AM fungi root colonization increases the production of essential isoprenoids vs. nonessential isoprenoids especially under drought stress conditions or after jasmonic acid application

Asensio D., Rapparini F., Peñuelas J. (2012) AM fungi root colonization increases the production of essential isoprenoids vs. nonessential isoprenoids especially under drought stress conditions or after jasmonic acid application. Phytochemistry. 77: 149-161.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2011.12.012

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Previous studies have shown that root colonization by arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) fungi enhances plant resistance to abiotic and biotic stressors and finally plant growth. However, little is known about the effect of AM on isoprenoid foliar and root content. In this study we tested whether the AM symbiosis affects carbon resource allocation to different classes of isoprenoids such as the volatile nonessential isoprenoids (monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes) and the non-volatile essential isoprenoids (abscisic acid, chlorophylls and carotenoids). By subjecting the plants to stressors such as drought and to exogenous application of JA, we wanted to test their interaction with AM symbiosis in conditions where isoprenoids usually play a role in resistance to stress and in plant defence. Root colonization by AM fungi favoured the leaf production of essential isoprenoids rather than nonessential ones, especially under drought stress conditions or after JA application. The increased carbon demand brought on by AM fungi might thus influence not only the amount of carbon allocated to isoprenoids, but also the carbon partitioning between the different classes of isoprenoids, thus explaining the not previously shown decrease of root volatile isoprenoids in AM plants. We propose that since AM fungi are a nutrient source for the plant, other carbon sinks normally necessary to increase nutrient uptake can be avoided and therefore the plant can devote more resources to synthesize essential isoprenoids for plant growth. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Litter VOCs induce changes in soil microbial biomass C and N and largely increase soil CO 2 efflux

Asensio D., Yuste J.C., Mattana S., Ribas À., Llusià J., Peñuelas J. (2012) Litter VOCs induce changes in soil microbial biomass C and N and largely increase soil CO 2 efflux. Plant and Soil. 360: 163-174.
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Doi: 10.1007/s11104-012-1220-9

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Aims: We investigated the effects of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by pine litter, specifically terpenes, on soil microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen and heterotrophic soil respiration under different microclimatic scenarios of water availability and temperature. Methods: Soil in glass jars (0.6 L headspace) was exposed to pine needle litter, avoiding any physical contact between soils and litter. Treatments were subjected to two moisture levels, control and drought (20 % and 10 % gravimetric soil water content respectively) and to different temperatures (temperature response curve from 5 °C to 45 °C). Results: In control soils, exposure to litter was associated with a significant decrease in microbial biomass carbon and ninhydrin extractable organic nitrogen, and with a significant increase in heterotrophic respiration (up to 46 %) under optimum temperature (25 °C). Drought, on the other hand, restricted the effects of litter exposure on heterotrophic respiration but exposure to litter was associated with a significant increase in microbial biomass nitrogen. We did not detect significant overall microbial consumption of terpenes in this study. Conclusions: These results suggest either that other VOCs not measured in the study were being consumed and/or that VOCs emissions were triggering strong changes in the composition and functioning of soil microbial communities. More studies under field conditions are needed to assess the magnitude of litter VOCs effects on carbon and nitrogen cycles. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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Species traits weakly involved in plant responses to landscape properties in Mediterranean grasslands

Bagaria G., Pino J., Rodà F., Guardiola M. (2012) Species traits weakly involved in plant responses to landscape properties in Mediterranean grasslands. Journal of Vegetation Science. 23: 432-442.
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Doi: 10.1111/j.1654-1103.2011.01363.x

