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:
Nathalie Matter | Universität Bern
Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus
22.05.2017 | University of Toronto
Insight into enzyme's 3-D structure could cut biofuel costs
19.05.2017 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
16.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2017 | Life Sciences
22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy