EcolChange seminar – Mohammad Bahram about microbial biogeography

Seminar of Department of Botany and Centre of Excellence EcolChange

This is the last EcolChange seminar on this calendar year.

Speaker: Mohammad Bahram, researcher at Department of Organismal Biology, Uppsala University, Sweden.

Title of the talk: Microbial biogeography in the light of molecular data

Time: Thursday, 14. December 2017 at 15.15

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

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That is more like microbial geopolitics not biogeography, but nevertheless… (pic from here)

Abstract:

Microbes are difficult to identify by conventional methods. Recent advances in molecular methods allow us to identify thousands of microbial taxa from a single sample. This talk will outline how we have used these methods to examine various aspects of microbial biogeography.

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New publication – Restoration of plant species and genetic diversity depends on landscape-scale dispersal

Text and pics by Tsipe Aavik

In the era of ongoing global change, restoration efforts must lead to self-sustainable ecosystems resilient to environmental changes. Thus, it is necessary that restoration aims at achieving not only target species richness and composition, but also high genetic diversity of plant populations. Nevertheless, species- and gene-level biodiversity are rarely examined together in the context of restoration, although high genetic diversity of plant populations is a fundamental factor ensuring long-term success of restoration.

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Restored alvar of Üügu, on the northern coast of Muhu island, Western Estonia

Landscape-scale dispersal is a crucial process linked to the recovery of vegetation and maintaining both species and genetic diversity. The paper reviews the linkages between landscape-scale dispersal of plants and the recovery of species richness and genetic diversity of plants following habitat restoration. In addition to the availability of species pools constituting of genetically diverse plant populations, the recovery of landscape-scale dispersal depends on ensuring high structural connectivity between habitats. Furthermore, because many plant species require biotic vectors for effective dispersal, generating favourable conditions for the movement of seed and pollen vectors is a crucial step in fostering functional connectivity. Due to the significance of landscape-scale dispersal for long-term restoration success, we argue that monitoring functional connectivity, i.e. dispersal of seeds and pollen, should be an essential part in monitoring frameworks. In particular, tools of the evolving discipline of landscape genetics have a high potential to inform about landscape-scale dispersal following restoration. Nevertheless, when evaluating landscape-scale dispersal, it is important to consider potential time lags in the response of species and genetic patterns to habitat fragmentation as well as to restoration. We suggest that assessing the consequences of restoration for functional connectivity does not only provide indication about restoration success, but can deliver valuable empirical evidence for improving the theory of plant dispersal.

 

Citation: Aavik, T., & Helm, A. (2017). Restoration of plant species and genetic diversity depends on landscape‐scale dispersal. Restoration Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/rec.12634 (link to full text)

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Guidelines for improving landscape-scale dispersal during habitat restoration. The graph provides an overview of alternative steps that need to be taken to maximize landscape-scale dispersal during restoration, depending on the context of the landscape, where habitats will be restored. Answering “Yes” to any question does not necessarily indicate that choices from the other path should not be considered, e.g. even in landscapes with relatively good structural connectivity, rotational grazing or improvement of conditions for the movement of pollinators may be strongly recommended. (Fig 1 from the paper)

Abstract:

In the era of ongoing global change, it is highly important that restoration efforts lead to functioning, self-sustainable ecosystems that are resilient to disturbance and resistant to environmental changes. Therefore, it is necessary that restoration aims at achieving high genetic diversity of plant populations in addition to the recovery of characteristic species composition and diversity. Nevertheless, species- and gene-level biodiversity are rarely examined together in the context of restoration, although high genetic diversity of plant populations is a fundamental factor ensuring long-term success of restoration. Landscape-scale dispersal is the key process linked to the recovery of vegetation and maintaining both species and genetic diversity following restoration. In fragmented landscapes, dispersal of seeds and genetic material is often disrupted, leading to failure in spontaneous recovery of species richness as well as in establishment and maintenance of genetically diverse populations. Here, we review the linkages between landscape-scale dispersal of plants and the recovery of species richness and genetic diversity of plants during habitat restoration. We propose recommendations for restoration planners and practitioners to consider while aiming to restore self-sustainable ecosystems with high species- and gene-level biodiversity.

