Life-history costs and sprouting by Richard Shefferson

For almost 100 years plant ecologists have noticed that in some species, plants that seem to die come back two or more years after their last appearance. John Harper, the pioneering ecologist who set the stage for modern plant ecology with his writings on evolutionary approaches to studying the Plant Kingdom and his now quintessential textbook on plant population ecology, suggested that these plants seemed to defy the finality of death, and that clearly this could not be so. Rather than being resurrected from the dead, these orchids and other long-lived herbaceous plants actually live underground without sprouting for years at a time, in a state referred to as “vegetative dormancy”. By not sprouting, they also do not photosynthesize, nor do they flower and reproduce, seemingly defying the very definition of a plant.

I first encountered my first dormancy-prone species in Cypripedium parviflorum, the small yellow lady’s slipper, as someone charged in helping to manage it. This rare species is of conservation concern, as are so many other dormancy-prone species. Although these species are of conservation concern because of the destruction of their habitat due to farming and suburban expansion, conservation management plans often include little provision for active management because the ecologies of these species are not well understood. One particular problem is that the ecology of vegetative dormancy is not well understood, and so it is difficult to manage a species that undergoes it. For example, is dormancy a sign that the plant is weakening and dying? Or is it a buffer against environmental stress? Is it adaptive, or not?


Many hypotheses have been explored for why and how vegetative dormancy occurs. In our article, we present the first strong evidence that this phenomenon is actually due to the long-term cost of high growth to survival, because high growth sometimes leads to a shortage of stored energy reserves that can exacerbate mortality in harsh years. This is important, since dormancy-prone species are often rare and endangered, and an accurate understanding of their life histories is required to understand their population dynamics. Ultimately, without this understanding, we cannot develop effective management plants for them.

Our next step in this research is to see how general this pattern is – is dormancy so common for the same reason in other species, or has it evolved for a number of reasons across the Plant Kingdom? Our own suspicion is that if dormancy is always adaptive, then the reason for it is likely to change with important ecological or life history characteristics, such as lifespan, mode of reproduction, and growth form.

Richard Shefferson


“Life-history costs make perfect sprouting maladaptive in two herbaceous perennials” by Shefferson, Warren II & Pulliam. The paper is currently in Early View.

Editor’s Choice 102:4

The Editor’s Choice for the next issue of Journal of Ecology is “An ideal free distribution explains the root production of plants that do not engage in a tragedy of the commons game” by McNickle and Brown. Read the below commentary on the paper written by Journal of Ecology Editor Mark Rees. Author Gordon McNickle has also provided some photos, which are at the bottom of this post. The next issue of the Journal will be online very soon.

Blissful indifference or escalation?

Imagine you’re in a dark room and there are diamonds on the floor, some areas have lots of diamonds so you search them carefully, whereas others have few and so you briefly search there. You wander around collecting the diamonds and smugly smiling to yourself, then you realise there is someone else in the room and they’re stealing “your” diamonds! What do you do? You could just do as before, ignore the presence of the other person, and providing they do the same end up with roughly ½ the diamonds or you could start searching frantically trying to increase your share. This is exactly the dilemma plants face when foraging for resources underground.

Let’s assume you start searching more quickly, so you increase your share of the diamonds. Soon your competitor realises what you’ve done and so they search more quickly themselves. At this point you’re both searching more quickly and so you both end up with ~½ the diamonds. You escalate again, now you’re running around frantically searching, your competitor responds in kind, so you’re both running around like ants under a magnifying glass on a hot summer’s day. Bang! Your competitor runs into a wall and passes out losing all their diamonds, a smug grin crosses your face again and is promptly wiped off as you too run into a wall, pass out and lose all your diamonds. So at each escalation you’re spending more energy searching and getting the same return, or ultimately no return at all. This process is called “The Tragedy of the Commons” and was proposed by Hardin as a way of explaining why common land is often overgrazed, and similarly why fisheries are often overfished.

So what do plants do when competing for soil resources? This is the question posed by McNickle and Brown (2014) in this issue’s Editor’s Choice. It turns out that distinguishing between sensibly searching so that your returns from different areas per searching effort are equal (the idea free distribution) and escalating is much more difficult than you might expect. Using a combination of mathematical modelling and experiments with carefully chosen controls, McNickle and Brown (2014) show how to distinguish between these alternatives. They then go on test their ideas experimentally finding that Brassica rapa forages according to  -  well that would be telling, you’re going to have to go read it yourself.

