EcolChange seminar – Gordon McNickle about plant foraging games

Seminar of Department of Botany and Centre of Excellence EcolChange.

Gordon McNickle is professor at Purdue University, Indiana, USA. He visits Department of Botany as an opponent at PhD defence of Sirgi Saar on October 26th, at 13.15 in Vaga auditorium, Lai 40, Tartu.

Title of the talk: Plant foraging games: scaling from resource uptake strategies to communities and ecosystems

Time: Friday(!), 27. October 2017 at 11.15

Place: Tartu, Lai 40-218 (Vaga auditorium)


The plant that foraged too much… (screenshot from Roger Corman´s “The Little Shop of Horrors”, 1960)

Plants have plastic growth responses to resource availability and distribution that allows them to deal with patchiness. Plants also have remarkably sophisticated responses to neighbouring plants, adjusting their growth and allocation to enhance competitive ability. These plant responses to neighbours are best described using evolutionary game theory. Dr. McNickle will discuss these plastic growth behaviours of plants, scaling their effects from nutrients up to ecosystems.

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New publications – two papers about new species of fungi

Text by Lauri Laanisto

The scope of our Centre of Excellence is indeed wide, stretching occasionally to systematics and taxonomy. Here are two rather fresh papers about new species of fungi (though, with fungi things are usually not too fresh…) – one Lactarius with orange cap and white latex, and one Calycina that lives on Pulmonaria lichen. I guess such publications do not really need any additional explanations why they were written and published. We are still pretty much in the stage of desribing the nature, especially if it comes to other organisms than vertebrates or higher plants. And in order to understand the intricate interactions and mechanisms between plants and other (mainly sessile) organisms – which is the main purpouse of EcolChange -, we have to have a better coverage of the actual things existing in the nature…


The obvious, and also misleading “white latex” picture (pic from here). Not sure if there are any fungi on the picture here. Seems too dry…

Citation: Nuytinck, J., Verbeken, A., Saar, I., Lambert, H., Bérubé, J., & Voitk, A. (2017). Lactarius splendens, a second species with white latex in Lactarius section Deliciosi. Botany, 95(8): 859-863: . (link to full text)


An uncommon, small, orange-capped Lactarius Pers. with white latex was confirmed, using molecular studies of the type specimens, to be Lactarius splendens Hesler & A.H. Sm. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the species falls within Lactarius section Deliciosi (Fr.) Redeuilh, Verbeken & Walleyn., very closely related to L. rubrilacteus Hesler & A.H. Sm. and L. porninsis Rolland. Hitherto L. porninsis was the only white-latex species known in the otherwise orange-latex section Deliciosi; both are associated with Larix Mill.


The actual white latex in Lactarius (pic from Wiki)

Citation: Suija, A., & Motiejunaite, J. (2017). Calycina alstrupii sp. nov. (Pezizellaceae, Helotiales), a new lichenicolous fungus from Norway. Phytotaxa, 307(2), 113-122. (link to full text)


A new species of Calycina, C. alstrupii Suija & Motiejūnaitė, is described based on both morphological and molecular characteristics. The new fungus inhabits thalli of Lobaria pulmonaria (L.) Hoffm. and is the first proven lichenicolous species of the genus. The new species is compared with closely related taxa of Hyaloscyphaceae s. lato.


Apparently Calycina is a taxon name that is shared between fungi and insects. Here is a speciemen of Calycina horaki (pic from here)

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EcolChange seminar – Andres Kraas about Estonian industrial heritage

Seminar of Department of Botany and Centre of Excellence EcolChange.

Andres Kraas is director of Estonian Mining Museum.

Title of the talk: Marketing of Estonian industrial heritage

Time: Thursday, 19. October 2017 at 15.15

Place: Tartu, Lai 40-218 (Vaga auditorium)


Visitor centre of the Estonian Mining Museum (pic from here)


The seminar will provide a brief overview of Estonian industrial architecture and discuss what is industrial heritage, how to recognize it and how to sale it, and what are functions and opportunities of contemporary industrial heritage today.

