Anthony P. Walker, Martin G. De Kauwe, Ana Bastos, Soumaya Belmecheri, Katerina Georgiou, Sean M. McMahon, Belinda E. Medlyn, David J.P. Moore, Richard J. Norby, Sonke Zaehle, Kristina J. Anderson-Teixeira, Giovanna Battipaglia, Roel J.W. Brienen, Kristine G. Cabugao, Maxime Cailleret, Elliott Campbell, Josep Canadell, Philippe Ciais, Mathew E. Craig, David Ellsworth, Graham Farquhar, Simone Fatichi, Joshua B. Fisher, David Frank, Heather Graven, Lianhong Gu, Vanessa Haverd, Kelly Heilman, Martin Heimann, Bruce A. Hungate, Colleen M. Iversen, Fortunat Joos, Mingkai Jiang, Trevor F. Keenan, Jurgan Knauer, Cristian Korner, Victor O. Leshyk, Sebastian Leuzinger, Yao Liu, Natasha MacBean, Yadvinder Malhi, Tim McVicar, Josep Penuelas, Julia Pongratz, A. Shafer Powell, Terhi Riutta, Manon E.B. Sabot, Juergen Schleucher, Stephen Sitch, William K. Smith, Benjamin Sulman, Benton N. Taylor, Cesar Terrer, Margaret S. Torn, Kathleen Treseder, Anna T. Trugman, Susan Trumbore, Phillip J. van Mantgem, Steve L. Voelker, Mary Whelan, and Pieter A. Zuidema. Forthcoming. “Integrating the evidence for a terrestrial carbon sink caused by increasing atmospheric CO2.” New Phytologist.
Benton N. Taylor, Ellen L. Simms, and Kimberly J. Komatsu. 2020. “More Than a Functional Group: Diversity within the Legume–Rhizobia Mutualism and Its Relationship with Ecosystem Function.” Diversity, 12, 2, Pp. 50. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Studies of biodiversity and ecosystem function (BEF) have long focused on the role of nitrogen (N)-fixing legumes as a functional group that occupies a distinct and important niche relative to other plants. Because of their relationship with N-fixing rhizobial bacteria, these legumes access a different pool of N than other plants and therefore directly contribute to increases in productivity and N-cycling. Despite their recognized importance in the BEF literature, the field has not moved far beyond investigating the presence/absence of the legume functional group in species mixtures. Here, we synthesize existing information on how the diversity (species richness and functional diversity) of both legumes and the rhizobia that they host impact ecosystem functions, such as nitrogen fixation and primary productivity. We also discuss the often-overlooked reciprocal direction of the BEF relationship, whereby ecosystem function can influence legume and rhizobial diversity. We focus on BEF mechanisms of selection, complementarity, facilitation, competitive interference, and dilution effects to explain how diversity in the legume–rhizobia mutualism can have either positive or negative effects on ecosystem function—mechanisms that can operate at scales from rhizobial communities affecting individual legume functions to legume communities affecting landscape-scale ecosystem functions. To fully understand the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function, we must incorporate the full diversity of this mutualism and its reciprocal relationship with ecosystem function into our evolving BEF framework.
Benton N. Taylor and Laura R. Ostrowsky. 2019. “Nitrogen-fixing and non-fixing trees differ in leaf chemistry and defence but not herbivory in a lowland Costa Rican rain forest.” Journal of Tropical Ecology, 35, 6, Pp. 270-279. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Nitrogen-fixing plants provide critical nitrogen inputs that support the high productivity of tropical forests, but our understanding of the ecology of nitrogen fixers – and especially their interactions with herbivores – remains incomplete. Herbivores may interact differently with nitrogen fixers vs. non-fixers due to differences in leaf nitrogen content and herbivore defence strategies. To examine these potential differences, our study compared leaf carbon, nitrogen, toughness, chemical defence and herbivory for four nitrogen-fixing tree species (Inga oerstediana, Inga sapindoides, Inga thibaudiana and Pentaclethra macroloba) and three non-fixing species (Anaxagorea crassipetala, Casearia arborea and Dipteryx panamensis) in a lowland tropical rain forest. Leaf chemical defence, not nutritional content, was the primary driver of herbivore damage among our species. Even though nitrogen fixers exhibited 21.1% higher leaf nitrogen content, 20.1% lower C:N ratios and 15.4% lower leaf toughness than non-fixers, we found no differences in herbivory or chemical defence between these two plant groups. Our results do not support the common hypotheses that nitrogen fixers experience preferential herbivory or that they produce more nitrogen-rich defensive compounds than non-fixers. Rather, these findings suggest strong species-specific differences in plant–herbivore relationships among both nitrogen-fixing and non-fixing tropical trees.
