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  • Meysick, Lukas; Ysebaert, Tom; Jansson, Anna; Montserrat, Fransesc; Valanko, Sebastian; Villnäs, Anna; Boström, Christoffer; Norkko, Joanna; Norkko, Alf (2019)
    Foundation species host diverse associated communities by ameliorating environmental stress. The strength of this facilitative effect can be highly dependent on the underlying biotic and abiotic context. We investigated community level patterns of macrofauna associated with and adjacent to the marine foundation species eelgrass (Zostera marina) along a hydrodynamic stress gradient. We could demonstrate that the relative importance of this foundation species for its infaunal community increases with environmental variables associated with increasing hydrodynamic stress (depth, sand ripples formation, sediment grain size and organic content). Faunal assemblages in proximity to the Zostera patch edges, however, showed no (infauna) or negative (epifauna) response to hydrodynamic stress. Our study highlights that the facilitative outcome of a foundation species is conditional to the faunal assemblage in question and can be highly variable even between positions within the habitat.
  • Marsman, Floor; Nystuen, Kristin O.; Opedal, Oystein H.; Foest, Jessie J.; Sorensen, Mia Vedel; De Frenne, Pieter; Graae, Bente Jessen; Limpens, Juul (2021)
    Questions Changes in climate and herbivory pressure affect northern alpine ecosystems through woody plant encroachment, altering their composition, structure and functioning. The encroachment often occurs at unequal rates across heterogeneous landscapes, hinting at the importance of habitat-specific drivers that either hamper or facilitate woody plant establishment. Here, we assess: (1) the invasibility of three distinct alpine plant community types (heath, meadow andSalixshrubland) byPinus sylvestris(Scots pine); and (2) the relative importance of biotic (above-ground interactions with current vegetation, herbivory and shrub encroachment) and microclimate-related abiotic (soil temperature, moisture and light availability) drivers of pine seedling establishment success. Location Dovrefjell, Central Norway. Methods We conducted a pine seed sowing experiment, testing how factorial combinations of above-ground removal of co-occurring vegetation, herbivore exclusion and willow transplantation (simulated shrub encroachment) affect pine emergence, survival and performance (new stem growth, stem height and fraction of healthy needles) in three plant communities, characteristic of alpine tundra, over a period of five years. Results Pine seedling emergence and survival were similar across plant community types. Herbivore exclusion and vegetation removal generally increased pine seedling establishment and seedling performance. Within our study, microclimate had minimal effects on pine seedling establishment and performance. These results illustrate the importance of biotic resistance to seedling establishment. Conclusion Pine seedlings can easily establish in alpine tundra, and biotic factors (above-ground plant interactions and herbivory) are more important drivers of pine establishment in alpine tundra than abiotic, microclimate-related, factors. Studies aiming to predict future vegetation changes should thus consider local-scale biotic interactions in addition to abiotic factors.
  • Nystuen, Kristin O.; Sundsdal, Kristine; Opedal, Øystein H.; Holien, Håkon; Strimbeck, G. Richard; Graae, Bente J. (2019)
    Abstract Questions How do mat thickness, physical structure and allelopathic properties of terricolous mat-forming lichens affect recruitment of vascular plants in dwarf-shrub and lichen heath vegetation?. Location The mountains of Dovrefjell, central Norway. Methods In autumn, seeds of ten vascular plant species were collected and sown in a common garden experiment with mats of six lichen species and bare-soil controls as experimental treatments. We recorded growing season soil temperature and moisture, and seedling recruitment and growth after one year. The effect of lichen secondary compounds on germination was tested in a growth chamber experiment and compared to the lichen-plant interactions detected under field conditions. Results The lichen mats buffered extreme soil temperatures and soil drying in dry weather, with soils below the thickest mats (Cladonia stellaris and C. rangiferina) experiencing the lowest temperature fluctuations. Seedling recruitment and seedling growth in the field and seed germination in the lab were species-specific. Seedling recruitment rates were overall higher within lichen mats than on bare soil, but the c. 6.5 cm thick mats of C. stellaris reduced recruitment of many species. The lab experiment suggested no overall strong effect of lichen allelopathy on seed germination, and effects on seed germination were only moderately correlated with the lichen-plant interactions observed for seedling recruitment in the field. Conclusions In harsh environments like alpine dwarf-shrub and lichen heaths, the presence of lichens and the resulting amelioration of the microclimate seems more important for vascular plant recruitment than are allelopathic effects often reported in lab experiments. We might therefore expect most terricolous lichens, depending on the plant species in focus, to facilitate rather than hamper the early stages of plant recruitment into lichen-dominated arctic-alpine heath vegetation. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
