World Soil Day 2016

For World Soil Day 2016, secretary of the BES Plants, Soils, Ecosystems Special Interest Group, Ellen Fry, has written about the work of the SIG and the importance of World Soil Day…

wsd1This year on World Soil Day I intend to use my social media platforms to raise awareness of the main issues surrounding soil conservation, including erosion, pollution and urbanisation. Now I’ll admit, soil isn’t exactly on the top of most people’s conservation list, but the simple fact is that if we destroy our soil we destroy ourselves in very short order.

And we are destroying it. The Soil Association’s estimation is that 30 football pitches of fertile soil are lost globally every minute, which is just an incomprehensible thought. In this tumultuous year, it is more crucial than ever that we start trying to look after the world around us, and this is what the International Union of Soil Sciences was trying to achieve when they first came up with World Soil Day in 2002. The day has been adopted by the European Commission and the FAO who have come up with a number of directives that aim to reduce the amount of soil lost. Each year the EU holds a conference in Brussels on World Soil Day and this year it is titled the ‘Soil stakeholder’s conference’. This really means everyone, because who can claim to have no stake in the future of our air, water and food supplies? Continue reading

A natural forest study

For our second contribution for National Tree Week, we hear from authors Zilong Ma and Han Chen, whose recently published paper was included in the special National Tree Week Virtual Issue.

Zilong Ma is a PhD student at Lakehead University in Canada, supervised by Han Y.H. Chen who is also an Associate Editor for Journal of Ecology. Research in Dr Chen’s lab focuses on causes of biological diversity, ecosystem functioning, and nutrient dynamics. Much of his work is designed to provide scientific underpinning for ecological sustainability of forest ecosystems in a changing environment. Zilong Ma’s dissertation research examines the relationship between diversity and below-ground function with a special emphasis on fine root productivity in natural forests. Part of Zilong’s work was recently published in Journal of Ecology titled ‘Effects of species diversity on fine root productivity increase with stand development and associated mechanisms in a boreal forest’ and is included in the BES cross-journal National Tree Week 2016 virtual issue.

There is a growing interest for understanding the relationship between diversity and below-ground productivity due to the critical contribution of below-ground systems to overall terrestrial productivity. Yet, the temporal (seasonal and developmental) changes in diversity effects on below-ground productivity and their underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Continue reading

Right Tree, Right Place: Sustaining Urban Trees Today for the Forest Cities of Tomorrow

In recognition of National Tree Week 2016, Journal of Ecology Associate Editor Emily Lines and some of her students from Queen Mary University of London got together to think about the state of today’s urban trees…

London may not be the world’s largest city, but with 8 million trees covering 20% of its area, it is, according to the founder of the Greater London National Park campaign Daniel Raven-Ellison, the world’s largest urban forest. The historical significance of trees in London is all around us, with place names such as Poplar, for the local abundance of black poplar trees, and Seven Sisters, named after the seven elms that once stood in a circle there (Hidden London, 2016). Indeed the iconic London plane is so named because of its abundant planting by the Victorians (Street Tree, 2014) and is likely, appropriately for our multicultural city, a hybrid of two non-native species: the Oriental plane and American sycamore. Continue reading

National Tree Week 2016 – Virtual Issue

tree-council-logoThis week is National Tree Week! First celebrated in 1975, National Tree Week is the UK’s largest tree celebration. Each year, The Tree Council’s member organisations including voluntary bodies and local authorities, up to 200 schools and community groups, 8000 Tree Wardens and many others, support the initiative by setting up fun, worthwhile and accessible events, inspiring upward of a quarter of a million people to get their hands dirty and together plant around a million trees. Continue reading

Ecology and Evolution in Ireland

The first ever meeting of the Irish Ecological Association kicks off today in Sligo and in order to celebrate the meeting and showcase the strength of research being done in Ireland, the IEA has joined forces with the BES journals team to put together an exciting Virtual Issue.

Virtual Issue: Ecology and Evolution in Ireland

The Virtual Issue is free to access and contains content from all five of our journals covering the whole breadth of ecological research, including Irish ecosystems, applied ecology, invasion ecology, aquatic ecology and methodological advances. It includes 8 Journal of Ecology papers as well as a full introduction from IEA members and editors of the issue Hugh Feeley, Paul Giller, Ian Montgomery, John Quinn and Yvonne Buckley, who is an Associate Editor for Journal of Ecology.

The Irish Ecological Association was founded in 2015 as a learned society for ecologists working in Ireland (Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) and/or with an interest in Irish ecosystems. They work in partnership with the BES to strengthen networks and opportunities for ecologists and evolutionary biologists in Ireland and the UK.

You can read the conference program and keep up to date by following the IEA on twitter and searching #ecoevoirl. You can also email the IEA to be added to their mailing list.

From teaching, to research, to Journal of Ecology

In this blog post, Associate Editor Hans Cornelissen writes about the impact his teaching has had on the development of his research and publications over the years…

Autumn is always a very busy teaching season for me – my poor excuse for being slow with my editorial activities for this journal (including writing this blog)… yes, I do tend to feel guilty for much of autumn.

Recently, I taught a 4 week MSc Ecology course on ‘Soil-Plant-Animal Interactions’ and currently I am teaching both a 2nd year undergraduate course on Ecosystem Services (to geographers) and a 1st-year undergraduate biology course on the ‘Evolution and Diversity of Life’ in which I cover the evolution of plants and fungi – not that I know much about fungi but I do know how to get the best out of mushrooms in a pasta.

