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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


Our lab welcomes new member

December 2012

Inga Hiiesalu, who recently defended a PhD degree at Macroecology Workgroup, joined our lab. Inga’s new challenge is linking the belowground diversity of plants with the diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Looking forward to numerous interesting publications!

R-course for community assembly analyses

December 2012

Lab member Lars Götzenberger and Francesco de Bello from the Czech Academy of Sciences will be giving a two day R course in community assembly analyses right after the 2013 IAVS conference that will be held in Tartu. This course is primarily addressed to master and PhD students, though places will be filled with post-doc researchers etc if there are free spots. The course will cover theoretic introductions to community assembly theory (limiting similarity, environmental filtering, "niche vs neutral") and then explore randomization approaches to study these processes. For further information you can visit the course website.

Defence of a PhD thesis

November 2012

On 15th of November Kadri Koorem defended a PhD thesis titled "The influence of abiotic and biotic factors on small-scale plant community patterns and regeneration in boreonemoral forest", which is available from here. Congratulations! An overview about Kadri's thesis was also published in a local newspaper. 

Visit of Guillaume Decocq

November 2012

Plant Ecology Lab was visited by Prof. Guillaume Decocq from the University of Jules Verne de Picardie, France. Prof. Decocq gave a seminar titled "Prunus serotina EHRH. invasion in North-French forests: at the crossroads in disciplines", discussed possibilities for collaboration and acted as an opponent of the doctoral thesis of Kadri Koorem.

New paper addressing the effects of AM fungi on plant community

October 2012

Several members of Plant Ecology Lab published one of the first papers addressing the effects of AM fungi on plant community composition and seedling growth in natural ecosystem. Results of the field experiment demonstrated that suppression of AM fungi can lead to changes in community composition when soil fertility is high and inhibit seedling growth when soil fertility is low. The role of AM fungi on plant communities therefore seem to depend on soil fertility. Read more

Visiting PhD students

October 2012

Visiting PhD students Sara Varela Cervero and Gabriel Grilli are working in our team in October and November. During their stay with plant ecology laboratory they are supervised by Maarja Öpik.

Sara studies diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in semiarid environments in Sierra de Baza Natural Park in Spain. Her supervisor is Dr. Conception Azcon-Aguilar (Estacion Experimental del Zaidin, CSIC, Granada, Spain).

Gabriel studies diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in a fragmented landscape of Chaco forest district in Central Argentina. His supervisor is Dr. Carlos Urcelay (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina).

European Conference on Ecological Restoration

September 2012

Jaak-Albert Metsoja and Tsipe Aavik participated in a conference of ecological restoration in České Budějovice, Czech Republic. Jaak-Albert Metsoja gave a talk on the restoration of floodplain meadows and Tsipe Aavik told about the possibilities of using genetic methods for evaluating restoration success.

New paper reveals the dynamics of AMF in the soil

August 2012

John Davison and colleagues published a paper addressing spatial and temporal dynamics of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in the soil. AMF are microbes that live in the soil and colonize plant roots, exchanging nutrients and carbon with their plant hosts. Different species of AMF coexist in soil, forming communities that interact with plants growing nearby. This study identified the AMF communities present in a primeval forest (Järvselja, Estonia) by matching the AMF DNA present in soil against that of previously recorded AMF species. Soil samples collected from different forest plots revealed different AMF communities, showing the influence of forest microhabitat and the availability of different plant hosts. However, the composition of soil AMF communities at a single location did not change throughout the plant growth season (May-September). Since the AMF colonising plant roots are believed to vary seasonally, this suggests that the AMF in soil represent a constant "pool" from which different plant-AMF associations form and disband during the year. Read the full article.

Excursion to Western-Estonia

June 2012

Together with fellow colleagues of other working groups from the department, several members of the plant ecology lab indulged on a 4 day trip across western Estonia. The trip was intended to follow the path of the pre- and post-symposium excursion of the IAVS 2013 meeting that will be held in Tartu. See the gallery for some pictures of this splendid - despite some rain - trip to see what beautiful sites and sights you can expect when you join one of the excursions next year.

