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.

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…

Stress in early life can enhance bird song complexity

Loren Merrill, Madeleine F. Naylor, Merria Dalimonte, Sean McLaughlin, Tara E. Stewart, and Jennifer L. Grindstaff Stress in early life can have long-lasting consequences. For instance, when young animals are exposed to stressors like malnourishment or disease, their appearance is often permanently impacted, along with their behaviours and cognitive abilities. Zebra finches are charismatic birds…

When mothers compete with their offspring: insights into the evolution of family life

Jos Kramer, Maximilian Körner, Janina MC Diehl, Christine Scheiner, Aytül Yüksel-Dadak, Teresa Christl, Philip Kohlmeier and Joël Meunier Decades of research on mammals and birds have taught us that parental care almost always renders the presence of parents beneficial to immature offspring regardless of the prevailing environmental conditions. This is because offspring in these animals…

Biogenic silica accumulation varies across tussock tundra plant functional type

Joanna C. Carey, Thomas C. Parker, Ned Fetcher and Jianwu Tang Arctic ecosystems are experiencing the effects of climate change to a much larger degree than most other places on Earth. Rapid Arctic warming is changing the types of plants that proliferate in tundra ecosystems, with shrubs often outcompeting grass and sedge species, and permafrost…

Soil and vegetation carbon turnover times from tropical to boreal forests

Jinsong Wang, Jian Sun, Jianyang Xia, Nianpeng He, Meiling Li and Shuli Niu Part of an upcoming Special Feature on Functional Traits Along a Transect! Carbon (C) storage in terrestrial ecosystems is the balance between photosynthetic inputs and C losses by respiration. However, the large variations in the time that C stays in different ecosystem…