Tasters: 09/01/2018

Dear all,

I’d like to first take the opportunity to wish you all a very happy, healthy and successful 2018. I hope that in the year that lies ahead, this blog will contribute to your work and may inspire you to submit your best work to Functional Ecology.

Let me also take the opportunity to thank all contributors to our columns Insights, Hindsight, and Community+Ecology. In the coming weeks, some changes to functionalecologists.com will be made, so keep an open eye. A special thanks to Gesche, Stacey, Richard and Rob for their guest posts in the InSite/Out columns. I hope to see more of your posts in the following year.

I am just back from annual leave, which started after the hugely inspirational Ecology Across Borders meeting in Ghent, Belgium (more on that meeting in one of my following blogs). This year for me begins with Functional Ecology having published its January edition, which has a special focus on functional traits along a transect (guest editors Shuli niu, Aimee classen, and Yiqi Luo).

RMtweetI am also very fascinated by the current weather conditions across the globe. Last week, it was colder in Sunshine state Florida than it was in Alaska. Guest blogger Rob Mills, sees hardly any snow in the Scottish mountains, while in the Alps the recent snow dump caused chaos, and even more is expected.

In the low countries, like my home country of the Netherlands, recent weather conditions have caused the rivers to reach very high levels. The good news here is that recent developments in creating more space for rivers has paid off, and flooding of communities has not yet occurred. To finish, on the other side of the world (from where I am!), Sydney deals with the highest temperatures measured since 1939. Who says nothing wrong with our climate? I am curious to see how our natural ecosystems deal with these phenomena.

All best, Bjorn

Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.bjorn

InSite/Out with Gesche Blume-Werry: End-of-season season’s greetings!

One of our field sites: a re-wetted coastal wetland at the Baltic sea.
One of our field sites: a re-wetted coastal wetland at the Baltic sea.

Finally, the end of the field-season has also reached me in the temperate peatlands. I’m not yet sure if it’s an advantage or disadvantage, that, after moving from the sub-Arctic to the temperate zone, my field-season is suddenly MUCH longer… Anyway, after a long period of preparation, we were finally ready to install tea- and litterbags in the field for our project about plant biomass production in drained and re-wetted peatlands. Things weren’t exactly made easy by the facts that a large part of those bags were root litterbags (and thus -obviously- needed to be installed at depth), that it was November and thus rainy and cold, and that parts of the bags needed to be installed in/below standing water (using waders and a clever combination of veterinarian gloves and standard rubber gloves, plus a good amount of duct tape).

Uh, root litterbags hidden here!
Uh, root litterbags hidden here!

Why am I working with roots in (very wet) peatlands, you ask? Maybe because although peatlands only cover 3% of the lands surface, they store twice as much carbon as the world’s forests, maybe because drained peatlands only make up 6% of agriculturally used land in Germany, but are responsible for 99% of the CO2 emissions from agricultural soils. Or maybe because re-wetting peatlands may help reducing carbon emissions, and because roots, which are a large part of plant biomass and production, are responsible for the peat in these temperate fens, and thus key players in the carbon cycling? Yes, all of the above, but also because it is also a lot of fun!

Heavy science on a November field day.
Heavy science on a November field day.

After two weeks of intense fieldwork, we had very sore muscles and very dirty clothes but also experienced this blissful happiness that you get from tiring days out in the field. Everything worked out, there were no major injuries (to plants or people), and it even seems like each of the roughly 3000 little bags was put into the right place – that is just an awesome feeling!

With that, I wish you all a very happy Christmas break, and a Happy New Year!



Gesche Blume-Werry, @gescheBW Umeå Univerity, Sweden & University of Greifswald, Germany.

Read more InSite/Outs or more posts by Gesche.

Meet the SIGS! Aquatic Ecology Group

Next week is the Ecology Across Boarders meeting in Ghent. At the meeting, a number of the BES Special Interest Groups are running workshops, social events and meet-ups. To find out more about the SIGs, we’ve invited them to talk about who they are, what they do, what to look out for at the Ecology Across Borders meeting, and what their plans are for 2018.

Continue reading “Meet the SIGS! Aquatic Ecology Group”

Insights: Martijn Vandegehuchte

In Insights we discover the story behind and beyond a recent publication in Functional Ecology. What inspired the authors to do the research, and how did the project develop leading to the final publication? What implications might their results have on the scientific community and on society?

This week, Bjorn talks to Martijn Vandegehuchte about his paper, Mammalian herbivores affect leafhoppers associated with specific plant functional types at different timescales (plain language summary here.) Martin recently moved from WSL (the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research) to Ghent University in Belgium. With his colleagues in Switzerland, Martijn studied multitrophic herbivory interactions in the Swiss National Park.

Continue reading “Insights: Martijn Vandegehuchte”

Tuesday Tasters: 28/11/2017

Recently accepted in Functional Ecology, a very interesting paper describing environmental conditions as an important determinant for the phenology of bird plumage.

Nature Ecology & Evolution last week published a paper that shows that the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem multifunctionality increase with increasing number of functions. These findings are in stark contrast with a paper published just over 5 months earlier, which makes the point the biodiversity-multifunctionality relationships do not increase with the number of functions considered. Interesting to see where these differences come from: methodological (multifunctionality is calculated in different ways in both papers), different functions considered or ecosystem dependent? I will keep following this field with much interest.

Working at a University does not help in living a happy life, researchers find. Job security is high on the list what people are unhappy about.

Last week, Dynamic Ecology was polling about people’s opinions on what they call ‘Statistical Machismo’. I am looking forward to their results. Personally, I think the simpler (not simplistic), the better; the impact of a paper should depend on design, methods, and scope of inference.

An interesting piece in Science Magazine (based on a publication in the journal Sex Roles) that perfectly fits in the gender discussions I have pointed to earlier. Apparently, men whose wives keep their name after marriage (that includes me!) may be perceived in a less gender-stereotyped manner. The majority of the study’s participants were female.  I find it hard to know what to conclude from the results (as do the authors).


Enjoy your week,


Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.bjorn

Insights: Angela Prendin

In Insights we discover the story behind a recent publication in Functional Ecology: what inspired the authors to do the research, how did the project develop and what wider impact might the work have?

DSCN2192This week Bjorn talks to Angela Prendin about her article,  Axial xylem architecture of Larix decidua exposed to CO2 enrichment and soil warming at the tree line. Angela is affiliated with the Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry (TESAF) of the University of Padova, Italy. With her collaborators at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), she studied the xylem architecture of Larch in response to CO2 fertilisation and soil warming. You can also read the free plain language summary here: The treetop is the hotspot determining growth in larch trees

Continue reading “Insights: Angela Prendin”

Tuesday Tasters: 21/11/2017

Already sideways highlighted by Jennifer last week, Nature Ecology and Evolution have published a list of the 100 articles every ecologist should read. Many critical notes have followed (have a look for yourself); for example on how the list has been compiled, the average age of the listed paper (c. 38 years old), its gender bias, etc. I am excited to read these critiques and look forward to an alternative list that also reflects recent advances in ecology; one that I am almost certain will be a lot more inclusive.

Hot off the press, this paper by Ramirez and her colleagues  (which provides a roadmap on how to answer important ecological questions with highly variable microbial sequence data) might make it on such list!

And another candidate paper  for the list: Wubs and Bezemer use an elegant but simple experimental design to show that soil conditioned by multiple plant species results in a more balanced (i.e. more even) plant community, as compared to soil condition by single plants.

And now for something completely different: Do you have a hilarious ecological story to tell? Sign up for the Science Slam at the Ecology Across Borders conference in Ghent.


Enjoy your week,


Bjorn Robroek is the blog editor for Functional Ecologists.bjorn

Tuesday Tasters: 14/11/17

Bjorn’s away, so this week’s Tuesday Tasters are from me.

Researchers used digital animation to examine how the effectiveness of a lizard’s territorial display varies across ecological environments and conditions (with video abstract!)

For anyone interested in public engagement, Sense about Science have published a new (and free) guide- grab Public Engagement: a practical guide here.   (Case study is from medicine, but the principles are good whatever area you work in.)

And related, the BES and ZSL are running a workshop on communicating your science in February, with training on traditional and social media – tickets available now.

Check out the replies to this tweet from Terry McGlynn:

And for anyone that’s missed it (and has access), the BBC is currently airing Blue Planet 2, and it’s just as spectacular as you’d expect – the website has links to stream the episodes, plus information on getting involved in ocean conservation, how it was all made and bonus podcasts.

Jennifer Meyer is the Assistant Editor for Functional Ecology DSC_0066


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