Plant invasion under global changes
Biotic exchange is itself a major component of global environmental change, but it might be strongly affected by other global change components such as global warming, extreme drought, CO2 enrichment, ozone enrichment, and nitrogen deposition. We use meta-analysis and experimental studies to test how different global change components interact with each other to affect plant invasion, and how global changes indirectly affect plant invasion (i.e. considering the roles of other trophic levels).
Additionally, global environmental change not only affects mean environmental conditions but also their variability. However, most studies have focused on changes in means values, and only few studies have manipulated variability in global change components. Therefore, we use multispecies experiments to test how environmental variability (i.e. nutrient variability) affect plant invasion, and explain the mechnisms behind it.
Besides the alien plant invasion, we also do some researches on neo-native plant invasions under global change. Specifically, we want to answer the two questions: (1) what is the drivers of woody plant invasion in wetland and grassland? (2) How do the range-expanding plant species interact with resident organisms under global changes?
Mechnisms of plant invasion
As Invasive alien plant species threaten native biodiversity, disrupt ecosystem functions, and cause large economic damage, it is an important and hot topic in ecology to explain why the alien species become invasive. Although dozens of classical hypotheses proposed to explain plant invasion, in our lab, we mainly focus on the Novel Weapon Hypothesis, Resource Fluctuation Hypothesis, Enemy Release Hypothesis, Diversity Resistant Hypothesis, Ecosystem Disturbance Hypothesis, Invasional Meltdown Hypothesis. We try to provide more and deep insights on the mechnisms of plant invasion success using meta-analysis and experimental studies.
Related Publications: Qi et al. (2020) Oecologia; Zhang et al. 2020, Ecology; Zhang et al. 2020, Ecology Letters; Zhang et al. 2020, Nature Ecology & Evolution; Liu et al. (2021) Oikos
Adaptive phenotypic plasticity
Adaptive phenotypic plasticity can be very advantageous for plants, because it may increase environmental tolerance (fitness homeostasis). We use experimental studies and meta-analysis to test the importance of phenotypic plasticity on plant success under global changes, and assess which trait response to environment changes is adaptive.
Environmental pollution effects on plants
Human activity caused many environmental changes on the planet. During the past decades, ecologists have already researched the ecological consequences of many global changes (e.g. climate change, biological invasions and eutrophication), and have started to find some general patterns. However, some other global changes have started to receive research attention only recently (e.g. light pollution, plastic pollution). Therefore, as a side research point of interest, we want to research (1) the indirect and indirect ecological consequences of light pollution on plants, and (2) the effects of microplastic pollution on terrestrial ecosystem, mainly focusing on plant and soil.
Related Publications: Speisser et al. (2021) Journal of Ecology