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Tansley Medal 2016

Last updated:
25 June 2017
The New Phytologist Tansley Medal is awarded annually to a scientist in the early stages of his or her career in recognition of an outstanding contribution to research in plant science. In 2016, the Tansley Medal was awarded to Etienne Laliberté of the University of Montreal, Canada.

This year's finalists were:

  • Marie Barberon, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.
  • Charles W. Melnyk, The Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge, UK.
  • Roberto Salguero-Gómez, University of Sheffield, UK.
  • Benjamin Schwessinger, Australian National University, Australia.

We encourage you to read this collection of Tansley insights, all of which were submitted as part of the 2016 Tansley Medal competition. We offer our warmest congratulations all of the finalists, and we look forward to following their future careers.

Etienne Laliberté, winner of the 2016 New Phytologist Tansley Medal award.

Root traits

31 May 2017
New Phytologist has long been at the forefront of research on root biology, curating journal articles that have sought to advance our understanding and modeling of plant-mediated belowground processes, in special journal issues, and in sponsoring collaboration and discussion at symposia and workshops. This trend promises to continue for the foreseeable future; for example, the topic of plant roots will be highlighted in the upcoming 2017 Symposium, ‘Trait covariation: structural and functional relationships in plant ecology’. New Phytologist is now playing a prominent role in advancing the theme of root traits; the number of papers identified by a keyword search on ‘root traits’ in the journal has quintupled in the last 15 years. In a recently published Tansley insight, 2017 Tansley Medal winner Etienne Laliberté proposed six research frontiers for advancing belowground trait-based ecology: redefining fine roots, quantifying trait dimensionality, integrating mycorrhizas, broadening the suite of belowground traits, determining trait–environment linkages, and understanding ecosystem-level consequences. Research papers, Reviews, Letters, and Commentaries published in New Phytologist in recent years have all contributed to our understanding of these research frontiers, and we highlight this burgeoning ‘belowground movement’ in this Virtual Issue. Here, we present recent (2014–2017) papers in which root traits were the dominant focus, including papers describing the general concepts of root traits, how root traits can be harnessed by terrestrial biosphere models, and the relationships among root traits and root function, mycorrhizas, and ecosystem properties.

Richard J. Norby, Editor, New Phytologist
Colleen M. Iversen, Advisor, New Phytologist
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TN, USA

Distribution of fine roots with depth in the soil is an important root trait. In the Amazon rain forest an important fraction of the fine-root population is right at the soil surface, as seen here at the site of the Amazon FACE experiment. Photo by Richard Norby, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TN, USA.

Plant senescence

15 November 2016
The word 'senescence' is recorded as having been around in the English language since before 1700, but it was not until the late 19th century that it began to be used in biology. Charles Sedgwick Minot (1891) was an early adopter, eventually publishing this 1908 book The Problem of Age, Growth and Death. A Study of Cytomorphosis, in which he defined senescence thus: 'With each successive generation of cells the power of growth diminishes ... This loss of power I term senescence'. This broadly remains the meaning of the term as used by population biologists to this day. Senescence in the sense of the terminal phase in the development of cells, tissues and organs was not adopted by plant physiologists until later. A landmark in the history of studies of senescence in plant growth and development was Die Lebensdauer von Pflanzen, the classic work published in 1929 by Hans Molisch. Now senescence research embraces the full scope of plant and environmental science, from the molecular to the global. In the past decade, more than 800 papers published in New Phytologist have referred, directly or indirectly, to senescence. The papers in the Virtual Issue are selected to celebrate the range of activity across this fertile field of enquiry and to coincide with the 8th International Symposium on Plant Senescence in Jeju, Korea (October, 2016).

Helen Ougham, Co-Editor, New Phytologist
Howard Thomas, Guest Editor, New Phytologist
Aberystwyth University, Ceredigion, UK

Foliar senescence in Mahonia. Autumn leaves at Westonbirt Arboretum, UK. Photo: Howard Thomas. 

Highlights of 2015

15 March 2016

For this Virtual Issue, the Editorial team has compiled a list of our most popular papers, published in New Phytologist in 2015. The selected papers cover a broad range of topics – from synthetic biology to carbon allocation and root respiration – spanning the four sections of the journal: Physiology and Development; Environment; Interaction; and Evolution. The selected papers also highlight the paper formats offered by New Phytologist: Letters, Viewpoints and Commentaries; Research papers and Rapid reports; Research reviews and our free to access Tansley insights and Tansley reviews. For more information about the remit of the journal and the article types available, please read our Aims and Scope.

