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Insight into the phylogeny and responses of species from the genus Sergia (Campanulaceae) to the climate changes predicted for the Mountains of Central Asia (world biodiversity hotspot)

The limited colonization potential of high-mountain species adapted to rocky habitats with a specific "island" distribution patterns, makes these species particularly susceptible to climate change. Therefore, to understand species-responses to global warming, we analyzed the phylogenetic relationships and differences in ecological niches of two geographically isolated alpine species belonging to the genus Sergia. These taxa are considered Tertiary relicts, endemic to the Tian-Shan and Pamir-Alay mountains. The results of the analyzes revealed that the genus Sergia is a polyphyletic group, and its representatives differ geographically, ecologically and genetically. Although both S. regelii and S. sewerzowii share a common clade with the Asyneuma group, S. sewerzowii is more closely related to Campanula alberti (a species that has never previously been considered closely related to the genus Asyneuma nor Sergia) than to S. regelii. We also showed that S. sewerzowii is adapted to lower elevations and higher temperatures, whereas S. regelii prefers higher elevations and lower temperatures. However, future distribution models reveal that the range of S. regelii will shrink dramatically and shift to higher altitudes, while the potential range of S. sewerzowii will expand and shift to the north. The results of our paper will be helpful in a more accurate assessment of the impact of climate change and active protection of rock plant species occurring in this hotspot of global biodiversity.

For more information: Vintsek L., Klichowska E., Nowak A. & Nobis M. 2024. Insight into the phylogeny and responses of species from the genus Sergia (Campanulaceae) to the climate changes predicted for the Mountains of Central Asia (a world biodiversity hotspot). BMC in Plant Biology 24, 228.

Dominant herbaceous plants contribute to the spatial heterogeneity of beech and riparian forest soils by influencing fungal and bacterial diversity

Although herbaceous plants are known to contribute to the maintenance of the structure and function of temperate forests, their impact on fungal and bacterial communities in soils is largely unknown. Therefore, we conducted a comparative study of soil fungal and bacterial diversity in two Central European deciduous forests, focusing on plots with dominant herbaceous species of contrasting morphology, phenology, reproduction, and ecology, including Allium ursinum and Dentaria enneaphyllos in a beech forest, as well as Aegopodium podagraria and Ficaria verna in a riparian forest. Plots with a mixture of herbaceous species and without plant cover were also studied.

In both forests, fungal communities showed the strongest association with spatial location, part of which was explained by between-site variability in soil chemistry and was also influenced by herbaceous vegetation. The community composition of saprotrophic fungi depended on the presence and type of herbaceous vegetation in both forests. In addition, herbaceous plants affected the composition of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi community in the beech forest, while in the riparian forest they affected endophytes and plant pathogens. For bacteria, soil chemistry played the most important role.

Our results showed that dominant herbaceous vegetation is one of the drivers shaping microbial community composition, contributing to spatial heterogeneity of forest sites. Given that herbaceous species, especially those forming monospecific patches, affect the soil biotic properties in temperate forests, they should be included in forest management practices.

For more information: Zubek S., Rożek K., Chmolowska D., Odriozola I., Větrovský T., Skubała K., Thiago Dobler P., Stefanowicz A.M., Stanek M., Orzechowska A., Kohout P., Baldrian P. 2024. Dominant herbaceous plants contribute to the spatial heterogeneity of beech and riparian forest soils by influencing fungal and bacterial diversity. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 193: 109405.

Sensitivity of lichens to prolonged desiccation stress and the rate of photosynthesis reactivation upon rehydration - old-growth forest versus generalist lichens

Most epiphytic lichens demonstrate high specificity to a habitat type (forest or non-forested) and sensitive hygrophilous species usually find shelter only in close-to-natural forest complexes. Some of them are considered as old-growth forest and/or long ecological continuity indicators. To evaluate general links between the narrow ecological range and physiological traits, two distinct sets of model lichens, i.e. old-growth forest (Cetrelia cetrarioides, Lobaria pulmonaria, Menegazzia terebrata) and generalist ones (Flavoparmelia caperata, Hypogymnia physodes, Parmelia sulcata) were examined in terms of sensitivity to long-term desiccation stress (one-, two-, and three-month) and photosynthesis activation rate upon rehydration. The results showed that desiccation tolerance and response rate to rehydration are specific to a given ecological set of lichens rather than to a particular species. Noticeable delayed and prompt recovery of high photosynthetic activity of photosystem II (PSII) characterize these sets, respectively. Moreover, in contrast to generalist lichens, retrieving of photosynthesis after three-month desiccation failed in old-growth forest lichens. At the same time, although a decrease in the potential quantum yield of PSII in lichen thalli with a relative water content (RWC) at the level of 25% was observed, the efficiency remained at a very high level for all species, regardless of habitat preferences. Chlorophyll fluorescence emission parameters, both after shorter and longer period of desiccation stress, reached the equilibrium state most quickly after rehydration of F. caperata thalli. In the long term, prolonged rainless periods and unfavourable water balance in the environment predicted in the future may have a severely limiting effect on hygrophilous lichens during growing season and, at the same time, promote the development of generalists. This may apply to entire lichen associations closely related to forest habitat.

For more information: Osyczka P., Kościelniak R., Stanek M. 2024. Old-growth forest versus generalist lichens: Sensitivity to prolonged desiccation stress and photosynthesis reactivation rate upon rehydration. Mycologia 116: 31-43.