The New Phytologist Trust is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of plant science. It owns and produces the international journal New Phytologist.
New Phytologist is an international journal offering rapid publication of high quality, original research in plant science. Covering four sections - Physiology & Development, Environment, Interaction and Evolution - articles cover topics that range from intracellular processes through to global environmental change. Cross-disciplinary approaches are particularly encouraged and we recognize that techniques from molecular and cell biology, and functional genomics through to modelling and system-based approaches will be applied across the whole spectrum of plant science.
Invasions of alien plants are typically studied as invasions of individual species, yet interactions between plants and symbiotic fungi (mutualists and potential pathogens) affect plant survival, physiological traits, and reproduction and hence invasion success. Studies show that plant–fungal associations are frequently key drivers of plant invasion success and impact, but clear conceptual frameworks and integration across studies are needed to move beyond a series of case studies towards a more predictive understanding. Here, we consider linked plant–fungal invasions from the perspective of plant and fungal origin, simplified to the least complex representations or ‘motifs’. By characterizing these interaction motifs, parallels in invasion processes between pathogen and mutualist fungi become clear, although the outcomes are often opposite in effect. These interaction motifs provide hypotheses for fungal-driven dynamics behind observed plant invasion trajectories. In some situations, the effects of plant–fungal interactions are inconsistent or negligible. Variability in when and where different interaction motifs matter may be driven by specificity in the plant–fungal interaction, the size of the effect of the symbiosis (negative to positive) on plants and the dependence (obligate to facultative) of the plant−fungal interaction. Linked plant–fungal invasions can transform communities and ecosystem function, with potential for persistent legacies preventing ecosystem restoration.
Dynamic Carboniferous tropical forests: new views of plant function and potential for physiological forcing of climate
The Carboniferous, the time of Earth's penultimate icehouse and widespread coal formation, was dominated by extinct lineages of early-diverging vascular plants. Studies of nearest living relatives of key Carboniferous plants suggest that their physiologies and growth forms differed substantially from most types of modern vegetation, particularly forests. It remains a matter of debate precisely how differently and to what degree these long-extinct plants influenced the environment. Integrating biophysical analysis of stomatal and vascular conductivity with geochemical analysis of fossilized tissues and process-based ecosystem-scale modeling yields a dynamic and unique perspective on these paleoforests. This integrated approach indicates that key Carboniferous plants were capable of growth and transpiration rates that approach values found in extant crown-group angiosperms, differing greatly from comparatively modest rates found in their closest living relatives. Ecosystem modeling suggests that divergent stomatal conductance, leaf sizes and stem life span between dominant clades would have shifted the balance of soil–atmosphere water fluxes, and thus surface runoff flux, during repeated, climate-driven, vegetation turnovers. This synthesis highlights the importance of ‘whole plant’ physiological reconstruction of extinct plants and the potential of vascular plants to have influenced the Earth system hundreds of millions of years ago through vegetation–climate feedbacks.
Co-introduction vs ecological fitting as pathways to the establishment of effective mutualisms during biological invasions
Interactions between non-native plants and their mutualists are often disrupted upon introduction to new environments. Using legume–rhizobium mutualistic interactions as an example, we discuss two pathways that can influence symbiotic associations in such situations: co-introduction of coevolved rhizobia; and utilization of, and adaptation to, resident rhizobia, hereafter referred to as ‘ecological fitting’. Co-introduction and ecological fitting have distinct implications for successful legume invasions and their impacts. Under ecological fitting, initial impacts may be less severe and will accrue over longer periods as novel symbiotic associations and/or adaptations may require fine-tuning over time. Co-introduction will have more profound impacts that will accrue more rapidly as a result of positive feedbacks between densities of non-native rhizobia and their coevolved host plants, in turn enhancing competition between native and non-native rhizobia. Co-introduction can further impact invasion outcomes by the exchange of genetic material between native and non-native rhizobia, potentially resulting in decreased fitness of native legumes. A better understanding of the roles of these two pathways in the invasion dynamics of non-native legumes is much needed, and we highlight some of the exciting research avenues it presents.
Considering the unintentional consequences of pollinator gardens for urban native plants: is the road to extinction paved with good intentions?
Urban centers are important foci for plant biodiversity and yet widespread planting of wildflower gardens in cities to sustain pollinator biodiversity is on the rise, without full consideration of potential ecological consequences. The impact of intentional wildflower plantings on remnant native plant diversity in urban and peri-urban settings has not received attention, although shared pollinators are likely to mediate several types of biotic interactions between human-introduced plants and remnant native ones. Additionally, if wildflower species escape gardens these indirect effects may be compounded with direct ones. We review the potential positive and negative impacts of wildflower gardens on urban native flowering plants, and we reveal substantial gaps in our knowledge. We present a roadmap for research to address whether wildflower gardens, while benefiting pollinators, could also hasten the extinction of native remnant plants in urban settings, or whether they could have other effects that enrich urban biodiversity. Goals of future wildflower mixes should consider the totality of potential interactions.
- The plant hormone jasmonate (JA) promotes the degradation of JASMONATE ZIM-DOMAIN (JAZ) proteins to relieve repression on diverse transcription factors (TFs) that execute JA responses. However, little is known about how combinatorial complexity among JAZ–TF interactions maintains control over myriad aspects of growth, development, reproduction, and immunity.
- We used loss-of-function mutations to define epistatic interactions within the core JA signaling pathway and to investigate the contribution of MYC TFs to JA responses in Arabidopsis thaliana.
- Constitutive JA signaling in a jaz quintuple mutant (jazQ) was largely eliminated by mutations that block JA synthesis or perception. Comparison of jazQand a jazQ myc2 myc3 myc4 octuple mutant validated known functions of MYC2/3/4 in root growth, chlorophyll degradation, and susceptibility to the pathogen Pseudomonas syringae. We found that MYC TFs also control both the enhanced resistance of jazQ leaves to insect herbivory and restricted leaf growth of jazQ. Epistatic transcriptional profiles mirrored these phenotypes and further showed that triterpenoid biosynthetic and glucosinolate catabolic genes are up-regulated in jazQ independently of MYC TFs.
- Our study highlights the utility of genetic epistasis to unravel the complexities of JAZ–TF interactions and demonstrates that MYC TFs exert master control over a JAZ-repressible transcriptional hierarchy that governs growth–defense balance.
A worldview of root traits: the influence of ancestry, growth form, climate and mycorrhizal association on the functional trait variation of fine-root tissues in seed plants
- Fine-root traits play key roles in ecosystem processes, but the drivers of fine-root trait diversity remain poorly understood. The plant economic spectrum (PES) hypothesis predicts that leaf and root traits evolved in coordination. Mycorrhizal association type, plant growth form and climate may also affect root traits. However, the extent to which these controls are confounded with phylogenetic structuring remains unclear.
- Here we compiled information about root and leaf traits for > 600 species. Using phylogenetic relatedness, climatic ranges, growth form and mycorrhizal associations, we quantified the importance of these factors in the global distribution of fine-root traits.
- Phylogenetic structuring accounts for most of the variation for all traits excepting root tissue density, with root diameter and nitrogen concentration showing the strongest phylogenetic signal and specific root length showing intermediate values. Climate was the second most important factor, whereas mycorrhizal type had little effect. Substantial trait coordination occurred between leaves and roots, but the strength varied between growth forms and clades.
- Our analyses provide evidence that the integration of roots and leaves in the PES requires better accounting of the variation in traits across phylogenetic clades. Inclusion of phylogenetic information provides a powerful framework for predictions of belowground functional traits at global scales.
Gravitropism interferes with hydrotropism via counteracting auxin dynamics in cucumber roots: clinorotation and spaceflight experiments
- Roots of land plants show gravitropism and hydrotropism in response to gravity and moisture gradients, respectively, for controlling their growth orientation. Gravitropism interferes with hydrotropism, although the mechanistic aspects are poorly understood.
- Here, we differentiated hydrotropism from gravitropism in cucumber roots by conducting clinorotation and spaceflight experiments. We also compared mechanisms regulating hydrotropism and auxin-regulated gravitropism.
- Clinorotated or microgravity (μG)-grown cucumber seedling roots hydrotropically bent toward wet substrate in the presence of moisture gradients, but they grew straight in the direction of normal gravitational force at the Earth's surface (1G) on the ground or centrifuge-generated 1G in space. The roots appeared to become hydrotropically more sensitive to moisture gradients under μG conditions in space. Auxin transport inhibitors significantly reduced the hydrotropic response of clinorotated seedling roots. The auxin efflux protein CsPIN5 was differentially expressed in roots of both clinorotated and μG-grown seedlings; with higher expression in the high-humidity (concave) side than the low-humidity (convex) side of hydrotropically responding roots.
- Our results suggest that roots become hydrotropically sensitive in μG, and CsPIN5-mediated auxin transport has an important role in inducing root hydrotropism. Thus, hydrotropic and gravitropic responses in cucumber roots may compete via differential auxin dynamics established in response to moisture gradients and gravity.