Solonetz meadow vegetation (Beckmannion eruciformis) in East-Hungary – an alliance driven by moisture and salinity
- Wet meadows are transitional habitats between wetlands and dry-mesophilous grasslands; thus, they are vital in sustaining biodiversity as sources, stepping stones and green corridors of species dispersal. It is especially valid for inland alkali vegetation, where high landscapescale patchiness is typical and rapid shifts between vegetation types occur frequently. Solonetz meadows (Beckmannion eruciformis) are among the bestpreserved open habitats in Europe harbouring a unique flora including several endemics. Besides their importance, studies on the vegetation of solonetz meadows are scarce even though this knowledge would be vital for their effective conservation and management. Using own records and literature data, we provide a synthesis of the alliance Beckmannion eruciformis to characterise its associations floristically and ecologically in five regions along the river Tisza, East Hungary. We studied three associations of the alliance: (i) Agrostio stoloniferae-Alopecuretum pratensis, (ii) Agrostio stoloniferae-Beckmannietum eruciformis and (iii) Agrostio stoloniferae-Glycerietum pedicellatae. We found that solonetz meadow associations were separated along a moisture gradient with Agrostio stoloniferae-Alopecuretum pratensis at the drier end and Agrostio stoloniferae-Glycerietum pedicellateae at the wet end. This gradient was also justified by the distribution of the phytosociological groups. The proportion of species of Festuco-Brometea division was the highest in Agrostio stoloniferae-Alopecuretum pratensis, while the proportion of Cypero-Phragmitetea species was the highest in Agrostio stoloniferae-Glycerietum pedicellateae. Species of Puccinellio-Salicornetea had the highest proportion in Agrostio stoloniferae-Beckmannietum eruciformis, indicating the high soil salinity of this association. Our results suggest that Agrostio stoloniferae-Alopecuretum pratensis association plays an important role in preserving the continental flora elements of the surrounding dry grasslands. The ecological indicator values for soil moisture and salinity suggest that in case of the studied solonetz meadow associations, humidity increases with decreasing elevation, while salinity is highest at medium elevations. Our results suggest that Agrostio stoloniferae-Beckmannietum eruciformis is a transition towards salt marsh associations, while Agrostio stoloniferae-Glycerietum pedicellatae is a transition towards freshwater marshes. Our results show that preserving solonetz meadows is an important task for nature conservation as they have a crucial role in maintaining landscapescale species and habitat diversity and act as buffer zones around wetlands.
Effects of water regime and agricultural land use on diversity and species composition of vascular plants inhabiting temporary ponds in northeastern Germany
- Fluctuations of the water level at the edges of temporary water bodies provide favourable living conditions for annual plant communities of the phytosociological class Isoëto-Nanojuncetea. Such communities of periodically flooded ponds within the agricultural landscape of NE Germany are particularly rich in rare plant species of that class. During the past decades drainage, fertilisation and herbicides in the surrounding arable fields have led to a severe decline in diversity of these species. To develop efficient conservation strategies it is essential to understand the factors driving the species composition. Therefore, we studied how varying water regimes, soil properties and agricultural practices affect the diversity and species composition of these temporary ponds. The study was carried out in seven ponds on a conventionally managed farm in NE Brandenburg. At each of these wetlands mixed soil samples were taken to determine the pH, total nitrogen and phosphorus concentration. The plant species were recorded in 177 plots, each covering 1 x 1 m². For each plot, the water level was recorded in April, July and August 2013, respectively, resulting in five ‘water level regimes’. Total species number and percentages of Isoëto-Nanojuncetea species were determined per plot, to evaluate water level effects on the vegetation. In addition, mean Ellenberg indicator values for light, moisture and nutrients were calculated to assess the environmental conditions. Kruskal-Wallis tests with subsequent multiple comparisons showed significant differences between water regimes in both total species richness and percentage of Isoëto-Nanojuncetea species. Isoëto-Nanojuncetea species established best at sites with fluctuating water levels. Fitting environmental variables to NMDS ordination axes indicated that the water regime was the most significant factor for floristic variation. In plots with a more uniform water regime the species composition was explained mainly by the soil fertility. Farming practices showed less pronounced effects on species composition. Our results suggest that maintaining water regimes with fluctuating water levels and keeping nutrient content low are crucial for the successful conservation of Isoëto-Nanojuncetea communities in arable landscapes.
