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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 article predicts how the distribution of rigid ryegrass changes under different climate change scenarios

November 2015

David García de León published with Elena Castellanos-Frias Fernando Bastida and José L. González Andújar a paper entitled “Predicting global geographical distribution of Lolium rigidum (rigid ryegrass) under climate change” in Journal of Agricultural Science.

In this paper the authors provide the knowledge for identifying and highlighting the potential invasion risk areas, at a global scale, by Lolium rigidum (rigid ryegrass) under climate change scenarios. The model’s projection showed an increase in potentially suitable areas in North America, Europe, South America and Asia; while in Africa and Oceania it indicated regression.  

6th Baltic Genetics Congress

October 2015

The congress took place in the beginning of October, bringing together geneticists and researchers of related disciplines from the three Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The congress was organised by the Estonian Society for Microbiology. Our team was represented by Maarja Öpik, who gave a presentation titled “High genetic variation of the main metagenomics markers of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (Glomeromycota)“. 

Plant Ecology Lab welcomes visiting PhD student

September 2015

We welcome new visiting student César Andres Marín Daza. During his stay with plant ecology laboratory he is supervised by Maarja Öpik.

César is a PhD student at the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Evolution at Austral University of Chile (UACh), under the supervision of Prof. Robeto Godoy. He studies geological, biogeochemical, community ecological and evolutionary factors that influence biogenic weathering by mycorrhizal fungi in an ecosystem chronosequence in Northern Patagonia, Chile. 

Plant Ecology Lab welcomes visiting students

September 2015

We welcome new visiting students Sabrina Träger and Ricardo Leyva Morales. During their stay with plant ecology laboratory they are supervised by Maarja Öpik.

Sabrina comes from University of Regina, Canada, where she is supervised by Prof. Scott Wilson. In her PhD thesis, she focuses on plant root patterns in arctic ecosystems. Those patterns include the heterogeneity of roots and the belowground plant species richness along an elevation gradient, and the contribution of root litter to the nitrogen cycle in forest vs. tundra habitats.

Ricardo is a master student from National Autonomous University of México (UNAM), where he is supervised by PhD Mayra Elena Gavito Pardo. He is studying diversity patterns of ectomycorrhizal fungal communities in a Mexican temperate forest ecosystem embedded in a landscape of avocado plantations.  

8th International Conference on Mycorrhiza

August 2015

The theme of the conference, which was held in August in Flagstaff, AZ, USA, was broad: Mycorrhizal Integration Across Continents & Scales. Our team was represented by Maarja Öpik, who co-organized the opening symposium “Diversity and biogeography of mycorrhizal fungi“ with Kabir Peay from Stanford University, USA. Maarja gave a presentation in this session, titled “Biodiversity and diversity patterns of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi“. See more on the conference in Twitter.

Global assessment of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus diversity reveals very low endemism

August 2015

On August 28th the members of our working group published in collaboration  the following paper in Science:

Davison, J., Moora, M., Öpik, M., Adholeya, A., Ainsaar, L., Bâ, A., Burla, S., Diedhiou, A.G., Hiiesalu, I., Jairus, T., Johnson, N.C., Kane,A., Koorem, K., Kochar, M., Ndiaye, C., Pärtel, M., Reier, Ü., Saks, Ü., Singh, R., Vasar, M., Zobel M. Global assessment of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus diversity reveals very low endemism. Science 349:970-973.

Read more.

IAVS conference

July 2015

Martin Zobel, Mari Moora, David Garcia de Leon, Guillermo Bueno, Maret Gerz and Lena Neuenkamp participated in the 58th Symposium of the International Association of Vegetation Science in Brno, Czech Republic, in 19th-24th of July. Under the topic „Understanding broad-scale vegetation patterns“ David, Guillermo, Maret and Lena presented in their talks how occurrence and distribution of soil organisms, in particular mycorrhizal fungi, can affect plants realized niche and plant community structure during ecosystem succession. The titles of their talks were the following: „Does mycorrhizal symbiosis affect plants´realized niche?“ (Maret Gerz); „European distribution of mycorrhizal types and statuses: does data meet theory?“ (Guillermo Bueno); „Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and ecosystem restoration: A local and global perspective“ (Lena Neuenkamp); „Secondary succession in alvar grasslands – How do plant and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities covary?“ (David Garcia de Leon).  

Read more from Lena's blog post about the conference.