Mark Rees
Editor, Journal of Ecology

Dunes 101.1IMG_20120409_132606IMG_20120413_154219

How much of the world is woody?

What proportion of the species in the world are woody?

There are many ways to characterize a plant, but perhaps everyone (including the first known botanist Theophrastus of Eresus, one of Plato’s students) starts with a simple distinction between woody and herbaceous plants.

For a recent research project on the evolution of this simplest plant trait stemming from a NESCent working group, we needed an estimate of the proportion of woody species in the world. The problem seemed tractable; perhaps even something we could readily look up in Wikipedia. However, when we looked, we found nothing in everyone’s favourite internet look up site; nor did we find anything in ISI, Google Scholar, or even more broadly in Google.

This absence of information led us to ponder how, in the era of “big data”, could such a simple question remain unknown? Splitting plants into herbaceous and woody dates back to Theophrastus (in ~300 BC), but still by all appearances such a partitioning of biodiversity into different forms is a blind spot in the accumulated scientific knowledge. The diagram represents the problem we faced:

Fitzjohn et al. figure

As shown in the diagram, while we think we live in the time of “big data” with databases representing tens of thousands of species, our data are typically still a small fraction of global biodiversity. We should point out that for our NESCent project, we assembled the largest single plant trait database to date for one of the simplest possible traits–woodiness–and we still only reached values for 16% of known species (Zanne et al. 2014). GenBank which is the most successful crowd sourced open data effort in our field is only doing slightly better. The take home message then is that an understanding of global biodiversity that goes beyond simply a name is still absent.

Part of the problem is that today’s biologists, despite our access to modern gadgets, are still lagging behind Carl Linnaeus and those that continued after him. Global data require global standards, and in the Systema Naturae there was a clear filing cabinet in which to name and add newly encountered species. But for functional and genetic data we have not (until recently) had analogous filing cabinets for genes or functional traits. Thus despite our access to better tools, those interested in either functional or molecular diversity are still playing a big game of catch up.

All this is to say that there are a lot of missing data, and even if we wanted to rely upon the current data for woodiness to estimate the true values, we are faced with an additional problem that of sampling bias. The species that we do have data for are biased geographically, functionally, and phylogenetically. The temperate climates are over-sampled and economically important species are over-sampled. Oddities are often studied, while average species far from the nearest herbarium are rarely encountered by scientists or sampled for their genetic or functional traits.

These collection biases mean that it is not a simple task to estimate any summary statistics for global diversity based on the data currently at our fingertips, including addressing the question we started with–how many species in the world are woody. Based on the challenges we faced in both data discovery and sampling biases, the light finally dawned as to why the question wasn’t already known—the question’s apparent simplicity was in fact misleading. As everyone learns in introductory biology sampling bias is a serious problem.

All is not lost, however: we can once again turn to Linneaus’ filing cabinet to provide us with a way forward. What we found when searching in his cabinets was that most genera are either all woody or all herbaceous–only a few have a mix of herbs and woody plants. Families are less bimodal but many still are solely composed of one sort of plant or the other. This property of genera and families turns out to be quite a powerful observation, and with a new method we were able leverage this property to work our way toward what turned out to be a robust estimate of the percentage of species in the world are woody. Our estimate is between 45 and 48% (FitzJohn et al. 2014).

Now that we have an answer to our initial question, many other questions can follow suit. For instance, we can use similar approaches to ask the following, as long as taxonomic membership conveys something about a species’ likely function. What proportion of plants are pollinated by animals? What proportion of mammals are herbivores? What percentage of insects fly? While these seem like basic, Wikipedia style questions, their answers are currently unknown to both science and google searches. These basic questions about the world will provide fundamental insight into how global functional diversity is partitioned across space and time. Furthermore they are a first step towards understanding both macro-ecological and macro-evolutionary patterns–to understand the evolution of woody and herbaceous lifeforms in relation to climate (Zanne et al. 2014) on a global scale, we need to know some distribution of these traits across the tree of life.

These global questions about functional diversity are simple, but we are only now assembling the tools that let us answer them.