New insights for addressing assembly rules

June 2012

Martin Zobel and Lars Götzenberger have contributed to a paper authored by Franceso de Bello that has recently been published in Ecology. In community assembly studies it is often practised to create species pools from pooling the sampled plots, and then compare the functional diversity of plots against that of the overall species pool. This bears the problem that higher as well as lower functional diversity in the focal plot can both be produced by biotic interactions (e.g. competition). The article proposes and investigates a new method to create species pools, that also considers the "dark diversity" of the communities, by using "environmental and dispersal limitation filters" to delimit the actual species pool. In this way, two kinds of  biotic assembly rules, i.e. niche limitation based and weaker competitor exclusion based assembly, can be infered from patterns of functional(and/or phylogenetic) diversity.

Defendings at Plant Ecology Lab

June 2012

Eva Lind defended a bachelor degree. Congratulations! 

Visit from Harry Olde Venterink

May 2012

Harry Olde Venterink, a plant ecologist from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, visited Plant Ecology Lab on May 2-5. Harry Olde Venterink studies biogeochemical causes and ecological consequences of (C):N:P stoichiometry in various ecosystems. In Tartu, he gave a seminar and discussed plans for future collaboration.

Presentation at EGU General Assembly

April 2012

Senior researcher Mari Moora participated at the EGU (European Geosciences Union) General Assembly 2012 which was held at April 22-27 in Vienna, Austria. There were more than 11,000 scientists attending from 95 countries. M. Moora presented a paper "Variation of soil arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities across land use gradient".

Describing patterns of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities: what to consider and where to go

March 2012

M.Öpik and M.Moora published a commentary paper about two recent studies applying bipartite network analysis to describe arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) plant-fungal community patterns. Network analysis investigates interactions of organisms at the community level – here among community of AM plants and community of AM fungi colonising their roots. The commentary highlights importance of sampling strategy, addresses different uses of term “specificity” (of interaction, of habitat, etc.), calls for describing more autecological traits of AMF and, of course, of sequencing more Glomeromycota species.

Final conference of ECOCHANGE

March 2012

The final conference of the European Union FP6 framework project ECOCHANGE‚ A European perspective on the future of biodiversity and ecosystems’ took place in Zürich on March 20-23rd. There were participants from ECOCHANGE consortium, as well as from elsewhere in Europe, USA and Canada. M.Zobel and M.Moora participated in the conference. M.Moora presented paper ´The structure of past Arctic plant communities`.

Expedition to Iceland

February 2012

PhD student Kadri Koorem participated in expedition to Iceland in August 2011. This expedition joined the PhD students from the fields of geology, geography, zoology, marine biology and botany. During three weeks the students lived in the tents, worked in the field and experienced the true entity of Iceland’s nature. Description of the expedition (and some pictures) are available in Estonian.

Seminar of Plant Ecology Lab

February 2012

Seminar of Plant Ecology Lab was held on February 15-17 in Pärnu. Newest, currently unpublished results and new ideas for future research were discussed. In addition to members of Plant Ecology Lab, collaborating members from Macroecology workgroup, Plant Evolutionary Ecology workgroup and Working Group Ecosystem Research participated in the seminar. 

Plant growth is depending on AM fungal community

February 2012

Annika Uibopuu, Mari Moora, Maarja Öpik and Martin Zobel published a paper addressing the effect of different arbuscular-mycorrhizal (AM) communities on plant growth. It is known that forest management can lead to differences in AM fungal communities in young and old forests regarding both diversity and abundance of AM fungi. In current paper the authors show that differences in natural AM communities can also lead to different effect on growth of herbaceous species of forest understorey- plants growing with AM communities characteristic to old forests were significantly larger than plants growing with AM communities characteristic to young forests. Plant communities response to forest management intensity can therefore be mediated by mycorrhizal interactions. Read more.

New paper claryfying the effect of mowing on floodplain meadows with different moisture regime

January 2012

Jaak-Albert Metsoja with collegues published a paper about the effects of mowing on dry and moist floodplain meadows. They compared the vegetation of mown and unmown floodplain meadows of Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve. Data was sampled in 2000 and 2010 at Rivers Pedja and Põltsamaa. They found that mowing increased the species richness of relatively drier plant communities on one of the study sites and changed the species composition and decreased spatial turnover on all sites and plant communities. The changes in species composition were most pronounced on relatively drier and more elevated plant communities and most subtle in the talll sedge communities of floodplain depressions. According to Indicator Species Analysis, the Ranunculus auricomus was an indicator of management in mesic and wet meadows, Carex cespitosa and Calamagrostis canescens indicated the unmanaged tall sedge and wet meadows respectively. Read more.

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