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Questions: What is the role of landscape structure and dynamics, compared with climatic and geographic factors, in determining species frequencies of grassland plant specialists under habitat loss? Do species traits mediate the relationship between plant community composition and environmental variables? Location: The Mediterranean mountain grasslands of southern Catalonia (NE Iberian Peninsula), over an area of 100 × 20 km. Methods: Using redundancy analysis (RDA), we explored the association between frequency of broad plant specialists and both present and past habitat patterns in the landscape (i.e. habitat amount and reduction over the period 1956-2003), after accounting for the effect of geographical location and climate in 29 grassland patches. Then, we constructed a database of biological and ecological plant traits potentially related to population persistence, in order to assess the role of these traits in explaining the found association between species composition and environmental variables. We used a single, three-table ordination analysis (RLQ) of the species frequencies, environmental variables and species traits to relate species traits to environmental variables, after allowing for phylogenetic dependence of traits. Results: The main environmental gradient explaining species frequencies was climatic and geographic. Habitat amount in the current landscape significantly affected species frequencies, while habitat amount in the past landscape did not. A weak but significant association of species traits with environmental variables was detected. Taking into account the phylogenetic signal in plant traits did not change the results. Conclusions: Plant species in Mediterranean grasslands seem to respond quickly to landscape change, since no effect of past landscape structure was observed on current species frequencies. Moreover, plant traits did not play a major role in mediating species response to environmental variation in these grasslands. Our findings differ from those obtained in northern and central European grasslands, probably due to differences in methodology but also to the smaller contrast in environmental conditions between grasslands and the adjacent forests and scrub in Mediterranean landscapes. © 2011 International Association for Vegetation Science.

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Comparative study of diurnal and nocturnal sap flow of Quercus ilex and Phillyrea latifolia in a Mediterranean holm oak forest in Prades (Catalonia, NE Spain)

Barbeta A., Ogaya R., Peñuelas J. (2012) Comparative study of diurnal and nocturnal sap flow of Quercus ilex and Phillyrea latifolia in a Mediterranean holm oak forest in Prades (Catalonia, NE Spain). Trees - Structure and Function. 26: 1651-1659.
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Doi: 10.1007/s00468-012-0741-4

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Droughts are a cyclical disturbance in Mediterranean ecosystems and climate change models forecast an increase of their frequency and severity. Some experimental and observational studies have shown that co-occurring species may cope with drier conditions with different strategies and present different responses. Here, we investigate sap flow response to drought in order to explain the observed differential growth and mortality of Quercus ilex and Phillyrea latifolia at Prades Holm oak forest (NE Spain). We measured sap flow of these species and compared their diurnal, nocturnal and seasonal patterns and their relationship with environmental variables. Both species described qualitatively similar daily patterns, either during daylight or night. Sap flow rates were significantly higher in P. latifolia except in autumn and spring. P. latifolia was more sensitive to soil moisture. Nocturnal sap flow was detected in both species with no significant differences and hourly rates suffered a progressive increase from 3 a. m. to dawn in most sampled nights. Our results indicate a better adaptation of P. latifolia to this site as it can take better advantage of wet periods while maintaining higher sap flow rates during dry periods. Along with previous ecophysiological studies at the same location it may be inferred that at its drier distributional limit Q. ilex would be at disadvantage with respect to other species like P. latifolia, as the latter would cope better with increasing xeric conditions already occurring and further predicted for Mediterranean ecosystems. Our results also show nocturnal sap flow to be relevant in individual water losses in these two species as they can be up to 35-40 % of daily sap flow. Further research on the underlying mechanisms of this nocturnal sap flow is required since it may also enhance early morning CO 2 fixation or nutrient supply to leaves. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.

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Deconstructing the native-exotic richness relationship in plants

Bartomeus I., Sol D., Pino J., Vicente P., Font X. (2012) Deconstructing the native-exotic richness relationship in plants. Global Ecology and Biogeography. 21: 524-533.
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Doi: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2011.00708.x

