We are happy to invite applications for a PhD position on plant species coexistence. The student will start ideally on the 1st of September and join the PaNDiv Experiment team, collaborating closely with Thu Zar Nwe and Tosca Mannall.
The best thing about Christmas is the BES Annual Meeting. Some of the lab members – Seraina, Eric and Noémie – attended the venue in Birmingham and had the chance to follow an extraordinary selection of talks and posters. Among others, we saw a great session about long-term experiments, what has been done and what is to do next (Andy Hector, Alexandra Weigelt and others). To the question “are you also part of a long term experiment?”, we are now answering: “we just started one”. We also saw presentations about phylogenetic and functional traits linked to multifunctionality (Y. Le Bagousse-Pinguet), upscaling BEF experiments results to landscape diversity (G. Le Provost), a great citizen science project looking at herbivory drivers on oaks (E. Valdés-Correcher) and my personal favourite, tracing C and N flows in grassland plants and soil food webs (M. Chomel).
A whole wall was covered in drawings due to the Journal of Applied Ecology brilliant suggestion to “draw your study organism” (see Seraina’s work of art, #PaNDiv), and we could even play cards with the Catastrophic game supporting systems thinking (P. Holland).
Let’s not forget the great poster about sick plants in grassland communities (S. Cappelli) and a presentation disentangling nitrogen direct and indirect effects on decomposition (N. Pichon).
What a nice and motivating end to 2018 and look forward to 2019!
NP & SC
We are excited to share a new paper from our group by María R. Felipe-Lucia et al.. It was published recently in Nature Communications and it shows how multiple different forest attributes contribute to providing different ecosystem services in forests. It was also reported on naturschutz.ch and mentioned in Die Zeit.
The sheep are now back next to the PaNDiv field site, which means two things: winter is coming, and after a season outside the fieldwork is over!
Maintaining the experiment has already kept us quite busy over the last months: weeding three times the whole field to always have the same diversity in the plots, spraying fungicide for the pathogen exclusion treatment and fertilizing to study the effects of Nitrogen addition.
On top of that, we harvested this year again a lot of data. For all our species, we quantified fungal pathogen infection, looked at herbivory damage and measured classic functional traits (height, SLA, LDMC, etc). We assessed the percentage cover of all plant species growing on the field, and collected over 3000 biomass samples and 30 000 insects. This year we had a closer look at the belowground compartment, measuring soil respiration regularly and collecting more than 1000 soil samples.
We also welcomed researchers from other universities to collaborate on the PaNDiv project. Rodrigo Granjel (1), PhD student from Sevilla, Spain collected data to study coexistence mechanisms. Bjarke Madsen and Urs Treier (2) from Aarhus, Denmark, flew their drones over the field, to link ground measurements with remote sensing data.
In our greenhouses facility, we grew the 20 PaNDiv species and the most common weeds invading the plots with an N addition treatment, to get an array of functional traits in controlled conditions. We also used this opportunity to explore the variability and the response of morphological traits, for instance related to vegetative propagation, together with Mathieu Millan, a researcher in plant architecture from Montpellier, France
We couldn’t do that much without a dedicated team of PhD, Master students and technicians, and all our hard working field helpers. More than 50 different people came to work with us between April and November, thank you!
Now it’s time to process all these samples, analyse the data … and get ready for next fieldwork season!
Some people from our Lab – Maria, Noëlle and Abiel – as well as Markus Fischer have been to the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) Conference 2018 in San Sebastian, Spain.
We enjoyed a week of great talks and keynotes but also other “services” like local customs showcased during the conference, all kinds of pintxos, as well as the beautiful sights of the city and surrounding landscapes and see.
Our session T2b Linking land management and biodiversity change to ecosystem services organized by Maria was met with great interest by participants. We had lively discussion on how we can bridge from ecosystem functioning to ecosystem services to policy and how we should not forget that they are underpinned by biodiversity. We also agreed that a more mechanistic understanding would further the usefulness of the ecosystem service concept.
Maria presenting her talk
Basque stone-lifting before the poster session
Noëlle and Maria on the beach
I recently arrived in China for a two months research stay as part of my PhD in the PaNDiv project. PaNDiv is a large grassland biodiversity experiment in Bern, established in 2015. We manipulate biodiversity, functional composition, nitrogen and foliar fungal pathogens. I study the role of fungal pathogens in this grassland. Soon after I started my PhD, I found Xiang Liu and the research group of professor Shurong Zhou because of two amazing papers about fungal pathogens and nitrogen enrichment in grassland. This sounds like PaNDiv, but in China instead of Switzerland. Excitingly their results point in a similar direction as our preliminary analysis for the PaNDiv Experiment, with faster growing plant communities under nitrogen fertilization showing higher infection levels than slower growing ones. This indicates that we are on the trail of universally valid patterns (at least for grasslands) and just screams for collaboration and measurements to make our results more comparable. The Young Academic Support of the University of Bern allows me to travel to China, learn new ways of measuring fungal infection and measure plant traits related to their growth strategy to link this to fungal infection. Before I “PaNDived” into field work on the Tibetan High plateau, I stayed a few days in Shanghai, to get to know the research group. Xiang already gave me a very warm welcome (haha warm: its 35°C outside and very tropical). An update about field work in China will follow soon.
the view from my current home
Our community ecology group at University of Bern (led by Eric Allan) works on two interlinked questions: what maintains diversity within plant communities? And what effects do changes in community diversity have on the functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide?
We try to understand the biodiversity of plant communities from several different angles and we do experiments in the field and greenhouse and use statistical modelling to test these questions in large datasets.
On our website you can find more information on the major projects we are involved in, together with updates on our activities and interests.