Megan E. Wilcots, Benton N. Taylor, Erin K. Kuprewicz, and Duncan N.L. Menge. 2019. “Small traits with big consequences: how seed traits of nitrogen‐fixing plants might influence ecosystem nutrient cycling.” Oikos, 128, 5, Pp. 668-679. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Symbiotic nitrogen (N)‐fixing plants have important effects on the biogeochemical processes of the sites they inhabit, but their ability to reach these sites is determined by the dispersal of their seeds. Differences in seed size and dispersal vectors of N‐fixing and non‐fixing plants could influence the spatial and temporal distributions of N fixers, and thus could have important impacts on biogeochemical cycling. Using seed mass, dispersal vector, and biome data retrieved from online public databases, we ask if there are systematic differences in seed mass and dispersal vectors between N‐fixing and non‐fixing plants. We demonstrate that rhizobial N fixers tend to have larger seeds that are more likely to be biotically dispersed than seeds of non‐fixers, whereas actinorhizal N‐fixing trees tend to have small, abiotically dispersed seeds. We then synthesize existing evidence from the literature to draw links between these dispersal traits and the spatio–temporal patterns of N fixers, as well as their biogeochemical effects on terrestrial ecosystems. Using this literature, we argue that the spatio–temporal distributions of N fixers are influenced by their seed dispersal characteristics, and that these distribution patterns have important effects on the total amount of N fixed at a site and the timing of N inputs during processes such as succession.
Benton N. Taylor, Robin L. Chazdon, and Duncan N.L. Menge. 2019. “Successional dynamics of nitrogen fixation and forest growth in regenerating Costa Rican rainforests.” Ecology, 100, 4, Pp. e02637. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Regenerating tropical forests have an immense capacity to capture carbon and harbor biodiversity. The recuperation of the nitrogen cycle following disturbance can fuel biomass regeneration, but few studies have evaluated the successional dynamics of nitrogen and nitrogen inputs in tropical forests. We assessed symbiotic and asymbiotic nitrogen fixation, soil inorganic nitrogen concentrations, and tree growth in a well‐studied series of five tropical forest plots ranging from 19 yr in age to old‐growth forests. Wet‐season soil inorganic nitrogen concentrations were high in all plots, peaking in the 29‐yr‐old plot. Inputs from symbiotic nitrogen fixation declined through succession, while asymbiotic nitrogen fixation peaked in the 37‐yr‐old plot. Consequently, the dominant nitrogen fixation input switched from symbiotic fixation in the younger plots to asymbiotic fixation in the older plots. Tree growth was highest in the youngest plots and declined through succession. Interestingly, symbiotic nitrogen fixation was negatively correlated with the basal area of nitrogen‐fixing trees across our study plots, highlighting the danger in using nitrogen‐fixing trees as a proxy for rates of symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Our results demonstrate that the nitrogen cycle has largely recuperated by 19 yr following disturbance, allowing for rapid biomass regeneration at our site. This work provides important insight into the sources and dynamics of nitrogen that support growth and carbon capture in regenerating Neotropical forests.
