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  • 1.
    Donath, Tobias W.
    et al.
    Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Germany.
    Eckstein, Rolf Lutz
    Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Germany.
    Grass and oak litter exert different effects on seedling emergence of herbaceous perennials from grasslands and woodlands2008In: Journal of Ecology, ISSN 0022-0477, E-ISSN 1365-2745, Vol. 96, no 2, p. 272-280Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    1. The effects of litter on seedling emergence (e.g. during succession from grassland to woodland) may not only depend on litter amount and environmental conditions but may also be related to litter types. We tested the effect of litter types, litter cover and soil moisture on the emergence of four congeneric pairs of grassland and woodland species. 2. We carried out a controlled pot experiment (Experiment I) using litter and species from two habitats (grassland vs. woodland), three levels of litter cover (low, medium, high) and two levels of water-addition (leading to constantly humid or intermittently dry substrate). Amounts of litter were adjusted to result in the same relative light reduction for both litter types. Consequently, we applied 2 g, 4 g and 8 g of grassland litter and 0.5 g, 1 g and 2 g of woodland (oak) litter per pot. 3. To separate the shade effect of litter from its mechanical plus chemical effects we exposed additional pots with seeds of the same species to deep shade conditions (Experiment II) corresponding to 4 g and 1 g of grass and oak litter, respectively. 4. Under intermittently dry conditions both litter types increased seedling emergence. In addition, we found a significant interaction between litter type and species origin: seedling emergence of woodland species was significantly lower from beneath grass litter than from beneath oak litter, whereas grassland species emerged equally well from beneath both litter types. Compared with seed germination under a shade cloth, seedling emergence of woodland species from beneath grass litter was reduced by 44%. Litter significantly affected soil humidity and the amplitude of diurnal temperature fluctuations. Differential effects of litter types on woodland and grassland species are probably related to litter structure. 5. Synthesis. Our experimental data present evidence that ecosystem specific litter effects slow down succession from grassland to woodland and that the effect size is controlled by the litter amount present and the environmental conditions.

  • 2.
    Eckstein, Rolf Lutz
    Uppsala University.
    Nitrogen retention by Hylocomium splendens in a subarctic birch woodland2000In: Journal of Ecology, ISSN 0022-0477, E-ISSN 1365-2745, Vol. 88, no 3, p. 506-515Article in journal (Refereed)
  • 3.
    Eckstein, Rolf Lutz
    et al.
    Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Germany.
    Donath, T W
    Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Germany.
    Interactions between litter and water availability affect seedling emergence in four familial pairs of floodplain species2005In: Journal of Ecology, ISSN 0022-0477, E-ISSN 1365-2745, Vol. 93, no 4, p. 807-816Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    We studied seedling emergence in four familial pairs of floodplain herbs in response to the experimental manipulation of soil moisture and litter cover to analyse (i) whether the effect of litter changes from negative under humid to positive under dry conditions, and (ii) whether the response to changing water and light conditions with increasing litter cover varies among species and plant families. We carried out a controlled pot experiment using four levels of litter cover (0 g, 2 g, 4 g and 8 g litter per pot, corresponding to 0 kg m(-2), 0.2 kg m(-2), 0.4 kg m(-2) and 0.8 kg m(-2)) and two levels of water-addition, leading to constantly humid substrate or intermittently dry topsoil. Across water-additions, percentage emergence reached a peak at low levels of litter cover (0.2 kg m(-2) and 0.4 kg m(-2)). There was a significant litter x water-addition interaction in six species, with positive effects of litter under intermittently dry conditions and negative or neutral effects under constantly humid conditions. Litter lowered maximum temperature as well as amplitude, and alleviated soil humidity under low water supply, while imposing increasingly shaded conditions. Analysis of species- and family-specific responses suggested that germination under a litter cover of 0.8 kg m(-2) was significantly reduced in smaller-seeded species (i.e. those that tend to have higher light demands for germination). Our results suggest that transfer of seed-containing plant litter can aid restoration projects if applied at 0.2-0.4 kg m(-2). Below these levels, establishment of most species may be inhibited by drought, while higher amounts will increasingly suppress seedling emergence, especially of small-seeded species. In addition to facilitation effects observed between living plants, dead plant remains may also exert positive effects on establishment. The sign of the litter effect on seedling emergence depends on soil humidity, with negative effects seen above a threshold amount, which is species- and family-specific and is closely related to seed size. Whether positive litter effects in grasslands are a consequence of coevolution remains to be examined.

  • 4.
    Eckstein, Rolf Lutz
    et al.
    Uppsala University.
    Karlsson, P. Staffan
    Abisko Scientific Research Station.
    The effect of reproduction on nitrogen use-efficiency of three species of the carnivorous genus Pinguicula2001In: Journal of Ecology, ISSN 0022-0477, E-ISSN 1365-2745, Vol. 89, no 5, p. 798-806Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Life history theory predicts that reproduction incurs costs in terms of future growth and survival. In infertile environments reproductive events may accelerate nutrient turnover such that losses of limiting nutrients cannot be replenished by uptake from the soil. 

    We compared the effect of reproduction on nitrogen (N) turnover and N use-efficiency, i.e. the annual dry matter produced per unit N lost, of three carnivorous species of the genus Pinguicula on an infertile subarctic heath. We hypothesized that reproduction should increase N turnover, unless a larger N pool or improved N resorption can compensate for the losses associated with reproduction.

