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Plant Ecology Laboratory

Research in our lab focuses on diversity patterns in biological communities, and on the interactions underlying these patterns. The main questions we address are: how do communities vary along natural gradients and gradients of human impact? What are the major assembly rules shaping communities; and are they attributable to biotic interactions or environmental heterogeneity? What are the roles of different biotic interactions - including competition, facilitation, herbivory and symbiosis - in structuring communities? Read more

News archive - January

The role of plant mycorrhizal type and status in modulating the relationship between plant and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities

January 2018

Interactions between communities of plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi shape fundamental ecosystem properties. Experimental evidence suggests that compositional changes in plant and AM fungal communities should be correlated, but empirical data from natural ecosystems is scarce.

PhD student Lena Neuenkamp and co-authors fill this gap of knowledge with their recently published study in New Phytologist, where they clearly show that compositional changes of plant and AM fungal communities were correlated across three stages of grassland succession. The authors also reveal that strength of plant-AM fungal correlation weakened during succession following cessation of grassland management, which was brought about by changes in the proportion of plants exhibiting different AM status. Plant-AM fungal correlation was strong when the abundance of obligate AM plants was high, and declined as the proportion of facultative AM plants increased.

The findings of this study indicate that the extent to which plants rely on AM symbiosis can determine how tightly communities of plants and AM fungi are interlinked, regulating community assembly of both symbiotic partners. Further, the results of this study imply that restoration of ecosystems with obligate AM plant dominated vegetation, such as calcareous grasslands, might benefit from the re-introduction of local AM fungal communities, especially if the ecosystem is already heavily degraded.

Early Shrove Tuesday!

January 2018

Since we have decent snow cover this year in Tartu, the teams of Plant Ecology and Macroecology decided to bond by sledging down the hill. Sledging is a traditional Shrove Tuesday activity in Estonia (this year it will be on 13th of Feb), and is considered to bring good luck, the longer the slide is. We tested various items for sledges: pizza boxes, cardboard boxes, trashbags, old posters... Hopefully our long slides will bring us good luck in the article submissions this year!

Ancient environmental DNA reveals shifts in dominant mutualisms during the late Quaternary

January 2018

Recently, an eDNA metabarcoding data set was used to describe northern high-latitude vegetation during the past 50,000 years. Here, Zobel et al. use the data set to examine how the abundance of key plant mutualistic traits (mycorrhizal type and status, N-fixing ability, pollination type) changed during this period and discuss possible environmental drivers.

Read more.

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