Benton N. Taylor and Duncan N.L. Menge. 2018. “Light regulates tropical symbiotic nitrogen fixation more strongly than soil nitrogen.” Nature Plants, 4, 9, Pp. 655-661. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Nitrogen limits primary production in almost every biome on Earth1,2. Symbiotic nitrogen fixation, conducted by certain angiosperms and their endosymbiotic bacteria, is the largest potential natural source of new nitrogen into the biosphere3, influencing global primary production, carbon sequestration and element cycling. Because symbiotic nitrogen fixation represents an alternative to soil nitrogen uptake, much of the work on symbiotic nitrogen fixation regulation has focused on soil nitrogen availability4,5,6,7,8. However, because symbiotic nitrogen fixation is an energetically expensive process9, light availability to the plant may also regulate symbiotic nitrogen fixation rates10,11. Despite the importance of symbiotic nitrogen fixation to biosphere functioning, the environmental factors that most strongly regulate this process remain unresolved. Here we show that light regulates symbiotic nitrogen fixation more strongly than does soil nitrogen and that light mediates the response of symbiotic nitrogen fixation to soil nitrogen availability. In a shadehouse experiment, low light levels (comparable with forest understories) completely shut down symbiotic nitrogen fixation, whereas soil nitrogen levels that far exceeded plant demand did not fully downregulate symbiotic nitrogen fixation at high light. For in situ forest seedlings, light was a notable predictor of symbiotic nitrogen fixation activity, but soil-extractable nitrogen was not. Light as a primary regulator of symbiotic nitrogen fixation is a departure from decades of focus on soil nitrogen availability. This shift in our understanding of symbiotic nitrogen fixation regulation can resolve a long-standing biogeochemical paradox12, and it will improve our ability to predict how symbiotic nitrogen fixation will fuel the global forest carbon sink and respond to human alteration of the global nitrogen cycle.
Duncan N.L. Menge, Anna C. MacPherson, Thomas A. Bytnerowicz, Andrew W. Quebbeman, Naomi B. Schwartz, Benton N. Taylor, and Amelia A. Wolf. 2018. “Logarithmic scales in ecological data presentation may cause misinterpretation.” Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2, 9, Pp. 1393-1402. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Scientific communication relies on clear presentation of data. Logarithmic scales are used frequently for data presentation in many scientific disciplines, including ecology, but the degree to which they are correctly interpreted by readers is unclear. Analysing the extent of log scales in the literature, we show that 22% of papers published in the journal Ecology in 2015 included at least one log-scaled axis, of which 21% were log–log displays. We conducted a survey that asked members of the Ecological Society of America (988 responses, and 623 completed surveys) to interpret graphs that were randomly displayed with linear–linear or log–log axes. Many more respondents interpreted graphs correctly when the graphs had linear–linear axes than when they had log–log axes: 93% versus 56% for our all-around metric, although some of the individual item comparisons were even more skewed (for example, 86% versus 9% and 88% versus 12%). These results suggest that misconceptions about log-scaled data are rampant. We recommend that ecology curricula include explicit instruction on how to interpret log-scaled axes and equations, and we also recommend that authors take the potential for misconceptions into account when deciding how to visualize data.
Benton N. Taylor, Angelica E. Patterson, Moyosore Ajayi, Rachel Arkebauer, Karen Bao, Natalie Bray, Robert M. Elliott, Paul P.G. Gauthier, Jessica Gersony, Rebecca Gibson, Marceau Guerin, Sara Lavenhar, Caroline Leland, Leo Lemordant, Wenying Liao, Jerry Melillo, Ruth Oliver, Case M. Prager, William Schuster, Naomi B. Schwartz, Christa Shen, Katherine Pavlis Terlizzi, and Kevin L. Griffin. 2017. “Growth and physiology of a dominant understory shrub, Hamamelis virginiana, following canopy disturbance in a temperate hardwood forest.” Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 47, 2, Pp. 193-202. Publisher's VersionAbstract
As global climatic changes increase plant susceptibility to large-scale disturbances such as drought and pathogens, understory responses to these disturbances will become increasingly important to long-term forest dynamics. To better understand understory responses to canopy disturbance, we measured changes in the growth and physiology of the dominant understory shrub, American witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana L.), in response to girdling of canopy oaks in a temperate hardwood forest of the northeastern United States. Changes in the growth and physiology of H. virginiana may be important to the regeneration of northeastern temperate forests, as this common shrub largely shapes the microenvironment for seedlings on the forest floor where it occurs. Canopy disturbance by girdling resulted in significant increases in light and soil nitrogen availability. In response to these environmental changes, basal-area growth of H. virginiana increased by an average 334%. This growth increase corresponded to significant increases in foliar nitrogen, respiration, and leaf chlorophyll and carotenoid concentrations. These findings indicate improved environmental conditions and increased growth for this understory shrub following the loss of dominant canopy trees. This study suggests that following large-scale canopy disturbance, H. virginiana and shrubs like it may play an important role in competing for soil N and shading seedlings of regenerating canopy species.