Implications for Practice

  • Both species and genetic diversity should be considered during restoration.
  • Recent advances in molecular tools allow employing genetic information for setting restoration goals, selecting appropriate restoration methods, and monitoring restoration success.
  • Landscape scale (covering several km2) needs to be taken into account for ensuring development of high plant species richness, characteristic species composition, and high genetic diversity following the restoration.
  • Availability of species pool, the presence of genetically diverse populations, and landscape functional connectivity determine the outcome of restoration during spontaneous succession.
  • Active restoration measures need to be applied in landscape-scale restoration when species pool is impoverished and genetic diversity of populations is low.

 

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EcolChange seminar frenzy – three upcoming seminars this week

This week will take place three EcolChange seminars, all over the town. At first there is the seminar in the Chair of Crop Science and Plant Biology in the Estonian University of Life Sciences, and then in the University of Tartu – in the Department of Geography and in the Department of Botany.

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Seminar of Chair of Crop Science and Plant Biology and Centre of Excellence EcolChange, Estonian Univ of Life Sciences .

Linda-Liisa Veromann-Jürgenson is a junior researcher and PhD-student in Estonian University of Life Sciences.

Title of the talk: Mesophyll conductance in gymnosperms: causes and consequences

Time: Wednesday, 06. December 2017 at 9.00

Place: Tartu, Kreutzwaldi 5 – D-143 (Metsamaja, Aquarium-room)

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Doctoral School of Earth Sciences and Ecology, Centre of Excellence EcolChange and PhD/MSc students seminar of Department of Geography

William J. Mitsch is an eminent Scholar and Director, Everglades Wetland Research Park; Sproul Chair for Southwest Florida Habitat Restoration and Management; Professor in Florida Gulf Coast University, Naples Florida, USA; Professor Emeritus and Founding Director, Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA; Editor-in-Chief, Ecological Engineering.

Title of the talk: The Role of Wetlands in Mitigating Pollutants in Our Landscape and Globe

Time: Wednesday, 06. December 2017 at 16.15

Place: Tartu, Tartu, Vanemuise 46-327

Abstract:

The world is faced with unprecedented threats to our aquatic ecosystems from excessive nutrients caused especially by agricultural and urban runoff. More than 750 aquatic ecosystems suffer from degraded ecosystem services with impairments described as hypoxia, dead zones, and harmful algal blooms, most due to pollution caused by excessive nitrogen and phosphorus. And we have increased the atmospheric pool of carbon by 40% since industrial times leading to several impacts related to climate change.  At the same time, it has also been estimated that, on a global scale, we have lost half of our original wetlands to our current extent of 8 to 12 million km2, with most of that loss in the 20th century.  I am proposing here a sizeable increase in our wetland resources around the world to solve the diminishing wetland problem but with the strategic purpose of mitigating the excess phosphorus, nitrogen, and carbon in a sustainable fashion. Examples include minimizing phosphorus inflows to the Florida Everglades and Lake Erie in the Laurentian Great Lakes and reducing nitrogen fluxes by wetlands and riparian forests in Midwestern USA to reduce seasonal hypoxia in northern Gulf of Mexico.  Finally, wetlands and especially coastal wetlands are being proposed as carbon sinks through carbon sequestration to mitigate human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases. Our current approach for decreasing the nutrient saturation of our landscapes and aquatic ecosystems—defined as wetlaculture—will be introduced.

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Seminar of Department of Botany and Centre of Excellence EcolChange

Mait Metspalu is director of Estonian Biocentre.

Title of the talk: The nature of human genetic diversity and reconstructions of the past

Time: Thursday, 07. December 2017 at 15.15

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

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Depicture of early humans habitat ~1.8 million years ago in Africa. You can also see a wetland area and some mesophyll condactance (though not on gymnosperms)… (pic from here)

 

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Few thoughts and pics from Plant Phenotyping Forum

Text by Lauri Laanisto; pics by Linda-Liisa Veromann-Jürgenson

Last week, 22-24th of November, we had a EcolChange-related conference in Tartu – Plant Phenotyping Forum: integrating European plant phenotyping community (link to conference page)

The main organizer of this event is EMPHASIS, which is described as follows: The European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructure (ESFRI) has identified “Plant Phenotyping” as a priority for the European research area and EMPHASIS has been listed on the ESFRI Roadmap as an infrastructure project to develop and implement a pan-European plant phenotyping infrastructure. (link)

Not being in those research circles, but nevertheless having scientific interest in intraspecific trait variability (and phenotyping, in principle, is exactly that), I was rather stunned of the level of infrastructure involved in the presentations. Typical case-study involved huge common garden areas with mechanical roller conveyors transporting hundreds of plant individuals though their daily 3D scanning. I´m using a simple liner and office scanner for getting the same numbers…

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Opening presentation by Hannes Kollist. Naturally about Arabidopsis

Though, one thing that really left me pondering, while listening to presentations of experiments carried out in these sexy infrastructure conditions. It was the fact that almost all this phenotyping of individual growth and differences in plant structure and leaf size and positioning was done from sideways (a few studies also included scanning from the top). What is the ecological meaning of knowing how the plant looks like from the side? Wouldn´t plants organize their phenotypes according to the Sun, which is usually not shining horizontally.

