Ecosystem ecology

  • Article
    | Open Access

    The extent to which temperature controls soil carbon storage remains highly uncertain. Here, the authors show that, globally, soil carbon stocks decline strongly with temperature, but the effect is much greater in coarse-textured soils with limited organic matter stabilisation capacities, than in fine-textured soils.

    • Iain P. Hartley
    • , Tim C. Hill
    •  & Gustaf Hugelius
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted ecosystem and biodiversity monitoring programs, including marine fisheries surveys. Here the authors combine multiple modelling approaches and data to overcome lost observational effort off the coasts of California in a diversified integrated ecosystem approach.

    • Jarrod A. Santora
    • , Tanya L. Rogers
    •  & John C. Field
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Defoliating insects disrupt nutrient cycling of boreal catchments by redistributing carbon and nitrogen from forests to lakes. The resulting shift in lake biogeochemistry exceeds broader between-year trends observed across the boreal and north temperate region.

    • Samuel G. Woodman
    • , Sacha Khoury
    •  & Andrew J. Tanentzap
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Whether rewetting leads to effective restoration of drained peatlands is unclear. Here the authors analyse a large number of near-natural and rewetted fen peatland sites in Europe, finding persistent differences in plant community composition and ecosystem functioning, and higher variance in the restored sites.

    • J. Kreyling
    • , F. Tanneberger
    •  & G. Jurasinski
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The relative importance of evolutionary history and ecology for traits that drive ecosystem processes is poorly understood. Analyzing nine traits associated with fish stoichiometry from 1,572 individuals yields multiple lines of evidence that phylogeny is a critical determinant of nutrient cycling in coral reefs.

    • Jacob E. Allgeier
    • , Brian C. Weeks
    •  & Deron E. Burkepile
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Root-mycorrhizal interactions could help explain the heterogeneity of plant responses to CO2 fertilisation and nutrient availability. Here the authors combine tree-ring and metagenomic data to reveal that tree growth responses to increasing CO2 along a soil nutrient gradient depend on the nitrogen foraging traits of ectomycorrhizal fungi.

    • Peter T. Pellitier
    • , Inés Ibáñez
    •  & Kirk Acharya
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Responses of ecosystem services to species losses are highly context-dependent. Here, the authors develop a model to identify general rules in the robustness of ecosystem service supply to species losses, and demonstrate its applicability using real-world ecosystem service networks.

    • Samuel R. P.-J. Ross
    • , Jean-François Arnoldi
    •  & Ian Donohue
  • Article
    | Open Access

    How acute deoxygenation events affect tropical marine ecosystems remains poorly understood. This study integrates analyses of coral reef benthic communities with microbial community sequencing to show how a deoxygenation event rapidly altered a shallow tropical coral reef ecosystem in the Caribbean.

    • Maggie D. Johnson
    • , Jarrod J. Scott
    •  & Andrew H. Altieri
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The North Water polynya is a unique but vulnerable ecosystem, home to Indigenous people and Arctic keystone species. New palaeoecological records from Greenland suggest human abandonment c. 2200–1200 cal yrs BP occurred during climate-forced polynya instability, foreshadowing future ecosystem declines.

    • Sofia Ribeiro
    • , Audrey Limoges
    •  & Thomas A. Davidson
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Mangroves are adapted to cope with tropical storms, but might be threatened by rising frequency and intensity of these events. Here the authors document one of the largest mangrove diebacks on record following Hurricane Irma in Florida, and show a greater role of storm surge and ponding rather than wind as a mechanism for mangrove dieback.

    • David Lagomasino
    • , Temilola Fatoyinbo
    •  & Douglas C. Morton
  • Article
    | Open Access

    It is unclear whether stream detritivore diversity enhances decomposition across climates. Here the authors manipulate litter diversity and examine detritivore assemblages in a globally distributed stream litterbag experiment, finding a positive diversity-decomposition relationship stronger in tropical streams, where detritivore diversity is lower.

    • Luz Boyero
    • , Naiara López-Rojo
    •  & Catherine M. Yule
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Most mammals are nocturnal, but a new analysis suggests that although most groups of species active at a particular time of day or night occupy different ecological niches, a surprisingly large proportion of species are more flexible in the timing of their activity than previously thought.

    • D. T. C. Cox
    • , A. S. Gardner
    •  & K. J. Gaston
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Forest structure depends both on extrinsic factors such as climate and on intrinsic properties such as community composition and diversity. Here, the authors use a dataset of stand structural complexity based on LiDAR measurements to build a global map of structural complexity for primary forests, and find that precipitation variables best explain global patterns of forest structural complexity.

    • Martin Ehbrecht
    • , Dominik Seidel
    •  & Christian Ammer
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Despite growing interest in environmental metabolomics, we lack conceptual frameworks for considering how metabolites vary across space and time in ecological systems. Here, the authors apply (species) community assembly concepts to metabolomics data, offering a way forward in understanding the assembly of metabolite assemblages.