Worldwide evidence of a unimodal relationship between productivity and plant species richness

July 2015

On July 17th 2015 the following paper where our working group members Martin Zobel and Mari Moora participated was published in Science:

Fraser LH, Pither J, Jentsch A, Sternberg M, Zobel M, Askarizadeh D, Bartha S, Beierkuhnlein C, Bennett JA, Bittel A, Boldgiv B, Boldrini II, Bork E, Brown L, Cabido M, Cahill J, Carlyle CN, Campetella G, Chelli S, Cohen O, Csergo A-M, Díaz S, Enrico L, Ensing D, Fidelis A, Fridley JD, Foster B, Garris H, Goheen JR, Henry HAL, Hohn M, Jouri MH, Klironomos J, Koorem K, Lawrence-Lodge R, Long R, Manning P, Mitchell R, Moora M, Müller SC, Nabinger C, Naseri K, Overbeck GE, Palmer TM, Parsons S, Pesek M, Pillar VD, Pringle RM, Roccaforte K, Schmidt A, Shang Z, Stahlmann R, Stotz GC, Sugiyama S, Szentes S, Thompson D, Tungalag R, Undrakhbold S, van Rooyen M, Wellstein C, Wilson JB, Zupo T. Worldwide evidence of a unimodal relationship between productivity and plant species richness. Science 349: 302-305.  

Read more

Climate change will increase Poaceae airborne pollen in southern Spain

May 2015

David García de León published with Herminia García-Mozo, Carmen Galán and Purificación Alcázar from University of Córdoba (Spain) and Mauricio Lima and José L. González Andújar from LINCGlobal (CSIC-PUC-UFRJ) a paper entitled “Disentangling the effects of feedback structure and climate on Poaceae annual airborne pollen fluctuations and the possible consequences of climate change” in Science of the Total Environment.

In this paper the authors present a novel approach to study long-term airborne pollen and model the long-term fluctuations of airborne Poaceae pollen. Pollen density in the previous year—unlike what used to be generally assumed—and maximum temperature drove Poaceae pollen levels. Increase of pollen levels up to 44.3% by 2070 in Southern Spain is predicted under climate change scenarios. Potential effects of this increase in pollen levels on allergy sufferers are discussed in the paper. 

Visiting PhD student

April 2015

We welcome a visiting PhD student Shengjing Jiang from Lanzhou University, Gansu Province, China. The PhD project of Shengjing tackles the effect of environmental change on the communities of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. His supervisor at the home university is Prof. Huyuan Feng. During his stay with us, Maarja Öpik coordinated his activities. His stay is funded by DoRa 5 program.

New article investigating the effect of warming on plant herbivore interactions

April 2015

Guillermo Bueno published with Isabel C. Barrio and David S. Hik a paper entitled "Warming the tundra: reciprocal responses of invertebrate herbivores and plants" in Oikos.

In this paper the authors investigated the effect of warming on plant-herbivore interactions in tundra ecosystems, by simultaneously warming the herbivore (caterpillars of the Arctic moth) and its food plants (Salix arctica and Dryas octopetala). They manipulated herbivore presence and temperature in a full-factorial field experiment at two elevations, at a tundra site in Canada. Changes in temperature due to elevation and/or experimental warming directly affected caterpillar performance, herbivory rates and the responses of plants. Caterpillars performed worse under higher temperatures and changed their relative use of the two food plants. Responses of plants to warming seemed to be affected by the presence of caterpillars. Our findings suggest that the role of invertebrate herbivory in tundra systems might be more important than previously thought, especially under rapid environmental warming.

Lena is visiting Murdoch University

March 2015

From 8th March, our PhD student Lena Neuenkamp will visit Murdoch University in Perth, Australia for three months. She is going to collaborate with Rachel Standish and Suzanne Prober on the application of mycorrhizal fungi in ecosystem restoration.

Workgroup seminar

February 2015

This year’s seminar of Plant Ecology Lab took place on February 19-20 in Otepää. Participants of the seminar gave talks about their current as well as forthcoming projects. In addition to members of Plant Ecology Lab, Petr Kohout from Mycology workgroup and Isabel C Barrio from Herbivory Network participated in the seminar.

Visiting master student

February 2015

Our team was visited by master student Matthieu Charriere from Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France. His master thesis is about relationships of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and their host plant species, supervised by Prof. Marc-André Selosse,  Colin Fontaine and Marianne Elias (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France). During his stay with us, Maarja Öpik coordinated his activities.

Plant Ecology workgroup welcomes new members

January 2015

David Garcia de Leon and Guillermo Bueno joined Plant Ecology Lab. David is going to study the co-variation among vascular plants, cryptograms (mosses, lichens) and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in alvar successional grasslands. Guillermo is going to work on plant-fungi interactions.

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