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.

Wood structure rises to the challenge of building large trees

Kanin Rungwattana and Peter Hietz It takes a lot of wood to make a tree and wood thus constitutes the largest share of Earth’s biomass. At first sight, wood is needed to provide the mechanical structure that exposes leaves to sunlight. But leaves have to be supplied with water from the soil, which is also…

Development influences the expression of growth and defensive traits in plants

Xóchitl Damián, Juan Fornoni, César A. Domínguez and Karina Boege Plants have to deal with simultaneous physiological and environmental challenges, from growing and defending their tissues from consumers, to reproducing and dispersing. Hence, plants need to optimize the use of resources for these different functions. In the case of leaves, for example, plants express different…

Drivers of productivity, biomass and soil organic matter

Masha T. van der Sande, Eric J. M. M. Arets, Marielos Peña-Claros, Marcel R. Hoosbeek, Yasmani Cáceres-Siani, Peter van der Hout and Lourens Poorter Tropical forests remove and store large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere as they grow, and therefore fulfil an important role in reducing climate change. However, we poorly understand how the…

Do body temperatures of desert lizards fit a “normal” distribution?

Raymond B. Huey and Eric R. Pianka When physiological ecologists evaluate whether body temperatures of lizards and other ectotherms (such as insects, fishes) are “normally distributed,” they are not referring to whether a lizard’s body temperature averages 98.6°F, a so-called “normal” body temperature for a human.   Rather they are discussing whether the shape of the…

Soil organic matter availability and climate drive latitudinal patterns in bacterial diversity from tropical to cold-temperate forests

Jing Tiana, Nianpeng He, Lauren Hale, Shuli Niu, Guirui Yua, Yuan Liu, Evgenia Blagodatskaya, Yakov Kuzyakov, Qun Gao and Jizhong Zhou Patterns of variation in plant diversity at local, regional and global scales have been extensively studied. But despite the crucial role of bacteria for terrestrial ecosystem functioning, our understanding of their large-scale biogeography patterns…

Host responses to parasites shape costs of infection

Sarah A. Budischak, Dawn O’Neal, Anna E. Jolles and Vanessa O. Ezenwa Parasites, by definition, steal resources from their hosts, but how infection relates to host fitness is not well understood, particularly in wild populations. We combine experimental deworming and a 4-year study in African buffalo to better quantify fitness costs of infection and examine…

Fish contests and community structure

Kai C. Paijmans and Marian Y.L. Wong Contests are a method by which animals resolve conflict over access to resources such as food, shelter and mates. Contest theory is a complex set of models which explain the mechanisms, dynamics and outcomes of animal contests. Because competition for limiting resources is an established mechanism by which…

Mowing exacerbates the loss of ecosystem stability under nitrogen enrichment in a temperate grassland

Yunhai Zhang, Michel Loreau, Nianpeng He, Guangming Zhang, Xingguo Han Zhang The increasing availability of biologically active nitrogen (N) caused by fertilizers and atmospheric deposition has resulted in biodiversity loss in terrestrial ecosystems. Mowing (or biomass removal) is a crucial management strategy for restoring plant diversity in the face of increased N deposition/fertilization. Both N…