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Niche space construction and facilitation, and their evolutionary consequences

Applicant Schöb Christian
Number 148261
Funding scheme Ambizione
Research institution
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Ecology
Start/End 01.04.2014 - 31.03.2017
Approved amount 206'980.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Ecology
Agricultural and Forestry Sciences
Botany

Keywords (11)

species coexistence; niche theory; population biology; facilitation; natural selection; competition; plant ecology; community ecology; biodiversity; functional traits; ecological networks

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Die Nischentheorie ist ein zentrales Konzept der Ökologie, das beschreibt, wann und weshalb Arten gemeinsam existieren können. Währenddem gemäss der aktuellen Nischentheorie Koexistenz aber primär eine Funktion der Vermeidung von negativen Interaktionen zwischen Organismen ist, weisen neuere Erkenntnisse auf die Wichtigkeit von positiven Interaktionen hin. Nichtsdestotrotz geniessen die positiven Interaktionen ein Schattendasein, insbesondere in den zentralen Theorien der Biodiversität.
Lay summary

Ziel meiner Forschung ist es, die zugrunde liegenden Mechanismen von positiven Interaktionen zwischen Pflanzen zu untersuchen, insbesondere deren Folgen für die Koexistenz und Evolution von Individuen und Arten. Im Detail werde ich (1) mit Hilfe der Nischentheorie die Konsequenzen positiver Interaktionen für die Artenvielfalt von Ökosystemen quantifizieren, (2) deren Präsenz und Intensität in verschiedenen Ökosystemen (von hochalpin bis landwirtschaftlich, von feucht-gemässigt bis trocken-mediterran) vergleichen und (3) deren potentielle Folgen für die Evolution von Populationen und Arten eruieren.

Diese Arbeit wird es mir erlauben, auf die Omnipräsenz von positiven Interaktionen aufmerksam zu machen und deren Wichtigkeit für das Zusammenleben von Individuen und Arten unter verschiedenen Umweltbedingungen zu ermitteln. Die Erkenntnisse werden uns die Möglichkeit geben, positive Interaktionen in zentrale Theorien der Biodiversität (z.B. die Nischentheorie) zu integrieren. Des Weiteren hoffen wir, wichtige Erkenntnisse für eine nachhaltige und eine mit dem Erhalt der Biodiversität in Einklang stehende Landwirtschaft zu gewinnen.  