Will Cornwell & Rich Fitzjohn


FitzJohn, R. G. et al. (2014) How much of the world is woody? Journal of Ecology. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12260

Smith, S. A., Beaulieu, J. M., Stamatakis, A., & Donoghue, M. J. (2011) Understanding angiosperm diversification using small and large phylogenetic trees. American Journal of Botany doi:10.3732/ajb.1000481

Zanne, A. E., Tank, D. C., Cornwell, W. K., Eastman, J. M., Smith, S. A., FitzJohn, R. G., … & Beaulieu, J. M. (2014) Three keys to the radiation of angiosperms into freezing environments. Nature doi:10.1038/nature12872

Editor’s Choice 102:3

We anticipate that issue 102:3 will be online this week. Consider it an Easter treat without the calories!

The Editor’s Choice paper from this issue is Restoration of a megaherbivore: landscape-level impacts of white rhinoceros in Kruger National Park, South Africa” by Cromsigt & te Beest.

The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences published a press release on this paper earlier this year.

Editor’s Choice 102:3

Large-bodied herbivores – megaherbivores – have been lost from many ecosystems worldwide.  A growing appreciation of the ecological roles that they play has led to reintroductions of megaherbivores into some ecosystems, for example of muskox and wisent into a “Pleistocene Park” in Siberia, or even calls for surrogates to be introduced into others, such as elephants as replacements for long-extinct marsupial megaherbivores in northern Australia.

So far there is little evidence to show what the consequences for ecosystems could be that result from “rewilding” through the reintroduction of megaherbivores.  A new study by Cromsigt and te Beest provides insights into their effects.  In Kruger National Park, South Africa, white rhinoceroses were hunted to extinction in 1896.  They were reintroduced to the Park between 1961 and 1972, most of them to the south-western corner of the Park, and much of the Park remains unoccupied by white rhinoceroses.  Thus there are zones in the Park with either no rhinos, sparse rhino populations, and comparatively dense rhino populations.  Cromsigt and te Beest studied the impacts of the rhinos on the savanna grasslands of the Park.  They capitalised upon the “natural” experiment that the reintroductions presented, focussing on zones with sparse and dense rhino populations.

Photo credit: Jan Graf

Photo credit: Jan Graf

Rhinos aren’t the only megaherbivores present in Kruger National Park: there are also African elephants and hippopotami (the latter don’t venture far from rivers).  There are also a large range of other grazers, including buffalo, wildebeest, zebras and various antelopes.  Yet the effects of the rhinos could be clearly distinguished.  Where their numbers were greatest, short grasses were more prevalent and there were many more distinct grazing lawns that are maintained by the rhinos.  These effects were consistent across more fertile soils derived from basalts and less fertile soils derived from granite.

Cromsigt and te Beest conclude that the rhinos are important drivers of grassland heterogeneity in these savannas.  An intriguing possibility supported by observational data in this study is that this could also be driven, at least on the infertile granitic soils, by an interaction between rhinos and termites.  Grazing lawns on these soils were usually close to termite mounds, which the authors think may be linked to locally enhanced nutrient availability.  This begs further study about whether there may be positive feedbacks between termites, rhinos, and the distinct plant communities that develop in the grazing lawns.

Time for such studies however may be running out.  Cromsigt and te Beest note that poaching pressure on white rhinos, should it continue at current rates, would result in a second extinction of these animals in Kruger National Park within 20 years, and would end of this “rewilding” experiment.  It is a grim prospect that the opportunities presented to determine the ecosystem effects of a rhino population, reintroduced barely thirty years ago, could instead, in future years, give way to a chance to document trophic downgrading after these megaherbivores have gone.

Peter Bellingham
Associate Editor, Journal of Ecology



Riparian willow dynamics in Yellowstone – Associate Editor commentary

Large carnivores have succumbed to human pressure worldwide.  They have been hunted to near or complete local extinction or their food sources have been reduced drastically.  A recent review1 shows their continuing decline throughout the world.  The review also highlighted the direct and indirect roles that large carnivores play in structuring trophic cascades, and the sometimes unexpected consequences of reducing numbers of these apex predators.  For example, the large reduction in numbers of lions and leopards in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa has resulted in increasing numbers of olive baboons – a mesopredator – that not only prey upon ungulates, but also affect human welfare because they raid crops, which also forces families to take children out of school to help guard fields2.

Coexistence between humans and large carnivores was never an easy accommodation, even when the human population was much lower.  Restoring large carnivores as a means of reinstating trophic cascades meets resistance because of perceived threats to human livelihood.  A clear example of this is in the western United States where grey wolves were hunted to extinction by 1960 because of perceived threats to livestock.  Their reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s was controversial and remains so: there is growing pressure to hunt wolves, which occupy only a small fraction of their former range in the United States3.

