Research achivements at the Department of Ecology

Last changed: 26 March 2018

These are some of our most important achievements in research the last five years. Our research extends over the breadth of ecology, from genes and populations to ecosystem processes and services, and we disseminate knowledge to be used for effective environmental protection, nature conservation and sustainable forest and agricultural management.

New symbionts in lichens

Lichens are well-known model organisms of symbiosis. We have revealed that previously unknown basidiomycete fungi are widespread components of several macrolichens. Thus, the role and diversity of organisms involved in lichen symbioses need to be reconsidered.

Basidiomycete yeasts in the cortex of ascomycete macrolichens (Science)

Neonicotinoids affect wild pollinators

Neonicotinoid type insecticides were suspected of posing risks to bees, but the effects had only been measured on artificially-fed bees. For the first time, we demonstrated in field experiments how insecticide seed coating in a flowering crop has serious consequences for wild bees in real world landscapes.

Seed coating with a neonicotinoid insecticide negatively affects wild bees (Nature)

Indirect plant resistance

We have developed the novel concept “indirect plant resistance”, i.e. exploiting genetic variation in plant traits that supports the natural enemies of the pests, resulting in more sustainable plant protection than the alternatives involving rapid counter-adaptations in pests

Optimizing Crops for Biocontrol of Pests and Disease (Trends in plant Science)

Global patterns in predation

A rule in ecology is that species diversity increase with decreasing latitude. We demonstrated a parallel pattern in biotic interaction strength: Predation pressure increases towards the Equator and with declining elevation. This finding changed previous perceptions of how life is structured across our planet.

Higher predation risk for insect prey at low latitudes and elevations (Science)

Genetic rescue

We have demonstrated the impact of single immigrants on reproductive success in an inbred wolf population, combining field studies of marked wolves and DNA-analyses. This is one of the few documented cases of genetic rescue in populations of large mammals.

Genetic rescue in a severely inbred wolf population (Molecular Ecology)

Tree diversity and ecosystem services

We were the first to show that tree diversity in forests is positively related to multiple ecosystem services, including wood biomass, berry production and indicators of biodiversity. Forest management will benefit from considering multiple tree species to sustain more benefits obtained from forests.

Higher levels of multiple ecosystem services are found in forests with more tree species (Nature Communications)

Poaching in large carnivores

We have quantified poaching in large carnivores, both temporally and spatially, by combining field studies of individually marked individuals with national monitoring data, which have large consequences for the viability and conservation status for the carnivores.

National parks in northern Sweden as refuges for illegal killing of large carnivores (Conservation Letters)

Recovery of large carnivores

An international team of 70 authors from 20 countries and led by us gathered an exhaustive dataset on bears, lynx, wolves and wolverines in Europe to document their recovery. We showed that Europe hosts twice as many wolves as the United States, despite being half the size and twice as densely populated. This suggests that the usual wilderness paradigm (keeping predators far from people) is outperformed by the coexistence paradigm (letting predators mix with people).

Recovery of large carnivores in Europe’s modern human-dominated landscape

Importance of wild pollinators

Wild bees are declining, but it has been unclear whether they are important for crop pollination globally and if wild bee declines can be mitigated with managed honey bees. Using a global primary database, we showed that wild pollinators are more important for crop pollination than previously thought, and that they are essential pollinators in many crops Wild pollinators enhance fruit set of crops regardless of honey bee abundance  (Science)

Land use and greenhouse gas emissions

The department has made substantial contributions to the understanding of soil organic matter dynamics, how soil carbon balances are affected by abiotic drivers, and impacts of land use and management at a field and regional scale (e.g. Frontiers in Earth Science 5: 96; Biogeochemistry 130: 1-12).

Higher temperature sensitivity for stable than for labile soil organic carbon – Evidence from incubations of long‐term bare fallow soils

Sensitivity of soil carbon fractions and their specific stabilization mechanisms to extreme soil warming in a subarctic grassland (Global Change Biology)

Phosphorus fertilisation under nitrogen limitation can deplete soil carbon  stocks: evidence from Swedish meta-replicated long-term field experiments

Effect of perennial ryegrass cover crop on soil organic carbon stocks in southern Sweden (Geoderma Regional)

Predation effect of carnivores on ungulates

We have quantified the predation effect of carnivores on ungulates in human dominated landscapes, which is important for sustainable harvest of the ungulates, and indicated the impact of human activities on these trophic interactions.

Sharing the bounty—Adjusting harvest to predator return in the Scandinavian human–wolf–bear–moose system (Ecological Modelling)

Large Impact of Eurasian Lynx Predation on Roe Deer Population Dynamics (PLOSone)

Response of Moose Hunters to Predation following Wolf Return in Sweden (PLOSone)

Interplay between plant production and soil C sequestration

Most boreal forest trees form symbiotic associations with ectomycorrhizal fungi (ECM) which improve uptake of inorganic nitrogen (N) and also have the capacity to decompose soil organic matter (SOM) and mobilize organic N. We formulated a model that indicated that the interplay between plant production and soil C sequestration is sensitive to the partitioning between saprothrophic and ECM fungi decomposition.
Modelling the influence of ectomycorrhizal decomposition on plant nutrition and soil carbon sequestration in boreal forest  (NewPhytol)

Prescribed burnings positive for bidiversity

We found prescribed burnings to have positive effects on insect biodiversity, especially if there are much dead wood in surrounding landscape, but may increase the risk for outbreaks of pest insects

Metapopulation dynamics of a beetle species confined to burned forest sites in a managed forest region Ecography

Diversity patterns of wild bees and wasps in managed boreal forests: Effects of spatial structure, local habitat and surrounding landscape (Biological Conservation)

Effectiveness of local conservation management is affected by landscape properties: Species richness and composition of saproxylic beetles in boreal forest clearcuts (Forest Ecology and Management)

Forest restoration as a double-edged sword: the conflict between biodiversity conservation and pest control (Journal of Applied Ecology)

Climate change and insect pests

Based on literature reviews and ecological theory we have predicted how climate change is likely to affect the risk of pest damage and how forest management could be used to mitigate these risks

Climate Change and Insect Pests, book

Forest management and natural biocontrol of insect pests (Forestry)

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