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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

Ecological Networks course in Mallorca

March 2018

From 21st to 23rd of March 2018, the Spanish Ecological Society (AEET) in coordination with the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (CSIC) and the University of Balearic Islands organized the first Spanish course on the analysis of Ecological Networks in Mallorca. The course was led by specialist the field: Anna Traveset, Amparo Lazaro and Carlos Lara among others. It was oriented to plant ecology and interactions covering a solid introduction to the topic (from data sampling, the effective use of the main metrics, null models and validation techniques) and even explore interesting applications analyzing beta-diversity and environmental gradients from a network perspective. Our researcher, Guillermo Bueno, attended the course and discussed the current few mycorrhizal network studies in ecology and the potential of this technique in the field for the near future.

Advanced Statistics course in Sheffield

March 2018

From 22nd to 26th January, the ATSC-NERC (Advanced Training short course funded by the Natural Environment Research Council of the UK) course Stage demographic models in ecology, evolution and conservation was held at The University of Sheffield. Our postdoc David García de León  attended the course with a partial grant from NERC. There, David learned a lot about Integrative Projection Models (IPMs) from world- class ecologists Rob Salguero-GómezMark Rees,  Dylan Childs , and Steve Ellner among others. Now David is very curious about the life cycle of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, and is looking forward to apply population dynamics and IPMs to AM fungi!

We thank the course organizers for a lovely time in Sheffield!

Soybean cultivation supports a diverse arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal community in central Argentina

March 2018

Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal diversity is expected to be low in anthropogenic ecosystems. However, a recent study by our postdoc David García de León and colleagues found only small differences in this respect between soybean fields and nearby pristine forests. They compared AM fungal communities in the roots of 12 host plant species and in soil from mature forests and soybean fields in Central Argentina. They found that AM fungal richness and community composition were affected by host plant identity. Conyza bonariensis (Asteraceae, facultative AM plant) was associated with the greatest number of AM fungal species. By contrast, Cestrum parqui (Solanaceae, mycorrhizal status unknown) was associated with the lowest number of fungal species. Also, high AM fungal richness was associated with low P and N concentration in soil. Regardless of soil chemical properties,  soybean fields contained more easily cultured AM fungal taxa (ruderals) than forests. These results mean that fungal communities in agricultural landscapes can be as diverse as in natural systems, but are composed of rather different fungi, which in turn can function differently from fungi in the natural habitats.

Relatedness with plant species in native community influences ecological consequences of range expansions

March 2018

Current global change enables many species to expand their range to higher latitudes. Relatively little is known about the effect of these range-expanding species in their new range and it is proposed that some of these species will become problematic, invasive, in the future. Our researcher Kadri Koorem, with her collegues from NIOO-KNAW demonstrated that the ecological impact of a range expanding plant species can depend on its relatedness with native flora. In their article, Kadri and her collegues found that while range-expanding plant species with and without close relatives in their new range suppressed the growth of native insect, only range expanders without close relatives suppressed the growth of selected native plant species. Improved knowledge about the effects of range-expanding plant species can help to improve the predictions about the functioning of future communities.



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