Journal of Ecology News


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Centenary Milestone

The Journal of Ecology was established by the British Ecological Society in 1913. This milestone is being celebrated with the publication of a Centenary Symposium Special Feature in the current issue, which is issue 1 of Volume 100 of the Journal (see pp. 1–140). The centenary of the Journal’s establishment sees it with its highest ever Impact Factor, and higher rankings in the Ecology and Plant Sciences journals listings, than at any time in the past, with rising submissions, and with a reputation as the foremost venue in which to publish plant ecological research. This article reviews some of the major achievements of the Journal during the last 12 months, and indicates some of the ways in which we aim to continue to provide our authors and readers with the best possible service both pre- and post-publication.

Impact and access

The ISI® 2010 Impact Factor for Journal of Ecology was 5.260. This was an increase of over 12% compared with the previous year. The Journal is now 11th in rank (out of 130 journals) on the basis of Impact Factor in the Ecology journals listing on Web of Science and 9th (out of 188 journals) in the Plant Sciences journals listing. These metrics confirm the Journal’s standing as the premiere place in which to publish exciting, novel and innovative research in all fields of plant ecology as it reaches the one-hundredth year since its launch in 1913.

Submissions and the review process

Submissions remain at a very high level and of a very high quality. We are in the fortunate position of being able to select the most exciting papers for publication, and currently have to reject approximately 80% of submissions. Papers that do not make substantial advances in their fields, or do not address topical questions or test important hypotheses, cannot be accepted. Papers that lack novelty or merely confirm previous results cannot be accepted. To be successful, submitted papers must interest a wide sector of our traditional readership. Articles addressing generic issues, instead of focussing on particular species, locations or ecological events, are more likely to succeed in the review process. Because the number of submissions is placing an ever-increasing burden on the review process, we are now forced to reject many papers without review when, in our opinion, they do not fulfil our exacting selection criteria. For many years the Editors of Journal of Ecology have rejected a considerable number of submissions without sending them out for review. For all papers that survive this first cut and are assigned to a Handling Editor, we now require the Handling Editor to provide a statement justifying the investment of time and effort in review. We therefore urge all authors to be realistic about the prospects for their papers before submitting to the Journal. If papers do not match the criteria listed above, submission elsewhere is advisable, both to avoid the disappointment of rejection that is likely to be fate of work that fails to meet the Journal’s standards, and to help alleviate pressure on the peer-review system.

First decisions on manuscripts currently take an average of 33 days from receipt. We thank all those colleagues who have reviewed manuscripts for us during 2011, both for providing constructive feedback and for sending their opinion, more often than not, in as short a time as we requested. A list of names of the reviewers who have helped us in this way is published on the Journal homepage. We also thank our team of eminent and expert Associate Editors, who provide much additional insight and carefully justified recommendations about submitted papers.


In addition to the usual array of Standard Papers, Essay Reviews, Forum articles, Future Direction papers and accounts of species in the Biological Flora of the British Isles series, Volume 99 of the Journal of Ecology contained two Special Feature collections of papers on defined topics. The first of these, on Plant-mediated Interactions between Above- and Below-ground Communities, was Guest Edited by Martin Heil. It was published in issue 1, pp. 3–88. The second, on the Ecological Consequences of Climate Extremes, was Guest Edited by Melinda Smith and Alan Knapp, and published in issue 3, pp. 656–728. Special Features fulfil an important service by presenting in one place a number of significant scientific advances in fast-moving and topical fields. These collections of papers invariably generate considerable interest, both through downloads and citations. We are continuing to publish Special Features in the Journal (see pp. 1–140, this issue), and have several further projects under development. However, we are always interested in receiving suggestions from our readers for Special Features. If you have a proposal, we would be interested to hear about it, whether it is fully fledged, or only at an early stage in the process of gestation. Ideally, a Special Feature consists of a collection of 5–10 papers on a theme of current interest and importance. A proposal should include an indication of the names of potential contributors, and the topics they would write about. Papers are expected to be original research contributions, rather than reviews. The Journal also welcomes proposals from any reader for stand-alone review papers.

In addition to the Special Features we published in 2011, the Journal also contributed, with its sister BES Journals, to a Virtual Issue, consisting of all of the Journals’ Young Investigator prize-winners from 2010 (the Journal of Ecology prize is the Harper Prize, won in 2010 by Yann Hautier), plus the runners-up. This Virtual Issue is available for free download at

The Journal’s homepage ( contains a wealth of information on Special and Virtual Issues, Editor’s Choice articles, news and highlights, and several other papers, many of which are free to download. There is also a listing of new papers published electronically in EarlyView prior to print publication, information about the contents of the latest issue of the Journal, information about our most widely-read articles, an opportunity to sign up for e-alerts about forthcoming papers, and full Guidelines for Authors who wish to submit a manuscript. The homepage also provides information about our forthcoming Journal of Ecology blog (we give more information about this later in this article), and links to the blog itself. In order to make the Biological Flora articles more accessible from the Journal’s homepage, we will soon be updating the current table of articles and changing the format to provide a more useful resource for readers wishing to access these species accounts. We encourage everybody with an interest in the Journal’s output to take a look. The content of the homepage is frequently updated, so that it is now a very valuable resource for anyone looking for the latest news about the best work being published in plant ecology.