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Aim Classic theory suggests that species-rich communities should be more resistant to the establishment of exotic species than species-poor communities. Although this theory predicts that exotic species should be less diverse in regions that contain more native species, macroecological analyses often find that the correlation between exotic and native species richness is positive rather than negative. To reconcile results with theory, we explore to what extent climatic conditions, landscape heterogeneity and anthropogenic disturbance may explain the positive relationship between native and exotic plant richness. Location Catalonia (western Mediterranean region). Methods We integrated floristic records and GIS-based environmental measures to make spatially explicit 10-km grid cells. We asked whether the observed positive relationship between native and exotic plant richness (R 2= 0.11) resulted from the addition of several negative correlations corresponding to different environmental conditions identified with cluster analysis. Moreover, we directly quantified the importance of common causal effects with a structural equation modelling framework. Results We found no evidence that the relationship between native and exotic plant richness was negative when the comparison was made within environmentally homogeneous groups. Although there were common factors explaining both native and exotic richness, mainly associated with landscape heterogeneity and human pressure, these factors only explained 17.2% of the total correlation. Nevertheless, when the comparison was restricted to native plants associated with human-disturbed (i.e. ruderal) ecosystems, the relationship was stronger (R 2= 0.52) and the fraction explained by common factors increased substantially (58.3%). Main conclusions While our results confirm that the positive correlation between exotic and native plant richness is in part explained by common extrinsic factors, they also highlight the great importance of anthropic factors that - by reducing biotic resistance - facilitate the establishment and spread of both exotic and native plants that tolerate disturbed environments. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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Precipitation manipulation experiments - challenges and recommendations for the future

Beier C., Beierkuhnlein C., Wohlgemuth T., Penuelas J., Emmett B., Körner C., de Boeck H., Christensen J.H., Leuzinger S., Janssens I.A., Hansen K. (2012) Precipitation manipulation experiments - challenges and recommendations for the future. Ecology Letters. 15: 899-911.
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Doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01793.x

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Climatic changes, including altered precipitation regimes, will affect key ecosystem processes, such as plant productivity and biodiversity for many terrestrial ecosystems. Past and ongoing precipitation experiments have been conducted to quantify these potential changes. An analysis of these experiments indicates that they have provided important information on how water regulates ecosystem processes. However, they do not adequately represent global biomes nor forecasted precipitation scenarios and their potential contribution to advance our understanding of ecosystem responses to precipitation changes is therefore limited, as is their potential value for the development and testing of ecosystem models. This highlights the need for new precipitation experiments in biomes and ambient climatic conditions hitherto poorly studied applying relevant complex scenarios including changes in precipitation frequency and amplitude, seasonality, extremity and interactions with other global change drivers. A systematic and holistic approach to investigate how soil and plant community characteristics change with altered precipitation regimes and the consequent effects on ecosystem processes and functioning within these experiments will greatly increase their value to the climate change and ecosystem research communities. Experiments should specifically test how changes in precipitation leading to exceedance of biological thresholds affect ecosystem resilience and acclimation. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS.

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Nest box design for the study of diurnal raptors and owls is still an overlooked point in ecological, evolutionary and conservation studies.

Lambrechts MM, Wiebe KL, Sunde P, Solonen T, Sergio F, Roulin, A, Korpimäki E (eds) (2012). Nest box design for the study of diurnal raptors and owls is still an overlooked point in ecological, evolutionary and conservation studies: a review.  Journal of Ornithology 153: 23-34.

Effects of phosphorus availability and genetic variation of leaf terpene content and emission rate in Pinus pinaster seedlings susceptible and resistant to the pine weevil, Hylobius abietis

Blanch J.-S., Sampedro L., Llusià J., Moreira X., Zas R., Peñuelas J. (2012) Effects of phosphorus availability and genetic variation of leaf terpene content and emission rate in Pinus pinaster seedlings susceptible and resistant to the pine weevil, Hylobius abietis. Plant Biology. 14: 66-72.
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Doi: 10.1111/j.1438-8677.2011.00492.x

