Global trait–environment relationships of plant communities

Bruelheide H., Dengler J., Purschke O., Lenoir J., Jiménez-Alfaro B., Hennekens S.M., Botta-Dukát Z., Chytrý M., Field R., Jansen F., Kattge J., Pillar V.D., Schrodt F., Mahecha M.D., Peet R.K., Sandel B., van Bodegom P., Altman J., Alvarez-Dávila E., Arfin Khan M.A.S., Attorre F., Aubin I., Baraloto C., Barroso J.G., Bauters M., Bergmeier E., Biurrun I., Bjorkman A.D., Blonder B., Čarni A., Cayuela L., Černý T., Cornelissen J.H.C., Craven D., Dainese M., Derroire G., De Sanctis M., Díaz S., Doležal J., Farfan-Rios W., Feldpausch T.R., Fenton N.J., Garnier E., Guerin G.R., Gutiérrez A.G., Haider S., Hattab T., Henry G., Hérault B., Higuchi P., Hölzel N., Homeier J., Jentsch A., Jürgens N., Kącki Z., Karger D.N., Kessler M., Kleyer M., Knollová I., Korolyuk A.Y., Kühn I., Laughlin D.C., Lens F., Loos J., Louault F., Lyubenova M.I., Malhi Y., Marcenò C., Mencuccini M., Müller J.V., Munzinger J., Myers-Smith I.H., Neill D.A., Niinemets Ü., Orwin K.H., Ozinga W.A., Penuelas J., Pérez-Haase A., Petřík P., Phillips O.L., Pärtel M., Reich P.B., Römermann C., Rodrigues A.V., Sabatini F.M., Sardans J., Schmidt M., Seidler G., Silva Espejo J.E., Silveira M., Smyth A., Sporbert M., Svenning J.-C., Tang Z., Thomas R., Tsiripidis I., Vassilev K., Violle C., Virtanen R., Weiher E., Welk E., Wesche K., Winter M., Wirth C., Jandt U. (2018) Global trait–environment relationships of plant communities. Nature Ecology and Evolution. 2: 1906-1917.
Link
Doi: 10.1038/s41559-018-0699-8

Abstract:

Plant functional traits directly affect ecosystem functions. At the species level, trait combinations depend on trade-offs representing different ecological strategies, but at the community level trait combinations are expected to be decoupled from these trade-offs because different strategies can facilitate co-existence within communities. A key question is to what extent community-level trait composition is globally filtered and how well it is related to global versus local environmental drivers. Here, we perform a global, plot-level analysis of trait–environment relationships, using a database with more than 1.1 million vegetation plots and 26,632 plant species with trait information. Although we found a strong filtering of 17 functional traits, similar climate and soil conditions support communities differing greatly in mean trait values. The two main community trait axes that capture half of the global trait variation (plant stature and resource acquisitiveness) reflect the trade-offs at the species level but are weakly associated with climate and soil conditions at the global scale. Similarly, within-plot trait variation does not vary systematically with macro-environment. Our results indicate that, at fine spatial grain, macro-environmental drivers are much less important for functional trait composition than has been assumed from floristic analyses restricted to co-occurrence in large grid cells. Instead, trait combinations seem to be predominantly filtered by local-scale factors such as disturbance, fine-scale soil conditions, niche partitioning and biotic interactions. © 2018, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

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Applying the eco-hydrological equilibrium hypothesis to model root distribution in water-limited forests

Cabon A., Martínez-Vilalta J., Martínez de Aragón J., Poyatos R., De Cáceres M. (2018) Applying the eco-hydrological equilibrium hypothesis to model root distribution in water-limited forests. Ecohydrology. : 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1002/eco.2015

