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EcolChange blog archives


New publication – Fungal diversity regulates plant-soil feedbacks in temperate grassland

Ecologists have long suspected that one key to explaining plant diversity lies with their enemies, including pathogenic soil microbes. Plant–soil feedback describes a process whereby plants shape the microbial communities living alongside them in the soil; and the microbes then have a ‘feedback’ effect on the performance of subsequent generations of plants. Feedback effects can be negative if driven by pathogenic microbes or positive if driven by beneficial microbes, such as mycorrhizal fungi. However, we remain largely in the dark about the mechanism involved, especially concerning the identity and diversity of microbes that could drive plant-soil feedbacks.

Annual update on our share of most influencal scientist

Last year, when Clarivate Analytics published the list of most influential scientists in the world, we in EcolChange were rather happy about it, because: “From those 7 most influential Estonian researchers 4 (!!!) are members of our centre of excellence: Ülo Niinemets, Martin Zobel, Urmas Kõljalg and Leho Tedersoo. So one can say that EcolChange really is the dominant force in Estonian science.” (link to last year´s blogpost).

New publication – Global trait–environment relationships of plant communities

/Ed: This new macroecological paper includes Meelis Pärtel and Ülo Niinemets from EcolChange as coauthors./

Which plant species grow where, alongside which others – and why? The diversity of global vegetation can be described based on only a few traits from each species. This has been revealed by a research team led by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. In a new study published in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, they present the world’s first global vegetation database which contains over 1.1 million complete lists of plant species sampled across all Earth’s ecosystems. The database could help better predict the consequences of global climate change.

New publication – Plant diversity in oceanic archipelagos: realistic patterns emulated by an agent-based computer simulation

Simulated islands help to untangle the secrets of biodiversity

Volcanic islands emerge empty from the sea and thus, offer a unique change to study how plant- and animal species colonize new areas. They have been in the focus on interest of biogeographers for centuries and are known as hotspots for biodiversity as well as for extinctions. Unfortunately, even several centuries are a time too short to observe evolution and dispersal processes in live. That often makes difficult to study the mechanisms behind the curious patterns of island biodiversity.

DOI codes will be used parallel to species names

Scientists at the University of Tartu created a new method for communicating species. The classification initiated by Carl von Linné, which has lasted for over 200 years, does not take current scientific methods into account.

The mycologists and taxonomists working under the Natural History Museum and the Botanical Garden of the University of Tartu have so far been known as the creators of the eBiodiversity portal and the PlutoF platform. But now we can say that 10 years of work has resulted in the creation of a new international system that facilitates the classification of species.

New publication – Conceptual differences lead to divergent trait estimates in empirical and taxonomic approaches to plant mycorrhizal trait assignment

How plant mycorrhizal traits are estimated?

As plant trait measurements are increasingly available, more complete plant trait datasets are compiled allowing to formulate more mechanistic and complex questions in plant ecology. One of the plant functional aspect that are lagging behind is related to plant’s biotic interactions. Mycorrhizal symbiosis is increasingly recognized as a key plant biotic interactions, directly involved in plant survival and distribution. However, little advances have been done in the way these traits are estimated, and thus relative little amount of data is available. 

Two more global citizen science networks calling for participants – FunLeaf and FunHome

Last week we had a post about DarkDivNet, a global network to explore the dark diversity of plant communities, instigated by Meelis Pärtel´s macroecology workgroup in the University of Tartu.

Now the Natural History Museum in Tartu, led by Urmas Kõljalg, has started with two global citizen science networks: FunLeaf to study the diversity of fungi and bacteria living in and on plant leaves; and FunHome to study the diversity of microscopic organisms living in the dusty corners of our homes.


New publication – Non-native species led to marked shifts in functional diversity of the world freshwater fish faunas

The biodiversity of freshwater fish fauna disturbed by invasive species

Non-native species introductions are recognized as one of the major drivers responsible of the ongoing sixth biodiversity crisis, along with climate change, pollution and habitat loss. However, this factor is most often only addressed in terms of increasing or decreasing in number of species, leaving unclear its impact on the functional diversity of communities (i.e. the diversity of ecological roles provide by species in ecosystems).

New publication – Didymocyrtis trassii sp. nov. and other lichenicolous fungi on Cetraria aculeata

Time for another taxonomy paper about fungi. (The previous blogpost about that can be found from here.) This time about new species that grow on lichens, specifically Cetraria aculeata. Genus Cetraria is called cuckoo´s ear in Estonian, by the way…

DarkDivNet – Call for participants

DarkDivNet is a global network to explore the dark diversity of plant communities.