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Discussing research during the coffe break – Tiina Tosens and her PhD student, Liisa Kübarsepp

And finally a note about gender balance. Phenotyping seems to be the most male dominated area of research I´ve ever experienced. Out of 26 presentations, there were only two given by women. Yet, out of ~100 participants most were female.

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One of two presentations given by females, Violetta Velikova talking about drought stress in Platanus

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EcolChange seminar – Guntis Brūmelis about conservation of breadleaved forests in Latvia

Seminar of Doctoral School of Earth Sciences and Ecology, Centre of Excellence EcolChange and PhD/MSc students seminar of Department of Geography

Speaker: Guntis Brūmelis, University of Latvia, Latvia

Title of the talk: Conservation biology of the noble broadleaved tree stands in Latvia

Time: Monday, 27. November 2017 at 16.15

Place: Tartu, Vanemuise 46-327 (J.G.Granö auditorium)

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Broadleaved tree stands play significant cultural role is Norther parts of Europe (pic from here)

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New paper published – Oak gall wasp infections of Quercus robur leaves lead to profound modifications in foliage photosynthetic and volatile emission characteristics

Text by Linda-Liisa Veromann-Jürgenson

Everyone with keen eyes that has been walking in wooded areas in the recent years must have noticed small growths on tree leaves called galls. Sometimes the infections can be massive, where it is hard to find one healthy leaf for a whole tree. This prompted the idea to study the physiological effects of galls on trees as such intense infections must have consequences. Furthermore, we were interested whether and how do plants protect themselves once they have been infected. We started the huge task of collecting data about the penalties of gall infections on tree physiology with oaks. An enormous diversity of gall wasp species can parasitize oak leaves, but the physiological implications of different gall wasp infections are poorly understood. We analysed the effects of infections by four different gall wasp species (Neuroterus anthracinus, N. albipes, Cynips divisa and C. quercusfolii) on foliage photosynthetic characteristics and volatile emission rates in Quercus robur that grow in Tartu Tammik planted by important people that have resided in or visited Tartu. Our work indicated that gall wasp infection resulted in major reductions in foliage photosynthesis rates and elicitation of emissions of green leaf volatiles, mono- and sesquiterpenes and benzenoids in infection severity-dependent manner. Different gall infections resulted in unique emission blends, highlighting a surprisingly selective host volatile response to various gall wasps.

Citation: Jiang, Y., Veromann‐Jürgenson, L. L., Ye, J., & Niinemets, Ü. (2017). Oak gall wasp infections of Quercus robur leaves lead to profound modifications in foliage photosynthetic and volatile emission characteristics. Plant, Cell & Environment, DOI: 10.1111/pce.13050 (link to full text)

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Oak galls (pic by Ülo Niinemets)

Abstract

Oak trees (Quercus) are hosts of diverse gall-inducing parasites, but the effects of gall formation on the physiology and biochemistry on host oak leaves is poorly understood. The influence of infection by four species from two widespread gall wasp genera, Neuroterus (N. anthracinus and N. albipes) and Cynips (C. divisa and C. quercusfolii), on foliage morphology, chemistry, photosynthetic characteristics, constitutive isoprene and induced volatile emissions in Q. robur was investigated. Leaf dry mass per unit area (MA), net assimilation rate per area (AA), stomatal conductance (gs), and constitutive isoprene emissions decreased with the severity of infection by all gall wasp species. The reduction in AA was mainly determined by reduced MA and to a lower extent by lower content of leaf N and P in gall-infected leaves. The emissions of lipoxygenase pathway (LOX) volatiles increased strongly with increasing infection severity for all four species with the strongest emissions in major vein associated species, N. anthracinus. Mono- and sesquiterpene emissions were strongly elicited in N. albipes and Cynips species, except in N. anthracinus. These results provide valuable information for diagnosing oak infections using ambient air volatile fingerprints and for predicting the impacts of infections on photosynthetic productivity and whole tree performance.

