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  1. Reflectance spectra provide integrative measures of plant phenotypes by capturing chemical, morphological, anatomical and architectural trait information. Here, we investigate the linkages between plant spectral variation, and spectral and resource-use complementarity that contribute to ecosystem productivity. In both a forest and prairie grassland diversity experiment, we delineated n -dimensional hypervolumes using wavelength bands of reflectance spectra to test the association between the spectral space occupied by individual plants and their growth, as well as between the spectral space occupied by plant communities and ecosystem productivity. We show that the spectral space occupied by individuals increased with their growth, and the spectral space occupied by plant communities increased with ecosystem productivity. Furthermore, ecosystem productivity was better explained by inter-individual spectral complementarity than by the large spectral space occupied by productive individuals. Our results indicate that spectral hypervolumes of plants can reflect ecological strategies that shape community composition and ecosystem function, and that spectral complementarity can reveal resource-use complementarity. 
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  2. Abstract While the relationship between plant and microbial diversity has been well studied in grasslands, less is known about similar relationships in forests, especially for obligately symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. To assess the effect of varying tree diversity on microbial alpha- and beta-diversity, we sampled soil from plots in a high-density tree diversity experiment in Minnesota, USA three years after establishment. Three of 12 tree species are AM hosts; the other nine primarily associate with ectomycorrhizal fungi. We used phospho- and neutral lipid fatty acid analysis to characterize the biomass and functional identity of the whole soil bacterial and fungal community and high throughput sequencing to identify the species-level richness and composition of the AM fungal community. We found that plots of differing tree composition had different bacterial and fungal communities; plots with conifers, and especially Juniperus virginiana, had lower densities of several bacterial groups. In contrast, plots with a higher density or diversity of AM hosts showed no sign of greater AM fungal abundance or diversity. Our results indicate that early responses to plant diversity vary considerably across microbial groups, with AM fungal communities potentially requiring longer timescales to respond to changes in host tree diversity. 
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  3. Abstract

    The decomposition of leaf litter constitutes a major pathway of carbon and nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. Though it is well established that litter decomposition varies among species, most leaf litter decomposes not alone, but in mixture with litter from heterospecifics. The consequences of this mixing, and of the role of multiple dimensions of plant biodiversity, for litter decomposition are ambiguous, with past research suggesting that mixing diverse litter can speed up, slow down, or have no effect on decomposition. Furthermore, different chemical constituents of litter decompose at different rates, and the consequences of diversity for each of these rates are not completely understood. We created litterbags corresponding to 49 different litter mixtures ranging from one to 12 temperate forest species and allowed them to decompose over 2 yr in a common garden in temperate eastern Minnesota, USA. Following collections at 2, 4, 12, and 24 months, we assessed total mass loss and changes in four classes of litter carbon (soluble cell contents, hemicellulose and bound proteins, cellulose, and lignin/acid unhydrolyzable recalcitrants). Species varied in litter decomposition rate (losing from 8% to 41% of total mass) and they lost soluble cell contents (up to 64% of ash‐free mass) and hemicellulose and bound proteins (69%) much more rapidly over 2 yr than they lost cellulose (40%) and acid‐unhydrolyzable residues (12%). A variety of macro‐ and micronutrients supported litter decomposition, with calcium, in particular, promoting it. In mixtures of litter from 2, 5, or 12 species, neither species richness nor phylogenetic diversity was associated with deviations from expected decomposition rates based on monocultures. Yet more functionally diverse litter mixtures lost labile carbon (soluble cell contents and hemicellulose) significantly more slowly than expected. This novel finding of the effect of litter diversity not on total litter decomposition, but on the decomposition of a particular class of litter compounds elucidates potential consequences of biodiversity for cycling of nutrients and energy in forest ecosystems.

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  4. Abstract Question

    It has been established that community biodiversity has consequences for ecosystem function. Yet research assessing these biodiversity–ecosystem function (BEF) relationships usually occurs at only one phylogenetic scale; as such, the dependence ofBEFrelationships on phylogenetic scale has not been characterized. We present a novel framework for considering the consequences of biodiversity across phylogenetic scales, allowing us to ask: Do the consequences of intraspecific and interspecific diversity affect the growth, survival, and leaf herbivory of three temperate tree species?

    Study site

    Salicaceous tree plantation, Minnesota, northern USA.


    We established an experimental plantation consisting of trees of three species within the willow (Salicaceae) family. Two aspen (Populus tremuloides,P. alba) and one willow (Salix nigra) species were represented by three unique genotypes such that tree neighborhoods varied both in genotype richness (intraspecific diversity) and species richness (interspecific diversity). We assessed the consequences of tree identity and diversity across these two phylogenetic scales for all trees’ aboveground productivity and survival, and for herbivore damage (onP. tremuloides) at the end of the second full growing season of the experiment.


    Diversity at any phylogenetic scale had no effect on the growth and survival ofP. albaorS. nigra. However, intraspecific diversity increased the likelihood ofP. tremuloidessurvival while interspecific diversity reducedP. tremuloidessurvival. Intraspecific diversity also reduced leaf removal and galling herbivory onP. tremuloides, while interspecific diversity had no effect on leaf removal and increased galling herbivory. Neither scale of diversity affected leaf mining.


    Tree diversity within and among populations and species affected plant performance and ecosystem properties differentially, demonstrating thatBEFrelationships shift across phylogenetic scales in a taxon‐specific manner. We call for further experiments that explicitly span these scales by measuring ecosystem and physiological responses to the manipulation of diversity within and among species.

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  5. Abstract

    Forest structure and diversity can regulate tree vulnerability to damage by insects and pathogens. Past work suggests that trees with diverse neighbours should experience less leaf herbivory and less damage from specialist herbivores and diseases, and that the effect of neighbourhood diversity should be strongest at small spatial scales.

    In an early stage temperate tree diversity experiment, we monitored damage from leaf removing herbivores, specialist (gallers and leaf miners) herbivores, and two specialist fungal diseases (maple leaf anthracnose and cedar apple gall rust) over 3 years. The experimental design included treatments that varied independently in phylogenetic and functional diversity and we made our analyses across four spatial scales (1–16 m2).

    Neighborhood diversity simultaneously increased leaf removal for some species, decreased it for others, and had no effect on yet others. Height apparency—the difference between a focal plant’s height and its neighbours’—was the best single predictor of leaf removal across species and spatial scales, but the strength and direction of its effect were also species‐specific.

    Specialist pathogens and fungal foliar diseases showed signs of associational resistance and susceptibility. Oaks (Quercusspp.) were more resistant to leaf miners and maples were more resistant to anthracnose when surrounded by diverse neighbours (associational resistance). In contrast, birches (Betula papyrifera) were more susceptible to leaf miners and eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana) were more susceptible to cedar apple gall rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi‐virginianae) infection in diverse environments (associational susceptibility).

    Herbivore and pathogen damage was better predicted by community structure and diversity at small spatial scales (1 and 4 m2) than large scales (9 and 16 m2), suggesting a characteristic spatial scale for these biodiversity‐ecosystem functioning effects.

    Synthesis.Humans control forest diversity through selective harvesting and planting in natural stands and plantations. Our experimental demonstration of the role of local community structure and diversity in suppressing some forms of pest and pathogen damage to trees suggests that forest management can be most effective when diversity is considered at small spatial scales and the underlying biology of particular pests, pathogens, and hosts is taken into account. Pictured here: the “galls” formed by cedar apple gall rust (Gymnosporangium juniperae‐virginiae) on eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) in early spring release wind‐dispersed teleospores. Junipers showed associational susceptibility: greater susceptibility to gall rust with more diverse neighbours.

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