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New paper published – Physiological and structural tradeoffs underlying the leaf economics spectrum

Text and graph by Tiina Tosens

In the world-wide leaf economics spectrum (Wright et al. 2004, Nature) variability of three key traits: photosynthesis rate, leaf nitrogen content, and leaf dry mass per area of 2500 species (from study sites with highly variable mean annual humidity and temperature) fall along the single axis of this three-trait space. However, the striking question has been what actually is the parameter that drives LES relationships. Meta-analysis (lead by Dr. Yusuke Onoda from Kyoto University) confirms the speculations that this variation is caused by variable mesophyll conductance (e.g. CO2 diffusion efficiency from sub-stomatal cavities to chloroplasts) and different life strategies in terms of nitrogen investment into structural cell wall material rather than photosynthetic biochemistry (see the figure below).

onoda et al 2017 joonis Tiinalt

Illustration of structure-function relationships of two species with contrasting life strategies. Left: temperate decidous pioneer species Populus tremula and right side: evergreen Cycas taitungensis. Mesophyll tissue, epidermis, scleroids and cuticle are shown. Populus tremula leaf is positioned to fast return end of LES.  Populus invests  proportionally less resources into protective cells (scleroids, cuticle, thick mesophyll  cell walls) rather it invests into building 2 layers of thick physiologically active palisade tissue this in turn brings to high photosynthesis and fast growth rate while Cycads have proportionally more C and N invested into protective structural cells and therefore lower photosynthesis and slower growth rate. However, in longer perspective Cycas has longer leaf life span and slower energy return. That is, more nitrogen invested into cell walls means more durable and tougher leaves. On the other hand thick mesophyll cell walls represent longer liquid phase distance through cell walls (low mesophyll conductance) into the chloroplasts and therefore less efficient photosynthesis


Citation: Onoda, Y., Wright, I. J., Evans, J. R., Hikosaka, K., Kitajima, K., Niinemets, Ü., Poorter, H., Tosens, T. & Westoby, M. (2017). Physiological and structural tradeoffs underlying the leaf economics spectrum. New Phytologist, 214(4), 1447-1463. (link to full text)

Check also out a commentary titled “Peeking beneath the hood of the leaf economics spectrum” by by Reich and Flores-Moreno (link to full text) who emphasize the significance of this study: “What is most novel about their study is the bringing together of considerable data on rarely measured leaf traits, assessing both chemical (e.g. nitrogen (N) allocation) and diffusive (mesophyll conductance) constraints at the same time, and identifying a key role for cell-wall thickness in both of these.


  • The leaf economics spectrum (LES) represents a suite of intercorrelated leaf traits concerning construction costs per unit leaf area, nutrient concentrations, and rates of carbon fixation and tissue turnover. Although broad trade-offs among leaf structural and physiological traits have been demonstrated, we still do not have a comprehensive view of the fundamental constraints underlying the LES trade-offs.
  • Here, we investigated physiological and structural mechanisms underpinning the LES by analysing a novel data compilation incorporating rarely considered traits such as the dry mass fraction in cell walls, nitrogen allocation, mesophyll CO2 diffusion and associated anatomical traits for hundreds of species covering major growth forms.
  • The analysis demonstrates that cell wall constituents are major components of leaf dry mass (18–70%), especially in leaves with high leaf mass per unit area (LMA) and long lifespan. A greater fraction of leaf mass in cell walls is typically associated with a lower fraction of leaf nitrogen (N) invested in photosynthetic proteins; and lower within-leaf CO2 diffusion rates, as a result of thicker mesophyll cell walls.
  • The costs associated with greater investments in cell walls underpin the LES: long leaf lifespans are achieved via higher LMA and in turn by higher cell wall mass fraction, but this inevitably reduces the efficiency of photosynthesis.
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EcolChange seminar – Sabrina Träger about species richness, heterogeneity and nitrogen contribution of roots in Arctic elevation gradient

Seminar of Department of Botany and Centre of Excellence EcolChange Oct. 12th

Sabrina Träger is a post-doc researcher at the team of macroecology in Tartu University.

