Fieldwork season wrap up

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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!

(1) http://www.oscargodoy.com/
(2) https://twitter.com/UAS4Ecology

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March, a cold start of the fieldwork season

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In June the plants have grown big

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Spraying fungicide to study the effects of pathogen removal

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July, second weeding of the whole field

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Biomass cutting (photo Beatrice Schranz)

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Collecting insects with suction sampling

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Graphosoma italicum, one of the many insects found on the field (photo Tosca Mannall)

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Autumn soil sampling

PaNDiv-ing in China

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.
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the view from my current home

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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.