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KBS Director's research paper named among 100 most influential PDF Print E-mail

A research paper authored by KBS Director Katherine L. Gross has been recognized by the British Ecological Society (BES) as among 100 influential papers in the field of ecological science.

Thomas J. Givnish, Ph.D., the Henry Allan Gleason Professor of Botany and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, named Gross’s 1984 study, “Effect of seed size and growth form on seedling establishment of six monocarpic perennial plants,” published in the BES’s Journal of Ecology (Volume 72), as “seminal.”

The BES, founded in 1913, assembled the list as part of its centennial celebration. One hundred ecologists worldwide were asked to nominate a paper that they felt either influenced them or the science of ecology.

Givnish wrote: “This seminal study is based on a comparative experiment, in which Gross measured the relative growth rate (RGR, mg g-1 day-1) of six monocarpic herbs that share basal leaves but span more than two orders of magnitude in seed size. When plants were grown on bare soil, with or without litter, RGR decreased with seed size within and across species. When grown with a competitor, plants instead displayed an increase in RGR with seed size. These context-specific differences in RGR – combined with the usual advantages in seed number for smaller-seeded species at a given reproductive effort – have profound implications, suggesting that competition should favour small seeds in fugitive species that establish in recent disturbances, and larger seeds in species that establish in more crowded microsites. This study confirmed some earlier ideas regarding the adaptive significance of seed size, but surprisingly demonstrated an RGR advantage for small seeds in open microsites – a pattern supported by several later glasshouse studies. Gross’ investigation should be replicated on a grand scale, with phylogenetically structured analyses and addition of several co-varying traits, and the basis of context-specific advantages in RGR sought in the allometry of allocation to different organs and correlations with photosynthetic traits.”

Dr. Gross is a Michigan State University Distinguished Professor of Plant Biology, as well as KBS Director.

The BES publishes and disseminates ecological research in a variety of formats, including five journals: Journal of Ecology; Journal of Animal Ecology; Journal of Applied Ecology; Functional Ecology; and the online Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

See the entire list of nominated papers, and read Dr. Gross’s study, online at: http://www.festivalofecology.org/100-influential-papers