Epizoochory via the hooves – the European bison (Bison bonasus L.) as a dispersal agent of seeds in an open-forest-mosaic
Kiowa Alraune Schulze
- Large herbivores are significant vectors for the long distance dispersal of seeds in various habitats, both attached to animals (epizoochory) and via gut passage (endozoochory). The majority of studies on epizoochory have examined dispersal in the fur of domesticated ungulates. Studies on wild ungulates are important to understand dispersal processes in many habitats, but rare due to methodological constraints. We studied epizoochory of seeds by European bison in an open-forest-mosaic (nutrient poor grassland and heathland, mixed forest) in NW Germany, where bison had been introduced for the purpose of nature conservation. At the study site it was possible to apply a method by which hoof material of freeranging bison was non-invasively collected. We identified a total of 1082 seeds from 32 plant species in the hoof material. The three most abundant species were Polygonum aviculare, Agrostis capillaris and Betula spp. Seed species originated from various habitat types of the study area, while the majority of seeds derived from trampled areas. Compared to the non-dispersed plant species of the study area, dispersed plant species had a higher seed longevity index, suggesting that many seeds were picked up from the soil seed bank. Epizoochory ranking indices of dispersed seed species, classifying the importance of epizoochory, revealed that transport in the fur may be of minor importance for many species, i.e. epizoochory by the hooves turned out to be negatively correlated to epizoochory in the fur. We conclude that European bison disperses a considerable number of seed species through trampling. Further research should consider epizoochory via the hooves and include integrative approaches to understand the different dispersal mechanisms by ungulates and their longterm synergetic effect on plant communities.
Ribosomal Readthrough at a Short UGA Stop Codon Context Triggers Dual Localization of Metabolic Enzymes in Fungi and Animals
Alina C. Stiebler
Kay O. Schink
Britta A. M. Tillmann
- Translation of mRNA into a polypeptide chain is a highly accurate process. Many prokaryotic and eukaryotic viruses, however, use leaky termination of translation to optimize their coding capacity. Although growing evidence indicates the occurrence of ribosomal readthrough also in higher organisms, a biological function for the resulting extended proteins has been elucidated only in very few cases. Here, we report that in human cells programmed stop codon readthrough is used to generate peroxisomal isoforms of cytosolic enzymes. We could show for NAD-dependent lactate dehydrogenase B (LDHB) and NAD-dependent malate dehydrogenase 1 (MDH1) that translational readthrough results in C-terminally extended protein variants containing a peroxisomal targeting signal 1 (PTS1). Efficient readthrough occurs at a short sequence motif consisting of a UGA termination codon followed by the dinucleotide CU. Leaky termination at this stop codon context was observed in fungi and mammals. Comparative genome analysis allowed us to identify further readthrough-derived peroxisomal isoforms of metabolic enzymes in diverse model organisms. Overall, our study highlights that a defined stop codon context can trigger efficient ribosomal readthrough to generate dually targeted protein isoforms. We speculate that beyond peroxisomal targeting stop codon readthrough may have also other important biological functions, which remain to be elucidated.
Linking macroscopic with microscopic neuroanatomy using synthetic neuronal populations
Calvin J. Schneider
- Dendritic morphology has been shown to have a dramatic impact on neuronal function. However, population features such as the inherent variability in dendritic morphology between cells belonging to the same neuronal type are often overlooked when studying computation in neural networks. While detailed models for morphology and electrophysiology exist for many types of single neurons, the role of detailed single cell morphology in the population has not been studied quantitatively or computationally. Here we use the structural context of the neural tissue in which dendritic trees exist to drive their generation in silico. We synthesize the entire population of dentate gyrus granule cells, the most numerous cell type in the hippocampus, by growing their dendritic trees within their characteristic dendritic fields bounded by the realistic structural context of (1) the granule cell layer that contains all somata and (2) the molecular layer that contains the dendritic forest. This process enables branching statistics to be linked to larger scale neuroanatomical features. We find large differences in dendritic total length and individual path length measures as a function of location in the dentate gyrus and of somatic depth in the granule cell layer. We also predict the number of unique granule cell dendrites invading a given volume in the molecular layer. This work enables the complete population-level study of morphological properties and provides a framework to develop complex and realistic neural network models.
Getting What Is Served? Feeding Ecology Influencing Parasite-Host Interactions in Invasive Round Goby Neogobius melanostomus
- Freshwater ecosystems are increasingly impacted by alien invasive species which have the potential to alter various ecological interactions like predator-prey and host-parasite relationships. Here, we simultaneously examined predator-prey interactions and parasitization patterns of the highly invasive round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) in the rivers Rhine and Main in Germany. A total of 350 N. melanostomus were sampled between June and October 2011. Gut content analysis revealed a broad prey spectrum, partly reflecting temporal and local differences in prey availability. For the major food type (amphipods), species compositions were determined. Amphipod fauna consisted entirely of non-native species and was dominated by Dikerogammarus villosus in the Main and Echinogammarus trichiatus in the Rhine. However, the availability of amphipod species in the field did not reflect their relative abundance in gut contents of N. melanostomus. Only two metazoan parasites, the nematode Raphidascaris acus and the acanthocephalan Pomphorhynchus sp., were isolated from N. melanostomus in all months, whereas unionid glochidia were only detected in June and October in fish from the Main. To analyse infection pathways, we examined 17,356 amphipods and found Pomphorhynchus sp. larvae only in D. villosus in the river Rhine at a prevalence of 0.15%. Dikerogammarus villosus represented the most important amphipod prey for N. melanostomus in both rivers but parasite intensities differed between rivers, suggesting that final hosts (large predatory fishes) may influence host-parasite dynamics of N. melanostomus in its introduced range.
