Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How successful plants take the lead

Date:
July 16, 2013
Source:
University of Bern
Summary:
Why are some plant species rare, and others common? Why do certain exotic plant species become invasive – while others do not? Scientists have now identified the most important environmental and species characteristics for plants to colonize and establish in novel places.

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

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. 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 Academy 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bern. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. Kempel, T. Chrobock, M. Fischer, R. P. Rohr, M. van Kleunen. Determinants of plant establishment success in a multispecies introduction experiment with native and alien species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1300481110

Cite This Page:

University of Bern. "How successful plants take the lead." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130716075539.htm>.
University of Bern. (2013, July 16). How successful plants take the lead. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130716075539.htm
University of Bern. "How successful plants take the lead." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130716075539.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins