Silver Jubilee of the journal and complexity of global change


Journal of Vegetation Science Volume 25!

The Journal of Vegetation Science is celebrating its Silver Jubilee this year! Since 1990, when the journal was founded by Eddy van der Maarel, Robert K. Peet and Robert Neuhäusl as the official publication of the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS), we have published 2556 papers on all topics of plant community ecology. In the past year, ca. 450 manuscripts were submitted, of which we published 113. Slightly more manuscripts were accepted than the standard page budget of the journal would allow, and to accommodate these, the IAVS kindly granted funding for additional pages in the first issues of this year. This is an excellent birthday present for the journal, but in general the limited journal space requires us to be very selective. This is also reflected in the journal's Impact Factor, 2.818, its highest ever. This is well above the average of other journals in ecology, plant or forest sciences. Papers published in the Journal of Vegetation Science now receive more than 5000 citations annually.

During the past year we have drawn attention to interesting papers through inviting renowned scientists to contribute short Commentaries (Callaway 2013; Cousins 2013; Eriksson 2013; Fridley 2013; O'Connor 2013; Rocchini 2013; Thuiller 2013; Wildi 2013). These Commentaries have put the results from particular papers into a broader context. We hope that readers have found these Commentaries useful and stimulating. We have also published Forum papers, which are essays with original ideas or views containing no new data. Like Commentaries, our Forum papers also encourage debate on novel and sometimes controversial ideas, including critical views on previously published papers and corresponding replies. We welcome more Forum contributions in the coming years, and all potential authors are welcome to contact our Forum Editor, Prof. Mike Palmer, for further information. Occasionally we receive papers that provide an up-to-date summary and a new synthesis of some topic in vegetation science. Recent examples include Austin (2013) and Smith (2013). These papers are very useful for development of our field. Therefore, we have decided to establish a new category for this type of paper, called Synthesis. We hope this category will appeal to our authors, and we look forward to more submissions.

The Journal of Vegetation Science has slightly revised the Author Guidelines to improve clarity. We are keeping pace with the times to implement all kinds of changes in publishing and layout. For instance, references containing very many authors are now common. As large collaborative works become increasingly more important in ecology, the number of authors can also be expected to grow. In order to save precious page space, many journals give only the first author followed by “et al.” in the reference list. We consider that this is too limited since there may be joint first authorship, or some co-authors that contributed more than others are listed following the first author. It is also an established tradition in some research groups that the leader takes the last position in the author list. Therefore, for references with 12 or more authors, we will now list the first nine and the last author, replacing all others with “(…)”. For example, see the reference to the recent paper of Pauli et al. (2012). Authors need not worry: they may list all authors in the manuscript and our copy editors will change the format accordingly.

Although computers have been a great help in running a journal (and several thank you letters have actually been sent by machine), all journals are still fashioned by their editors. The Grand Old Editor of our journals has been Bastow Wilson. He has been Chief Editor and Chair of the Editors since our founding editor Eddy van der Maarel stepped down in 2000. Last year Bastow decided to retire. We – Bastow's fellow Chief Editors – have been very privileged to work so closely (we mean electronically, since Bastow resides in New Zealand) with such an extraordinary person. It has been enjoyable – both scientifically and intellectually – to have long discussions on diverse topics and to see our journals develop. Our progress has been due largely to Bastow's tactfully conducting the “symphony of vegetation science”. We are happy that Bastow is continuing as a Consultant Editor. He is overseeing Commentaries and, additionally, we can always rely on his vast experience in editorial processes and excellent knowledge in plant community ecology. We are happy that the International Association for Vegetation Science gave Bastow its highest award last year – honorary membership. Our new Chief Editor is Valério Pillar from Brazil. He has been closely associated with both our journals and IAVS for decades. Meelis Pärtel has been appointed Chair of the Editors.

Editors' Award 2013: Global change and dynamic ecosystems

Among the papers published last year, the Chief Editors discussed and evaluated papers nominated for the Editors' Award 2013. The 2013 Award goes to Jeanne Bodin for a paper involving a team of authors led by Jean-Luc Dupouey (Bodin et al. 2013). Modelled climate for the future shows that mountain ecosystems face substantial risks. Species from lower altitudes can migrate upward to find suitable habitats, but there is nowhere to escape from mountain-tops (Pauli et al. 2012). The effect of climate change has been demonstrated through upward shifts in species ranges (Lenoir et al. 2008). These findings initiated a boom in observations of upward migration of mountain species in response to climate change. However, Bodin et al. (2013) issue an important warning: upward shifts might be caused by factors other than climate change. They used extensive data from two forest inventories (ca. 1985 and 1999) in southeastern France. Weather stations in this region report warming of ca. 0.5 °C per decade, which corresponds roughly to the temperature change in mountains for each 100 m in altitude. Bodin et al. (2013) applied careful data stratification and quality control to obtain a representative and clean subset of species optima for the two time periods. Indeed, there has been a significant mean shift in optimal altitude of 18 m. However, forests have also changed. Most forests in Europe are semi-natural (Farrell et al. 2000; Rackham 2008), and the effect of management on forest structure and species composition is large and long lasting. When Bodin et al. (2013) examined a subset of closed forests (more similar to natural conditions) they found no evidence of species ascending. In addition, they found that there has been a rapid loss of open forest, especially at lower altitudes. Thus, their results suggest that forest succession — and not climate change – is the likely cause of the upward migration of species in their region. This conclusion was further supported by careful analysis of species traits. We should conclude that scientific use of repeated inventory data is extremely valuable, but obtained results should be interpreted with care to distinguish between the effects of climate and land-use change (see also Speed et al. 2012).

A runner-up for the Editors' Award also explored climate change effects (Cantarel et al. 2013). The authors applied an experimental approach, which simulated global change projected for the year 2080 (rise in air temperature, summer drought and atmospheric CO2). They measured above-ground biomass and taxonomic and functional diversity of grassland over 4 years. Even this time frame showed that climate change effects themselves could change. In particular, if productivity increased in the warming treatment 1 yr after the start of the experiment, the effect was reversed during the following years. Species richness tended to be rather insensitive to the treatment, but significant changes occurred in relative abundance of functional groups. This, in turn, influenced productivity. The work of Cantarel et al. (2013) reminds us again that observations from a single year might give a biased picture of vegetation responses to climate change; long-term data are needed. Unfortunately, most research grants are much shorter than required for such observations or experiments.

Another nominated study, from Laliberté et al. (2013), used data from a grassland fertilization/grazing experiment in New Zealand, which has been running for three decades. They explored community assembly at different scales (metacommunity scale of a single treatment within an 8 m × 50 m plot, and local scale of 1 m × 1 m, where herbaceous species actually can interact). They explored the continuing question in community ecology: whether environmental filtering or limiting similarity is more important in community assembly (Grime 2006). Laliberté et al. (2013) showed convincingly that at the metacommunity scale, environmental filtering acted to select species from the study areas that fit particular habitat conditions created during the course of the experiment. This treatment-specific species pool contributed non-randomly to local-scale vegetation: co-existing species were relatively dissimilar to each other and this trait divergence became stronger at higher productivity and lower grazing intensity. Thus, environmental filtering and limiting similarity can actually occur simultaneously but at different spatial scales. Here, the species pool concept is combined nicely with the classical competition theory, and the effect of biotic interactions was revealed because a relevant species pool was examined. The study of Laliberté et al. (2013) comes from the Special Feature on Functional Diversity (Mason & de Bello 2013). Plant functional trait diversity has been a core topic of our journal, and the Special Feature demonstrates how the assessment of functional diversity can help to disentangle important questions in community ecology.

Concluding remarks

The Journal of Vegetation Science started in 1990 (van der Maarel 1990, 1999) and since then has been quite successful, with increasing impact, new features and wider readership, all of which indicate that the founders of the journal made the right decision. All this in spite of a global change in the publishing sphere, in which competition for the best papers and attention of readers have become more challenging, and in which all journals must improve their performance to keep their position in the Red Queen race. We thank all our readers, authors, referees (see the list at the end of the issue), Editorial Board members and Associate or Consulting Editors for their continuous support. We are delighted with the service from John Wiley & Sons Ltd. and editorial assistance from Editorial Office. We hope to meet many of you at the next IAVS Annual Symposium in Perth, Australia, on 1–5 September 2014.