Studies in Yellowstone National Park since wolves were reintroduced have highlighted their role in trophic cascades1.  Wolves have direct effects by competing with another predator (coyote) and by preying upon elk, which are abundant in the Park.  This in turn has indirect effects; for example reductions in the number of elk has resulted in reduced browsing pressure on aspen trees1,4. However, attribution of changes in vegetation in Yellowstone National Park solely to the reintroduced wolves is controversial4.

A new study5 adds to a view of complex interactions that drive the regeneration of forests in Yellowstone.  Kristin Marshall and co-authors examined the regeneration of riparian willow forests in the northern portion of the Park during a 30-year period, about half of which was before wolves were reintroduced to the Park.  Herbivory by elk, with their numbers affected by wolves, was one of the predictors of willow regeneration.  However, climatic and landscape factors were also important.  Willows had greatest height growth rates, hence a greater ability to escape the “browse trap”6, if they were in parts of the landscape where moisture was least likely to be limiting, and there were episodes of willow recruitment that resulted from a series of years with above-average precipitation.  A nuanced view seems to be emerging from this well-studied system that the trophic cascades associated with wolves, both in terms of their direct and indirect effects, need to take account of the the interactive effects of other predators1, other mammalian browsers5, climatic, landscape, disturbances such as fire, and historic influences.

Peter Bellingham
Associate Editor, Journal of Ecology


1Ripple WJ, Estes JA, Beschta RL, Wilmers CC, Ritchie EG, Hebbelwhite M, Berger J, Elmhagen B. Letnic M, Nelson MP, Schmitz OJ, Smith DW, Wallach AD, Wirsing AJ 2014 Status and ecological effects of the world’s largest carnivores. Science 343, 1241484

2Prugh LR, Stoner CJ, Epps CW, Bean WT, Ripple WJ, Laliberté AS, Brashares JS 2009 The rise of the mesopredator. BioScience 59, 779–791.

3Morell V 2014 Science behind plan to ease wolf protection is flawed, panel says. Science 343, 719.

4Marris E 2014 Legend of the wolf. Nature 507, 158–160.

5Marshall KN, Cooper DJ, Hobbs NT 2014 Interactions among herbivory, climate, topography and plant age shape riparian willow dynamics in northern Yellowstone National Park, USA. Journal of Ecology, doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12225

6Staver AC, Bond WJ 2014 Is there a ‘browse trap’? Dynamics of herbivore impacts on trees and grasses in an African savannah. Journal of Ecology, doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12230

Ants plant tomorrow’s rainforest – Gallegos, Hensen & Schleuning

The Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre  (BiK-F) have published a press release on  a paper published in Journal of Ecology,“Secondary dispersal by ants promotes forest regeneration after deforestation” by Gallegos, Hensen & Schleuning

The press release can be accessed via this link and the authors have provided a summary of their paper below.

Secondary dispersal promotes reforestation

Most of the plants in the tropics depend on seed dispersal by animals. Secondary dispersal by invertebrates has the potential to modify patterns of primary seed deposition but has rarely been investigated in studies of forest regeneration. We studied the importance of secondary dispersal by ants in deforested habitats in the Bolivian Andes with a seed addition experiment. We found that seed dispersal by ants promoted germination and the recruitment of seedlings in the deforested areas, probably due to directed dispersal to suitable microhabitats.  This shows that inconspicuous seed dispersal agents, such as ants, can be crucial for promoting plant recruitment and the regeneration of degraded habitats. The overlooked process of secondary dispersal has the potential to aid reforestation measures by seed addition in tropical forests.

Gallegos_Photo JEcol-2013-0591.R3

Silvia C. Gallegos


Poaching threatens savannah ecosystems – Cromsigt & te Beest

Today the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences released a press release on a paper published in Journal of Ecology“Restoration of a megaherbivore: landscape-level impacts of white rhinoceros in Kruger National Park, South Africa” by Cromsigt & te Beest.

The press release can be accessed via this link and the authors have kindly composed a brief summary of their paper below. 

