Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How successful plants take the lead

16.07.2013
Why are some plant species rare, and others common? Why do certain exotic plant species become invasive – while others do not? Scientists from the University of Bern now identified the most important environmental and species characteristics for plants to colonize and establish in novel places.

Germinating quickly, growing fast, withstanding competitors and defending against herbivores - already since decades, ecologists have suggested that these are important characteristics of successful plants.


In greenhouse experiments, the characteristics of the different plant species are closely examined.
Anne Kempel, Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern.

However, it has also been suggested that species characteristics are less important as determinants of plant establishment success than other factors such as seed availability or environmental characteristics, like dense vegetation.

In Bern, researchers of the Institute of Plant Sciences and the University of Konstanz carefully examined the importance of those species characteristics, and provide evidence that they affect – more strongly than has been anticipated – success or failure of species.

Field and greenhouse experiments combined

Some unique features of the Bernese study are the high number of used plant species and the sophisticated combination of several independent experiments. In a comprehensive field experiment, the scientists sowed more than 90 different native and exotic plant species into 16 grasslands with different vegetation densities in the Canton of Bern.

They varied the introduced seed number and manipulated soil disturbance. Then, they observed carefully which of the sown plant species established in the field. At the same time, the scientists conducted several greenhouse experiments to assess, as accurately as possible, the characteristics of each species – from seed mass and germination rate to the speed of growth, the competitive ability and the resistance against herbivores, like caterpillars.

«Although it is known that herbivory and competition are relevant for plant establishment, the response of many plants to those factors is rarely measured due to the large amount of work», comments Markus Fischer, professor of plant ecology at the University of Bern. By combining the results from the field and the greenhouse, the most important species traits and environmental characteristics for establishment success could be identified.

The winners are well defended against herbivores

The Bernese plant scientists could show that at the beginning of the experiment mainly species with a high seed mass germinated in the grasslands. In addition, a high number of seeds sown increased early establishment success. However, the importance of factors changed during the course of the study.

«Interestingly, at the end, mainly traits related to interactions between plants and plants or plants and animals were important», reports Anne Kempel, first author of the study. Accordingly, plants that were well defended against voracious insects were the most successful ones in the long run.

«Our results are in line with general theories on community assembly and invasion success», explains Mark van Kleunen, the leader of the project. First, the non-living environment, the so called «abiotic filter», constrains establishment of species without certain physiological adaptations.

The germinated species then have to pass the so-called «biotic filter» - which means that they have to withstand herbivores, pathogens and competitors to persist in a community. «Our study shows that this second filter is of major importance, and is even gaining in importance with time» says van Kleunen.

The study, now published in «Proceedings of the National Acadamy of Sciences» helps to better understand the assembly of plant communities. According to the researchers the results can also contribute to the early detection of potentially new invasive species – for instance when plant species introduced for horticultural purposes, prior to accreditation, are tested for their traits. «With such a screening, future plant invasions may eventually be prevented in Switzerland», says Kempel.

Information on the publication:
Anne Kempel, Thomas Chrobock, Markus Fischer, Rudolf Philippe Rohr, Mark van Kleunen: Determinants of plant establishment success in a multispecies introduction experiment with native and alien plant species. PNAS, 15. Juli 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1300481110/-/DCSupplemental.

Nathalie Matter | Universität Bern
Further information:
http://www.unibe.ch

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht Chlamydia: How bacteria take over control
28.03.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create artificial materials atom-by-atom

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers show p300 protein may suppress leukemia in MDS patients

28.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>