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We studied the effects of phosphorus fertilisation on foliar terpene concentrations and foliar volatile terpene emission rates in six half-sib families of Pinus pinaster Ait. seedlings. Half of the seedlings were resistant to attack of the pine weevil Hylobius abietis L., a generalist phloem feeder, and the remaining seedlings were susceptible to this insect. We hypothesised that P stress could modify the terpene concentration in the needles and thus lead to altered terpene emission patterns relevant to plant-insect signalling. The total concentration and emission rate ranged between 5732 and 13,995μg·g -1DW and between 2 and 22μg·g -1DW·h -1, respectively. Storage and emission were dominated by the isomers α- and β-pinene (77.2% and 84.2% of the total terpene amount amassed and released, respectively). In both resistant and susceptible families, P stress caused an increase of 31% in foliar terpene concentration with an associated 5-fold decrease in terpene emission rates. A higher terpene content in the leaves implies that the 'excess carbon', available under limiting growth conditions (P scarcity), is allocated to terpene production. Sensitive families showed a greater increase in terpene emission rates with increasing P concentrations, which could explain their susceptibility to H. abietis. © 2011 German Botanical Society and The Royal Botanical Society of the Netherlands.

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Spatial variation in the fatty acid composition of elaiosomes in an ant-dispersed plant: Differences within and between individuals and populations

Boieiro M., Espadaler X., Gómez C., Eustaquio A. (2012) Spatial variation in the fatty acid composition of elaiosomes in an ant-dispersed plant: Differences within and between individuals and populations. Flora: Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants. 207: 497-502.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.flora.2012.06.007

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Euphorbia characias is a common myrmecochorous plant of the western Mediterranean Basin whose seeds are dispersed by ants following fruit explosion. The variation in elaiosomes' fatty acid composition of this species was studied at three hierarchical levels (sub-individual, individual and population) in four populations from the Iberian Peninsula. We found that differences in fruit location on the inflorescence do not seem to influence the fatty acid composition of elaiosomes, providing to each propagule an equal chance of being dispersed. However, significant differences in elaiosome fatty acid composition between individuals and populations were found for most of the compounds identified. The content of oleic acid, a key mediator in the ant-seed interaction, differed widely between populations, probably reflecting geographic variations in co-adaptation between plants and their dispersers. The finding that the fatty acid composition of E. characias elaiosomes is distinct from that of the seed itself, but very similar to that of elaiosomes from unrelated species, reinforces the idea of convergent evolution in the chemical composition of these structures. © 2012 Elsevier GmbH.

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Seed production and pre-dispersal reproductive losses in the narrow endemic Euphorbia pedroi (Euphorbiaceae)

Boieiro M., Rego C., Serrano A.R.M., Espadaler X. (2012) Seed production and pre-dispersal reproductive losses in the narrow endemic Euphorbia pedroi (Euphorbiaceae). Plant Ecology. 213: 581-590.
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Doi: 10.1007/s11258-012-0023-7

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Euphorbia pedroi is a narrow endemic species with three known populations located in coastal areas of western Portugal. This study focused on the reproductive biology of this species from flowering to dispersal, aiming to identify the factors causing decrease in seed production potential and to assess the spatio-temporal patterns of seed production at the individual and population levels. The abortion of reproductive structures, particularly seeds, represented a major fraction of losses in the potential seed production of E. pedroi. Moth larvae destroyed a variable proportion of cyathia in a large number of plants from the two populations regardless of their degree of isolation. Furthermore, generalist and specialist pre-dispersal seed predators were responsible for temporally variable seed losses unrelated with variables indicative of plant size and fecundity, and showing no consistency at the individual level. Specialist seed-wasps inflicted the highest losses to E. pedroi and their impact was intimately associated with the magnitude of yearly variation in seed production. This finding highlights the role of the inter-annual variation in seed production as a key feature in this plant-seed predator system. The effect of the two groups of seed predators on the reproductive output of E. pedroi was additive and those insects do not seem to exert an important selective pressure on the traits studied. The proportion of intact seeds produced by E. pedroi differed between locations, but not between individuals within each population, highlighting the major contribution of larger plants to the seed pool. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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