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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 - June

39th New Phytologist Symposium

June 2017

The 39th New Phytologist Symposium “Trait covariation: Structural and functional relationships in plant ecology” took place on June 27th to 29th in Exeter, UK. The symposium focused on trait relationships to plant and ecosystem function, fundamental limits on trait space, trait trade-offs and covariation, and predicting plant traits in response to changing environmental conditions. Coffee breaks provided opportunities to discuss plant mycorrhizal traits with several trait experts (Eric Garnier, Etienne Laliberté and Luke McCormack, among others). As a highlight, an improvised presentation of the FRED database (Fine-Root Ecology Database) was given by Luke McCormack. Overall the symposium identified the next generation trait questions, which relate to the development of root trait measurements and databases, including plant mycorrhizal traits. Our team was represented by Guillermo Bueno and Maret Gerz.

Plant mycorrhizal status, but not type, shifts with latitude and elevation in Europe

June 2017

Understanding the distribution of plant mycorrhizal traits of the European flora should guide us to keep understanding and to expand our curiosity about the ecological roles and distribution of mycorrhizal symbioses in plant communities. For instance, knowing that the proportion of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) plant species decreases at higher latitudes supports previous hypotheses about AM symbiosis claiming to be inefficient in cold conditions. As well, knowing that obligately mycorrhizal plants are poorly distributed in higher latitudes but not so poorly distributed at higher elevations and lower latitudes, opens new hypothesis about the effect of glaciation on the distribution of plant mycorrhizal traits. Guillermo Bueno within the research group of Martin Zobel and Mari Moora, and with several collaborators from the University of Tartu, as well as with Prof. Ingolf Kühn (Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research, Halle, Germany) present in essence the first attempt to analyze the distribution of plant mycorrhizal traits at the European level. This first European exploration revealed that the share of plant mycorrhizal types (arbuscular, ecto-, ericoid or non-mycorrhizal plant species) varies along latitudinal but not along elevational gradients, while plant mycorrhizal status (obligately or facultatively mycorrhizal) varies in both. In particular, they found that obligately mycorrhizal plant species are more abundant in southern latitudes but also in higher elevations. This might indicate that glaciations may have influenced their distribution limiting its presence in northern latitudes.

Bueno, C.G.; Moora, M.; Gerz, M.; Davison, J.; Öpik, M.; Pärtel, M.; Helm, A.; Ronk, A.; Kühn, I. & Zobel, M. 2017. Plant mycorrhizal status, but not type, shifts with latitude and elevation in Europe. Global Ecology and Biogeography 26: 690–699.


Woody Root 7

June 2017

The 7th International Symposium on Physiological Processes in Roots of Woody Plants took place on June 26th to 29th in Tartu, organised by our colleague Ivika Ostonen. Our team was represented by Martin Zobel and PhD Student Siim-Kaarel Sepp. Martin gave a keynote lecture about the macroecology of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and Siim-Kaarel gave a presentation about his work on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal diversity in Estonian habitats under different land use. We thank Ivika, EcolChange and other supporters for the inspiring event!

International journalists visited Muhu island

June 2017

On the 15th-16th of June, science journalists from several European countries visited the Life to Alvars project areas in Muhumaa. The journalist got an overview of the progress of alvar restoration and research involved. From our working group, Maarja Öpik and Tanel Vahter explained to the journalists the importance of mycorrhizal fungi and their effect on plant species richness. Tanel introduced his experiment of inoculating alvar grasslands with native arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi for habitat restoration. From the macroecology working group, Aveliina Helm and Sabrina Träger introduced their research. The meeting was part of the Estonian Research Council’s project „On the Fields of Estonian Research“.

Yearly excursion of the Estonian Soil Science Society

June 2017

On 13th-14th of June, the traditional soil excursion of the Estonian Soil Science Society took place. As a member of the society, our doctoral student Tanel Vahter also participated. During two days, an overview of the soils in Northern-Estonia with an emphasis on the national soil of the year 2017 – podzol, was given. Soil pits were dug to give a insight into the factors of soil formation and development in the area. The evening was spent exchanging thoughts and looking for ways of collaboration between soil scientists and ecologists.

Visiting natural and human-influenced sites in North-East Estonia

June 2017

In mid-June, members of the Plant Ecology Lab went on a trip to North-East Estonia in order to visit local natural communities as well as human-influenced oil shale mining sites. We visited the beautiful Kurtna Lake District and Saka cliff. The latter has a unique cliff forest community, which is an important habitat for rare Lunaria redidiva plants. We also confirmed that the experiment to study the revegetation of former oil-shale quarries has started successfully – seeds, which were sown in the end of April, are germinating! Near future will hold the truth about the role of mycorrhizal fungi in revegetation. In addition, we visited the Estonian Mining Museum in Kohtla-Nõmme, which took us to the exciting underground passages.

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