ecology now, as Chuck explains "Raubenheimer et al discuss the need for a general conceptual framework for nutritional ecology. They propose a Geometric Framework that considers the key relationships among relevant variables in nutritional ecology. Though it is too early to know for certain whether this framework will have long-lasting influence, the wide diversity of submissions to this journal that use, or at least discuss, the Geometric Framework, suggest that Raubenheimer et al's approach will have is being widely adopted."

The association between body mass, metabolic rates and survival of bank voles
Boratyński, Z. & Koteja, P.
Vol.23, No. 2 (2009)
Selected by: Craig White

This paper is probably included because bank voles are the cutest vole.. or maybe for the reason Craig gives.. "One of very few studies examining the fitness consequences of metabolic variation for free-living animals. Functional Ecology has also published a number of other studies in this broad area that are worthy of a further look (e.g. Boratyński & Koteja 2010; Larivée et al. 2010; Fletcher et al. 2014)."

Xylem hydraulic safety margins in woody plants: coordination of stomatal control of xylem tension with hydraulic capacitance
Meinzer, Frederick C.; Johnson, Daniel M.; Lachenbruch, Barbara; et al.
Vol.23, No. 5 (2009)
Selected by: Alan Knapp

This paper has been cited on average 22 times a year since it was published with citations increasing year on year. Alan explains why he chose it "This is a synthesis of data and ideas resulting in mechanistic generalizations for how trees cope with fluctuations in water. Very relevant to issues of drought tolerance and stomatal regulation today."

Vascular performance of woody plants in a temperate rain forest: lianas suffer higher levels of freeze–thaw embolism than associated trees
Jimenez-Castillo, M. & Lusk, C. H.
Vol.23, No. 2 (2013)
Selected by: Ken Thompson

The final paper in our collection provides an answer to a question that has long puzzled Ken "Why so few temperate lianas?"

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