Landscape-level impacts of a reintroduced megagrazer

Megaherbivores (animals weighing ≥ 1,000 kgs) are hypothesized to be key drivers of ecosystem functioning and structure because they are not top-down controlled by predation. However, empirical studies on the ecosystem impact of megaherbivores are strongly biased to one species, the African elephant. There is very little contemporary evidence for ecosystem-scale impacts by other megaherbivore species. We quantified how rhino recolonised Kruger National Park (KNP) following their re-introduction in the 1960s to create a unique ‘recolonization experiment’ and test how this megagrazer is affecting the structure of savannah grasslands. We identified landscapes that rhino recolonised long time ago versus landscapes that were recolonised more recently. We assumed that time since colonization represents a proxy for extent of rhino impact. We recorded grassland heterogeneity on 40 transects covering a total of 30 km. Short grass cover was clearly higher in the high rhino impact than low rhino impact landscape. Moreover, we encountered ~ 20 times more grazing lawns, a specific grassland community, in the high rhino impact landscape. Concluding, white rhinoceros may have started to change the structure and composition of KNP’s savannah grasslands. However, current poaching rates, > 1,000 white rhino per year, will drive rhino to extinction with the next 20 years. Our results highlight that this poaching crisis not only affects the species but threatens the potentially key role of this megaherbivore as a driver of savannah functioning.

Joris Cromsigt
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Editor’s Choice 102:2

Issue 102:2 of the Journal will be online very soon. The Editor’s Choice paper from this issue is “Probabilistic and spatially variable niches inferred from demography” by Diez et al. 

Editor’s Choice 102:2

Why do we find a species in some sites but not in others? Niche theory hypothesizes that a species’ distribution is governed by habitat suitability, species interactions like competitive exclusion, dispersal limitation and source-sink dynamics. Spatial population dynamics form the core of the mechanics of these processes: are suitable sites reached by dispersing seeds?  Can those seeds once germinated, grow and flower, and can they establish a viable population given the local biotic and abiotic conditions? Still, population models based on demographic field data have rarely been used to test niche hypotheses. This paper by Diez and co-authors (2014) presents a conceptual framework that can be used to integrate population dynamics and niche theory.

Diez group_LS

Research team, clockwise from top left: Robert Warren, Scott Eustis, Itamar Giladi, Jeff Diez, Ron Pulliam

Diez et al. (2014) illustrate their framework by applying it to their demographic data of Rattlesnake Plantain (i.e. the orchid Goodyera pubescens) which they studied in six populations for six years. To the basic demographic data of survival, growth and reproduction they fitted Bayesian regression models. In these regressions the effects of light availability and soil moisture were included in a spatially hierarchical  fashion. Together these regression models form an Integral Projection Model (IPM) which was used to see how much the effects of light and moisture on each of the vital rates affected the projected population growth rates. At this point the Bayesian statistics came in handy as they can integrate the uncertainty in the regression parameters to arrive at a distribution of population growth rates. This allowed the authors to calculate, for each of their 2x2m plots, the probability that a low-density population would at least be stable, given the local environmental conditions. Interestingly, these probabilities were well correlated with abundance at the population level, but not with occurrence or abundance at the 4m2 scale. Chance events like limited dispersal and demographic stochasticity are suspect to cause this local mismatch in model habitat suitability and local distributions of individuals.


Species can display a wide range of life histories between populations and across their entire distribution (see e.g. Jongejans et al. 2010). In the case of the Rattlesnake Plantains it was statistically not necessary to include population differences in the responses of individuals to light and moisture. However, it will be interesting to find out whether other species or larger spatial scales will require modelling differential plastic responses between populations, for example based on genetic differences. These important  developments of demographically driven species distribution models promise a more mechanistic understanding of landscape-wide responses of species and communities to changing climatic conditions (see also Vanderwel et al. 2013; Merow et al. 2014).

Eelke Jongejans
Associate Editor, Journal of Ecology

Diez, J. M., Giladi, I., Warren, R., & Pulliam, H. R. (2014). Probabilistic and spatially variable niches inferred from demography. Journal of Ecology, n/a–n/a. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12215

Jongejans, E., Jorritsma-Wienk, L. D., Becker, U., Dostál, P., Mildén, M., & de Kroon, H. (2010). Region versus site variation in the population dynamics of three short-lived perennials. Journal of Ecology, 98, 279–89. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2745.2009.01612.x

Merow, C., Latimer, A. M., Wilson, A. M., Rebelo, A. G., & Silander, J. A. (2014). On using integral projection models to build demographically driven species distribution models. Ecography, in press

Vanderwel, M. C., Lyutsarev, V. S., & Purves, D. W. (2013). Climate-related variation in mortality and recruitment determine regional forest-type distributions. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 22, 1192–1203. doi:10.1111/geb.12081

