What is that plant doing over there?

Why do we see a species growing on one hillside and not another? Why are some fields dominated by native plants, and others exotics? These are questions addressing the establishment of plants in different habitats, a core concept in ecology with many theories to go along with it. These theories split into a mix of those looking at (1) characteristics of the environment (extrinsic factors, like soil moisture or propagule … Continue reading

Plants fungus and insects OH MY!

Post by Zoe Getman-Pickering One of the first lessons you learn in ecology (be it a class or research) is that the natural world is infinitely complex with countless direct and indirect interactions, and it is one we ecologist repeatedly learn through our careers. I was reminded of this lesson reading the paper, “Mycorrhizal abundance affects the expression of plant resistance traits and herbivore performance” by Rachel Vannette and Mark Hunter. … Continue reading

Ants aiding ants on Acacia

A regular theme on this blog (here, here, here, etc…) is how fascinated all of our contributors are by the factors that promote and maintain biodiversity. Personally, I am really into some of these such as positive interactions between species, such as mutualisms (like the legume-rhizobium mutualism I study) and facilitative effects between species. In some systems, negative interactions between species can result in indirect facilitation of other species by … Continue reading

A trip along the diversity effects highway: a new and exciting fork in the road

The dynamic dune ecosystem along Lake Michigan was where I first came to appreciate nature as a young child (granted, I was in the water most of the time). Blissfully unaware of the pioneering work of Cowles (1899), it was my time wandering forward and backward through successional time as I matured into a young man that put me on the road to studying ecology. So, when I came across … Continue reading

All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from Aphids

In our lab, we throw around the terms “eco-evolutionary dynamics” or “eco-evolutionary feedbacks” pretty loosely to describe any interactions between ecological and evolutionary processes (two more terms that are defined pretty abstractly). But we can do a better job of defining eco-evolutionary feedbacks, and a recent paper by Martin Turcotte, Dave Reznick, and Daniel Hare reminded me of that. This is another paper from the Eco-Evo special feature in The … Continue reading

Parasitism Threatens Mutualism

Background: The world is a complicated place. Organisms typically interact with one another simultaneously and the strength of interactions can depend on what’s happening in the environment. As a number of organisms within a community increases, indirect interactions also increase exponentially (Abrahams 1992). As ecologists, we’re fascinated by the beauty of this complex world while we struggle to understand and predict how nature really works. Studying a pair-wise interaction is … Continue reading

Are invaders bigger and better in their introduced ranges?

It is hypothesized that invasive species are doing something fundamentally different in their introduced ranges – they seem to grow faster and larger, spread more aggressively, and outcompete native species, lowering biodiversity. However, these assumptions have surprisingly little evidence to back them up. In my last post, I wrote about Powell et al. 2013’s article, that found invaders may not be as bad for native biodiversity as we think. In … Continue reading

Changing world, changing interactions

When I think of how a species might be affected by global change, I tend to focus first on the abiotic: distribution maps predicting species range shifts based on temperature and precipitation come to mind. But obviously it’s more complicated than that—global change is bound to affect biotic factors as well, particularly interactions between species. This makes predicting the consequences of global change more complicated. If species A interacts with … Continue reading

Evolution isn’t so simple

To steal a line from the paper that I’m about to talk about: “Herbivores have fed on plants for more than 400 million years”. I thought this was a pretty striking way to start a paper; it suggests that these interactions might play a really important role in how plants and herbivores evolve. And indeed countless papers have discussed the effects of herbivores in driving the evolution of plant defenses … Continue reading

Guilty as charged? Invasive species may not be that bad for biodiversity

Invasive species are accused of being one of the major causes of modern species extinctions and biodiversity loss, on par with climate change and habitat destruction. A few charismatic examples implicate invasive predators and disease in native species extinctions. For example, the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis), introduced to Guam in 1952, is implicated in the extinction of 9 of the 11 forest bird species, 5 of which were endemic … Continue reading