Journal of Ecology

Cover image for Vol. 103 Issue 6

Early View (Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue)

Edited By: David Gibson, Richard Bardgett, Mark Rees, Amy Austin

Impact Factor: 5.521

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2014: 12/144 (Ecology); 13/200 (Plant Sciences)

Online ISSN: 1365-2745

Associated Title(s): Functional Ecology, Journal of Animal Ecology, Journal of Applied Ecology, Methods in Ecology and Evolution


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  1. Standard Papers

    1. Ecologically diverse and distinct neighbourhoods trigger persistent phenotypic consequences, and amine metabolic profiling detects them

      Françoise Hennion, Isabelle Litrico, Igor V. Bartish, Alexandra Weigelt, Alain Bouchereau and Andreas Prinzing

      Article first published online: 28 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12505

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      Our results suggest that different levels of ambient diversity can, within a few years, select for different genotypes which have different compositions of growth regulators. Our study also suggests that a plant species can evolve in response to the diversity or distinctness of the surrounding plant community. Evolutionary changes of plant phenotypes might mediate an impact of past biological diversity on present ecosystem functioning. The large photo (of the Jena design experiment) is : copyright@A.Weigelt and the small photo (the experiment in Lusignan) is : copyright INRA@I.Litrico.

    2. Variation and macroevolution in leaf functional traits in the Hawaiian silversword alliance (Asteraceae)

      Benjamin Blonder, Bruce G. Baldwin, Brian J. Enquist and Robert H. Robichaux

      Article first published online: 27 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12497

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      The Hawaiian silversword alliance includes 33 species in three endemic genera (Argyroxiphium, Dubautia, and Wilkesia) that occupy almost all major habitats of the Hawaiian archipelago (top row). We show that leaf functional trait variation in the lineage spans much of the global angiosperm range, is best explained by a white-noise evolutionary model, and is integrated in ways consistent with both the global leaf economics spectrum and the predictions of leaf venation network theory (bottom row). The results provide compelling support for the view that the silversword alliance is one of the world's premier examples of adaptive radiation in plants.

    3. Contrasting effects of nutrient enrichment on below-ground biomass in coastal wetlands

      Sean A. Graham and Irving A. Mendelssohn

      Article first published online: 27 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12498

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      We conclude that eutrophic conditions can be both beneficial and detrimental to ecosystem function by either stimulating below-ground biomass accumulation in unexploited soil or reducing the below-ground standing crop required to sustain the nutritional needs of established plants in mature communities. Thus, nutrient enrichment may, in the short-term, contribute to soil organic matter (i.e. carbon) accumulation by increasing below-ground growth as plants exploit new resource space. Over the long-term, however, nutrient enrichment has the potential to negatively impact soil organic matter content as plants equilibrate to excess nutrient availability by down-regulating below-ground standing crop.

    4. Evidence for arrested succession in a liana-infested Amazonian forest

      Blaise Tymen, Maxime Réjou-Méchain, James W. Dalling, Sophie Fauset, Ted R. Feldpausch, Natalia Norden, Oliver L. Phillips, Benjamin L. Turner, Jérôme Viers and Jérôme Chave

      Article first published online: 27 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12504

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      Because persistently high rates of liana infestation are maintained by the fast dynamics of the liana-infested forest, liana-infested forests here appear to be the result of an arrested tropical forest succession. If the prevalence of such arrested succession forests were to increase in the future, this would have important implications for the carbon sink potential of Amazonian forests.

    5. Contrasting synchrony in root and leaf phenology across multiple sub-Arctic plant communities

      Victoria L. Sloan, Benjamin J. Fletcher and Gareth K. Phoenix

      Article first published online: 27 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12506

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      We demonstrate that major differences exist in the synchrony of temporal dynamics of leaf and root production between woody plant- and sedge-dominated sub-Arctic vegetation. The substantially greater asynchrony in root and leaf production in woody plants compared with sedges suggests that vegetation change associated with climate warming will result in significant shifts in timing of carbon fluxes to soil, and highlights the need for separate leaf and root components in ecosystem carbon and nutrient cycle models.

  2. Future Directions

    1. Understanding the dominant controls on litter decomposition

      Mark A. Bradford, Björn Berg, Daniel S. Maynard, William R. Wieder and Stephen A. Wood

      Article first published online: 27 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12507

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      Climate and litter quality are considered the primary controls on litter decomposition. We re-analyse published data to show how study design biases this conceptualization of controlling factors. We present a framework for future studies that factors local-scale variation into observations and analyses. Such efforts may suggest a new decomposition paradigm and ultimately improve confidence in projections of biogeochemical models.

  3. Standard Papers

    1. You have full text access to this OnlineOpen article
      Determinants of flammability in savanna grass species

      Kimberley J. Simpson, Brad S. Ripley, Pascal-Antoine Christin, Claire M. Belcher, Caroline E. R. Lehmann, Gavin H. Thomas and Colin P. Osborne

      Article first published online: 26 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12503

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      The evolutionary relationships between species and average values of explanatory plant traits (solid circles) and flammability traits (open circles). Trait values are indicated by the size of the circles. A non-zero phylogenetic signal was found for leaf SA/V ratio (Pagel's λ = 1; = 1 for λ = 1; < 0.001 for λ = 0), leaf flaming time (Pagel's λ = 0.45; = 1.0 for λ = 1; < 0.001 for λ = 0) and leaf combustion rate (Pagel's λ = 0.99; = 0.93 for λ = 1; = 0.037 for λ = 0).

    2. Success of spatial statistics in determining underlying process in simulated plant communities

      Calum Brown, Janine B. Illian and David F. R. P. Burslem

      Article first published online: 18 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12493

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      Spatial statistics are often used to investigate the ecology and diversity of plant communities. We simulate several processes that can generate high levels of species diversity, and assess their detectability using a range of statistics based on distinct spatial information. We describe theoretical spatial consequences of these processes alone and in combination, and identify statistics with particular empirical promise.

    3. Ground ice melt in the high Arctic leads to greater ecological heterogeneity

      Michael S. Becker, T. Jonathan Davies and Wayne H. Pollard

      Article first published online: 14 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12491

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      We examine how a high Arctic polar desert ecosystem is responding to some of the greatest temperature increases on the planet. Our findings suggest that melting ground ice (thermokarst) creates a more heterogeneous high arctic landscape through diverging vegetation communities and edaphic conditions. The resulting wetland-like biome could replace much of the ice-rich polar desert in the high Arctic.

    4. Breaking and remaking a seed and seed predator interaction in the introduced range of Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius) in New Zealand

      Quentin Paynter, Yvonne M. Buckley, Paul Peterson, Allan Hugh Gourlay and Simon V. Fowler

      Article first published online: 14 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12492

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      The dynamics of biocontrol systems provide an under-exploited opportunity to examine the impact of removal and reinstatement of species interactions. Differences in seed size between native and non-native ranges may result from varying intensities of conflicting selection pressures acting on seed size. It remains to be seen whether a decline in seed size towards that seen in the native range will result from the biocontrol agent introduction, as we have demonstrated that selection pressures on seed size vary with disturbance mediated population turnover and fecundity.

    5. Leaf colour polymorphisms: a balance between plant defence and photosynthesis

      Ignatius J. Menzies, Luke W. Youard, Janice M. Lord, Kaylyn L. Carpenter, John W. van Klink, Nigel B. Perry, H. Martin Schaefer and Kevin S. Gould

      Article first published online: 14 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12494

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      Anthocyanin pigments may simultaneously serve multiple functions within leaves, and individuals of the same plant species may use different strategies to cope with insect herbivores. Therefore, investigations into the role of these pigments in plant–insect interactions need to consider plant physiology and the diversity of plant defence mechanisms.

    6. The complex net effect of reciprocal interactions and recruitment facilitation maintains an intertidal kelp community

      Allison K. Barner, Sally D. Hacker, Bruce A. Menge and Karina J. Nielsen

      Article first published online: 14 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12495

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      We experimentally determined the species interactions in for a rocky intertidal macroalgal canopy-understorey assemblage. We found that reciprocal, positive species interactions are important for maintaining species diversity in this community. Our research highlights the importance of positive interactions for coexistence in natural communities, and the necessity of studying multiple life-history stages to elucidate the mechanisms that maintain diversity.

    7. Do arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi stabilize litter-derived carbon in soil?

      Erik Verbruggen, Jan Jansa, Edith C. Hammer and Matthias C. Rillig

      Article first published online: 14 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12496

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      Apart from stimulating litter decomposition as previously shown, mycorrhizas can also stabilize C during litter decomposition and this effect is persistent through time.

    8. From pots to plots: hierarchical trait-based prediction of plant performance in a mesic grassland

      Thomas Schroeder-Georgi, Christian Wirth, Karin Nadrowski, Sebastian T. Meyer, Liesje Mommer and Alexandra Weigelt

      Article first published online: 10 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12489

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      Upscaling from the individual to the population level reflects an increasing number of processes requiring traits from different trait clusters for their prediction. Our results emphasize the importance of root traits for trait-based studies especially at higher organizational levels. Our approach provides a comprehensive framework acknowledging the hierarchical nature of trait influences. This is one step towards a more process-oriented assessment of trait-based approaches.

    9. Quantifying how short-term environmental variation leads to long-term demographic responses to climate change

      Robert K. Shriver

      Article first published online: 10 NOV 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12490

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      My study shows that vital rates can change in response to short-term variability even when the total amount of rainfall and average temperature, common covariates in demographic models, remain constant. Accounting for changes in short-term environmental variation in climate change predictions will likely be important in systems with considerable environmental variation between censuses. The approach I present here can be widely applied to understand how short-term variability and individual weather events will alter organism responses to climate change.

    10. The advantage of the extremes: tree seedlings at intermediate abundance in a tropical forest have the highest richness of above-ground enemies and suffer the most damage

      Benedicte Bachelot, María Uríarte, Jill Thompson and Jess K. Zimmerman

      Article first published online: 28 OCT 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12488

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      Interspecific variation in tree species abundance, measured at the local or community scales, leads to differences in the magnitude and type of damage tropical tree seedlings suffer. This variation results in a non-linear, hump-shaped relationship between species abundance and enemy damage, highlighting fruitful directions for further development of species coexistence theory.

    11. Geographical variation in vegetative growth and sexual reproduction of the invasive Spartina alterniflora in China

      Wenwen Liu, Keith Maung-Douglass, Donald R. Strong, Steven C. Pennings and Yihui Zhang

      Article first published online: 21 OCT 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12487

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      The rapid spread of Spartina alterniflora (Salterniflora) in China has probably been facilitated by phenotypic plasticity in growth and reproductive traits. We found little evidence for the evolution of genetic clines in China, even though these exist for some traits in the native range. The considerable variation among clones, within provenances, that persisted in the common garden suggests a potential for the evolution of geographic clines in the future. Low fecundity of low latitude Salterniflora populations in China might result in a slower spread at low latitudes, but Salterniflora is likely to continue to spread rapidly at high latitudes in China and into the Korean peninsula.

    12. ENSO and frost codetermine decade-long temporal variation in flower and seed production in a subtropical rain forest

      Chia-Hao Chang-Yang, I-Fang Sun, Cheng-Han Tsai, Chia-Ling Lu and Chang-Fu Hsieh

      Article first published online: 14 OCT 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12481

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      Both natural climatic oscillations and extreme weather events greatly influence plant reproduction, but less is known about how these two external forcings act in concert. Our work demonstrated that together the natural climatic oscillation (ENSO) and the extreme weather event (frost) determined the temporal variation in flower and seed production in a subtropical rain forest. In addition, phylogenetically closely related species resembled each other in their flowering responses to abiotic variation in this subtropical rain forest. Improved understanding of these abiotic and biotic interactions may help predicting population- and community-level phenological responses under future climate changes.

    13. Evolutionary response of plant interaction traits to nutrient enrichment modifies the assembly and structure of antagonistic-mutualistic communities

      Ewen Georgelin and Nicolas Loeuille

      Article first published online: 14 OCT 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12485

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      We model the evolutionary dynamics of a plant trait involved simultaneously in antagonistic and mutualistic interactions. We find evolution largely constrain population densities and assembly processes during enrichment. The simultaneous occurrence of both interaction types may further lead to a diversification of plant strategies, increasing the diversity of the community.

    14. Ecological legacies of civil war: 35-year increase in savanna tree cover following wholesale large-mammal declines

      Joshua H. Daskin, Marc Stalmans and Robert M. Pringle

      Article first published online: 12 OCT 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12483

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      Catastrophic large-herbivore die-offs in Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park were followed by 35 years of woodland expansion, most severely in areas where pre-war wildlife biomass was greatest. These findings suggest that release from browsing supersedes grazer–grass–fire feedbacks in governing ecosystem-level tree cover, consistent with smaller-scale experimental results. Future work in Gorongosa will reveal whether recovering LMH populations reverse this trend, or alternatively whether woody encroachment hinders ongoing restoration.

    15. Frost sensitivity of leaves and flowers of subalpine plants is related to tissue type and phenology

      Paul J. CaraDonna and Justin A. Bain

      Article first published online: 12 OCT 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12482

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      This study contributes to our general understanding of factors related to interspecific differences in plant sensitivity to episodic frost events of naturally occurring species. The increased frost sensitivity of reproductive structures compared to vegetative structures may be a widespread pattern for long-lived perennial plants. Furthermore, we find evidence for a trade-off between phenology and frost sensitivity, whereby species with later phenology exhibit higher frost sensitivity compared to species with earlier phenology. These results have implications for plant populations, species interactions and ecological communities.

    16. Temporal variability in hydrology modifies the influence of geomorphology on wetland distribution along a desert stream

      Xiaoli Dong, Nancy B. Grimm, Kiona Ogle and Janet Franklin

      Article first published online: 22 JUL 2015 | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12450

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      Geomorphology and environmental variability interact to influence species distribution. We found that the effect of geomorphic setting on stream wetland plant distribution is altered by inter-annual variability of hydrology. This suggests that temporal transferability of the relationship between geomorphology and species is questionable.


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