Benton N. Taylor, Robin L. Chazdon, Benedicte Bachelot, and Duncan N.L. Menge. 2017. “Nitrogen-fixing trees inhibit growth of regenerating Costa Rican rainforests.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114, 33, Pp. 8817-8822. Publisher's VersionAbstract
More than half of the world’s tropical forests are currently recovering from human land use, and this regenerating biomass now represents the largest carbon (C)-capturing potential on Earth. How quickly these forests regenerate is now a central concern for both conservation and global climate-modeling efforts. Symbiotic nitrogen-fixing trees are thought to provide much of the nitrogen (N) required to fuel tropical secondary regrowth and therefore to drive the rate of forest regeneration, yet we have a poor understanding of how these N fixers influence the trees around them. Do they promote forest growth, as expected if the new N they fix facilitates neighboring trees? Or do they suppress growth, as expected if competitive inhibition of their neighbors is strong? Using 17 consecutive years of data from tropical rainforest plots in Costa Rica that range from 10 y since abandonment to old-growth forest, we assessed how N fixers influenced the growth of forest stands and the demographic rates of neighboring trees. Surprisingly, we found no evidence that N fixers facilitate biomass regeneration in these forests. At the hectare scale, plots with more N-fixing trees grew slower. At the individual scale, N fixers inhibited their neighbors even more strongly than did nonfixing trees. These results provide strong evidence that N-fixing trees do not always serve the facilitative role to neighboring trees during tropical forest regeneration that is expected given their N inputs into these systems.
Duncan N.L. Menge, Sarah A. Batterman, Wenying Liao, Benton N. Taylor, Jeremy W. Lichstein, and Gregorio Angeles-Perez. 2017. “Nitrogen‐fixing tree abundance in higher‐latitude North America is not constrained by diversity.” Ecology Letters, 20, 7, Pp. 842-851. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The rarity of nitrogen (N)‐fixing trees in frequently N‐limited higher‐latitude (here, > 35°) forests is a central biogeochemical paradox. One hypothesis for their rarity is that evolutionary constraints limit N‐fixing tree diversity, preventing N‐fixing species from filling available niches in higher‐latitude forests. Here, we test this hypothesis using data from the USA and Mexico. N‐fixing trees comprise only a slightly smaller fraction of taxa at higher vs. lower latitudes (8% vs. 11% of genera), despite 11‐fold lower abundance (1.2% vs. 12.7% of basal area). Furthermore, N‐fixing trees are abundant but belong to few species on tropical islands, suggesting that low absolute diversity does not limit their abundance. Rhizobial taxa dominate N‐fixing tree richness at lower latitudes, whereas actinorhizal species do at higher latitudes. Our results suggest that low diversity does not explain N‐fixing trees' rarity in higher‐latitude forests. Therefore, N limitation in higher‐latitude forests likely results from ecological constraints on N fixation.
Duncan N.L. Menge, Sarah A. Batterman, Lars O. Hedin, Wenying Liao, Stephen W. Pacala, and Benton N. Taylor. 2017. “Why are nitrogen‐fixing trees rare at higher compared to lower latitudes?” Ecology, 98, 12, Pp. 3127-3140. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Symbiotic nitrogen (N) fixation provides a dominant source of new N to the terrestrial biosphere, yet in many cases the abundance of N‐fixing trees appears paradoxical. N‐fixing trees, which should be favored when N is limiting, are rare in higher latitude forests where N limitation is common, but are abundant in many lower latitude forests where N limitation is rare. Here, we develop a graphical and mathematical model to resolve the paradox. We use the model to demonstrate that N fixation is not necessarily cost effective under all degrees of N limitation, as intuition suggests. Rather, N fixation is only cost effective when N limitation is sufficiently severe. This general finding, specific versions of which have also emerged from other models, would explain sustained moderate N limitation because N‐fixing trees would either turn N fixation off or be outcompeted under moderate N limitation. From this finding, four general hypothesis classes emerge to resolve the apparent paradox of N limitation and N‐fixing tree abundance across latitude. The first hypothesis is that N limitation is less common at higher latitudes. This hypothesis contradicts prevailing evidence, so is unlikely, but the following three hypotheses all seem likely. The second hypothesis, which is new, is that even if N limitation is more common at higher latitudes, more severe N limitation might be more common at lower latitudes because of the capacity for higher N demand. Third, N fixation might be cost effective under milder N limitation at lower latitudes but only under more severe N limitation at higher latitudes. This third hypothesis class generalizes previous hypotheses and suggests new specific hypotheses. For example, greater trade‐offs between N fixation and N use efficiency, soil N uptake, or plant turnover at higher compared to lower latitudes would make N fixation cost effective only under more severe N limitation at higher latitudes. Fourth, N‐fixing trees might adjust N fixation more at lower than at higher latitudes. This framework provides new hypotheses to explain the latitudinal abundance distribution of N‐fixing trees, and also provides a new way to visualize them. Therefore, it can help explain the seemingly paradoxical persistence of N limitation in many higher latitude forests.
