On the Journal of Ecology front cover

The most recent issue of the Journal of Ecology (vol. 105, issue 5, September 2017) selected for its front cover our work on climatic variability and functional traits of Doñana shrublands.

As indicated in the Journal´s blog:

“The cover image, taken by Ignacio Pérez-Ramos, shows PhD student Carmen Padilla-Díaz collecting leaves for trait measurements in the Doñana National Park.”

This paper was already posted in the RESTECO project´s blog when it was published on line on February 28, 2017:


The full paper can be consulted on the Journal of Ecology web site: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2745.12747/full

The front cover image can be also viewed in Pinterest:


Plant functional traits and ecosystem properties

Plant traits resulting from evolutionary and physiological processes have produced a global and extraordinary functional diversity among the myriad of species colonizing contrasted habitats within the planet Earth.

Trait-based ecology helps us to understand better the community assemblage, ecosystem function and the responses to environmental changes.

Researchers of the RESTECO project and the Córdoba University have participated in the Symposium “Trait covariation: structural and functional relationships in plant ecology”, at Exeter (UK) during 27-29 June 2017.

Two comunications were presented:

1) Functional traits of trees affect soil properties and provision of ecosystem services. A study of seven tree species planted on remediated soils in the Guadiamar Green Corridor (Seville, Spain) has shown significant differences in traits (SLA, SRL, LDMC, RMDC) and chemical composition of leaves and roots. These traits differences influence the tree capacity to immobilize contaminants (trace elements) into the soil, remediation technique called phytostabilization. Traits also influence tree capacity to store carbon into biomass and soil, therefore contributing to climate change mitigation.

2) Within plant traits, roots are little known, despite their crucial role in the plant strategies of resource use and the ecosytem funcioning. Variation patterns of 5 root traits in 80 woody plant species from 18 samplig sites and 5 zones of South Spain have been studied. A strong correlation among traits indicates a main dimension along the root economics spectrum. However, other dimensions such as root diameter and the association with mycorrhizal fungi are also relevant.

The abstract and copy of the poster can be consulted in Digital CSIC repository:

Marañón et al. (2017) Traits influence the role of trees on ecosystem services: phytostabilization of trace elements and carbon sequestration.

Villar at al. (2017) Root traits across environmental gradients in Mediterranean woody communities: are they aligned along a single acquisition-conservation axis?

Functional diversity and stability against climatic change

The functional diversity of a community is a key factor for its stability against climatic change.

Researchers from RESTECO project, in collaboration with University of Córdoba, Autonomous University of Barcelona and EBD-CSIC, have studied the role of functional diversity and soil conditions as main drivers of the stability of woody plant communities in Doñana (south Spain).

The community stability has been assessed as changes in cover, species composition and diversity, in 19 experimental plots during 9 years. The functional diversity was calculated using eight traits (of leaves, stems and roots) for the 16 species comprising the different communities.

Results have proved that shrubland communities were strongly sensitive to inter-annual variability in climate. During colder and drier conditions, total plant cover decreased remarkably, but functional diversity increased; likely because of the expansion of functionally dissimilar species in the new open microsites.

The most functionally diverse communities, and those inhabiting resource-limited environments were the most stable over time in terms of species diversity. This could be explained because they were mainly constituted by a large diversity of slow-growth, stress-tolerant species that are potentially better adapted to harsh climatic conditions.

We could infer that the increased frequency of extreme climatic events (predicted by climatic models) will alter the functional structure of shrubland communities, with potential repercussions for ecosystem functioning.

This study has been published in the Journal of Ecology (on line since February 28, 2017).

Pérez‐Ramos, I. M., Díaz‐Delgado, R., de la Riva, E. G., Villar, R., Lloret, F., Marañón, T. (2017). Climate variability and community stability in Mediterranean shrublands: the role of functional diversity and soil environment. Journal of Ecology doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12747

Data can be consulted at the free access DRYAD repository.

Mycorrhization patterns along an environmental gradient

figura_micorrizasMycorrhizal symbiosis is a mutualist association between plants and fungi which may be critical under stressful environmental conditions, like in Mediterranean forests constrained by water stress and resource scarcity.

Researchers of the IRNAS-CSIC and the University of Córdoba have studied how the degrees of colonization by ectomycorrhizal (ECM) and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi were related to other root and leaf traits, in woody plant communities of Sierra Morena (Córdoba) distributed along a gradient of soil resources.

The level of ECM colonization was positively related to the abundance of evergreen species and to tissue dry matter content (in leaves and roots), but negatively to specific root length and specific leaf area. The best abiotic predictor of ECM colonization was soil moisture, with higher ECM colonization in drier sites.

However, AM colonization was not related to any of the plant traits studied and was positively related to soil Cu and other physico-chemical soil properties.

Changes in community ECM mycorrhization were primarily due to plant species turnover, while in the case of AM colonization was more important the intraspecific variability.

The proposed mycorrhizal trait-based approach is novel and useful to understand the functioning of Mediterranean forests and shrublands.

The study has been published (on line since August 29 2016) in the Journal of Vegetation Science.

Navarro-Fernández CM, Pérez-Ramos IM, de la Riva EG, Vera JR, Roumet C, Villar R, Marañón T (2016). Functional responses of Mediterranean plant communities to soil resource heterogeneity: a mycorrhizal trait-based approach. Journal of Vegetation Science, DOI: 10.1111/jvs.12446.