    • Robert E. Danczak
    • , Rosalie K. Chu
    •  & James C. Stegen
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Dryness stresses vegetation and can lead to declines in productivity, increased emission of carbon, and plant mortality, but the drivers of this stress remain unclear. Here the authors show that soil moisture plays a dominant role relative to atmospheric water demand over most global land vegetated areas.

    • Laibao Liu
    • , Lukas Gudmundsson
    •  & Sonia I. Seneviratne
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Soil age is thought to be an important driver of ecosystem development. Here, the authors perform a global survey of soil chronosequences and meta-analysis to show that, contrary to expectations, soil age is a relatively minor ecosystem driver at the biome scale once other drivers such as parent material, climate, and vegetation type are accounted for.

    • Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo
    • , Peter B. Reich
    •  & Noah Fierer
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Mapping ecological variables using machine-learning algorithms based on remote-sensing data has become a widespread practice in ecology. Here, the authors use forest biomass mapping as a study case to show that the most common model validation approach, which ignores data spatial structure, leads to overoptimistic assessment of model predictive power.

    • Pierre Ploton
    • , Frédéric Mortier
    •  & Raphaël Pélissier
  • Article
    | Open Access

    There is evidence that reducing plant litter diversity may slow litter decomposition rate. Here, Mori and colleagues perform a global meta-analysis of litter-bag studies to show that mixed-species litter assemblages decompose faster than monospecific assemblages, with a magnitude comparable to the predicted effect of climate warming.

    • Akira S. Mori
    • , J. Hans C. Cornelissen
    •  & Forest Isbell
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The dynamics of ecological communities depends on interactions between species as well as those between species and their environment, however the effects of the latter are poorly understood. Here, Yeakel et al. reveal how species that modify their environment (ecosystem engineers) impact community dynamics and the risk of extinction.

    • Justin D. Yeakel
    • , Mathias M. Pires
    •  & Thilo Gross
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Warming is expected to increase C sink capacity in high-latitude ecosystems, but plant-herbivore interactions could moderate or offset this effect. Here, Silfver and colleagues test individual and interactive effects of warming and insect herbivory in a field experiment in Subarctic forest, showing that even low intensity insect herbivory strongly reduces C sink potential.

    • Tarja Silfver
    • , Lauri Heiskanen
    •  & Juha Mikola
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Lake fisheries are vulnerable to environmental changes. Here, Kao et al. develop a Bayesian networks model to analyze time-series data from 31 major fisheries lake across five continents, showing that fish catches can respond either positively or negatively to climate and land-use changes.

    • Yu-Chun Kao
    • , Mark W. Rogers
    •  & Joelle D. Young
  • Review Article
    | Open Access

    Coastal systems are hotspots of ecological, geochemical and economic activity, yet their dynamics are not accurately represented in global models. In this Review, Ward and colleagues assess the current state of coastal science and recommend approaches for including the coastal interface in predictive models.

    • Nicholas D. Ward
    • , J. Patrick Megonigal
    •  & Lisamarie Windham-Myers
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Little is known about how the speed of ecosystem collapse depends on ecosystem size. Here, Cooper, Willcock et al. analyse empirical data and models finding that although regime shift duration increases with ecosystem size, this relationship saturates and even large ecosystems can collapse in a few decades.

    • Gregory S. Cooper
    • , Simon Willcock
    •  & John A. Dearing
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Plants are thought to be limited by phosphorus (P) especially in tropical regions. Here, Hou et al. report a meta-analysis of P fertilization experiments to show widespread P limitation on plant growth across terrestrial ecosystems modulated by climate, ecosystem properties, and fertilization regimes

    • Enqing Hou
    • , Yiqi Luo
    •  & Dazhi Wen
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The role of paddy rice agriculture in the spatial and temporal dynamics of atmospheric methane concentration remains unclear. Here, Zhang et al. show that regions with dense rice paddies have high satellite-based column averaged CH4 concentrations (XCH4), and that seasonal dynamics of XCH4 mirror those of paddy rice growth.

    • Geli Zhang
    • , Xiangming Xiao
    •  & Berrien Moore III
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Wetlands are global hotspots of carbon storage, but errors exist with current estimates of the extent of their carbon density. Here the authors show that mangrove sediment organic carbon stock has previously been overestimated, while ecosystem carbon stock has been underestimated.

    • Xiaoguang Ouyang
    •  & Shing Yip Lee
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Species richness is often reported to enhance ecosystem functioning, but it is unclear whether similar diversity-functioning relationships occur at larger scales. Here Oehri et al. combine land cover survey and remote sensing data to show a positive relationship between landscape diversity and landscape functioning.

    • Jacqueline Oehri
    • , Bernhard Schmid
    •  & Pascal A. Niklaus
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The relationships between ecosystem productivity and plant diversity are complex. Here, the authors show that sites with high productivity typically have reduced species diversity but high functional and phylogenetic diversity, potentially owing to the creation of additional niche space.