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Drought is a key driver of vegetation dynamics, but plant water-uptake patterns and consequent plant responses to drought are poorly understood at large spatial scales. The capacity of vegetation to use soil water depends on its root distribution (RD). However, RD is extremely variable in space and difficult to measure in the field, which hinders accurate predictions of water fluxes and vegetation dynamics. We propose a new method to estimate RD within water balance models, assuming that vegetation is at eco-hydrological equilibrium (EHE). EHE conditions imply that vegetation optimizes RD such that transpiration is maximized within the limits of bearable drought stress, characterized here by species-specific hydraulic thresholds. Optimized RD estimates were validated against RD estimates obtained by model calibration from sap flow or soil moisture from 38 forest plots in Catalonia (NE Spain). In water-limited plots, optimized RD was similar to calibrated RD, but estimates diverged with higher water availability, suggesting that the EHE may not be assumed when water is not limiting. Thereafter, we applied the optimization procedure at the regional scale, to estimate RD for the water-limited forests of Catalonia. Regional variations of optimum RD reproduced many expected patterns in response to climate, soil physical properties, forest structure, and species hydraulic traits. We conclude that RD optimization, based on the EHE hypothesis and a simple description of plant hydraulics, produces realistic estimates of RD that can be used for model parameterization and shows promise to improve our ability to forecast vegetation dynamics under increased drought. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Thinning increases tree growth by delaying drought-induced growth cessation in a Mediterranean evergreen oak coppice

Cabon, A., Mouillot, F., Lempereur, M., Ourcival, J.-M., Simioni, G., Limousin, J.-M. (2018) Thinning increases tree growth by delaying drought-induced growth cessation in a Mediterranean evergreen oak coppice. Forest Ecology and Management. 409: 333-342.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2017.11.030

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ORCHIDEE-SOM: Modeling soil organic carbon (SOC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) dynamics along vertical soil profiles in Europe

Camino-Serrano M., Guenet B., Luyssaert S., Ciais P., Bastrikov V., De Vos B., Gielen B., Gleixner G., Jornet-Puig A., Kaiser K., Kothawala D., Lauerwald R., Peñuelas J., Schrumpf M., Vicca S., Vuichard N., Walmsley D., Janssens I.A. (2018) ORCHIDEE-SOM: Modeling soil organic carbon (SOC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) dynamics along vertical soil profiles in Europe. Geoscientific Model Development. 11: 937-957.
Link
Doi: 10.5194/gmd-11-937-2018

Abstract:

Current land surface models (LSMs) typically represent soils in a very simplistic way, assuming soil organic carbon (SOC) as a bulk, and thus impeding a correct representation of deep soil carbon dynamics. Moreover, LSMs generally neglect the production and export of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from soils to rivers, leading to overestimations of the potential carbon sequestration on land. This common oversimplified processing of SOC in LSMs is partly responsible for the large uncertainty in the predictions of the soil carbon response to climate change. In this study, we present a new soil carbon module called ORCHIDEE-SOM, embedded within the land surface model ORCHIDEE, which is able to reproduce the DOC and SOC dynamics in a vertically discretized soil to 2gm. The model includes processes of biological production and consumption of SOC and DOC, DOC adsorption on and desorption from soil minerals, diffusion of SOC and DOC, and DOC transport with water through and out of the soils to rivers. We evaluated ORCHIDEE-SOM against observations of DOC concentrations and SOC stocks from four European sites with different vegetation covers: A coniferous forest, a deciduous forest, a grassland, and a cropland. The model was able to reproduce the SOC stocks along their vertical profiles at the four sites and the DOC concentrations within the range of measurements, with the exception of the DOC concentrations in the upper soil horizon at the coniferous forest. However, the model was not able to fully capture the temporal dynamics of DOC concentrations. Further model improvements should focus on a plant- A nd depth-dependent parameterization of the new input model parameters, such as the turnover times of DOC and the microbial carbon use efficiency. We suggest that this new soil module, when parameterized for global simulations, will improve the representation of the global carbon cycle in LSMs, thus helping to constrain the predictions of the future SOC response to global warming. © Author(s) 2018.

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Seed loss before seed predation: experimental evidence of the negative effects of leaf feeding insects on acorn production

Canelo T., GaytÁn Á., GonzÁlez-Bornay G., Bonal R. (2018) Seed loss before seed predation: experimental evidence of the negative effects of leaf feeding insects on acorn production. Integrative Zoology. 13: 238-250.
Link
Doi: 10.1111/1749-4877.12292

Abstract:

