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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 - March

Biodiversity workshops during Open Doors Day at the UT

March 2016

Department of Botany was revealing the secret life of plants to highschool students of Estonia at the Open Doors Day of University of Tartu. During multiple workshops students could extract DNA from bananas, stress out the plants, get acquainted with DNA barcoding, measure seed dispersal distances and vote for the prettiest and ugliest landscape. In addition, we set up microscopes to introduce diverse microorganisms – common mold fungi, microalgae and various types of mycorrhizae. We hope that the students enjoyed the hands-on activities and inspired them to study biology.

Mechanisms shaping AM fungal communities worldwide

March 2016

Lab members have published a paper showing how local AM fungal communities worldwide are shaped by multiple mechanisms at a range of scales. The study investigated phylogenetic diversity in fungal communities and used a hierarchical null model approach, generating random communities from taxon pools filtered according to some or all of spatial scale, ecosystem type and host plant identity. The results provide evidence that AM fungal communities are shaped by dispersal limitation and habitat filtering at wide spatial scales and mutualist partner selection at local scales. Intriguingly phylogenetic clustering of communities even in comparison with the finest-scale null model indicates that the plant-AM fungal symbiosis may be further influenced by genotypic selectivity or stochastic processes at very small scales.

Davison, J., Moora, M., Jairus, T., Vasar, M., Öpik, M. & Zobel, M. 2016. Hierarchical assembly rules in arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal communities. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 97: 63-70.

Workshop on floodplain meadows

March 2016

Jaak-Albert Metsoja and Martin Zobel attended a workshop “One Ecosystem, Multiple Climates: floodplain meadows as a model system for investigating climatic resilience” at Open University, Milton Keynes, England on March 14-15. The workshop focussed on international collaboration of floodplain meadow scientists from a wide longitudinal gradient – from England to Western Siberia. More specifically, possibilities and needs for a unified database and different means for funding networking and cooperation were discussed.

Members of the Plant ecology lab received Estonian Science Award

March 2016

Our lab members Martin Zobel, John Davison, Mari Moora and Maarja Öpik received Estonian Science Award on bio- and geosciences for the studies on the topic ‘Factors underlying biodiversity patterns of plant and mycorrhizal fungal communities’. Congratulations!

Plant Ecology laboratory welcomes a visiting student from Czech Republic

March 2016

Bachelor student Lada Klimešova from the University of South-Bohemia in Czech Republic is visiting our workgroup for one month. For her Bachelor thesis she is studying orchid mycorrhiza. During her stay here she will work with root samples from the high Himalayas (> 5000 m asl) measuring the colonization of arbuscular mycorrhizal and endophytic fungi.

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