    • Philipp Brun
    • , Niklaus E. Zimmermann
    •  & Wilfried Thuiller
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Warmer temperatures could increase the growth and metabolic rates of microbes. Here, the authors assemble a dataset of thermal performance curves for over 400 bacteria and archaea, showing that metabolic rates are likely to increase under warming, with implications for global carbon cycling.

    • Thomas P. Smith
    • , Thomas J. H. Thomas
    •  & Samrāt Pawar
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Improving estimates of forest biomass based on remote sensing data is important to assess global carbon cycling. Here the authors develop an approach to use forest gap models to simulate lidar waveforms and compare the outputs with ICESAT-1 GLAS profiles, showing improved estimates across the Amazon basin.

    • Edna Rödig
    • , Nikolai Knapp
    •  & Andreas Huth
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Mycorrhizas—mutualistic relationships formed between fungi and most plant species—are functionally linked to soil carbon stocks. Here the authors map the global distribution of mycorrhizal plants and quantify links between mycorrhizal vegetation patterns and terrestrial carbon stocks.

    • Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia
    • , Peter M. van Bodegom
    •  & Leho Tedersoo
  • Article
    | Open Access

    There is ongoing interest in linking soil microbial diversity to ecosystem function. Here the authors manipulate the diversity and composition of microbial communities and show that complex microbial networks contribute more to ecosystem multifunctionality than simpler or low-diversity networks.

    • Cameron Wagg
    • , Klaus Schlaeppi
    •  & Marcel G. A. van der Heijden
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Seagrass meadows are important but one of the most threatened ecosystems globally. Here the authors analyse data about extent and density of seagrasses in Europe from 1869 to 2016, and find evidence of recent trend reversal for declining European seagrass meadows.

    • Carmen B. de los Santos
    • , Dorte Krause-Jensen
    •  & Rui Santos
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Random walk movement patterns with specific step size distributions are commonly associated with resource search optimization strategies in mobile organisms. Here, the authors show that clonal expansion of beach grasses follows a Lévy-type step size strategy that optimizes early dune building.

    • Valérie C. Reijers
    • , Koen Siteur
    •  & Tjisse van der Heide
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Developing a predictive understanding of bacterial community responses to environmental change is an ongoing challenge. Here, Isobe et al. reanalyze data on soil microbial responses to nitrogen addition across 5 continents, finding that responses are predictable based on phylogeny.

    • Kazuo Isobe
    • , Steven D. Allison
    •  & Jennifer B. H. Martiny
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Multiple aspects of anthropogenic change threaten coral reefs. Here, the authors show that bleaching associated with thermal stress was low when local dredging released moderate amounts of suspended sediments, but high sediment loads coupled with high temperatures had synergistic negative effects on coral survival.

    • Rebecca Fisher
    • , Pia Bessell-Browne
    •  & Ross Jones
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Fertilization under greenhouse warming conditions is expected to accelerate tree growth and potentially increase the biological storage of CO2. Here the authors analyse ring width measurements from 1768 conifers from the Spanish and Russian mountains and demonstrate that longevity requires slow growth rates at least in mountainous regions.

    • Ulf Büntgen
    • , Paul J. Krusic
    •  & Christian Körner
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The effect of plant biodiversity on microbial function has been tested in limited studies and is likely to be context-dependent. In this meta-analysis of 106 prior studies comparing plant monocultures to mixtures, the authors find that plant diversity increases microbial biomass and respiration rates, an effect moderated by stand age.

    • Chen Chen
    • , Han Y. H. Chen
    •  & Zhiqun Huang
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Abandoned and degraded agricultural lands undergo ecological succession that sequesters atmospheric CO2 as soil carbon, but at low rates. Here the authors show that restoration of high plant diversity provides a greenhouse gas benefit by greatly increasing the rate of soil carbon sequestration on such lands.

    • Yi Yang
    • , David Tilman
    •  & Clarence Lehman
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Material flows between ecosystems, though the degree to which ecosystems are coupled is under investigation. Here Gounand et al. analyze cross-ecosystem carbon flows and relate them to in situ functions, and report different dependencies on spatial flows across numerous ecosystems.

    • Isabelle Gounand
    • , Chelsea J. Little
    •  & Florian Altermatt
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Managing forests for the supply of multiple ecosystem services (ES) is key given potential trade-offs among services. Here, the authors analyse how forest stand attributes generate trade-offs among ES and the relative contribution of forest attributes and environmental factors to predict services.

    • María R. Felipe-Lucia
    • , Santiago Soliveres
    •  & Eric Allan
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Land use intensification could modify microbial activity and thus ecosystem function. Here, Malik et al. sample microbes and carbon-related functions across a land use gradient, demonstrating that microbial biomass and carbon use efficiency are reduced in human-impacted near-neutral pH soils.

    • Ashish A. Malik
    • , Jeremy Puissant
    •  & Robert I. Griffiths