Thursday, 19 January 2012

F1000 January review: Science can be practical!

Its always nice to find an example of where a great scientific theory can be tested and prove useful!  In this case, ideas about how timing of watering regimes can give a phenological advantage to invaders but could then also be manipulated to give a disadvantage and so suppress invading populations.  Ideas like this have existed in weed control in agriculture for a long time, but its interesting to see this kind of thinking emerging in a new context.

Wainwright CE, Wolkovich EM, Cleland EE (2011) Seasonal priority effects: implications for invasion and restoration in a semi-arid system. J App Ecol. 49:234-41

Our review:

Parry H, Lonsdale M: 2012.

This is a good example of hypothesis-driven research in invasion ecology. A concept of phenologically driven seasonal ‘priority advantage’ is introduced, which can be used to explain the success of an invasive species. Having shown that the concept is applicable to exotic annual grasses in California, the authors go a step further and show how an understanding of phenology can be a powerful weapon in restoring invaded ecosystems.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Mutant killer fungus

Our latest review is of a study that reveals something close to science fiction in the interactions between a bark beetle, a fungus and the host plant.  It is a very good paper that presents a well executed study, that includes multiple methods to consider the question:
Do novel genotypes drive the success of an invasive bark beetle-fungus complex?  Implications for potential reinvasion.

Lu M, Wingfield MJ, Gillette N and Sun JH, Ecology. 2011 92(11):2013-9

Our Review: Parry H, Lonsdale M: 2011. 

This fascinating paper explores the emergence of a mutant, killer fungus as a result of an unholy alliance between the fungus, its beetle vector, and its host plant. It is important for invasion ecologists because it emphasises the role of novel genotypes in invasion success and it does so in the context of a three-way interspecific interaction.