Paper summary: Trait variability on the Canary Islands

Recently, our German MIREN team published a new paper called ‘the contrasting patterns of intra-specific trait variability in native and non-native plant species along an elevational gradient on Tenerife, Canary Islands’.

Previous MIREN research has shown plenty of evidence that introduced species are expanding towards higher elevations, and there are specific traits associated with being successful at each stage of mountain invasion (along and away from roads). To shed new light into the mechanisms behind biological invasions, we can also compare trait variability of non-native and native species populations occurring along elevational gradients. In the new MIREN paper out in AoB (Kühn et al. 2020), the German MIREN team asked whether being able to exhibit a wide range of values for morphological and biochemical traits might help introduced species to establish and thrive under the wide set of environmental conditions present along mount Teide, in Tenerife. Results show that there might be more to non-native species success than just being variable!

Goodbye!

Big achievement this week: one of our master students defended his thesis, and will thus be able to put an endmark behind their education! A big congratulation to Ilias Janssens for all he achieved.

Virtual trial thesis defence by Ilias Janssens, discussing his cool results on patterns in plant community traits in the Scandinavian mountains
Ilias studied the relative importance of climate and disturbance as driver of plant community traits, using a huge dataset of plant traits from over 160 species from the Scandinavian mountains. Main result: local disturbances like roads and trails have surprisingly small effects on community traits in comparison with large-scale drivers such as temperature.

Weed of the month – the California poppy

From April to May, tourists as well as researchers can appreciate the invasive California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) coloring of bright orange the roadsides and mountain slopes on the ascent to mount Teide in Tenerife, Canary Islands. The species was introduced as an ornamental plant and reports of its occurrence as a widespread ruderal species only date back to the 60’s. Since then, it has expanded into the natural vegetation quite rapidly. Its ability to tolerate high temperatures, drought, variable precipitation regimes, and a wide range of soil textures, chemistries, and levels of fertility can help us understand its success in new regions (such as Chile, Australia, and several European countries) far away from its original range in the Western United States.

In Tenerife, this charismatic poppy does well in the cloud layer habitats where the pine forest thrives, but it was also once found as far up as the subalpine zone, in the Teide National Park. Thanks to the eradication efforts of the group of biological invasions of the Canary islands (IBIOCA), it is no longer found there. While still being part of the weed control program along the roadsides surrounding the national park (in the Corona Forestal Nature Park), it is also promoted as a touristic attraction by travel agencies. The species definitely challenge our perceptions and definitions of weeds and noxious species!

The most complete compilation of information on the California poppy can be found here: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_esca2.pdf.

By Amanda Ratier Backes

SoilTemp call has officially launched!

MIREN is a proud contributor to the global SoilTemp-database, which grew out of our microclimate monitoring along elevation gradients all over the world. The database has now officially been introduced to the world, inviting all to submit their data!

More in this blogpost.

Graphical abstract

The introductory paper can be found here!