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 06.05.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
The balance of canopy and soil effects determines intraspecific differences in foundation species’ effects on associated plants
Pistón Nuria, Michalet Richard, Schöb Christian, Macek Petr, Armas Cristina, Pugnaire Francisco I. (2018), The balance of canopy and soil effects determines intraspecific differences in foundation species’ effects on associated plants, in Functional Ecology.
Plant life history stage and nurse age change the development of ecological networks in an arid ecosystem
Losapio Gianalberto, Pugnaire Francisco I., O'Brien Michael J., Schöb Christian (2018), Plant life history stage and nurse age change the development of ecological networks in an arid ecosystem, in Oikos.
Crop presence, but not genetic diversity, impacts on the rare arable plant Valerianella rimosa
Brooker Rob W., Karley Alison J., Morcillo Luna, Newton Adrian C., Pakeman Robin J., Schöb Christian (2018), Crop presence, but not genetic diversity, impacts on the rare arable plant Valerianella rimosa, in Plant Ecology & Diversity, 10(5-6), 495-507.
Habitat filtering determines the functional niche occupancy of plant communities worldwide
Li Y., Shipley B., Price J.N., Dantas V. de L., Tamme R., Westoby M., Siefert A., Schamp B.S., Spasojevic M.J., Jung V., Laughlin D.C., Richardson S.J., Le Bagousse-Pinguet Y., Schöb C., Gazol A., Prentice H.C., Gross N., Overton J., Cianciaruso M.V., Louault F., Kamiyama C., Nakashizuka T., Hikosaka K., Sasaki T., Katabuchi M. (2018), Habitat filtering determines the functional niche occupancy of plant communities worldwide, in Journal of Ecology, 106, 1001-1009.
Shrub facilitation drives tree establishment in a semiarid fog-dependent ecosystem
Macek Petr, Schöb Christian, Núñez-Ávila M., Hernández Gentina I.R., Pugnaire F.I., Armesto J.J. (2018), Shrub facilitation drives tree establishment in a semiarid fog-dependent ecosystem, in Applied Vegetation Science, 21, 113-120.
Life in harsh environments: carabid and spider trait types and functional diversity on a debris-covered glacier and along its forelandFunctional traits in harsh environments
GOBBI MAURO, BALLARIN FRANCESCO, BRAMBILLA MATTIA, COMPOSTELLA CHIARA, ISAIA MARCO, LOSAPIO GIANALBERTO, MAFFIOLETTI CHIARA, SEPPI ROBERTO, TAMPUCCI DUCCIO, CACCIANIGA MARCO (2017), Life in harsh environments: carabid and spider trait types and functional diversity on a debris-covered glacier and along its forelandFunctional traits in harsh environments, in Ecological Entomology, 42(6), 838-848.
Effects of nitrogen deposition on soil microbial communities in temperate and subtropical forests in China
Tian Di, Jiang Lai, Ma Suhui, Fang Wenjing, Schmid Bernhard, Xu Longchao, Zhu Jianxiao, Li Peng, Losapio Gianalberto, Jing Xin, Zheng Chengyang, Shen Haihua, Xu Xiaoniu, Zhu Biao, Fang Jingyun (2017), Effects of nitrogen deposition on soil microbial communities in temperate and subtropical forests in China, in Science of The Total Environment, 607-608, 1367-1375.
Legume Shrubs Are More Nitrogen-Homeostatic than Non-legume Shrubs
Guo Yanpei, Yang Xian, Schöb Christian, Jiang Youxu, Tang Zhiyao (2017), Legume Shrubs Are More Nitrogen-Homeostatic than Non-legume Shrubs, in Frontiers in Plant Science, 8, 1662.
A trait-based approach to understand the consequences of specific plant interactions for community structure
Schöb Christian, Macek Petr, Pistón Nuria, Kikvidze Zaal, Pugnaire Francisco I. (2017), A trait-based approach to understand the consequences of specific plant interactions for community structure, in Journal of Vegetation Science, 28, 696-704.
Resistance of plant–plant networks to biodiversity loss and secondary extinctions following simulated environmental changes
Losapio Gianalberto, Schöb Christian (2017), Resistance of plant–plant networks to biodiversity loss and secondary extinctions following simulated environmental changes, in Functional Ecology, 31, 1145-1152.
Size-mediated interaction between a cushion species and other non-cushion species at high elevations of the Hengduan Mountains, SW China
Yang Y., Chen J.-G., Schöb C., Sun H. (2017), Size-mediated interaction between a cushion species and other non-cushion species at high elevations of the Hengduan Mountains, SW China, in Frontiers in Plant Science, 8, 465.
Species but not genotype diversity strongly impacts the establishment of rare colonisers
Schöb Christian, Hortal Sara, Morcillo Luna, Newton Adrian C., Pakeman Robin J., Powell Jeff R., Anderson Ian C., Brooker Rob W., Karley Alison J. (2017), Species but not genotype diversity strongly impacts the establishment of rare colonisers, in Functional Ecology, 31, 1462-1470.
The shift from plant–plant facilitation to competition under severe water deficit is spatially explicit
O'Brien M.J., Pugnaire F.I., Armas C., Rodríguez-Echeverría S., Schöb C. (2017), The shift from plant–plant facilitation to competition under severe water deficit is spatially explicit, in Ecology & Evolution, 7(7), 2441-2448.
Beneficiary feedback effects on alpine cushion benefactors become more negative with increasing cover of graminoids and in dry conditions
Michalet R., Schöb C., Xiao S., Zhao L., Chen T., An L.-z., Callaway R.M. (2016), Beneficiary feedback effects on alpine cushion benefactors become more negative with increasing cover of graminoids and in dry conditions, in Functional Ecology, 30, 79-87.
