Two permanent forest plots at the Finnish site used for soil sampling in the SoilForEUROPE project in June 2017. A single tree species stand with Pinus sylvestris (left) and a mixed stand with the three species Picea abies, Pinus sylvestris and Betula pendula (right). Photo credit: L. Gillespie.

Forests with mixed tree species affect the functioning of soil microorganisms indirectly via root and litter traits in European forests

Gillespie, Lauren; Hättenschwiler, Stephan; Milcu, Alexandru; Wambsganss, Janna; Shihan, Ammar; Fromin, Nathalie Forest soils harbour a highly diverse community of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, that play a crucial role in forest functioning and stability. Indeed, these microorganisms control the rate nutrients and carbon are released from dead organic matter, such as leaf litter, and made available to organisms. They concurrently release greenhouse gases, … Continue reading Forests with mixed tree species affect the functioning of soil microorganisms indirectly via root and litter traits in European forests

Measuring leaf temperature by inserting tiny thermocouples into leaves of the desert species Myoporum montanum, helps us understand leaf thermal risk to climate change. Photographer Alicia Cook

Plant water availability alters thermal risk assessments

Cook, Alicia; Berry, Neil; Milner, Kirsty; Leigh, Andy Scientists are urgently investigating which plants and animals are more likely to survive increased temperature extremes under climate change. A useful tool to assess organisms’ potential vulnerability is the thermal safety margin. A thermal safety margin is the difference between the temperature an individual can tolerate and the temperature they experience. For plants, the photosynthetic machinery in … Continue reading Plant water availability alters thermal risk assessments

Lymantria dispar is one of the most destructive invasive insects in North American. We show that defoliation by this insect can kill oak trees by draining the trees’ energy reserves. Photo credit: Nathan Oalican.

Trees can starve to death from insect defoliation

Barker Plotkin, Audrey; Blumstein, Meghan; Laflower, Danelle; Pasquarella, Valerie; Chandler,Jennifer; Elkinton, Joseph S.; Thompson, Jonathan R. Invasive insects are a major threat to forests, and the Northeastern US is an invasion hotspot. It seems like every tree has a bug, and for oak, it’s Lymantria dispar. A recent severe outbreak of this insect killed thousands of acres of oaks across southern New England. But we … Continue reading Trees can starve to death from insect defoliation

Fine root of Pinus sylvestris.

Mixing tree species changes the strategy by which tree fine roots take up soil resources across European forests

Wambsganss, Janna; Freschet, Grégoire; Beyer, Friderike; Goldmann, Kezia; Prada Salcedo, Luis; Scherer-Lorenzen, Michael; Bauhus, Jürgen The mixing of tree species has often been shown to have positive effects on the above-ground part of ecosystems, e.g. by increasing plant productivity. This cannot be said about the below-ground component of trees. It still remains largely unknown how tree species diversity affects fine roots and their important functions … Continue reading Mixing tree species changes the strategy by which tree fine roots take up soil resources across European forests

A depiction of a Patagonian temperate rainforest (Cuervo, Puerto Aysén, Chile), where several species co-occur, including Embothrium coccineum (Proteaceae) and Nothofagus antarctica (Nothofagaceae; juveniles in front), two species that also grow in more mesic and dry sites in this region. Some species proper of very humid sites, like Gunnera tinctoria (Gunneraceae; big leaves in front) and ferns are also depicted. Photo credit: Alex Fajardo.

How to cope with drought and not die trying

Alex Fajardo & Frida I. Piper The intensity and frequency of drought events are increasing worldwide.  These events have had a direct negative effect on the performance of trees, with massive tree mortality being the worst end result.  Major research efforts have been made to elucidate whether all species are at the same risk.  With most cases of tree mortality occurring in northern hemisphere conifers, … Continue reading How to cope with drought and not die trying

(a) Mature Calypso bulbosa plant without a coral-shaped rhizome. (b) Mature Calypso bulbosa plant with a coral-shaped rhizome.

The modified underground architecture enhances carbon gains through not photosynthesis but fungal parasitism

Suetsugu, Kenji; Matsubayashi, Jun Green coloration is a defining feature of the plant kingdom, and plants are mostly autotrophic, i.e. they make their own nutrients through photosynthesis. However, several hundreds of plants have lost their photosynthetic ability and have evolved to depend entirely on mycorrhizal fungi (known as full mycoheterotrophy). Since photosynthesis is a fundamental process for plant survival, its loss is one of the … Continue reading The modified underground architecture enhances carbon gains through not photosynthesis but fungal parasitism

Photo of alpine rock-cress. Credit: Hampus Petrén.

Nutrients, but not water, affect floral scent emission in a flowering plant

Luizzi, Victoria; Friberg, Magne; Petrén, Hampus Fragrance compounds produced by flowers are important in attracting pollinators, deterring nectar thieves (organisms that consume nectar without pollinating), and controlling potentially harmful nectar microbes. Floral scent is often highly variable among and even within populations of plants, but this variation is only sometimes associated with variation in pollinator communities. An alternative, but little-researched, explanation for floral scent variation … Continue reading Nutrients, but not water, affect floral scent emission in a flowering plant

The view from the perspective of a seedling in mid-summer under a closed canopy (image credit: Benjamin Lee)

Earlier spring leaf-out caused by climate change is beneficial to tree seedling survival

Lee, Benjamin; Ibanez Ines Climate change has recently been linked to many negative effects that are detrimental to plant performance around the world and it is expected to become even more problematic in the future. A common trend seen in temperate ecosystems is that patterns of global warming are shifting the phenology of plants (the timing of repeating life events such as flowering and leaf … Continue reading Earlier spring leaf-out caused by climate change is beneficial to tree seedling survival

Are some individual plants better at saving for difficult times? It appears that where Tamarix grows makes a difference

Randall W Long Tom L Dudley, Carla M D’Antonio, Kevin C Grady, Susan E Bush In each of our lives we can probably think of individuals that are better at saving for rainy days, and those that cannot resist buying that new shiny object. But what about plants? Plants also have a limited resource pool, namely sugars acquired via photosynthesis, that they can either spend … Continue reading Are some individual plants better at saving for difficult times? It appears that where Tamarix grows makes a difference

High respiration in needle-leaved conifers may explain their absence from tropical forests

Schmiege, Stephanie; Buckley, Brendan; Stevenson, Dennis; Heskel, Mary; Cuong, Truong; Nam, Le; Griffin, Kevin Conifers are the longest-lived plant species and tolerate some of the harshest conditions in the world.  Comprised of approximately 600 species, this group of plants can be divided into eight plant families that have different global distributions.  Pines (Pinaceae) are found almost entirely in the northern hemisphere, whereas podocarps (Podocarpaceae) are … Continue reading High respiration in needle-leaved conifers may explain their absence from tropical forests