Insect herbivory decreases plant fitness by constraining plant growth, survival and reproductive output. Most studies on the effects of herbivory in trees rely on correlational inter-individual comparisons and could, thus, be affected by confounding factors linked to both herbivory and plant performance. Using the Mediterranean Holm oak (Quercus ilex) as a study model, we followed an experimental approach in which leaf-feeding insects (mainly Lepidoptera caterpillars) were excluded from some shoots in all study trees. Shoots subjected to herbivore exclusion exhibited lower defoliation rates and produced more acorns than control shoots. Defoliation constrained shoot growth throughout the study period, but had no effect on the number of female flowers produced per shoot. Acorn production was, however, lower in control shoots due to their higher abortion rates, and also to their greater mortality risk during summer drought, as shoots with fewer leaves were less likely to survive. Plant reaction to herbivory inhibits certain physiological pathways involved in plant growth, which, together with the effects of physical damage, reduces the amount and efficiency of the photosynthetic tissue. This increases their vulnerability to environmental stresses, such as water deficit, which limit resource assimilation. Defoliation is likely a key factor affecting oak regeneration, as it may be a significant source of seed loss prior to pre-dispersal acorn predation. Further experimental studies could help to elucidate its effects in contrasting environments. In Mediterranean regions, the harsher droughts predicted by climate change models could worsen the effects of insect herbivory on oak reproductive output. © 2017 International Society of Zoological Sciences, Institute of Zoology/Chinese Academy of Sciences and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd

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Sewage sludge as an organic amendment for quarry restoration: Effects on soil and vegetation

Carabassa V., Ortiz O., Alcañiz J.M. (2018) Sewage sludge as an organic amendment for quarry restoration: Effects on soil and vegetation. Land Degradation and Development. 29: 2568-2574.
Link
Doi: 10.1002/ldr.3071

Abstract:

Quarry restoration in Mediterranean environments usually needs organic amendments to improve the substrates used for technosol construction. Digested sewage sludges from municipal wastewater treatment plants are rich in organic matter, N, and P and constitute an available and economically interesting alternative for substrate amendment. However, their pollutant burden and labile organic matter content involve an environmental risk that must be controlled. Moreover, ecological succession in restored areas can be influenced by the use of sludge and should be assessed. To minimize these risks, a new sewage sludge dose criterion relating to its labile organic matter and heavy metal content has been established. Sewage sludge doses currently range between 10 and 50 Mg ha−1. In order to verify the suitability of this dose criterion, 16 areas rehabilitated using sewage sludge located in limestone quarries in a Mediterranean climate in Catalonia (NE Spain) have been assessed. These evaluations focused on physicochemical properties of rehabilitated soils, land degradation processes, and ecological succession. In the short term, 6 months after sludge application, an increment of organic matter content in the restored soils was observed, without significant increases in electrical conductivity or heavy metals content, and with a dense plant cover that contributes to effective soil erosion control. Two years after, ruderal plants were still present but later successional species colonized the restored zones in different degrees. These results suggest that sewage sludge, used as a soil amendment according to the proposed methodology, can safely improve technosol quality without constraints that compromise ecological succession. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Oldest skeleton of a fossil flying squirrel casts new light on the phylogeny of the group

Casanovas-Vilar I., Garcia-Porta J., Fortuny J., Sanisidro Ó., Prieto J., Querejeta M., Llácer S., Robles J.M., Bernardini F., Alba D.M. (2018) Oldest skeleton of a fossil flying squirrel casts new light on the phylogeny of the group. eLife. 7: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.7554/eLife.39270

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Flying squirrels are the only group of gliding mammals with a remarkable diversity and wide geographical range. However, their evolutionary story is not well known. Thus far, identification of extinct flying squirrels has been exclusively based on dental features, which, contrary to certain postcranial characters, are not unique to them. Therefore, fossils attributed to this clade may indeed belong to other squirrel groups. Here we report the oldest fossil skeleton of a flying squirrel (11.6 Ma) that displays the gliding-related diagnostic features shared by extant forms and allows for a recalibration of the divergence time between tree and flying squirrels. Our phylogenetic analyses combining morphological and molecular data generally support older dates than previous molecular estimates (~23 Ma), being congruent with the inclusion of some of the earliest fossils (~36 Ma) into this clade. They also show that flying squirrels experienced little morphological change for almost 12 million years. © Casanovas-Vilar et al.