Contribution of co-occurring shrub species to community richness and phylogenetic diversity along an environmental gradient
Pistón Nuria, Schöb Christian, Armas Cristina, Prieto Iván, Pugnaire Francisco I. (2016), Contribution of co-occurring shrub species to community richness and phylogenetic diversity along an environmental gradient, in Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 19, 30-39.
Facilitation and sustainable agriculture: a mechanistic approach to reconciling crop production and conservation
Brooker Rob W., Karley Alison J., Newton Adrian C., Pakeman Robin J., Schöb Christian (2016), Facilitation and sustainable agriculture: a mechanistic approach to reconciling crop production and conservation, in Functional Ecology, 30, 98-107.
Feedback effects between plant and flower-visiting insect communities along a primary succession gradient
Losapio Gianalberto, Gobbi Mauro, Marano Giuseppe, Avesani Daniele, Boracchi Patrizia, Compostella Chiara, Pavesi Maurizio, Schöb Christian, Seppi Roberto, Sommaggio Daniele, Zanetti Adriano, Caccianiga Marco (2016), Feedback effects between plant and flower-visiting insect communities along a primary succession gradient, in Arthropod-Plant Interactions, 10, 485-495.
How diverse can crop mixtures be in an integrated pest management context?
Newton Adrian C., Karley Alison J., Schöb Christian, Brooker Rob W., Pakeman Robin J., Iannetta Pete, Guy Dave C., Black K. (2016), How diverse can crop mixtures be in an integrated pest management context?, in Proceedings Crop Protection in Northern Britain 2016, DundeePage Bros Ltd, Norwich.
A global meta-analysis oft he relative extent of intraspecific trait variation in plant communities
Siefert A., Violle C., Chalmandrier L., Albert C.H., Taudiere A., Fajardo A., Aarssen L.W., Baraloto C., Carlucci M.B., Cianciaruso M.V., Dantas V. de L., de Bello F., Duarte L.D.S., Fonseca C.R., Freschet G.T., Gaucherand S., Gross N., Hikosaka K., Jackson B., Jung V., Kamiyama C., Katabuchi M., Kembel S.W., Kichenin E., Schöb C. (2015), A global meta-analysis oft he relative extent of intraspecific trait variation in plant communities, in Ecology Letters, 18, 1406-1419.
A trait-based approach to crop–weed interactions
Pakeman Robin J., Karley Alison J., Newton Adrian C., Morcillo Luna, Brooker Rob W., Schöb Christian (2015), A trait-based approach to crop–weed interactions, in European Journal of Agronomy, 70, 22-32.
Arabis alpina and Arabidopsis thaliana have different stomatal development strategies in response to high altitude pressure conditions
Kammer Peter M., Steiner Jonathan S., Schöb Christian (2015), Arabis alpina and Arabidopsis thaliana have different stomatal development strategies in response to high altitude pressure conditions, in Alpine Botany, 125, 101-112.
Cushion plants can have a positive effect on diversity at high elevations in the Himalayan Hengduan Mountains
Chen J.G., Schöb C., Zhou Z., Gong Q.B., Li X.H., Yang Y., Li Z.M., Sun H. (2015), Cushion plants can have a positive effect on diversity at high elevations in the Himalayan Hengduan Mountains, in Journal of Vegetation Science, 26, 768-777.
Improving intercropping: a synthesis of research in agronomy, plant physiology and ecology
Brooker Rob W., Bennet Alison E., Cong Weng-Feng, Daniell Tim J., George Timothy S., Hallett Paul D., Hawes Cathy, Iannetta Pietro P.M., Jones Hamlyn G., Karley Alison J., Li Long, McKenzie Blair M., Pakeman Robin J., Paterson Eric, Schöb Christian, Shen Jianbo, Squire Geoff, Watson Christine A., Zhang Chaochun, Zhang Fusuo, Zhang Junling, White Philip J. (2015), Improving intercropping: a synthesis of research in agronomy, plant physiology and ecology, in New Phytologist, 206(1), 107-117.
Intraspecific genetic diversity and composition modify species-level diversity–productivity relationships
Schöb Christian, Kerle Sarah, Karley Alison J., Morcillo Luna, Pakeman Robin J., Newton Adrian C., Brooker Rob W. (2015), Intraspecific genetic diversity and composition modify species-level diversity–productivity relationships, in New Phytologist, 205(2), 720-730.
Phylogenetic distance among beneficiary species in a cushion plant species explain interaction outcome
Pistón Nuria, Armas Cristina, Schöb Christian, Macek Petr, Pugnaire Francisco I. (2015), Phylogenetic distance among beneficiary species in a cushion plant species explain interaction outcome, in Oikos, 124, 1354-1359.
The effects of foundation species on community assembly: a global study on alpine cushion plant communities
Kikvidze Zaal, Brooker Rob W., Butterfield Bradley J., Callaway Ragan M., Cavieres Lohengrin A., Cook Bradley J., Lortie Christopher J., Michalet Richard, Pugnaire Francisco I., Xiao Sa, Anthelme Fabien, Björk Robert G., Cranston Brittany H., Gavilán Rosario G., Kanka Robert, Lingua Emanuele, Maalouf Jean-Paul, Noroozi Jalil, Parajuli Rabindra, Phoenix Gareth K., Reid Anya, Ridenour Wendy M., Rixen Christian, Schöb Christian (2015), The effects of foundation species on community assembly: a global study on alpine cushion plant communities, in Ecology, 96, 2064-2069.
Competition, facilitation and environmental severity shape the relationship between local and regional species richness in plant communities
