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7 December 2016

The missing link in grassland restoration: arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi inoculation increases plant diversity and accelerates succession [Journal of Applied Ecology]

Keywords : arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, coefficient of conservatism, Floristic Quality Index, fungal community composition, fungal inoculation, plant and fungal interactions, plant diversity, plant succession, restoration, seed recruitment

1.Because soil microbial communities are often altered by anthropogenic disturbance, successful plant community restoration may require the restoration of beneficial soil microbes, such as arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. Recent evidence suggests that later successional grassland species are more strongly affected by AM fungi relative to early successional plants and that late successional plants consistently benefit from some AM fungi but not other AM fungal species. Many of these late successional species are also often missing in restorations despite being heavily seeded.
2.To assess the effects of AM fungal composition within grassland restorations, we inoculated plots with six different AM fungal community treatments including one of four different AM fungal species isolated from a prairie, a mixture of all four fungal species, and a non-inoculated control. AM fungi were introduced by planting 16 different inoculated nurse plants into replicated plots. We also seeded the restoration with a diverse, 54 species prairie seed mixture.(...)

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7 December 2016

High taxonomic variability despite stable functional structure across microbial communities [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : biogeography, metagenomics, microbial ecology

Understanding the processes that are driving variation of natural microbial communities across space or time is a major challenge for ecologists. Environmental conditions strongly shape the metabolic function of microbial communities; however, other processes such as biotic interactions, random demographic drift or dispersal limitation may also influence community dynamics. The relative importance of these processes and their effects on community function remain largely unknown. To address this uncertainty, here we examined bacterial and archaeal communities in replicate ‘miniature’ aquatic ecosystems contained within the foliage of wild bromeliads. We used marker gene sequencing to infer the taxonomic composition within nine metabolic functional groups, and shotgun environmental DNA sequencing to estimate the relative abundances of these groups.(...)

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7 December 2016

Revisiting the fear of snakes in children: the role of aposematic signalling [Scientific Reports]

Keywords : evolution, human behaviour

Why humans fear snakes is an old, yet unresolved debate. Its innate origin from evolutionary causes is debated against the powerful influence early experience, culture, media and religion may have on people’s aversion to snakes. Here we show that the aversion to snakes in human beings may have been mistaken for an aversion to aposematic signals that are commonly displayed by snakes. A total of 635 children were asked to rate single item images as “nice” or “mean”. Snakes, pets and smiley emoticon items were not rated as “mean” unless they displayed subtle aposematic signals in the form of triangular (rather than round) shapes.(...)

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6 December 2016

Learning by Association in Plants [Scientific Reports]

Keywords : behavioural ecology, evolutionary ecology

In complex and ever-changing environments, resources such as food are often scarce and unevenly distributed in space and time. Therefore, utilizing external cues to locate and remember high-quality sources allows more efficient foraging, thus increasing chances for survival. Associations between environmental cues and food are readily formed because of the tangible benefits they confer. While examples of the key role they play in shaping foraging behaviours are widespread in the animal world, the possibility that plants are also able to acquire learned associations to guide their foraging behaviour has never been demonstrated.(...)

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5 December 2016

A Novel Large-Scale Temperature Dominated Model for Predicting the End of the Growing Season [Plos One]

Subject Areas : leaves, Northern Hemisphere, forests, grasslands, biosphere, shrubs, trees, seasons

Vegetation phenology regulates many ecosystem processes and is an indicator of the biological responses to climate change. It is important to model the timing of leaf senescence accurately, since the canopy duration and carbon assimilation are strongly determined by the timings of leaf senescence. However, the existing phenology models are unlikely to accurately predict the end of the growing season (EGS) on large scales, resulting in the misrepresentation of the seasonality and interannual variability of biosphere–atmosphere feedbacks and interactions in coupled global climate models. In this paper, we presented a novel large-scale temperature dominated model integrated with the physiological adaptation of plants to the local temperature to assess the spatial pattern and interannual variability of the EGS.(...)

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