Plain language summaries

For every paper published in Functional Ecology, the authors write a lay summary, which explains the research -and its importance- in a more generally accessible way.

Context-dependent defences in turtle ants: resource defensibility and threat level induce dynamic shifts in soldier deployment

Scott Powell, Matina Donaldson‐Matasci, Augustus Woodrow‐Tomizuka, Anna Dornhaus How do you best defend yourself in a dangerous world, when attacks may occur in many places simultaneously and you only have a limited supply of defensive resources? This is a fundamental problem faced by all organisms, and a common solution is the evolution of sophisticated strategies…

Microbial richness and composition independently drive soil multifunctionality

Manuel Delgado‐Baquerizo, Pankaj Trivedi, Chanda Trivedi, David J. Eldridge, Peter B. Reich, Thomas C. Jeffries, Brajesh K. Singh Unlike for plants or animals, we have only a limited understanding of the relationships between microbial diversity and composition and ecosystem functioning, particularly in terrestrial environments. Microbes are by far the most abundant and diverse life forms…

Small birches escape from insect damage

Vitali Zverev, Elena L. Zvereva and Mikhail V. Kozlov Plants carry out many functions that provide humans with oxygen, food, fibre and fuel, but their effectiveness in performing these roles is affected by herbivores, like insects, that consume them. Therefore, understanding why some plants suffer more damage from insects than their neighbours is important. Downy…

Environment affects the evolution of disease severity in a fish parasite.

Muayad A Mahmud, Janette E Bradley, Andrew D C MacColl Infectious parasites vary greatly in their severity (virulence), e.g. from the common cold to the Ebola virus, but the reasons why are poorly understood. To be successful, parasites have to spread to new victims (hosts), and to do so they use host resources to multiply….

Reindeer grazing influences tundra plant nutrient uptake

Hélène Barthelemy, Sari Stark, Minna-Maarit Kytoviita and Johan Olofsson The Arctic tundra is a vast and pristine landscape under harsh climate. Due to low temperature and short summers, decomposition and mineralisation of organic matter in the soil is very slow. Plant growth is thus strongly limited by the availability of nutrients, especially soil nitrogen. Plant…