Dr. John makes Ecological Applications front cover…..all by hisself

Dwyer, J.M.; Fensham, R. & Buckley, Y.M. (2010). Agricultural legacy, climate, and soil influence the restoration and carbon potential of woody regrowth in Australia. Ecological Applications 20 (7): 1838-1850.

Dr. John Dwyer supplied the cover photo, of a Queensland narrow-leaf bottle tree (Brachychyton rupestris), to the latest addition of Ecological Applications (Vol 20,7).  This is not to be confused with his other front covers……

Yvonne’s new paper reflects on the benefits of being face down in a field….

From a train a man was observed lying face down in a field, on the train’s return journey the next day he was still in exactly the same position leading some of the passengers to think him dead.  He was in fact in the fortunate position (depending on your point of view) of being not dead, but a plant demographer.  Years of pain-staking data collection face down in fields have led to the construction of a data-base of thousands of population measurements for over 50 plant species. This has enabled us to determine two surprising facts: 1. The longer you study a population for the more its population growth rate declines and 2. The variability in population growth rate through time was more predictable than we had expected, a good year was quite likely to be immediately followed by a bad year.

As every 1st year science student knows correlation does not imply causation so we cannot recommend putting ourselves out of a job by halting all long term demographic studies in order to prevent rare plant declines. This might instead tell us something about how we go about setting up our studies – perhaps we should be less inclined to add excitement to the daily grind of being face down in a field by choosing only the charismatic fast-growing populations to study and instead include both fast and slow growing populations as starting points. Initially fast growing populations must at some point slow down or take over the world, so perhaps it’s inevitable that we find the large showy charismatic populations to be ultimately disappointing.

As populations vary more in time than in space with good years followed by bad and vice versa, the short-cut of studying multiple populations for short periods of time in lieu of following populations over longer time periods is not necessarily a good one. The peril of appearing to be dead will continue to be faced by plant demographers as they collect data year after year instead of flitting about from field to field.

Buckley,Y.M., Ramula, S.R., Blomberg, S.P., Burns, J.H., Crone, E.E., Ehrlen, J., Knight, T.M., Pichancourt, J.B., Quested, H. & Wardle, G.M. (2010). Causes and consequences of variation in plant population growth rate: a synthesis of matrix population models in a phylogenetic context. Ecology Letters 13(9): 1182–1197.

(Link to article)

Dinsdale et. al. (2010) publication with Dr. Buckley

Dinsdale, A.; Cook, L.; Riginos, C.; Buckley, Y.M. & De Barro, P. (2010).

Refined Global Analysis of Bemisia tabaci (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha: Aleyrodoidea: Aleyrodidae) Mitochondrial Cytochrome Oxidase 1 to Identify Species Level Genetic Boundaries.

Annals of the Entomological Society of America 103: 196-208.


What constitutes a species has long been controversial when it comes to organisms that lack an obvious difference for their characterisation.  Accurate classifications are important for both conservation of species, or for the control and monitoring of invasive species.  The greater the accuracy of our classifications means we can approach decisions relating to species of concern in a more informed way.

In this paper we examine the species bounds of Bemisia tabaci from a genetic viewpoint, as current classifications have not resolved this complex sufficiently enough to determine just how many species there may be under the current general heading of B. tabaci.  This paper is the most robust and accurate to date with regard to the quality of the genetic sequences used, from which we propose classification of the B. tabaci complex be considered as 24 distinct species.  This has also allowed us to construct consensus sequences for each of these to allow unknown individuals to be assigned to one of these known species groups.