It is the latter course in particular that made me think about how my teaching activities over the years relate to Journal of Ecology in a positive sense, i.e. other than teaching getting in the way of journal editing time. When I sit back for a moment to think about this, there are many examples of how interactions with my students, whether in the lecture hall, the lab or  the field, have inspired or triggered me to start new research lines, some of which have eventually made it into the ‘good literature’. For instance, my relatively recent research line on plant trait effects on flammability has benefitted greatly from small pilot experiments done by master’s students during the above MSc course. One group of students developed a nice methodology to measure how fire and its associated high temperatures can (or cannot) be conducted via bark of different tree species – not unimportant for understanding trees’ tolerances of fire and for potential exchanges between surface and crown fires. Continue reading

Ecto-Mycorrhizal Fungi: A Stronger Role In Pathogen Defense than In Nutrient Uptake

In this new video, Felipe Albornoz presents the findings of his recent study, accepted for publication in Journal of Ecology, and titled ‘Native soilborne pathogens equalize differences in competitive ability between plants of contrasting nutrient-acquisition strategies‘. This study was part of Felipe’s PhD project on the role of mycorrhizal fungi on plant-plant interactions and in maintaining plant diversity, that he carried out at The University of Western Australia with Hans Lambers, Etienne Laliberté and Francois Teste. The video is available below and can also be found on the Journal of Ecology YouTube channel (english subtitles available).

Felipe.pngFelipe Albornoz did his undergrad studies at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. His undergrad thesis was focused on providing evidence of nucleated regeneration of a forest after a fire; a process that was highly dependent on the presence of burnt logs. Felipe moved then to The University of Western Australia to do a PhD on arbuscular and ecto- mycorrhizal fungi in a 2 million years chronosequence in south Western Australia. He studied how pedogenesis and plant communities influenced ectomycorrhizal communities, as well as, how these mycorrhizal fungi affect plant interactions, which is the aim of his study published in Journal of Ecology. Felipe is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State University studying the role of native Oomycetes in structuring plant communities in North-West USA.

What is the future of peer review in ecology?

The Applied Ecologist's blog

For the British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2016 the BES Publications team will be holding a panel debate on the future of peer review in ecology. Find out how you can get involved in this debate here.

What is the role of peer review in scientific research? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different models of peer review? What recognition should be available for reviewers? How is the peer review landscape changing? If you find yourself asking these questions, this workshop is for you!

Peer review is critical to the research process, but is also the subject of much criticism and debate. Review bias, reviewer recognition and the discovery of peer review rings are recent examples of topics widely discussed by the scientific community. Many peer review models and experiments have emerged across scientific disciplines with the aim of improving the review process, often leading to more questions…

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Short-Term Snow Cover Reduction effects Do Not Scale Up to Long-Term Legacies

In this new video, Gesche Blume-Werry presents the very interesting findings of her study, published in the last issue (November) of Journal of Ecology, and titled ‘Short-term climate change manipulation effects do not scale up to long-term legacies: effects of an absent snow cover on boreal forest plants‘. This study was part of Gesche’s PhD project in which she explored the hidden life of plants below-ground and investigated the responses of roots to climate change. The video is available below and can also be found on the Journal of Ecology YouTube channel (english subtitles available).


gesche.pngGesche Blume-Werry recently received her PhD from Umeå University with the project “The hidden life of plants – fine root dynamics in northern ecosystems”, supervised by Ann Milbau (Research Institute for Nature and Forest INBO, Belgium). Gesche is an ecosystem ecologist with a passion for high-latitude ecosystems and her dissertation research focused on above- and below-ground biomass allocation, production, growth and phenology. With a special emphasis on root dynamics, she wants to discover more about the hidden part of the plants below the surface and if root responses to climate change differ from shoots. This response is of special importance in high latitudes, where the majority of living plant biomass is belowground. In her current postdoctoral work at Umeå University, Gesche continues to study root production by using a unique combination of ecological and physiological methods.

Effects of nitrogen deposition on masting tree reproduction

Bogdziewicz 1Michał Bogdziewicz is a PhD student at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, supervised by Rafał Zwolak (AMU, as well) and Elizabeth Crone (Tufts University, USA). Michal’s work involves the study of different aspects of mast seeding consequences on ecosystems: the connection between masting and Lyme disease and the effects of masting on animal populations. The main goal of his PhD is to evaluate how nitrogen affects the reproduction of mast seeding trees. The effects of nitrogen addition on different aspects of oak reproductive ecology were analysed in his recently published paper in Journal of Ecology titled ‘Effects of nitrogen deposition on reproduction in a masting tree: benefits of higher seed production are trumped by negative biotic interactions’.

Numerous studies show that anthropogenic global changes (e.g. global warming, nitrogen deposition) are driving increases in plant seed production. However, it is not clear whether this increase translates into higher plant recruitment. To test this, we measured how nitrogen addition affects the seed crop of red oaks. We had this unique opportunity because of the long-term nitrogen supplementation experiment at Harvard Forest, USA, which has been going for more than 25 years. We also measured how N-addition affects the interactions of oaks with their most important seed predators (weevils, Curculio sp.) and seed dispersers (rodents) in Eastern USA, and assessed the germination potential of acorns produced by N-fertilized oaks.


Left: Cage for germination experiment. This one is closed, but in the other half we cut holes to allow rodent access. Right: Curious deer mice during live-trapping.

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