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Our share of most influencal scientist

Text by Lauri Laanisto

Last week Clarivate Analytics released it´s annual list of top researchers – the ones that are considered most influential among their discipline (link to methodology). Estonia had altogether 7 scientist in that list (compared with last year´s 4), six from from the University of Tartu (TÜ) and one from the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMÜ), containing more than 3,000 influential natural and social science researchers from around the world. (For example nobody from the other Baltic states, Latvia and Lithuania, made it to the list.)

From those 7 most influential Estonian researchers 4 (!!!) are members of our centre of excellence: Ülo Niinemets, Martin Zobel, Urmas Kõljalg and Leho Tedersoo. So one can say that EcolChange really is the dominant force in Estonian science.

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This is how you get to the list…. not (pic from here)

 

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EcolChange seminar – Andy Taylor about Scotland’s forgotten Kingdom

Joint Seminar of Department of Botany, Doctoral School of Earth Sciences and Ecology Centre of Excellence EcolChange

Andy Taylor is fungal ecologist at the James Hutton Institute, Scotland. He visits Department of Botany as an opponent at PhD defence of Sten Anslan on November 24th, at 10.15 in auditorium 1019 in Chemicum, Ravila 14a, Tartu.

Title of the talk: Scotland’s forgotten Kingdom

Time: Thursday, 23. November 2017 at 15.15

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

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If there is a kindom, there is a king (screenshot from The Last King of Scotland, 2006)

Abstract

The surface of Scotland like much of northern Europe was wiped clean by the last glaciation. This should mean that all the biodiversity present today should have appeared in the last 10,000 years.  We have been investigating the symbiotic fungi associated with many of our native plant species in relation to past history and climate and have found strong climatic structuring of communities and remarkably species rich communities associated with rapidly declining arctic alpine vegetation in Scottish mountains. The appearance of endemic fungal species suggests that there may have been vegetated, ice free Nunataks from which at least part of the Scottish flora and mycota may be derived. I will give an overview of these investigations.

 

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EcolChange seminar – Annika Meitern about the daily dynamics of aspen´s physiological traits

Seminar of Department of Botany and Centre of Excellence EcolChange

Annika Meitern is PhD student at the Department of botany.

Title of the talk: Daily dynamics of xylem sap properties and plant hydraulic traits in hybrid aspen

Time: Thursday, 16. November 2017 at 15.15

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

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Aspen´s sap (pic from here)

Abstract

Plants have to cope with very different environmental conditions, which vary circadially enormously in most habitats, shaping daily patterns in physiological processes including long-distance water transport and xylem sap properties. The daily dynamics of physico-chemical properties of xylem sap and their covariation with tree hydraulic traits was investigated in hybrid aspen (Populus tremula L. × P. tremuloides Michx) in field conditions. The study provides new understanding on the environmental drivers that influence such dynamics.

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EcolChange seminars – There´s more than one next week!

Next week, on Thursday, there will be two EcolChange seminars with altogether three presentations. At first there is the seminar in the Department of Geography, and then, overlappingly, in the Department of Botany.

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Doctoral School of Earth Sciences and Ecology, Centre of Excellence EcolChange and PhD/MSc students seminar of Department of Geography

Time: Thursday, 09. November 2017 at 14.15

Place: Tartu, Tartu, Vanemuise 46-246

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Kim Yrjälä, University of Helsinki
Microbial ecology of Finnish peatlands

at 15.00
Timo Sipilä, University of Helsinki
Genomics of yeast Taphrina betulina, a causative agent of Witch’s Broom disease of silver birch

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Seminar of Department of Botany and Centre of Excellence EcolChange

Sten Anslan is PhD student in the team of biological interactions ecology.

Title of the talk: Handling high-throughput sequencing data in metabarcoding studies

Time: Thursday, 09. November 2017 at 15.15

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

Abstract:

The high-throughput sequencing (HTS) methods provide speedy assessment of community structure from environmental samples. These methods yield millions of DNA sequences, which require bioinformatics expertise to process large amount data to species inventory records. In this seminar, I’ll give a brief overview about handling HTS data and introduce user-friendly analysis platform PipeCraft.

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It´s like the old joke about how Ilya Muromets reached a crossroad… (painting by VM Vasnetsov “A Knight at the Crossroads”, 1882; pic from here)

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