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Interspecific variation in polyphenol production by plants has been interpreted in terms of defense against herbivores. Several recent lines of evidence suggest that polyphenols also influence the pools and fluxes of inorganic and organic soil nutrients. Such effects could have far-ranging consequences for nutrient competition among and between plants and microbes, and for ecosystem nutrient cycling and retention. The significance of polyphenols for nutrient cycling and plant productivity is still uncertain, but it could provide an alternative or complementary explanation for the variability in polyphenol production by plants. Published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, volume 15, issue 6, on pages 238 - 243, in...
Experiments suggest that plants and soil microorganisms are both limited by inorganic nitrogen, even on relatively fertile sites. Consequently, plants and soil microorganisms may compete for nitrogen. While past research has focused on competition for inorganic nitrogen, recent studies have found that plants/mycorrhizae in a wide range of ecosystems can use organic nitrogen. A new view of competitive interactions between plants and soil microorganisms is necessary in ecosystems where plant uptake of organic nitrogen is observed. Published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, volume 12, issue 4, on pages 139 - 143, in 1997.
Species invasions provide numerous unplanned and frequently, but imperfectly, replicated experiments that can be used to better understand the natural world. Classic studies by Darwin, Grinnell, Elton and others on these species-invasion experiments provided invaluable insights for ecology and evolutionary biology. Recent studies of invasions have resulted in additional insights, six of which we discuss here; these insights highlight the utility of using exotic species as 'model organisms'. We also discuss a nascent hypothesis that might provide a more general, predictive understanding of invasions and community assembly. Finally, we emphasize how the study of invasions can help to inform our understanding of applied...
There is compelling evidence that a general erosion of the global ozone layer is occurring. Since ozone in the stratosphere absorbs much of the shortwave solar ultraviolet radiation (UV-B), diminished ozone means that more UV-B of a very specific wavelength composition will be received at the earth's surface. Evaluating the implications for vegetation involves consideration of the wavelength specificity of biological photochemical reactions and their sensitivity to the extant and future solar spectrum. Recent research suggests the occurrence of direct damaging reactions and of indirect morphological and chemical responses with implications at the community and ecosystem levels. Published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution,...
Mention the word ?isotopes? and most people will think of short-lived radioactive isotopes. Yet far more abundant than the radioactive forms and perhaps much more useful for ecological studies are the stable isotopes. Early interest in stable isotope analyses developed in the geological sciences, and their application in environmental biology has developed slowly until recently. Over the past few years, innovative applications of stable isotope analyses to studies of biological processes have been expanding rapidly, and there is every indication that stable isotope approaches will lead to major advances over the next decade in our understanding of physiological processes and fluxes through ecological systems. Studies...
Recent studies indicate that increasing solar UV-B is not merely an environmental stress for plants. Solar UV-B can cause plant morphogenetic effects, which can, in turn, modify the architecture of plants and the structure of a vegetation, In addition, UV-B radiation affect the production of various secondary metabolites (such as flavonoids, tannins and lignin) with important physiological and ecological consequences. Published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, volume 12, issue 1, on pages 6 - 6, in 1997.
Changes in the concentration and stable isotope ratio of atmospheric CO2 can be used to study variations in the net exchange of carbon dioxide in terrestrial ecosystems (net difference between total photosynthesis and respiration). Changes in the timing of seasonal fluctuations in atmospheric CO2 concentration have suggested that net uptake of carbon dioxide has been increasing in northern latitude ecosystems in association with warmer temperatures and a lengthening of the growing season. Stable isotope techniques allow a more detailed separation of differences between ecosystem photosynthesis and respiration because these two processes have contrasting effects on both the carbon and oxygen isotope ratio of atmospheric...
that herbivores can reduce the fitness of individual plants, more recent work has tried to quantify the impact of herbivores on terrestrial community structure and dynamics. Do herbivores shift competitive interactions, and in particular, do they change the tempo or direction of succession1f2? If herbivore attack varies spatially, can this influence plant species distributions and even diversity3+? Data are few, but preliminary answers appear to be positive. In an important new paper, Shure and Wilson’ address these questions indirectly, suggesting that both species identity and gap size will influence the vulnerability of plants to herbivores Published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, volume 8, issue 1, on pages...
The difficulty of making valid comparisons between historical and contemporary data is an obstacle to documenting range change in relation to environmental modifications. Recent statistical advances use occupancy modeling to estimate simultaneously the probability of detection and the probability of occupancy, and enable unbiased comparisons between historical and modern data; however, they require repeated surveys at the same locations within a time period. We present two models for explicitly comparing occupancy between historical and modern eras, and discuss methods to measure range change. We suggest that keepers of historical data have crucial roles in curating and aiding accessibility to data, and we recommend...
Analyses of the natural variation in stable isotopes of components of ecological systems have provided new insights into how these systems function across paleoecological to modern timescales and across a wide range of spatial scales. Isotope abundances of the molecules in biological materials and geochemical profiles are viewed as recorders that can be used to reconstruct ecological processes or to trace ecological activities. Here, we review key short-, medium- and long-term recording capacities of stable isotopes that are currently being applied to ecological questions. The melding of advances in genetics, biochemical profiling and spatial analysis with those in isotope analyses and modeling sophistication opens...