The Editorial team at New Phytologist works closely with authors, our publisher, and the press office to ensure that the plant science published in the journal receives as much coverage as possible. Research published in the journal is frequently highlighted in press releases that are picked up by news outlets. Our publisher, Wiley, offers a range of services as part of a promotional toolkit for authors, and we have just launched a new blog, which will create further exciting opportunities for communicating the excellent science published in the journal. We are always looking for new ways to promote the work of our authors and reviewers to enhance the impact of their contributions to the journal. We hope that you will enjoy this compilation of popular New Phytologist papers published in 2015. 

Mike Whitfield, Development Coordinator, New Phytologist 

Probing the carbon cycle with 13C

2 September 2009
In this Virtual Special Issue, we bring together 20 recent papers from New Phytologist that use the stable isotope of carbon (13C) to explore plant and ecosystem C cycling. They cover a wide range of biological questions: basic plant metabolism and biochemistry, gaseous exchanges with the atmosphere, and plant–soil and biotic interactions. Together, this collection of papers shows how powerful 13C has become as a research tool, and how creative and sophisticated researchers have become in exploiting its use.

Richard J. Norby. Editor, New Phytologist
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TN, USA

Plant ecological strategy axes in leaf and wood traits

25 July 2008
The study of plant ecological strategy axes has emerged as an important area of research in the past decade. The papers in the Virtual Issue affirm the predictive value of the underlying relationships among plant functional traits, and the utility of the leaf economic spectrum as a framework to understand variation among sites and among different groups of species. The substantive progress relating wood anatomical traits to plant function and ecological adaptation suggests that additional strategy axes soon may be uncovered to complement this framework.

David D. Ackerly, Editor, New Phytologist
Peter S. Curtis, Editor, New Phytologist

Cell biology at the plant–microbe interface

15 September 2015
Historically, the study of plant–microbe interactions has been undertaken at the whole-plant or tissue level, but with the advancement of molecular, biochemical, and especially cell biological tools and techniques, there is now a strong focus on the study of individual cells in the field of plant–microbe interactions.
To celebrate the 36th New Phytologist Symposium Cell biology at the plant–microbe interface we prepared a Virtual Issue comprised of articles that highlight many different aspects of cell biology and plant–microbe interactions. The Virtual Issue covers nine cell biological themes: recognition at the cell surface; calcium signalling; endomembrane and vesicle trafficking; proteolysis and 26S proteasomes; cytoskeleton function; protein complexes; nuclear targeting and nucleocytoplasmic shuttling; transmembrane transport; and, finally, imaging. This collection highlights the cutting-edge research published by New Phytologist across all of these themes.
Infection structures of Phakopsora pachyrhizi under transmission light and Mach–Zehnder false colour micrographs. A single uredospore of P. pachyrhizi, which had formed an appressorium on glass slides at 8 h after germination, is shown in transmitted light (left panel). A false colour micrograph of the same appressorium, which was created using the Mach–Zehnder interferometer, is depicted in the right panel. The latter image consists of five individually captured interference contrast images and was processed with the phase shift algorithm. The sequence of colours (blue to red, colour bars in the bottom right corners of the right panel) represents a phase shift of λ/2 (λ = 546 nm). Image from Fig. 4 Loehrer et al., 2014. stoichiometry in terrestrial ecosystems.

Ralph Panstruga, Editor, New Phytologist
Hannah Kuhn, Guest Editor, New Phytologist
RWTH Aachen University, Germany

Plant volatiles

15 March 2016
The language of plants is chemical, which is why we have seen plants become increasingly used as the basic model systems to understand chemical information transfer between organisms. To a large extent this information transfer is realized through the emission of plant volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from various plant tissues. Over 1700 VOCs from at least 90 plant families have been identified so far, and this Virtual Special Issue highlights a diverse range of studies published in New Phytologist that delve into the mechanisms of biosynthesis and physiology, as well as the ecological functions of plant VOCs in mediating plant interactions with other plants, pollinators, herbivores and natural enemies of herbivores, as well as larger-scale ecosystem effects.

Multifunctionality and functional redundancy: The emerging functional and evolutionary analysis of plant volatile organic compounds. Flower longhorn beetle (Leptura maculata, Poda (1761)) visiting a rose flower (Rosa nitida, Wild.). (Photo: André Kessler).

André Kessler, Editor, New Phytologist 
Cornell Univesity, NY, USA

Virtual Special Issue to mark the 200th Volume of New Phytologist

27 August 2013
To mark the publication of the 200th volume of New Phytologist, Editor-in-Chief Alistair Hetherington invited two of his predecessors, Peter Ayres and Ian Woodward, to personally select articles that they deemed to be significant from the journal's archive.
Selecting a small number of articles for inclusion in this VI was no easy task, and a diverse group of papers with a publication span from 1904 to 2010 is presented in this collection. The selected articles typify the enduring nature of research published in New Phytologist over 200 volumes, and illustrate how articles published, in some cases, over 100 years ago are as relevant today as they were upon first publication.
All of the articles included in this VI are freely available without subscription. The New Phytologist Trust ensures that all New Phytologist content is free to view one year after publication, and that all Tansley reviews and Forum articles are free to access as soon as they are published. We hope that this collection will inspire readers to explore the journal's archive, as well as our current content, where they will find seminal research works alongside an unparalleled collection of authoritative review articles, letters and commentary.

Peter G. Ayres, Editor-in-Chief, New Phytologist (19952002)
Alistair M. HetheringtonEditor-in-Chief, New Phytologist
F. Ian WoodwardEditor-in-Chief, New Phytologist (20022012)

Scaling Root Processes: Global Impacts

4 November 2013
The origins of this Virtual Issue lie in a workshop titled Scaling Root Processes: Global Impacts, held in Washington, D.C. on 7–9 March 2012. The workshop was organised in response to the growing recognition of the importance of terrestrial ecosystems in the global carbon cycle and the need to improve model representations of carbon flow within ecosystems by bringing root functions into models.

The workshop brought together over 50 researchers to discuss new research approaches and technologies for improving our fundamental understanding of root processes and their representation in predictive climate models. Many of the articles included in this collection originated from the workshop discussions. Others in the collection have been selected from the New Phytologist archive. The journal has a long history of publishing important work on root biology, particularly in relation to global change issues, and this collection serves to further enhance the understanding of root systems and their dynamic interactions with broader ecosystem-level processes.

Rosa Matamala, Guest Editor, New Phytologist 
Argonne National Laboratory, IL, USA

Ecological stoichiometry & global change

14 October 2012
Plants and other organisms have a diverse array of strategies with which they maximise growth and survival in a world of limited resources. These limiting resources include light and water, and also essential nutrients that are required for metabolism and growth, but that are often in short enough supply to constrain those vital functions.

Ecological stoichiometry focuses on the dynamics and interactions of multiple elements within organisms and the cycling between organisms and their environment. In this Virtual Issue, we bring together a collection of New Phytologist articles focused on ecological stoichiometry and global change that combines the products of the 27th New Phytologist Symposium, 'Stoichiometric flexibility in terrestrial ecosystems under global change', held in September 2011, and recent papers published in New Phytologist that address the range of applications of ecological stoichiometry in terrestrial ecosystems.

Amy T. Austin, Editor, New Phytologist 
University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Calcium signalling in plants

11 November 2011
This Virtual Issue presents a number of recent research articles and reviews that address some key features of signal transduction (stimulus perception, generation of and decoding information from Ca2+ signatures; and interactions with other signals and messengers) in plants and algae. The articles provide a snapshot of this rapidly advancing field and point to requirements for future research.

Stimulus-induced Ca2+ oscillations in the cytosol in non-cytosolic locations, including the nucleus, chloroplast stroma and mitochondria. Image from Fig. 1 McAinch and Pittman (2008). 

Alistair Hetherington, Editor-in-Chief, New Phytologist 
University of Bristol, UK
Colin Brownlee, Editor, New Phytologist 

Sir Arthur Tansley's ecosystem concept

20 October 2011
Celebrating the ecosystem's three-quarter century: Introduction to a Virtual Issue on Sir Arthur Tansley's ecosystem concept

Ecosystem ecology has played a central role in our understanding of the natural world, and the importance of plants as the organisms that define the amount and flow of energy entering the ecosystem demonstrates the fundamental role of plant science in our understanding of how ecosystems function.

New Phytologist has a tradition of publishing original research papers and reviews focused on the interface between plant and ecosystem science. But there is an additional reason for the collection in this Virtual Issue: the commemoration of the publication of a seminal paper by Sir Arthur Tansley (1935), which was fundamental in establishing the ecosystem concept in biological studies.