Katilyn V. Beidler, Benton N. Taylor, Allan E. Strand, Emily R. Cooper, Marcos Schonholz, and Seth G. Pritchard. 2015. “Changes in root architecture under elevated concentrations of CO2 and nitrogen reflect alternate soil exploration strategies.” New Phytologist, 205, 3, Pp. 1153-1163. Publisher's VersionAbstract
  • Predicting the response of fine roots to increased atmospheric CO2 concentration has important implications for carbon (C) and nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems. Root architecture is known to play an important role in how trees acquire soil resources in changing environments. However, the effects of elevated CO 2 on the fine‐root architecture of trees remain unclear.
  • We investigated the architectural response of fine roots exposed to 14 yr of CO 2 enrichment and 6 yr of nitrogen (N) fertilization in a Pinus taeda (loblolly pine) forest. Root traits reflecting geometry, topology and uptake function were measured on intact fine‐root branches removed from soil monoliths and the litter layer.
  • CO 2 enrichment resulted in the development of a fine‐root pool that was less dichotomous and more exploratory under N‐limited conditions. The per cent mycorrhizal colonization did not differ among treatments, suggesting that root growth and acclimation to elevated CO 2 were quantitatively more important than increased mycorrhizal associations.
  • Our findings emphasize the importance of architectural plasticity in response to environmental change and suggest that changes in root architecture may allow trees to effectively exploit larger volumes of soil, thereby pre‐empting progressive nutrient limitations.
Saara J. DeWalt, Benton N. Taylor, and Kalan Ickes. 2015. “Density‐dependent survival in seedlings differs among woody life‐forms in tropical wet forests of a Caribbean island.” Biotropica, 47, 3, Pp. 310-319. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Negative density dependence contributes to seedling dynamics in forested ecosystems, but the relative importance of this factor for different woody plant life‐forms is not well‐understood. We used 1 yr of seedling survivorship data for woody seedlings in 17 different plots of lower to mid‐montane rain forests on the island of Dominica to examine how seedling height, abiotic factors, and biotic factors such as negative density dependence are related to seedling survival of five different life‐forms (canopy, midstory, and understory trees; shrubs; and lianas). Across 64 species, taller seedlings in seedling plots with higher canopy openness, greater seedling density, lower relative abundance of conspecific seedlings, and lower relative abundance of conspecific adults generally had a greater probability of surviving. Height was the strongest predictor of seedling survival for all life‐forms except lianas. Greater seedling density was positively related to survival for canopy and midstory trees but negatively related to survival for the other life‐forms. For trees, the relative abundance of conspecific seedling and adult neighbors had weak and strong negative effects on survival respectively. Neither shrub nor liana seedling survival was affected by the relative abundance of conspecific neighbors. Thus, negative density dependence is confirmed as an important structuring mechanism for tree seedling communities but does not seem to be important for lianas and shrubs in Dominican rain forests. These results represent the first direct assessment of controls on seedling survival of all woody life‐forms – an important step in understanding the dynamics and structure of the entire woody plant community.