Michalet Richard, Maalouf Jean-Paul, Choler Philippe, Clément Bernard, Rosebery David, Royer Jean-Marie, Schöb Christian, Lortie Christopher J. (2014), Competition, facilitation and environmental severity shape the relationship between local and regional species richness in plant communities, in Ecography, 38(4), 335-345.
The context dependence of beneficiary feedback effects on benefactors in plant facilitation
Schöb Christian, Callaway Ragan M., Anthelme Fabien, Brooker Rob W., Cavieres Lohengrin A., Kikvidze Zaal, Lortie Christopher J., Michalet Richard, Pugnaire Francisco I., Xiao Sa, Cranston Brittany H., García Mary-Carolina, Hupp Nicole R., Llambí Luis D., Lingua Emanuele, Reid Anya M., Zhao Liang, Butterfield Bradley J. (2014), The context dependence of beneficiary feedback effects on benefactors in plant facilitation, in New Phytologist, 204(2), 386-396.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Department of Biology, York University Canada (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Alpine Pals (various institutions) United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
The James Hutton Institute Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Key Laboratory for Plant Diversity and Biogeography of East Asia, Kunming Institute of Botany China (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University of Bordeaux France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney Australia (Oceania)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Estacion Experimental de Zonas Aridas, CSIC Spain (Europe)
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Plant Sciences, University of Pretoria South Africa (Africa)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Area of Biodiversity and Conservation, University Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid Spain (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Life Science Zurich Graduate School, PhD Program in Ecology, Annual Meeting and Symposium Talk given at a conference Network response to environmental changes: integrating plant interactions, network theory and functional traits 01.03.2017 Zürich, Switzerland Losapio Gianalberto;
XIV MEDECOS & AEET Meeting Talk given at a conference Scaling up interactions: plant associations drive pollination network functioning 02.02.2017 Sevilla, Spain Losapio Gianalberto;
XIV MEDECOS & XII AEET Meeting Talk given at a conference The unique environmental conditions of Mediterranean mountains and theirconsequences for interactions among plants 02.02.2017 Sevilla, Spain Schöb Christian;
BES Annual Meeting Talk given at a conference The spatial dimension of plant association networks 13.12.2016 Liverpool, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Losapio Gianalberto;
Agroecology Seminar Individual talk An ecologist's view on crop variety mixtures 26.10.2016 Göttingen, Germany Schöb Christian;
Biology 16 Talk given at a conference Plant interaction networks’ response to environmental changes 11.02.2016 Lausanne, Switzerland Losapio Gianalberto; Schöb Christian;
BES Annual Meeting 2015 Poster Differential effects of species and genotype diversity on community structure and function – evidence from synthetic crop-weed systems 13.12.2015 Edinburgh, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Schöb Christian;
Symposium of the Zurich–Basel Plant Science Center "Unlocking the potential of diversity" Poster Facilitative interactions increase stability of plant-plant networks under different environmental change scenarios 03.12.2015 Zürich, Switzerland Schöb Christian; Losapio Gianalberto;
Colloquium in Plant Sciences - Universität Bern Individual talk A niche-based approach to facilitation 23.11.2015 Bern, Switzerland Schöb Christian;
Behaviour, Ecology, Environment and Evolution Seminar Individual talk Evolutionary consquences of facilitation: initial approaches 10.11.2015 Zürich, Switzerland Schöb Christian;
Ecological Networks: Theory, Empiricism and Practice in a Changing World Poster Facilitative interactions increase stability of plant–plant networks under different environmental change scenarios 07.09.2015 Bristol, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Losapio Gianalberto; Schöb Christian;
ESA Annual Meeting Talk given at a conference The consequences of plant–plant interactions at the community level: A niche-based approach 12.08.2015 Baltimore, United States of America Schöb Christian;
Rigi workshop: "Mathematical and Computational Modeling in Life Science" Talk given at a conference Plant-insect network along a primary succession gradient 18.01.2015 Arth-Goldau, Switzerland Losapio Gianalberto;
Polar Ecology Seminar Talk given at a conference Facilitation through construction of niche space: insights from cushion plants 09.12.2014 Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic Schöb Christian;
8. European Conference on Ecological Modelling: “Beyond boundaries: next generation modelling” Talk given at a conference Plant-anthophilous insect ecological network along a glacier foreland chronosequence 27.10.2014 Marrakech, Morocco Losapio Gianalberto;
Environment Workshops 2014 "Biotic Interactions: Underlying mechanisms, ecological functions, and ecosystem services" Talk given at a conference A niche-based approach to facilitation 22.09.2014 Baeza, Spain Schöb Christian;


