Located at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, the Forest Ecology Research Group examines the functional basis of plant species distributions. Trade-offs between stress tolerance and performance contribute strongly to species distributions and may provide a more general basis for species range sizes and patterns of local distribution. We focus on forest ecosystems including tropical, temperate and boreal forests.
Typically the Taiga Plains Ecoregion is not known for its species diversity. But there are a lot of examples of beautiful and unique species that occur there, particularly in Scotty Creek, NWT. Mélissa Fafard, a MSc candidate in the Forest Ecology Research Group photographed and identified numerous plant species during her field season in the North.
Melissa’s pictures and notes have been added to Phyto Images, a website dedicated to cataloguing plant species in locations around the world. This resource is often used in plant identification and contains thousands of images. We are very pleased to contribute to this wonderful resource and highlight some of the biodiversity in Scotty Creek.
To view all the species catalogues at Scotty Creek go to: http://PhytoImages.siu.edu/index.html type “Scotty Creek” into the “Locality” field.
Like seeds dispersing in the wind, it is time for our undergraduate lab members to leave the group and move on. Congratulation to Dan Marshall and Brendan Moore for completing their theses and graduating from WLU.
For more information on their contributions to the group, please see their research posters below.
Best of luck to both of them!
Ana Sniderhan, a MSc candidate in the Forest Ecology Research Group, travelled to Scotty Creek, NWT in March 2013. Her objective was to conduct snow surveys of the forest monitoring plot which will help us understand the feedbacks between forest structure, snow capture and consequently nutrient and water inputs.
Galling herbivory in Scotty Creek
Numerous arthropod herbivores are found in the forest-wetland complex at Scotty Creek. One prominent guild of specialist arthropods found here are the group of gall-inducing arthropods (insects and mites).
Diversity of galling herbivory: An preliminary survey of galling herbivory revealed that a large majority of deciduous shrub species found here are galled by eriophyoid mites (Family: Eriophyoideae). These mites induce galls on species of willow (Salix), birch (Betula) and alder (Alnus). An initial assessment of gall-inducing insects indicates that insect gallers found on the various Salix species in this area are primarily sawflies (Hymenoptera: Tenthrenididae).
Impacts of galling herbivory in plant hosts: We examined leaf-level impacts of a gall-inducing mite (Vasates olfiedi) on birch (Betula) hosts in bogs, fens, and permafrost plateaus. This mite induces galls on leaves of Betula glandulosa (dwarf birch) growing in all three of the above habitats. Additionally, this mite also galls leaves of B. occidentalis (bog birch) and B. neoalaskana (Alaska white birch) on plateaus. We found that galling by this mite significantly reduced photosynthetic capacity in leaves of all three species found on upland permafrost plateaus. However, strong habitat-linked responses were seen in B. glandulosa leaves – while individuals of this species showed drastic declines in photosynthesis on plateaus, individual plants in bogs and fens showed no such responses. Based on these findings, is appears that the impacts of mite galling are variable, and are likely to be most pronounced in habitats and on individuals that are already exposed to abiotic stresses such as the cooler but more variable soil temperatures experienced by individuals on permafrost plateaus.
The Forest Ecology Research Group was been actively building towards the upcoming field season. We’re sending a student, as part of a team, up to Scotty Creek, NWT for snow survey work in our forest monitoring plots. It is still very much winter up there, and lots of snow, too.
There are two graduate positions available through Wilfrid Laurier University and the Taiga Plains Research Network (www.taigaplains.ca) as part of an ongoing partnership with the Government of the Northwest Territories (http://www.wlu.ca/research/LaurierNWT). We are rapidly expanding our integrative research program to better understand coupled ecological and hydrological responses of permafrost-impacted systems to warming. Our region of focus is the Taiga Plains Ecoregion, which spans the length of the MacKenzie River Valley in the Northwest Territories, Canada. This ecoregion covers a wide latitudinal range and therefore a wide range of permafrost ecosystem characteristics (see map), including boreal, taiga and tundra systems. Details of each position can be found here: Grad Advert Nov 2012