Seeta A. Sistla, Alison P. Appling, Aleksandra M. Lewandowska, Benton N. Taylor, and Amelia A. Wolf. 2015. “Stoichiometric flexibility in response to fertilization along gradients of environmental and organismal nutrient richness.” Oikos, 124, 7, Pp. 949-959. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Ecosystems globally are undergoing rapid changes in elemental inputs. Because nutrient inputs differently impact high‐ and low‐fertility systems, building a predictive framework for the impacts of anthropogenic and natural changes on ecological stoichiometry requires examining the flexibility in stoichiometric responses across a range of basal nutrient richness. Whether organisms or communities respond to changing conditions with stoichiometric homeostasis or flexibility is strongly regulated by their species‐specific capacity for nutrient storage, relative growth rate, physiological plasticity, and the degree of environmental resource availability relative to organismal demand. Using a meta‐analysis approach, we tested whether stoichiometric flexibility following nutrient enrichment correlates with the relative fertility of terrestrial and aquatic systems or with the initial stoichiometries of the organism or community. We found that regardless of limitation status, N‐fertilization tended to significantly reduce biota C:N and increase N:P, and P fertilization reduced C:P and N:P in both terrestrial and aquatic systems. Further, stoichiometric flexibility in response to fertilization tended to decrease as environmental nutrient richness increased in both terrestrial and aquatic systems. Positive correlations were also detected between the initial biota C:nutrient ratio and stoichiometric flexibility in response to fertilization. Elucidating these relationships between stoichiometric flexibility, basal environmental and biota fertility, and fertilization will increase our understanding of the ecological consequences of ongoing nutrient enrichment across the world.
Benton N. Taylor, Katilyn V. Beidler, Allan E. Strand, and Seth G. Pritchard. 2014. “Improved scaling of minirhizotron data using an empirically-derived depth of field and correcting for the underestimation of root diameters.” Plant and Soil, 374, 1-2, Pp. 941-948. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background and aims

Accurate data on the standing crop, production, and turnover of fine roots is essential to our understanding of major terrestrial ecological processes. Minirhizotrons offer a unique opportunity to study the dynamic processes of root systems, but are susceptible to several measurement biases.


We use roots extracted from minirhizotron tube surfaces to calculate the depth of field of a minirhizotron image and present a model to correct for the underestimation of root diameters obscured by soil in minirhizotron images.


Non-linear regression analysis resulted in an estimated depth of field of 0.78 mm for minirhizotron images. Unadjusted minirhizotron data underestimated root net primary production and fine root standing crop by 61 % when compared to adjusted data using our depth of field and root diameter corrections. Changes in depth of field accounted for >99 % of standing crop adjustments with root diameter corrections accounting for <1 %.


Our results represent the first effort to empirically derive depth of field for minirhizotron images. This work may explain the commonly reported underestimation of fine roots using minirhizotrons, and stands to improve the ability of researchers to accurately scale minirhizotron data to large soil volumes.

Seth G. Pritchard, Benton N. Taylor, Emily R. Cooper, Katilyn V. Beidler, Allan E. Strand, M. Luke McCormack, and Siyao Zhang. 2014. “Long‐term dynamics of mycorrhizal root tips in a loblolly pine forest grown with free‐air CO2 enrichment and soil N fertilization for 6 years.” Global Change Biology, 20, 4, Pp. 1313-1326. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Large‐scale, long‐term FACE (Free‐Air CO2 enrichment) experiments indicate that increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations will influence forest C cycling in unpredictable ways. It has been recently suggested that responses of mycorrhizal fungi could determine whether forest net primary productivity (NPP ) is increased by elevated CO2 over long time periods and if forests soils will function as sources or sinks of C in the future. We studied the dynamic responses of ectomycorrhizae to N fertilization and atmospheric CO2 enrichment at the Duke FACE experiment using minirhizotrons over a 6 year period (2005–2010). Stimulation of mycorrhizal production by elevated CO2 was observed during only 1 (2007) of 6 years. This increased the standing crop of mycorrhizal tips during 2007 and 2008; during 2008, significantly higher mortality returned standing crop to ambient levels for the remainder of the experiment. It is therefore unlikely that increased production of mycorrhizal tips can explain the lack of progressive nitrogen limitations and associated increases in N uptake observed in CO2 ‐enriched plots at this site. Fertilization generally decreased tree reliance on mycorrhizae as tip production declined with the addition of nitrogen as has been shown in many other studies. Annual NPP of mycorrhizal tips was greatest during years with warm January temperatures and during years with cool spring temperatures. A 2 °C increase in average late spring temperatures (May and June) decreased annual production of mycorrhizal root tip length by 50%. This has important implications for ecosystem function in a warmer world in addition to potential for forest soils to sequester atmospheric C.
