2022 Haldane Prize Shortlist: Functional Ecology’s Award for Early Career Researchers

The Haldane Prize is awarded by the British Ecological Society each year for the best paper in Functional Ecology written by an early career author.

Last year’s winner was Max Mallen-Cooper for their paper: Tissue chemistry of biocrust species along an aridity gradient and comparison to vascular plant leaves

Here is the shortlist for the 2022 Haldane Prize.

Alice Walker

Indirect control of decomposition by an invertebrate predator

Alice’s results suggest that predator abundance can play a significant role in determining decomposition rates. As ants and other predators of decomposers are threatened by a suite of anthropogenic pressures, their results imply that disruptions to these predator-prey relationships could affect the decomposition process.

Aya Permin

High nitrogen-fixing rates associated with ground-covering mosses in a tropical mountain cloud forest will decrease drastically in a future climate

Aya’s paper demonstrates that N fixation in bryophytes is strongly reduced by low moisture levels. This suggests that predicted future declines in precipitation in these systems will lower the N input from bryophyte-associated N fixation, with consequences for nutrient cycling and plant productivity in tropical mountain cloud forests.

David Villalobos-Chaves

Craniodental traits predict feeding performance and dietary hardness in a community of Neotropical free-tailed bats (Chiroptera: Molossidae)

David’s results highlight the value of studying diet and performance in free-ranging animals to understand how they partition resources in nature, contributing to our growing knowledge of the morphological factors that help structure ecological communities

Hannah Meier

Temperature-mediated transgenerational plasticity influences movement behaviour in the green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Hannah found that acclimation temperature can affect movement behaviour in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii after 10 generations (which is approximately 6 days) in a new environment. The implications of these findings are that in order to properly predict  how species respond to climate warming, it is necessary to consider both the past and current environmental conditions.

Hugo Sentenac

The significance of biofilms to human, animal, plant and ecosystem health

Hugo found that there is still much to learn about the impacts of climate change (warming and drought), pollution, habitat destruction/degradation, our urbanised lifestyle, our use of antibiotics, etc. on the biofilms living with us or in the environment, and ultimately on our health. They conclude by saying that biofilms should be seen as ecosystems, with their own health, which should be closely monitored to ensure a sustainable future.

Joshua Brian

Parasitism dramatically alters the ecosystem services provided by freshwater mussels

Joshua’s results showed that parasites can have a major effect at the ecosystem level. Going forward, people need to include information on parasite distributions and interactions when they are predicting how ecosystems may function under a range of different conditions.

Kimberley Dianne Lemmen

Experimental evidence of rapid heritable adaptation in the absence of initial standing genetic variation

Kimberley found that although standing genetic variation has been deemed essential for rapid heritable adaptation, previously unconsidered mechanisms could aid in the establishment of such adaptation. This capacity may explain the success of populations with low genetic diversity and may be particularly important for the persistence of populations facing current levels of rapid anthropogenic environmental change.

Laura Bellec

Factors driving the within-plant patterns of resource exploitation in a herbivore

Laura used a mathematical model to predict how much pollen beetles should favor young buds, given the time needed to pierce the perianth and access the pollen, and the nutritional quality of the pollen. They found that young buds are more profitable than older ones, i.e. they allow maximizing nutrient intake per unit of time even though they contain less pollen than older buds

Manjunatha Hosur Chandregowda

Root trait shifts towards an avoidance strategy promote productivity and recovery in C3 and C4 pasture grasses under drought

Manjunatha’s findings provide novel insight into the role of root traits and their associated flexibility in trait values for maintaining aboveground production under drought stress. This information can guide species and cultivar selection aimed at maintaining high levels of plant productivity under future, drier climates

Natalie Rideout

Environmental filtering of macroinvertebrate traits influences ecosystem functioning in a large river floodplain

Natalie’s paper indicates that the preservation of natural character, through the establishment of conservation areas within the floodplain of the Wolastoq | Saint John River, has been critical in sustaining a resilient and healthy ecosystem despite significant pressure from development within the watershed.

Robin Heinen

Foliar herbivory on plants creates soil legacy effects that impact future insect herbivore growth via changes in plant community biomass allocation

Robin’s paper found that in soils with an insect footprint, plants invest their energy more towards roots than towards leaves. This way, plants may partially escape the damaging effects of aboveground insect herbivores. Although such a strategy may effectively protect the plant, the insects do not seem to mind. In fact, in some cases caterpillars grow bigger on soils with an insect footprint. The early recognition of different soil footprints by plants helps them to test local conditions, and allows them to grow in the most favorable way possible, given the circumstances.

Yankun Zhu

Increased precipitation attenuates shrub encroachment by facilitating herbaceous growth in a Mongolian grassland

Yankun’s study has helped to improve our understanding of the coexistence mechanism of shrubs and herbs in a shrub-encroached grassland and provides a theoretical basis for predicting the pattern of shrub expansion in the Mongolian grasslands under future climate changes.

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