And so, three quarters of a century on, we celebrate the ecosystem concept with a series of New Phytologist papers that span the range from gene to the globe, from the tropics to the tundra, with an eye on the visionary influence of Sir Arthur Tansley on modern ecosystem science.

Amy T. Austin, Editor, New Phytologist 
University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Pathogenic plant–fungus interactions

22 December 2010
Plants are continuously threatened by a plethora of biotic stresses that include encounters with viruses, bacteria, fungi, nematodes and herbivorous animals. Amongst these threats, diseases caused by fungal pathogens have a particular impact, accounting for major damage and yield loss in agriculture.

Basic research on such plant diseases is thus pivotal to advance our understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying fungal pathogenesis and plant defence. In the long term, these activities may lead to rational strategies for durable disease control that will result in a reduction in fungicide usage.

New Phytologist has a long-standing tradition in the publication of original research articles and reviews that address molecular, physiological, evolutionary and environmental aspects of symbiotic and pathogenic plant-fungus interactions.

In this Virtual Issue we have compiled a selection of papers that include research on the topics of molecular mechanisms of fungal pathogenesis, plant defence signalling and response, and analyses of the plant-fungus interface.

Ralph Panstruga, Editor, New Phytologist 
Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany

Plant respiration

1 June 2011
New Phytologist has a long history in publishing studies that enhance our understanding of the underlying mechanisms that regulate plant respiratory metabolism, and how environmental gradients impact on respiratory rates. Here, we build on this heritage by highlighting papers that further enhance our understanding of:

  • respiration-temperature interactions, both in non-thermogenic and thermogenic tissues;
  • how leaf respiratory metabolism differs in light and in darkness;
  • the importance of respiration for the carbon economy of individual plants and whole ecosystems;
  • sources of carbon used in above and below-ground respiratory metabolism; and,
  • factors regulating respiratory metabolism in plants.
Given the pivotal nature of respiration for plant growth, performance and survival, and the importance of respiratory carbon dioxide release, it is vital that the scientific community form a better understanding of the key determinants of respiration, and how variable environments impact on respiratory functioning. The papers contained in this Virtual Issue represent a substantive step forward in achieving the goal of establishing a holistic understanding of respiration-environment interactions.

Owen K. Atkin, Editor, New Phytologist 
ANU, Camberra, Australia


15 January 2010
Mycoheterotrophic plants obtain all their carbon requirements through symbiotic associations with fungi, and, while achlorophyllous, they are not directly parasitic on other plants. Research into the biology of mycohetertrophy has a long history in New Phytologist, perhaps because of the integration of plant physiology and plant-fungal interactions, two main research field interesting the audience of New Phytologist. Indeed the word mycoheterotrophy itself was first coined in the journal by Jonathan Leake in his Tansley review (see Leake, 1994).
This Virtual issue brings together papers previously published in the journal, alongside three short letters which provide insights into the recent advances in the field.
Corallorhiza trifida growing in a dense Fagus sylvatica forest in eastern Hesse, Germany. Image from Zimmer et al., 2008.  
Marc-André Selosse, Editor, New Phytologist
Duncan D. Cameron, University of Sheffield, UK

Phytopathogen effector proteins

4 April 2014
Pathogen effectors are small secreted proteins which can be found in the apoplastic space or in the cytoplasm of plant cells as a result of infection by parasites. Effectors can be involved in reprogramming host cells by either suppressing plant defence responses and / or diverting nutrient flow towards the microbial intruder.
The growth in literature devoted to effectors is clear in the collection of papers presented here. The New Phytologist Trust has particularly supported research in this area through the organisation of two symposia with an emphasis on effectors in plant–microbe interactions: the 22nd New Phytologist Symposium in 2009 and the 30th New Phytologist Symposium in 2012.

Micrograph visualising Bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) analysis of the interaction between the bacterial (Pseudomonas syringae) effector HopD1 and its plant target, the Arabidopsis thaliana transcription factor NTL9. Yellow fluorescence signifies the complemented YFP molecule at the plant endoplasmic reticulum, the red signal is the result of chlorophyll autofluorescence. Image from Fig. 4 Block et al., (2013). 

Ralph Panstruga, Editor, New Phytologist
Hannah Kuhn, Guest Editor, New Phytologist
RWTH Aachen University, Germany