Ghosts of animals, plants, and microbes: How organisms affect the environment after they’re gone

Lindsey K. Albertson, Leonard S. Sklar, Benjamin B. Tumolo, Wyatt F. Cross, Scott F. Collins, H. Arthur Woods This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology review article which can be found here. Living organisms change the environment in many ways. Beavers create dams for themselves, and these small impoundments and pools they form are habitat for many other organisms. Corals build reefs that … Continue reading Ghosts of animals, plants, and microbes: How organisms affect the environment after they’re gone

The effect of diet on melanin pigmentation

Sarah Britton and Goggy Davidowitz This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology review article which can be found here. Melanin is a common pigment that is found in many types of external animal tissue including skin, fur, hair, feathers, and cuticle. This pigment can create coloration that ranges from gray and black to tan and yellow. Across the animal kingdom melanin is … Continue reading The effect of diet on melanin pigmentation

Fire characteristics determine how fire affects insects and other arthropods: evidence from a review

Blyssalyn V. Bieber, Dhaval K. Vyas, Amanda M. Koltz, Laura A. Burkle, Kiaryce S. Bey, Claire Guzinski, Shannon M. Murphy, andMayra C. Vidal This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology research article which can be found here. Humans are altering nature in many important ways, and these changes are affecting the organisms with whom we share our environment. One of the most … Continue reading Fire characteristics determine how fire affects insects and other arthropods: evidence from a review

Nitrogen-induced phosphorus limitation affects soil carbon cycling

Min Luo, Daryl L. Moorhead, Raúl Ochoa-Hueso, Carsten W. Mueller, Samantha C. Ying, Ji Chen This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology review article which can be found here. Fossil fuel combustion and agricultural fertilization have more than doubled natural levels of reactive nitrogen (N) inputs to terrestrial ecosystems, whereas the input of phosphorus (P) is relatively small. These unbalanced N and … Continue reading Nitrogen-induced phosphorus limitation affects soil carbon cycling

Invertebrate traits, diversity and the vulnerability of groundwater ecosystems

Grant Hose, Anthony Chariton, Michiel Daam, Tiziana Di Lorenzo, Diana Maria Paola Galassi, Stuart Halse, Ana Sofia Reboleira, Anne Robertson, Susanne Schmidt, Kathryn Korbel This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology review which can be found here. The invertebrates living in groundwater have adapted to a harsh environment where food and oxygen are limited, but other factors, such as temperature and darkness, … Continue reading Invertebrate traits, diversity and the vulnerability of groundwater ecosystems

Exposure and Susceptibility: The Twin Pillars of Infection

Amy R. Sweeny, Gregory F. Albery This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology research article which is published here. The disease burden for an individual organism is determined by two fundamental processes, the Twin Pillars of infection. The first, exposure, is the host’s encounter with an infectious pathogen and the second, susceptibility, is how successful that infection will be once the host … Continue reading Exposure and Susceptibility: The Twin Pillars of Infection

In the scanning electron microscope are soil bacteria living on the surface of a mineral grain in the rhizosphere of an annual grass plant. As these microbes die, their dead biomass may sorb to the mineral surface, and form mineral-associated organic matter – one of the largest carbon pools on the planet. Understanding the plant and microbial traits that control mineral-associated organic matter formation – and their response to climate change – is a major current research priority. (Details on the project that supported the image below, and related work: https://sc-programs.llnl.gov/biological-and-environmental-research-at-llnl/soil-microbiome) Photo Credit: Noah Sokol/Christy Ramon

What will happen to the massive store of carbon in Earth’s mineral soils as our climate changes?

Noah W. Sokol, Emily D. Whalen, Andrea Jilling, Cynthia Kallenbach, Jennifer Pett-Ridge, Katerina Georgiou This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology research article which is published here. Earth’s soils hold a massive amount of carbon – more than the world’s vegetation and atmosphere combined. But the fate of this carbon is uncertain – particularly the portion that is bound up in close … Continue reading What will happen to the massive store of carbon in Earth’s mineral soils as our climate changes?

Field site to assess the intensity of the soil priming effect in situ along a one year period (photo from PA Maron, ANR DIMIMOS project)

What is the Priming effect, how is it generated and how will it impact soil carbon sequestration in a future submitted to global change?

Laetitia Bernard, Isabelle Basile-Doelsch, Delphine Derrien, Nicolas Fanin, Sébastien Fontaine, Bertrand Guenet, Battle Karimi, Claire Marsden, and Pierre-Alain Maron This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology research article which is published here. The priming effect corresponds to a change in the rate of degradation of soil organic matter induced by a new supply of fresh organic matter. It was first observed in … Continue reading What is the Priming effect, how is it generated and how will it impact soil carbon sequestration in a future submitted to global change?

Four scales at which models consider soil microbes: the Earth system, ecosystem, community, and physiological scales.

Understanding the role of microbes in the Earth’s carbon cycle

Joe Wan, Thomas W. Crowther This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology research article which is published here. Soil microbes release massive amounts of carbon from organic compounds in soil. However, this flow of carbon is a major source of uncertainty in the models we currently use to predict Earth’s climate. This article reviews how researchers who develop mathematical models can address … Continue reading Understanding the role of microbes in the Earth’s carbon cycle

We are investigating how soil microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and archaea, represented in magnifying glass) respond to changing moisture levels. In different types of biomes (wet systems, dry, or those with variable rainfall), we expect the microbes to respire different amounts of carbon depending on the moisture levels. Models use such curves to predict carbon dynamics in the future, but there is no consensus on which is the correct shape or whether it differs across biomes.

Microbes, memory, and moisture: predicting microbial moisture responses and their impact on carbon cycling

Sarah Evans, Steve Allison, Christine Hawkes This is a plain language summary of a Functional Ecology research article which is published here. Soils store a larger amount of carbon than plants and emit more carbon than humans annually. Moisture is a big determinant of whether soil microorganisms release (by respiration) this carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2), or sequester it in the soil. … Continue reading Microbes, memory, and moisture: predicting microbial moisture responses and their impact on carbon cycling