    These carnivorous herbs showed a nitrogen use strategy similar to that of non-carnivorous plants (herbs and grasses) with a relatively low mean residence time (MRT) of N and a large dry matter productivity per unit N in the plant (annual N productivity). N pool size and the efficiency of N resorption from senescent leaves were similar in reproductive and non-reproductive individuals. Reproductive individuals had significantly larger annual N losses and thus a lower average MRT (0.8 vs. 1.8 years), with values < 1 indicating that the annual N losses are greater than the annual average N pool. Unless plants can enhance their nutrient acquisition, flowering may therefore impact on future growth and survival.

    This study presents evidence for a direct link between reproduction, reflected in a higher relative allocation to inflorescences, turnover and N use-efficiency; the latter being reduced because of increased N turnover. The ranking of species in terms of reproductive allocation was the reverse of their ranking in terms of their N use-efficiency.

  • 5.
    Lind, Lovisa
    et al.
    Umeå University, Sweden.
    Nilsson, Christer
    Umeå University, Sweden.
    Vegetation patterns in small boreal streams relate to ice and winter floods2015In: Journal of Ecology, ISSN 0022-0477, E-ISSN 1365-2745, Vol. 103, no 2, p. 431-440Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    In-stream and riparian vegetation are species rich, productive and dynamic. Their patterns insmall boreal streams are largely driven by seasonal flow regimes. Traditionally, flow-related processes during the growing season, particularly the spring flood, have been seen as the most important, whereas vegetation has been viewed as being dormant and ‘less affected’ during winter. Riparian and in-stream vegetation were inventoried during the summers 2011–2013 in eight reaches of northern Swedish streams. Along each reach, the ice formation was surveyed during winter by visual inspections and with permanently placed cameras. We then evaluated the potential effects of ice regimes and winter flooding on riparian and in-stream vegetation during 3 years by relating the abundance of winter floods caused by anchor ice to the cover, composition and biomass of vegetation. We found that the numbers of winter floods were higher along reaches with anchor-ice formation than in reaches without. We also found that species diversity of riparian vegetation was higher inthe reaches with anchor ice. This resulted from a lower cover of riparian dwarf shrubs and a higher cover of graminoids and forbs along reaches with anchor ice. We also found a lower cover of instream algae but a higher cover of bryophytes in anchor-ice reaches. These patterns were consistent throughout the study period although there were interannual differences in temperature, water levels and ice cover. During our study period, we encountered an average of 20 shifts per winter between freezing and thawing, while there was an average of 10 shifts per winter during 1960–1990. This indicates a warming climate in high latitudes. Higher temperatures and more shifts between freezing and thawing may initially increase ice dynamics. However, with further increases in mean temperature, ice production should eventually decrease. Synthesis. Ice and winter floods caused by anchor ice appear to be important disturbance agents that allow less competitive species to establish along small boreal streams. If ice dynamics is reduced, the composition and production of riparian and in-stream vegetation may be changed, with possible consequences for the entire stream ecosystem.

  • 6.
    Loydi, Alejandro
    et al.
    Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany.
    Eckstein, Rolf Lutz
    Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany.
    Otte, Annette
    Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany.
    Donath, Tobias W.
    Justus-Liebig University, Giessen, Germany.
    Effects of litter on seedling establishment in natural and semi-natural grasslands: a meta-analysis2013In: Journal of Ecology, ISSN 0022-0477, E-ISSN 1365-2745, Vol. 101, no 2, p. 454-464Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    1. Plant litter is a key component in terrestrial ecosystems. It plays a major role in nutrient cycles and community organization. Land use and climate change may change the accumulation of litter in herbaceous ecosystems and affect plant community dynamics. Additionally, the transfer of seeds containing plant material (i.e. litter) is a widespread technique in grassland restoration.

    2. Ecosystem responses to litter represent the outcome of interactions, whose sign and strength will depend on many variables (e. g. litter amount, seed size). A previous meta-analysis (from 1999) reported that litter had an overall negative effect on seed germination and seedling establishment in different ecosystems. However, recent studies indicated that this might not be the case in grassland ecosystems.

    3. We used 914 data from 46 independent studies to analyse the effects of litter on seedling (i) emergence, (ii) survival and (iii) biomass, employing meta-analytical techniques. Each data set was stratified according to methodology, grassland type, irrigation conditions, litter amount and seed size.

    4. We found an overall neutral effect of litter presence on seedling emergence and survival and a positive effect on seedling biomass. However, whereas for field experiments the response remained neutral, it was positive for common garden studies. In glasshouse experiments, litter effects were negative for emergence and positive for biomass.

    5. Litter may have a positive effect on seedling recruitment in dry grasslands or under water-limited conditions, or in the presence of low to medium litter amounts (< 500 g m(-2)). However, high litter amounts (> 500 g m(-2)) will inhibit seedling recruitment. Large seeds showed a more positive response to litter presence with respect to seedling emergence and survival, but not concerning biomass.

    6. Synthesis. Under dry conditions (e. g. dry grasslands or dry periods) or with low to medium litter amounts, litter presence has a positive effect on seedling establishment. However, climate and land use change may promote litter accumulation and reduce seedling establishment, affecting grasslands composition and ecosystem functions.

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