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Foliar C, N, and P stoichiometry characterize successful plant ecological strategies in the Sonoran Desert

Castellanos A.E., Llano-Sotelo J.M., Machado-Encinas L.I., López-Piña J.E., Romo-Leon J.R., Sardans J., Peñuelas J. (2018) Foliar C, N, and P stoichiometry characterize successful plant ecological strategies in the Sonoran Desert. Plant Ecology. 219: 775-788.
Link
Doi: 10.1007/s11258-018-0833-3

Abstract:

Ecological processes are centered to water availability in drylands; however, less known nutrient stoichiometry can help explain much of their structure and ecological interactions. Here we look to the foliar stoichiometry of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) of 38 dominant plant species from the Sonoran Desert, grouped in four different functional types to describe ecological characteristics and processes. We found that foliar N, C:N, C:P, and N:P stoichiometric ratios, but not P, were higher than those known to most other ecosystems and indicate P but not N limitations in leaves. Biological N fixers (BNF) had even higher leaf N concentrations, but bio-elemental concentrations and stoichiometry ratios were not different to other non-N-fixing legume species which underscores the need to understand the physiological mechanisms for high N, and to how costly BNF can succeed in P-limiting drylands environments. Stoichiometry ratios, and to lesser extent elemental concentrations, were able to characterize BNF and colonizing strategies in the Sonoran Desert, as well as explain leaf attribute differences, ecological processes, and biogeochemical niches in this dryland ecosystem, even when no direct reference is made to other water-limitation strategies. © 2018, Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature.

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Behind the Scenes: Mechanisms Regulating Climatic Patterns of Dissolved Organic Carbon Uptake in Headwater Streams

Catalán N., Casas-Ruiz J.P., Arce M.I., Abril M., Bravo A.G., del Campo R., Estévez E., Freixa A., Giménez-Grau P., González-Ferreras A.M., Gómez-Gener L., Lupon A., Martínez A., Palacin-Lizarbe C., Poblador S., Rasines-Ladero R., Reyes M., Rodríguez-Castillo T., Rodríguez-Lozano P., Sanpera-Calbet I., Tornero I., Pastor A. (2018) Behind the Scenes: Mechanisms Regulating Climatic Patterns of Dissolved Organic Carbon Uptake in Headwater Streams. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 32: 1528-1541.
Link
Doi: 10.1029/2018GB005919

Abstract:

Large variability in dissolved organic carbon (DOC) uptake rates has been reported for headwater streams, but the causes of this variability are still not well understood. Here we assessed acetate uptake rates across 11 European streams comprising different ecoregions by using whole-reach pulse acetate additions. We evaluated the main climatic and biogeochemical drivers of acetate uptake during two seasonal periods. Our results show a minor influence of sampling periods but a strong effect of climate and dissolved organic matter (DOM) composition on acetate uptake. In particular, mean annual precipitation explained half of the variability of the acetate uptake velocities (VfAcetate) across streams. Temperate streams presented the lowest VfAcetate, together with humic-like DOM and the highest stream respiration rates. In contrast, higher VfAcetate were found in semiarid streams, with protein-like DOM, indicating a dominance of reactive, labile compounds. This, together with lower stream respiration rates and molar ratios of DOC to nitrate, suggests a strong C limitation in semiarid streams, likely due to reduced inputs from the catchment. Overall, this study highlights the interplay of climate and DOM composition and its relevance to understand the biogeochemical mechanisms controlling DOC uptake in streams. ©2018. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

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Knowledge gaps about mixed forests: What do European forest managers want to know and what answers can science provide?

Coll, L., Ameztegui, A., Collet, C., Löf, M., Mason, B., Pach, M., Verheyen, K., Abrudan, I., Barbati, A., Barreiro, S., Bielak, K., Bravo-Oviedo, A., Ferrari, B., Govedar, Z., Kulhavy, J., Lazdina, D., Metslaid, M., Mohren, F., Pereira, M., Peric, S., Rasztovits, E., Short, I., Spathelf, P., Sterba, H., Stojanovic, D., Valsta, L., Zlatanov, T., Ponette, Q. (2018) Knowledge gaps about mixed forests: What do European forest managers want to know and what answers can science provide?. Forest Ecology and Management. 407: 106-115.
Link
Doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2017.10.055

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