My Marsden Fund proposal success was reported this week in our local paper, the Otago Daily Times, along with the success of two of my office colleagues. Our office houses researchers from both Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and GNS Science, both Crown Research Institutes, and winning three funding bids is quite the success rate for a research staff of about 20!
I’m very excited to announce the success of my project proposal to the Marsden Fund of the NZ Royal Society, entitled Friends on the forest floor: do facilitative interactions dominate in New Zealand’s unique bryoflora? I’ll be working with Associate Professor David Burritt of the University of Otago and Dr. David Glenny of Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research to explore species interactions and physiological stress in NZ bryophytes over the next 3 years. Here is a summary of this Marsden Fast-Start project:
Competitive species interactions underpin modern theory on how plant communities are structured and which species are present. Facilitation, where the presence of a neighbouring species benefits rather than hinders a plant’s growth, is considered important mainly in harsh environments, where the neighbour could ameliorate the impact of stressful conditions. Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) are the oldest land plants. They lack roots and internal transport vessels, making them fundamentally different from flowering plants. Because bryophytes obtain nutrients and water directly from the atmosphere, they may be more likely to share than compete for resources, and thus may be especially reliant on facilitation between species to acquire and maintain water in their cells. To determine whether facilitative interactions increase in strength under stressful conditions or occur along the entire environmental gradient, we will measure the stress and performance responses of bryophytes grown in monoculture and with other species along experimentally-imposed temperature and moisture gradients. This will allow us to test the generality of current ecological theory derived from studies of flowering plants.