Benton N. Taylor, Allan E. Strand, Emily R. Cooper, Katilyn V. Beidler, Marcos Schonholz, and Seth G. Pritchard. 2014. “Root length, biomass, tissue chemistry and mycorrhizal colonization following 14 years of CO2 enrichment and 6 years of N fertilization in a warm temperate forest.” Tree Physiology, 34, 9, Pp. 955-965. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Root systems serve important roles in carbon (C) storage and resource acquisition required for the increased photosynthesis expected in CO2-enriched atmospheres. For these reasons, understanding the changes in size, distribution and tissue chemistry of roots is central to predicting the ability of forests to capture anthropogenic CO2. We sampled 8000 cm3 soil monoliths in a pine forest exposed to 14 years of free-air-CO2-enrichment and 6 years of nitrogen (N) fertilization to determine changes in root length, biomass, tissue C : N and mycorrhizal colonization. CO2 fumigation led to greater root length (98%) in unfertilized plots, but root biomass increases under elevated CO2 were only found for roots <1 mm in diameter in unfertilized plots (59%). Neither fine root [C] nor [N] was significantly affected by increased CO2. There was significantly less root biomass in N-fertilized plots (19%), but fine root [N] and [C] both increased under N fertilization (29 and 2%, respectively). Mycorrhizal root tip biomass responded positively to CO2 fumigation in unfertilized plots, but was unaffected by CO2 under N fertilization. Changes in fine root [N] and [C] call for further study of the effects of N fertilization on fine root function. Here, we show that the stimulation of pine roots by elevated CO2 persisted after 14 years of fumigation, and that trees did not rely exclusively on increased mycorrhizal associations to acquire greater amounts of required N in CO2-enriched plots. Stimulation of root systems by CO2 enrichment was seen primarily for fine root length rather than biomass. This observation indicates that studies measuring only biomass might overlook shifts in root systems that better reflect treatment effects on the potential for soil resource uptake. These results suggest an increase in fine root exploration as a primary means for acquiring additional soil resources under elevated CO2.
Benton N. Taylor, Kalan Ickes, and Saara DeWalt. 2014. “Seed removal by an introduced scatter-hoarder on a Caribbean island.” Caribbean Journal of Science, 48, 1, Pp. 9-17. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The introduction of non-native seed dispersers has the potential to significantly alter distributions and relative abundances of native plants. Although effects of introduced seed predators have been documented, little is known about how introduced dispersers influence seed movement patterns. We investigated seed removal of seven rainforest species on the island of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles by the entire seed-remover community and specifically by the Red-rumped Agouti, Dasyprocta leporina, a scatter-hoarding rodent introduced to the island approximately 2500 years ago. We recorded removal rates in three regions of Dominica from 168 experimentally placed seed groups containing a total of 1356 seeds. Seed groups were either accessible to the entire seed-remover community or placed within exclosures designed to exclude agoutis. Within 13 days, 47 percent and 28 percent of seeds had been removed from control groups and agouti exclosure groups, respectively, leading to 19 percent of seed removal being attributed to agoutis. Species with smaller seeds were preferentially taken by seed removers other than agoutis, whereas agoutis were responsible for the majority of the removal of larger-seeded species. Seed removal was greater in areas with higher regional conspecific adult densities regardless of treatment, but agoutis had a greater impact relative to other seed removers on the seed removal of the study's rarest species. The results of this study highlight the potential impacts that introduced dispersers may have on native plant communities and call for further study of disperser introductions worldwide.
Benton N. Taylor, Katilyn V. Beidler, Emily R. Cooper, Allan E. Strand, and Seth G. Pritchard. 7/2013. “Sampling volume in root studies: the pitfalls of under-sampling exposed using accumulation curves.” Ecology Letters, 16, 7, Pp. 86-869. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Root systems are important for global models of below‐ground carbon and nutrient cycling. Notoriously difficult sampling methods and the fractal distribution of root diameters in the soil make data being used in these models especially susceptible to error resulting from under‐sampling. We applied the concept of species accumulation curves to root data to quantify the extent of under‐sampling inherent to minirhizotron and soil coring sampling for both root uptake and carbon content studies. Based on differences in sample size alone, minirhizotron sampling missed approximately one third of the root diameters observed by soil core sampling. Sample volumes needed to encounter 90% of root diameters averaged 2481 cm3 for uptake studies and 5878 cm3 for root carbon content studies. These results show that small sample volumes encounter a non‐representative sample of the overall root pool, and provide future guidelines for determining optimal sample volumes in root studies.