Title of the talk: Species richness, heterogeneity and nitrogen contribution of roots along an arctic elevation gradient

Time: Thursday, 12. October 2017 at 15.15

Place: Tartu, Lai 40-218 (Vaga auditorium)


Typical Arctic elevation gradients (pic from here)


Roots allow interactions between plants and their belowground environment. Such interactions are especially important in ecosystems where plant biomass is dominated by roots, such as the Arctic. However, we are still lacking knowledge about roots and root associated belowground processes. Sabrina will present results of three fundamental root ecological topics analysed among contrasting habitats: belowground plant species richness, root growth heterogeneity, and root contributions to the nitrogen cycle.

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Workgroup and EcolChange seminar – Joao Carlos Bespalhok about the production chain of sugarcane in Brazil

Seminar of Chair of Field Crop in Estonian University of Life Sciences and Plant Biology and Centre of Excellence EcolChange

This week we have a quest giving seminar: professor Joao Carlos Bespalhok from the Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil. He´ll be talking about the biotechnological ways of processing sugarcane into other things than sugar…

Title of the talk: The production chain of sugarcane in Brazil: from plant to bioethanol

Time: Monday, 09. October 2017 at 10.00

Place: Tartu, Kreutzwaldi 5 – C25 (Metsamaja)


Sugarcane fuel! (pic from here)

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EcolChange seminar – Alexei Tiunov about using stable isotope analysis to decipher the structure of soil food webs

Seminar of Department of Botany and Centre of Excellence EcolChange Oct. 5th and discussion with early career scientists Oct. 6th

Alexei Tiunov is head of Laboratory of Soil Zoology, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow, Russia. In his seminar, he will address the following topics: (1) main principles of the ‘isotope ecology’, (2) using stable isotope analysis (SIA) for resolving some long-standing fundamental questions in soil biology, (3) new isotope-based achievements in understanding the trophic structure of soil animal communities, and (4) how SIA can be used to clarify ecological interactions of mycorrhizal fungi.

Title of the talk: Using stable isotope analysis (SIA) to decipher the structure of soil food webs

Time: Thursday, 5. October 2017 at 15.15

Place: Tartu, Lai 40-218 (Vaga auditorium)

A. Tiunov will also held a discussion group with graduate students and other early career scientists on Friday, Oct. 6th at 10.30 in the coffee room of Lai 40. Everyone is welcomed!


Soil. If you zoom up enough, you might see the isotopes halflifing… (pic from Wiki)

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EcolChange seminar – Valentina Zolotarjova about nonmetric multidimensional scaling

Seminar of Chair of Field Crop and Plant Biology and Centre of Excellence EcolChange

Valentina Zolotarjova is PhD student and junior research fellow in the Chair of Field Crop and Plant Biology.

Title of the talk: Introduction to NMS (Nonmetric multidimensional scaling)

Time: Monday, 02. October 2017 at 10.00

Place: Tartu, Kreutzwaldi 5 – C25 (Metsamaja)



Comparison of nonmetric (left panel) and metric (right panel) systems (pic from here)

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EcolChange-related conference – Plant Phenotyping Forum

There will be another EcolChange-related conference in Tartu soon. This time it´s about plant phenotyping.

Title: Plant Phenotyping Forum: integrating European plant phenotyping community (link to conference page)

Time and place: 22-24 November, Tartu, Estonia

Participation: Registration is for free but participants are supposed to cover their own travel expenses. Registration and Abstract deadline is 15th of October. (Link to registration page.)

Introduction and confirmed speakers:

Plants develop by a complex interaction of genotypes with the environments. The need to characterize the phenotype is essential to understand fundamental processes which determine the structure and function of plants in particular in times of climate change. While significant progress has been made in molecular methods in recent years and the genomes of several plants have been sequenced this knowledge is not sufficient to simulate the phenotype of a plant without knowing the history and the dynamic interaction of the plant with its environment. Thus, plant phenotyping – quantitative analysis of structure and function of plants – has become the major bottleneck and, quantitative information on genotype-environment relations is the key to address future challenges. Increasing the plant biomass production quantitatively and qualitatively can provide major contributions to grand challenges like food security on a global level, at the same time reducing a major driver for migration movements.

Beyond fostering scientific progress plant phenotyping requires a community effort. In this context EPPN2020, a EU funded project provides access to key plant phenotyping facilities in Europe while EMPHASIS, a ESFRI listed project aims at the development of a long term sustainable pan European plant phenotyping infrastructure that addresses the needs of the diverse users from academia and industry including the operation and development of a pan-European e-infrastructure to effectively collect, process and provide data for the community.

With this meeting we aim to provide:

  • discussion about the relevance of agriculture for the perspective of politics, users, scientists
  • overview of recent development for a long term operation of pan European plant phenotyping infrastructure, including information systems within the project EMPHASIS
  • opportunities to enable access to key plant phenotyping facilities within the EPPN2020 project
  • demonstrations of case studies that illustrate different aspects of plant phenotyping and its applications for breeding and basic plant science
  • opportunities for close interaction with phenotyping experts to discuss the needs and requirements for crop improvement,

Confirmed speakers:

Ülo Niinemets, Tartu University, Estonia

Clement Atzberger, BOKU, Austria

Uli Schurr, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany

Francois Tardieu, INRA, France

Kristiina Laanemets: Estonia,

Pawel Krajewski, PAN, Poland

Soairce Tracy , University of Dublin, Ireland

Onno Muller, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany

Jörg-Peter Schnitzler, HMGU, Germany

Marek Zivcak University of Nitra, Slovakia

Kristiina Himanen, University of Helsinki, Finland

Francesco Cellini, ALASIA, Italy

Carl-Otto Ottosen, Aarhus University, Dennmark

Thomas Roitsch, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Yves Gibon, University of Bordeaux, France

Stijn Dhont, VIB, Belgium

Tony Pridmore, University of Nottingham, UK

Hannes Kollist, Tartu University, Estonia


  • Discussion with policy makers – the role agriculture in Europe
  • EPPN2020/EMPHASIS – building European plant phenotyping community

Open For Abstracts:

  • Plant performance in future climate:
  • Breeding for novel traits
  • Abiotic stress tolerance
  • Data management and integration
  • Novel technology


Organisation Committee: 
Kristiina Laanemets (
Hannes Kollist (
Roland Pieruschka (
Ulrich Schurr (
Sven Fahrner (
Erkki Truve (
Ylo Niinemets (
Maris Nuhkat (


Phenotypes… (pic from here)

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EcolChange conference: Ecology and Global Change

It´s time for a little afternoon-conference of our Centre of Exellence.

Full title: Ecology of GlobalChange: Natural and Managed Ecosystems

Link to registration

Time: Thursday, 21. September 2017 at 13.00

Place: Tartu, OMICUM (Riia 23b, Tartu)


The location (pic from Wikipedia)


13.30 – 14.00 ÜLO NIINEMETS – Centre of Excellence EcolChange – Ecology of Global Change: natural and managed ecosystems
14.00 – 14.30 MEELIS PÄRTEL – Diversity of symbiotic fungi amid global change
14.30 – 15.00 ÜLO MANDER – Nitrous oxide emission in organic soils: The global approach
15.00 – 15.30 COFFEE
15.30 – 16.00 TIINA TOSENS – Adaptations and ecosystem diversity: it all starts from chloroplasts
16.00 – 16.30 LEHO TEDERSOO – Highlights of research on biotic interactions within the Centre of Excellence framework

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