Seed Transmission of Pseudoperonospora cubensis
Avia E. Rubin
- Pseudoperonospora cubensis, an obligate biotrophic oomycete causing devastating foliar disease in species of the Cucurbitaceae family, was never reported in seeds or transmitted by seeds. We now show that P. cubensis occurs in fruits and seeds of downy mildew-infected plants but not in fruits or seeds of healthy plants. About 6.7% of the fruits collected during 2012–2014 have developed downy mildew when homogenized and inoculated onto detached leaves and 0.9% of the seeds collected developed downy mildew when grown to the seedling stage. This is the first report showing that P. cubensis has become seed-transmitted in cucurbits. Species-specific PCR assays showed that P. cubensis occurs in ovaries, fruit seed cavity and seed embryos of cucurbits. We propose that international trade of fruits or seeds of cucurbits might be associated with the recent global change in the population structure of P. cubensis.
Halophilic Archaea Cultivated from Surface Sterilized Middle-Late Eocene Rock Salt Are Polyploid
Salla T. Jaakkola
Dennis H. Bamford
Hanna M. Oksanen
- Live bacteria and archaea have been isolated from several rock salt deposits of up to hundreds of millions of years of age from all around the world. A key factor affecting their longevity is the ability to keep their genomic DNA intact, for which efficient repair mechanisms are needed. Polyploid microbes are known to have an increased resistance towards mutations and DNA damage, and it has been suggested that microbes from deeply buried rock salt would carry several copies of their genomes. Here, cultivable halophilic microbes were isolated from a surface sterilized middle-late Eocene (38–41 million years ago) rock salt sample, drilled from the depth of 800 m at Yunying salt mine, China. Eight unique isolates were obtained, which represented two haloarchaeal genera, Halobacterium and Halolamina. We used real-time PCR to show that our isolates are polyploid, with genome copy numbers of 11–14 genomes per cell in exponential growth phase. The ploidy level was slightly downregulated in stationary growth phase, but the cells still had an average genome copy number of 6–8. The polyploidy of halophilic archaea living in ancient rock salt might be a factor explaining how these organisms are able to overcome the challenge of prolonged survival during their entombment.
The changing dynamics of US inflation persistence: a quantile regression approach
Maik Hendrik Wolters
- We examine both the degree and the structural stability of inflation persistence at different quantiles of the conditional inflation distribution. Previous research focused exclusively on persistence at the conditional mean of the inflation rate. As economic theory provides reasons for inflation persistence to differ across conditional quantiles, this is a potentially severe constraint. Conventional studies of inflation persistence cannot identify changes in persistence at selected quantiles that leave persistence at the median of the distribution unchanged. Based on post-war US data we indeed find robust evidence for a structural break in persistence at all quantiles of the inflation process in the early 1980s. While prior to the 1980s inflation was not mean reverting, quantile autoregression based unit root tests suggest that since the end of the Volcker disinflation the unit root can be rejected at every quantile of the conditional inflation distribution.
Analysis of trainees' memory after classroom presentations of didactical ultrasound courses
Marco Campo dell' Orto
- Background: Emergency ultrasound is gaining importance in medical education. Widespread teaching methods are frontal presentations and hands-on training. The primary goal of our study was to evaluate the impact of frontal presentations (PS) by analysis of retained knowledge rate (RKR) and learning load (LL).
Methods: Our study was conducted during four introductory courses in emergency ultrasound covering Extended Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma (E-FAST) and Focused Echocardiography Evaluation in Life Support (FEEL). Standardized PS (length of 10 to 50 min) were presented by experienced trainers, who were asked to provide keywords, key messages, and images and assign a score to each. Group 1 consisted of 11 medical students with no prior ultrasound experience, and group 2 consisted of 80 physicians. Each group was audience to seven to eight standard PS and requested to answer a free text questionnaire after 0 h, 2.5 h, 24 h, and 14 days.
Results: In group 1, 168/176 questionnaires were analyzed, and 161/202 were analyzed in group 2. RKR in group 1 was 32.5%, 15%, 16%, and 12% at 0 h, 2.5 h, 24 h, and 2 weeks. The physicians' RKR were 23%, 20.5%, and 22.4% after 0, 2.5, and 24 h of a respective PS. The LL was 1.6/min for students and 1.2/min for physicians. There was no difference in RKR when comparing PS with higher and lower LL for both groups; shorter or case-based PS were associated with a higher RKR (p < 0.01).
Conclusions: Our study provides evidence that only a limited amount of information can be processed at a time. Only 12% of knowledge is retained after 2 weeks. Presentations of short duration can increase the retained knowledge rate. Therefore, frontal presentations and classroom-based ultrasound training and teaching should be adapted.