Journal of Ecology is part of new BES data archiving policy

Earlier this month Journal of Ecology and the other BES journals introduced a new data archiving policy stating that all future articles accepted for publication will be published with the requirement that data used for the results will be made publicly accessible. This means that once a paper is accepted in one of the BES journals authors will be required to deposit sufficient data to allow each result in the published paper to be recreated and the analyses reported in the paper to be replicated to support the conclusions made. Not all papers contain data, and some authors are able to include all the data in the tables and figures in the paper.  However, for those papers with more data than can be included in the paper, authors will be required to make the data available by deposition in a data repository that guarantees public access and permanent storage. When data are deposited the journals will expect authors to ensure that adequate meta-data accompanies their data deposit so that a third party can reasonably interpret those data correctly. Further details on this requirement can be found on the BES website.

One of the main functions of peer-reviewed journals like Journal of Ecology and the other BES journals is to provide readers with published articles that have been through a rigorous evaluation process by experts and that have, as a result, been given a scientific ’stamp of approval’. The only way to truly verify the results of a research paper is to analyse the original data or replicate the study. However, without access to the original data, results cannot be verified through reanalysis. In addition to allowing verification of study results, sharing data has other benefits to the scientific community. In particular, it allows data to be used for new purposes, including, reanalysis using new statistical techniques or to address new questions, inclusion of data in meta-analyses, and use in teaching. Thus, calls have been made for authors to provide access to their data in publicly accessible repositories that ensure long-term preservation of the data. With the new data archiving policy the BES journals are leading the way in responding to these calls from the ecological community.

This policy follows on from a number of high-profile evolution journals that approved a ‘Joint Data Archiving Policy’ (JDAP) in 2010 (Whitlock et al., 2010) and implemented data archiving mandates for papers published in their journals. Authors interested in further advice on data archiving are advised to read Mike Whitlock’s article ‘Data archiving in ecology and evolution: best practices(Whitlock, 2011).

To facilitate the deposition of ecological data, all of the BES journals have integrated with the Dryad data repository. In recognition of the importance of data archiving to the BES the Society is sponsoring deposits made in this archive. However, there is no requirement that authors use this specific repository for their data. Authors should pick the repository that is best suited to their type of data and is most useful to the ecological community likely to access their data. A list of the most commonly used repositories for ecological data is available on the BES website.

Authors are able to request that their data be embargoed for up to 12 months at the time of depositing. Longer embargo periods can be granted at the editors’ discretion. These embargoes will provide protection of data which, if placed in the public domain, may jeopardise further publications. For sensitive data relating to endangered species or protected locations, authors can transform locality details. In rare situations where authors have limited rights to use of data (e.g., proprietary data), or when data access is politically or culturally-sensitive, editors can waive the archiving requirement.

This policy affects all papers submitted to Journal of Ecology since 6 January.  As these papers start to be published readers will find a ‘Data accessibility’ section in each paper which will include details of where data associated with the articles can be found. The location of the data will also be included in the reference list, with a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) if available, making access to the data easy, and future citation of the data trackable via the Data Citation Index on the Web of Knowledge, thus providing authors with further acknowledgement for the research that they are doing.

In implementing this policy the BES are aware of issues that continue to concern the community. There are currently limitations in making the many forms of ecological data searchable and retrievable. It is hoped that community standards will emerge to facilitate the sharing of ecological data, including the development of standards for data re-use and citation. The quality of data deposited and, in particular, the metadata accompanying it, need to improve for the true value of data to be appreciated. It will be important for researchers to trust that the people accessing their data will treat it with respect and adhere to ethical guidelines and community expectations.

The BES hopes the introduction of its new data archiving policy will encourage greater openness from the ecological community, and that increased access to data will play a significant role in advancing the field for future generations.

Liz Baker
Deputy Head of Publications, British Ecological Society

Whitlock, M.C. (2011) Data archiving in ecology and evolution: best practices. Trends Ecol. Evol. 26, 61-65.

Whitlock, M. C., McPeek, M. A., Rausher, M. D., Rieseberg, L. & Moore, A. J. (2010) Data archivingAmerican Naturalist 175, 145–146.

Interview with Frederic Holzwarth – Many ways to die

Frederic Holzwarth is an ecologist at Universität Leipzig in Germany - I caught up with him back in March last year to chat about his research published in the journal. The title was: Many ways to die – partitioning tree mortality dynamics in a near-natural mixed deciduous forest. You can read the abstract and paper here.