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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


New paper about using seed mixtures in plant community restoration

November 2011

Tsipe Aavik and her Swiss colleagues have published a paper „Genetic consequences of using seed mixtures in restoration: A case study of a wetland plant Lychnis flos-cuculi“ in Biological Conservation.


Standard seed mixtures originating from seed companies are often used for ecological restoration in areas with impoverished species pool. However, the genetic background of these seed mixtures is commonly unknown. In this paper Tsipe Aavik and her colleagues compared the genetic diversity, inbreeding and genetic structure of sown and natural populations of Lychnis flos-cuculi. They found that sown populations had notably higher inbreeding than natural ones. Furthermore, sown populations were genetically very different from natural populations. Higher inbreeding and distinct genetic composition of sown plants may decrease the fitness of restored populations and may hence jeopardize the effectiveness of restoration measures. Therefore, far more attention should be paid to the genetic background and provenance of seed mixtures used for restoration.

New paper addressing the effects of litter

November 2011

Kadri Koorem, Jodi Price and Mari Moora published a paper titled "Species-specific effects of woody litter on seedling emergence and growth of herbaceous plants".

In this paper they tried to disentangle the effects of spruce and hazel litter to find a mechanistic explanation for understorey community pattern described earlier (read here). They showed that the effects of litter depend highly on both type and amount of litter; can be non-additive when litter is mixed, and vary for seedlings in emergence and growth phase. Read more.

Plant Ecology Lab welcomes new member

October 2011

Teele Jairus, who defended PhD in mycology at the University of Tartu in September joined Plant Ecology Lab. Teele is going to manage MaarjAM and Ecobank databases. Read more.

Prof. Miroslav Vosatka visited plant ecology lab

September 2011

In collaboration with Centre of Excellence FIBIR, plant ecology lab was visited by Prof. Miroslav Vosatka from Academy of Sciences of Czech Republic. Prof. Vosatka’s research field is mycorrhizal symbiosis and the application of this symbiosis in agriculture and forestry. During his visit prof. Vosatka gave also a seminar in the Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences   

New article about assembly rules

June 2011

Lars Götzenberger is the first author of a new paper entitled "Ecological assembly rules in plant communities—approaches, patterns and prospects" which was a collaborative effort with other members from the working group and an international group of colleagues.

In this article the theoretical background for assembly rules in plant communities is explored. A large data set stemming from 59 papers that use null models to assess assembly rules was analysed and the authors show that results from these studies are more often not indicative of the idea that species coexistence is limited by their individual niches. From the data at hand, however, it can not be distinguished if this finding is caused by methodological shortcomings or if plant communities are actually rather determined by stochastic processes. Guidelines for best practice are defined in an attempt to direct future assembly rules research.

The article is now in press in Biological Reviews and can be viewed here or requested from the first author.

54-th Symposium of IAVS

June 2011

Several members of Plant Ecology Lab are participating at the 54th Symposium of IAVS, being held in Lyon. Lars Götzenberger, Tsipe Aavik and Jaak- Albert Metsoja will present their work with a talk and Kadri Koorem will have a poster.

Visiting scietist- Zuzana Sỳkorová

May 2011

Plant Ecology Lab is visited by Zuzana Sỳkorová from the Institute of Botany of the Academy of
Sciences of the Czech Republic, Pruhonice. On Friday, 03.06, at 10.15 Zuzana will give a seminar "Using the mitochondrial large subunit rDNA markers for a long-term tracing of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal isolates inoculated in the field and for their coexistence/competition studies under greenhouse conditions" at Lai 40-218 (Tartu). During her visit, Zuzana and several members of our Lab will participate in a course of PlutoF - a Web Based Workbench for the Annotating INSDC (NCBI, EMBL, DDBJ) Sequences, 454 analyses and Global Key for Fungi.

Doctoral students' conference

May 2011

The Doctoral School of Earth Sciences and Ecology organized a doctoral students' conference titled "Next generation insights into geosciences and ecology", which was held in Dorpat Conference Centre on May 12-13th. From our Lab, Kadri Koorem was the head of the organising committee, and Jaak-Albert Metsoja gave an oral presentation.

In addition to the doctoral students, plenary session were given by outstanding scientists:

* CAMILLE PARMESAN (USA)- "Creative conservation in a changing climate"
* DAVID J. SIVETER (GBR) - "Exceptionally preserved fossils: window on the evolution of life"
* DAVID A. WARDLE (SWE) - "Long term drivers of aboveground-belowground linkages: evidence from islands, chronosequences and invaders"
* MARTIN ZOBEL (EST)-  "Plant ecologist's view on mycorrhizal symbiosis"

Plant Ecology Laboratory welcomes a new member!

May 2011

Odile Thiéry who defended her PhD in Basel, Switzerland, joined the Plant Ecology Lab. During her postdoc, Odile will focus on the tricky concept of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal species. Read more.

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