Frank Schurr Dissertation

Using recent advances in sequencing and informatics the effect of dissimilarity in 27 plant defence genes among neighbours was quantified from RNA extracted from leaf tissue of greenhouse grown seedlings of each species.For 16 of 27 defence genes, individual growth rates were higher when surrounded by dissimilar heterospecific species, whereas for 4 of 27 defence genes survival rates were increased.In the absence of extenuating circumstances, ‘early career’ is defined as less than 5 years post- Ph. The winner is selected by the Editors of Journal of Ecology at the end of each year and an announcement is made early in the New Year following. In this case, her study, conducted with six colleagues uses a combination of demographic data, hydrological data, and eco-hydrological modelling to relate tropical tree mortality rates to hydrological niches.

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Martina and colleagues collected 3,454 population-level records from across the global range of these species in the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa and used regression analyses to investigate rates of fecundity, recruitment and adult fire survival in response to climate, population density, fire interval, and soil nutrients.

Across the range of the species, they found a trade-off between survival and reproduction, and resprouting species survived fire better than non-sprouters.

Intraspecific variation in fecundity and recruitment was greater than variation in fire survival.

The Editors were impressed with the geographic extent of the study as this is one of only a handful of studies that extend demographic investigations beyond individual populations to contrast environmental drivers for several species from a common, in this case fire-prone, habitat.

Jenny’s work involves examining fundamental questions in ecology by testing and integrating population and community ecology theory to better understand and predict the function and stability of forest ecosystems.

Currently, Jenny is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) where, under the supervision of Dr Nathan Swenson and Dr William Fagan, she is developing new quantitative methods and concepts, centered in spatial ecology for studying the mechanisms structuring forests.

The roots of the drought: Hydrology and water uptake strategies mediate forest‐wide demographic response to precipitation. This work is a clear example of how niche relationships can help us understand species coexistence.

Rutuja notes that droughts resulting from climate change are an emerging risk for forests and that rooting depth and hydraulic architectural differences among species means that each tree species could experience its “own drought”.

Overall, the study shows that similarity in defence genes among neighbours can negatively affect demographic performance consistent with Janzen-Connell type dynamics.

The Editors were impressed with how this study shows for the first time how a community transcriptomics framework can supplement functional trait approaches and advance our understanding of the drivers of community structure and function.

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