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14 octobre 2016

Below-ground frontiers in trait-based plant ecology [New Phytologist/Review]

Keywords : community assembly, comparative ecology, ecosystem processes, fine roots, functional trait, mycorrhiza, nutrient acquisition, soil carbon

Trait-based approaches have led to significant advances in plant ecology, but are currently biased toward above-ground traits. It is becoming clear that a stronger emphasis on below-ground traits is needed to better predict future changes in plant biodiversity and their consequences for ecosystem functioning. Here I propose six ‘below-ground frontiers’ in trait-based plant ecology, with an emphasis on traits governing soil nutrient acquisition : redefining fine roots ; quantifying root trait dimensionality ; integrating mycorrhizas ; broadening the suite of root traits ; determining linkages between root traits and abiotic and biotic factors ; and understanding ecosystem-level consequences of root traits. Focusing research efforts along these frontiers should help to fulfil the promise of trait-based ecology : enhanced predictive capacity across ecological scales.

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14 octobre 2016

Slow decomposition of leaf litter from mature Fagus sylvatica trees promotes offspring nitrogen acquisition by interacting with ectomycorrhizal fungi [Journal of Ecology]

Keywords : below-ground N cycling, ectomycorrhizal fungi, Fagus sylvatica, leaf litter decomposability, microbial biomass N, microcosm experiment

1. Leaf litter chemistry and ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi are key drivers of the below-ground nitrogen (N) cycling within forest ecosystems. Their combined effects on litter decomposition and N competition between microbial decomposers and plants are still uncertain.
2. We conducted a glasshouse microcosm experiment with low or high ECM-colonized beech (Fagus sylvatica) saplings, growing with litter collected from old or young beech trees growing on the same loamy soil. After 6 months of growth, we investigated litter decomposition rates, microbial respiration and the N pools within leaf litter, soil (different pools), microbial and plant shoot biomass.(...)

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13 octobre 2016

Introduction to a Virtual Issue on plant senescence [New Phytologist/Editorial]

Keywords : ageing, death, life cycle, pigmentation, senescence, virtual issue

The word ‘senescence’ is recorded as having been around in the English language since before 1700, but it was not until the late nineteenth century that it began to be used in biology. Charles Sedgwick Minot (1891) was an early adopter, eventually publishing his 1908 book The Problem of Age, Growth, and Death. A Study of Cytomorphosis, in which he defined senescence thus : ‘With each successive generation of cells the power of growth diminishes … This loss of power I term senescence’. This broadly remains the meaning of the term as used by population biologists to this day.(...)

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13 octobre 2016

Orienting the Interaction Compass : Resource Availability as a Major Driver of Context Dependence [PLOS Biology]

Keywords : mutualism, species interactions, trophic interactions, community ecology, population dynamics, corals, compasses, grasses

Life on earth is enormously diverse, in part because each individual engages in countless interactions with its biotic and abiotic environment during its lifetime. Not only are there many such interactions, but any given interaction of each individual with, say, its neighbor or a nutrient could lead to a different effect on its fitness and on the dynamics of the population of which it is a member. Predicting those effects is an enduring challenge to the field of ecology. Using a simple laboratory system, Hoek and colleagues present evidence that resource availability can be a primary driver of variation between interactions.(...)

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13 octobre 2016

Empty forest or empty rivers ? A century of commercial hunting in Amazonia [Science Advances]

The Amazon basin is the largest and most species-rich tropical forest and river system in the world, playing a pivotal role in global climate regulation and harboring hundreds of traditional and indigenous cultures. It is a matter of intense debate whether the ecosystem is threatened by hunting practices, whereby an “empty forest” loses critical ecological functions. Strikingly, no previous study has examined Amazonian ecosystem resilience through the perspective of the massive 20th century international trade in furs and skins. We present the first historical account of the scale and impacts of this trade and show that whereas aquatic species suffered basin-wide population collapse, terrestrial species did not.(...)

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