Instructions to Authors

The Publications Committee of the British Ecological Society has recently made the decision to move towards requiring authors of papers in its five Journals to archive the data on which their paper is based. This decision will be a major contribution towards bringing practice in ecological publishing into line with that in several other fields, including evolution. The ultimate aim is to require authors to archive the data used in the paper in a publicly-accessible archive, in a form that will enable any interested reader to re-construct the analyses and results that have been reported in the paper. There will be no specific instructions, at least for the time being, about the way in which data are provided, or about the data archive that should be used, although the Instructions to Authors of all of the Journals have been modified to indicate the standards expected for the archived information.

There will be an initial period during which the expectation will be that authors of accepted papers will archive their data. The intention is to change the situation from expectation of data archiving, probably in about two years, to a requirement that data will be archived. The BES believes that the majority of leading journals in ecology will all converge on a similar requirement at approximately the same time.

It is understood that some authors may have good reason to wish for an embargo period during which they can retain privacy of their data. This might be the case, for example, if further publications from the same data are in preparation. It will be possible to request an embargo period between publication of their paper and placement of the data into an archive. Requests for such an embargo, with an explanation of the reason for the request, and the length requested for the embargo, should be sent to the Editor. Reasonable requests, supported by appropriate justification, will be treated with consideration.

Journal of Ecology in the news in 2011

Several papers published by Journal of Ecology during 2011 received additional attention and exposure in the media. A huge amount of publicity was attracted by the paper by Robbirt et al. (2011) validating the use of herbarium specimens as sources of data for predicting phenological responses to climate change. The paper featured in items on the BBC Today programme, the BBC web-site, and many scientific and news outlets world-wide, including Nature and Science. The paper by Aldridge et al. (2011) was also featured in Nature and Science. Papers by Garcia, Dahlgren & Ehrlén (2011) and Pandit, Pocock & Kunin (2011) featured in Nature and those by Visser et al. (2011) and Ohlson et al. (2011) were reported in Science. Thomson et al. (2011) was selected for coverage by BBC News and Environment.

John L. Harper Young Investigator’s Prize

The 2011 Harper Prize for the best article published in 2011 in Journal of Ecology by a scientist at the start of his or her career, has been awarded to Ryan Phillips of Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Perth, Western Australia, for his article “Do mycorrhizal symbioses cause rarity in orchids?”, published with Matthew Barrett, Kingsley Dixon and Steve Hopper (Phillips et al. 2011). Orchids are among nature’s most enigmatic terrestrial plants, especially in terms of their relationship with mycorrhizal symbiotic partners. In this fascinating study, Ryan Philips and his colleagues postulated that mycorrhizal specificity may contribute to rarity among members of the charismatic orchid genus Drakaea in Australia. However, by using a combination of in situ baiting of seed with mycorrhizal fungi, ITS nrDNA sequencing of fungi isolated from adult plants, and in vitro seed germination studies in the presence of fungal partners, Ryan was able to show that rarity among Drakaea species was more likely to be related to microhabitat, niche and pollination requirements than to mycorrhizal specificity. The combination of field and laboratory work presented in this paper is an exemplary demonstration of the way in which a difficult ecological problem can be addressed experimentally.

Other contenders for the Prize that were highly commended by the judging panel were the papers by Joanna Buswell (Buswell, Moles & Hartley 2011) and Tess van de Voorde (van de Voorde, van der Putten & Bezemer 2011).

The Editorial Board

There have been several changes to our Associate Editorial Board in 2011. Board members who have stood down during 2011 are Richard Bradshaw, Ellen Damschen, Chris Lortie, Fernando Maestre and Roy Turkington. We are grateful for the excellent work undertaken by all of them on behalf of the Journal of Ecology. Their efforts, together with those of all our other Board members, ensure that we continue to maintain the highest standards in the science that we publish. We owe a particular debt of gratitude to Roy Turkington, who has been a stalwart of the Associate Editorial Board of Journal of Ecology since 1992. Roy has unfailingly provided valuable and detailed advice to authors of both accepted and rejected papers, and his advice has always been delivered collegially and sympathetically, professionally and with good humour. We will miss his involvement with the Board, but hope to see many more of his manuscripts submitted to the Journal.

We have recruited several eminent ecologists to the Board during 2011. They are Will Cornwell, Scott Chamberlain, Eelke Jongejans, Matt McGlone, Peter Vesk, Ken Whitney and Nina Wurzburger. We are delighted that they have agreed to offer their advice and new ideas, and we are confident that they will all help in building the Journal’s reputation for publishing the best plant ecological research.

We also welcome Erika Newton, who has assumed the role of Managing Editor while Andrea Baier is on maternity leave. Andrea gave birth to Leonard in August of 2011. Lauren Sandhu has joined the team as Journal Administrator.

Journal of Ecology Blog

One of our new Associate Editors, Scott Chamberlain, has been recruited with the primary role of developing a blog for the Journal. Scott is an experienced and enthusiastic blogger, and we look forward to his involvement in this new and exciting activity. The blog will be launched in time for the online publication of this Issue. This is an exciting new development, and we encourage all readers to visit the blog ( to view the contributions as they accumulate, to participate in the discussion about the contents of the Journal of Ecology and its forthcoming activities – and, perhaps most of all – to let us know what you think of the blog as a new way of delivering and discussing information in our field of research.