Why are some species present and others absent in a locality? To answer this central ecological and biogeographical question, we have to explore biodiversity at different spatial scales while also considering species’ habitat preferences. Only a subset of all species in a region can tolerate the ecological conditions of a given site (the site-specific species pool). Of those, not all are realized in local communities. The absent part of the species pool forms the dark diversity of a community.

New publication – Genetic differentiation, phenotypic plasticity and adaptation in a hybridizing pair of a more common and a less common Carex species

Species experience heterogeneous environments across their distribution area. Different biotic and abiotic factors affect populations within species and often result in regional differentiation. Under differing selection pressures, populations vary in their plastic and adaptive response. Life history traits and population characteristics shape the direction and strength of the response, among others commonness and frequency of species and populations size. Besides, hybridization between closely related taxa may affect their regional differentiation.

New publication – Inoculation of Brevibacterium linens RS16 in Oryza sativa genotypes enhanced salinity resistance: impacts on photosynthetic traits and foliar volatile emissions

A collaboration between the scientists from Estonian University of Life Sciences and Chungbuk National University, South Korea demonstrates how plant growth-promoting bacteria enhance plant salinity tolerance

New publication – Acclimation of Fine Root Systems to Soil Warming: Comparison of an Experimental Setup and a Natural Soil Temperature Gradient

Global warming is predicted to impact high-latitude and high-altitude forests severely, jeopardizing their overall functioning and carbon storage, both of which depend on the warming response of tree fine root systems. This paper investigates the effect of soil warming on the biomass, morphology and colonizing ectomycorrhizal community of spruce fine and absorptive fine roots.

New paper out – Structure and function of the global topsoil microbiome

/Editor´s note: It´s been silence in the blog throughout summer, as we all had a lot of field and lab work. But we´re back now!/

The first global study of soil genomics revealed a battle right under our feet. The clash between fungi and bacteria and research into this topic may benefit both farmers and the pharmaceutical industry.

Global warming will continue even after carbon emissions are reduced

Ülo Mander, a professor of physical geography and landscape ecology at the University of Tartu, says that even though pursuant to the Paris climate agreement less carbon should be released into the atmosphere, global warming will still continue. The continuing of global warming means, for Estonia for example, that by the end of the 21st century, snowy winters will be just a memory.

New publication – Global database of plants with root‐symbiotic nitrogen fixation: Nod DB

It´s really a very simple paper! A (relatively little) database containing information about all the plants (on genus level) that fix nitrogen from the soil. Somehow this information has not been available so far in a comparable and trustworthy way. Plus, it´s readily accessible – in a form or Excel table. 

New publication – Structural controls on photosynthetic capacity through juvenile‐to‐adult transition and needle aging in Mediterranean pines

Mediterranean pines are known for stress tolerance as they live in harsh environment where shortage of water is very common. All pines, but especially Mediterranean ones grow and keep different looking needles while they are young or adult. Young needles are quite soft and contain mainly photosynthetic tissue and have much less supportive tissue than adult needles. The study is about finding out the advantage of juvenile needles for the tree.

New publication – Shifts in tree functional composition amplify the response of forest biomass to climate

The scientist of Estonian University of Life Sciences involved in a study demonstrating that drought-induced changes in forest composition amplify effects of climate variability on forest carbon gain

New publication – Glandular trichomes as a barrier against atmospheric oxidative stress: Relationships with ozone uptake, leaf damage, and emission of LOX products across a diverse set of species

Study led by scientists from the Estonian University of Life Sciences indicate that many crops with hairier leaves tolerate ground-level ozone better. The relative content of ground-level ozone in the air has significantly increased since the beginning of the 20th century. It seems that this trend will continue in the future. However, this gas is an environmental poison and harmful to living organisms. Compared to the beginning of the current century, large-scale ozone damage to forest trees as well as on crops has been recorded all over the world.

New publication – Homogenization and impoverishment of taxonomic and functional diversity of ants in Eucalyptus plantations

Eucalyptus species are among the most most controversial and frequently used species in forests plantations worldwide. These plantations occupy a huge surface in many countries, with almost 8 millions ha in Brazil alone, where they are generally located in heterogeneous landscapes which also include native forest patches and a variety of other non-forest land uses.