Self-organised

Title Date Place

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Feldforschung zum Thema Biodiversität im 21. Jahrhundert Talk 15.12.2016 Bern, Switzerland Schöb Christian;
Colloquium "Challenges in Plant Sciences" – Zurich–Basel Plant Science Center Talk 30.09.2015 Zürich, Switzerland Schöb Christian;
Scientifica – Zürcher Wissenschaftstage Performances, exhibitions (e.g. for education institutions) 05.09.2015 Zürich, Switzerland Losapio Gianalberto; Schöb Christian;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Utilising Diversity for Sustainable Agriculture International 2016
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Plant-plant interactions, group of Christian Schöb Facebook International 2015
Talks/events/exhibitions Scientifica - Zürcher Wissenschaftstage German-speaking Switzerland 2015
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Plant interactions UZH International 2014
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Plant Traits, Functional Diversity, and Ecosystem Services Knowledge Scotland International 2014

Awards

Title Year
SNF Förderprofessur 2017
Ramón y Cajal award 2016
"Most read author from the University of Zurich" on ResearchGate, week 40/2015 (549 reads) 2015

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
136474 Coexistence in plant communities: The effect of individuals on diversity through niche consumption, niche construction and niche differentiation 01.04.2012 Fellowships for advanced researchers
170645 Ecology and evolution in practice: A plant-plant interaction-based approach to the evolution of biodiversity effects on productivity 01.07.2017 SNSF Professorships
171682 PSC Creative Camps for Youth 01.04.2017 Agora

Abstract

There is general consensus concerning the importance of biodiversity and its ecosystem services for humanity, and considerable research effort has been focussed on the biodiversity concept. Nevertheless, our understanding of the regulation and maintenance of biodiversity remains limited. This is despite the fact that detailed knowledge of the mechanisms of species coexistence is crucial to understanding and predicting the sensitivity of biodiversity to environmental change, and taking the appropriate measures for biodiversity conservation. Niche theory is a fundamental concept within biodiversity research, relevant to explaining both the coexistence of species and the functioning of ecosystems. In niche theory, each species has specific requirements and impacts on its environment that define its niche. Species requirements and their negative competitive impacts on other species are acknowledged and integrated into coexistence theory. However, the positive impacts of species through the creation of new environmental conditions are understood far less well, and are barely recognised in key theories. This is despite the potential for construction of new niche space to facilitate other species, and hence contribute significantly to biodiversity. Facilitative effects through niche space construction are well known from harsh environments, but an on-going greenhouse experiment with arable crops indicates facilitation for specialised weed species through niche space construction in a very competitive system. However, studies on niche space construction and facilitation in productive and favourable environments are scarce and knowledge about their role for diversity in these systems is poor. Ultimately, since niche space construction may be as widespread as niche space consumption and associated competition it is probable that niche space construction influences the evolutionary trajectories of associated species. However, there are hardly any empirical studies addressing the evolutionary consequences of niche space construction and facilitation for species that make use of the environment created by other species. Here I propose a project that is aimed to fill these gaps of knowledge and to increase our understanding of niche space construction and facilitation, their evolutionary consequences, and their role in regulating biodiversity in a wide range of environments. The project is planned to encompass two climatic zones and to contrast natural with anthropogenic ecosystems since they are known to differ both in the factors limiting diversity of an ecosystem but also in the relevance of particular evolutionary process such as adaptations to particular factors of stress or disturbance. Furthermore, both climate and land use are major drivers of biodiversity. Within this framework I will undertake two sets of studies to explore niche space construction and the mechanisms of facilitation for selected effect species, and to study their evolutionary consequences for selected response species. In a first set of combined experimental and observational studies I will assess the effect of niche space construction and consumption of effect species on response species diversity using network-based approaches. This study will therefore test recent findings on niche space construction and facilitation - undertaken in a greenhouse environment - in real-world systems, and in a wide variety of environments, including productive favourable environments where the role of niche space construction and facilitation has so far been widely overlooked. In a second set of experimental studies I will address the evolutionary consequences of niche space construction. In common gardens in each study region I will grow seeds of selected response species that have been collected from individuals growing under different environmental conditions and both with and without the effect species creating the new niche space. Statistical tests will include the assessment of trait conservatism and the relative fitness of response species when grown without effect species or with different ecotypes of the effect species. Furthermore, I will use population genetic methods to assess genetic differences among individuals from the same response species, but originating from different environments and grown with or without effect species. Empirical evidence of the hypothesised co-evolutionary process between effect and response species would be among the first of its kind in plant ecology, and would contribute substantially to our understanding of evolutionary consequences of facilitation. When combined, these studies will provide powerful tests of the impact of plant-plant interactions on species coexistence and adaptation at very local scales, and they will deliver novel insight into the regulation and maintenance of biodiversity.
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