  • Mikola, Juha Tapio; Silfver, Tarja Hannele; Rousi, Matti (2018)
    Facilitative plant-plant interactions are common in harsh environments such as Arctic and alpine tree lines. In Fennoscandia, mountain birch dominates tree lines, but mixes with Scots pine in less severe areas. Using over 30-yr. old Scots pine common gardens, established at three locations near the present Scots pine tree line, we tested (1) if mountain birch can facilitate Scots pine numbers and (2) if improved soil fertility under mountain birch canopies has a role in facilitation. We counted the number of pines within 1-m and 3-m radii of the tallest mountain birch vs. a random spot in 70-75 planting plots and sampled soil for nutrients at 0.3-, 1- and 3-m distance to the birch in ten plots in each location. Number of Scots pines was 29% higher within a 1-m radius of a mountain birch than of a random spot. This effect did not depend on location, although the locations differed significantly in soil fertility, and no effect was detected within a 3-m radius. Concentrations of water, NH4, NO3 and PO4 decreased significantly with increasing distance to a mountain birch, but only in the least fertile location. Mountain birch can significantly facilitate Scots pine in tree line conditions. However, unlike we expected, improved soil fertility under birch canopies may not have a general role in facilitation.
  • Li, Xiaofei; Zhong, Zhiwei; Sanders, Dirk; Smit, Christian; Wang, Deli; Nummi, Petri; Zhu, Yu; Wang, Ling; Zhu, Hui; Hassan, Nazim (2018)
    While positive interactions have been well documented in plant and sessile benthic marine communities, their role in structuring mobile animal communities and underlying mechanisms has been less explored. Using field removal experiments, we demonstrated that a large vertebrate herbivore (cattle; Bos tarurs) and a much smaller invertebrate (ants; Lasius spp.), the two dominant animal taxa in a semi-arid grassland in Northeast China, facilitate each other. Cattle grazing led to higher ant mound abundance compared with ungrazed sites, while the presence of ant mounds increased the foraging of cattle during the peak of the growing season. Mechanistically, these reciprocal positive effects were driven by habitat amelioration and resource (food) enhancement by cattle and ants (respectively). Cattle facilitated ants, probably by decreasing plant litter accumulation by herbivory and trampling, allowing more light to reach the soil surface leading to microclimatic conditions that favour ants. Ants facilitated cattle probably by increasing soil nutrients via bioturbation, increasing food (plant) biomass and quality (nitrogen content) for cattle. Our study demonstrates reciprocal facilitative interactions between two animal species from phylogenetically very distant taxa. Such reciprocal positive interactions may be more common in animal communities than so far assumed, and they should receive more attention to improve our understanding of species coexistence and animal community assembly.
  • Nummi, Petri; Liao, Wenfei; Huet, Ophélie; Scarpulla, Erminia; Sundell, Janne (2019)
    Beavers are ecosystem engineers which are capable to facilitate many groups of organisms. However, their facilitation of mammals has been little studied. We applied two methods, camera trapping and snow track survey to investigate the facilitation of a mammalian community by the ecosystem engineering of the American beaver (Castor canadensis) in a boreal setting. We found that both mammalian species richness (83% increase) and occurrence (12% increase) were significantly higher in beaver patches than in the controls. Of individual species, the moose (Alces alces) used beaver patches more during both the ice-free season and winter. The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra), the pine marten (Martes martes) and the least weasel (Mustela nivalis) made more use of beaver sites during the winter. Our study highlights the role of ecosystem engineers in promoting species richness and abundance, especially in areas of relatively low productivity. Wetlands and their species have been in drastic decline during the past century, and promoting facilitative ecosystem engineering by beaver is feasible in habitat conservation or restoration. Beaver engineering may be especially valuable in landscapes artificially deficient in wetlands. (c) 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (