Workgroup and EcolChange seminar – Collins about the intraspecific variability of potato disease in Russia

Seminar of Chair of Crop Science and Plant Biology and Centre of Excellence EcolChange, Estonian Univ of Life Sciences

Presenter: Collins Agho is a PhD-student in the Estonian University of Life Sciences

Title of talk: High genotypic and phenotypic diversity of Phytophthora infestans in Pskov region, North-West Russia

Time: Monday, 2. March 2020 at 12.00

Place: Tartu, Kreutzwaldi 5 – D267 (Metsamaja)

pic from here
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Workgroup and EcolChange seminar – Rajendra and Linda-Liisa about boreal tree VOCs and gymnosperm mesophyll

Seminar of Chair of Crop Science and Plant Biology and Centre of Excellence EcolChange, Estonian Univ of Life Sciences

This week we have a double featured seminar.

First presenter: Rajendra Prasad Ghimire is a postdoc in University of Eastern Finland, who is visiting scientist in our lab during this semester

Title of his talk: Biogenic VOC emissions from boreal trees – effects of biotic and abiotic stress factors

Second presenter: Linda-Liisa Veromann-Jürgenson is a PhD student in EMÜ.

Title of her talk: The anatomical basis of mesophyll conductance in gymnosperms

Time: Monday, 17. February 2020 at 12.00

Place: Tartu, Kreutzwaldi 5 – D143 (Metsamaja; “Aquarium room”)

Boreal forest in Verkhoyansk, Russia, where the winter temperatures are the coldest in the northern hemisphere (average January temperature -45 oC), and it holds the Guiness record for the greatest temperature range in the world – 105 oC (pic from wiki)
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New visiting researcher – welcome Rajendra

Profile created by Rajendra Ghimire

Rajendra Prasad Ghimire, PhD (a visiting researcher)

Workplace: University of Eastern Finland, Department of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Kuopio, Finland

Position: Post-doctoral researcher

Research area: Environmental ecology, plant ecology, phytochemistry and global change

Research works: studying chemical defence of conifer tree species in response to biotic and abiotic stress factors, understanding stress-induced volatile plant secondary compounds (PSCs) with the focus on biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) in conifer tree species, and evaluating PSC-mediated ecosystem feedbacks to climate change


  • Studied how insect herbivory (pine sawflies Neodiprion sertifer Geoffroy, Diprion pini L., and Acantholyda posticalis Matsumura and European spruce bark beetles Ips typographus L.) and climate change factors (warming, ozone and soil nitrogen availability) affect BVOC emissions from boreal conifers (Scots pine and Norway spruce).

Postdoc project

  • Studying the effects of fungal pathogen (Dothistroma septosporum) infection on BVOC profiles of Scots pine in Riistavesi forest site in Kuopio, Finland
  • Assessing the effects of warming and insect herbivory on BVOC emissions from a birch-dominated subarctic heath ecosystem in an open-field exposure site at Kevo Subarctic Research Station in Utsjoki, Finland

Current workplace (01.01.2020-30.06.2020):

Estonian University of Life Sciences, Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Chair of Crop Science and Plant Biology (Head of the Chair: Prof. Ülo Niinemets), Tartu, Estonia

Current project aims:

  • To assess the effects of long-term warming on BVOC emissions and photosynthesis/CO2 uptake in young seedlings of two dominant conifer tree species (i.e. Norway spruce and Scots pine) in boreal forests.
  • To use the data collected in the modelling of BVOC emissions in the boreal forest region.
  • To publish a joint paper using data of this project in a collaboration with Prof. Niinemets’s lab (modelling collaborator: Dr. Steffen M. Noe)
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Workgroup and EcolChange seminar – Tana about the comparison of VOCs of living fossils and modern plants

Seminar of Chair of Crop Science and Plant Biology and Centre of Excellence EcolChange, Estonian Univ of Life Sciences

Presenter: Wuyuntana is a PhD-student in the Estonian University of Life Sciences.

Title of the talk: Comparison of the kinetics and magnitude of biogenic volatiles emission between “living fossil” Selaginella and “modern plant” Nicotiana

Time: Monday, 3. February 2020 at 12.00

Place: Tartu, Kreutzwaldi 5 – D143 (Metsamaja; “Aquarium room”)

Diversity of Selaginellas (pic from here)
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New publication – TRY plant trait database – enhanced coverage and open access

Text by Lauri Laanisto

There is hardly anyone doing plant ecology and physiology who is not aware of the TRY database. No need to introduce it, really… TRY started in 2011, and now the second paper about the database is published. With pretty impressive author´s list. As I´ve heard, everyone who had added data to TRY between 2011 and 2019 was invited to be a coauthor. I guess it is a nice way to thank the collaborators with a publication which will be highly-cited. (The first paper has received so far more than 1600 citation according to GScholar; and the new one already has 4 citations.) Once per 10 years it is ok…

Go and use and improve TRY – that is the message here. It´s (more) open now. That´s it! So, I will try something completely different.

One of the most known joke about Estonians among our neighbors is the following: An Estonian is in the zoo. Staring a rhino. And thinking – I wonder what he is thinking of me. We worry about that. A lot… Which is why I compared how we are doing TRY-wise in comparison with our neighbors.

There are 9 coauthors with affiliations to Estonian research institutions:

Kairi Adamson from Tartu Observatory

Aveliina Helm, Ivika Ostonen, Leho Tedersoo, Meelis Pärtel, Kersti Riibak from Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu

Ülo Niinemets, Giacomo Puglielli from Estonian University of Life Sciences

Angelika Portsmuth from Institute of Ecology, Tallinn University

But zero Latvians and zero Lithuanians. And only two Finns!

Great success!

Citation: Kattge, J., Bönisch, G., Díaz, S., Lavorel, S., Prentice, I. C., Leadley, P., … & Acosta, A. T. (2020). TRY plant trait database–enhanced coverage and open access. Global change biology, 26 (1): 119-188 (link to full paper)

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New paper – Predictability of leaf morphological traits for paleoecological reconstruction: the case of leaf cuticle and leaf dry mass per area

Text by Linda-Liisa Veromann-Jürgenson and Tiina Tosens

We just published a paper about the plausibility of using cuticle thickness in gymnosperms as a proxy for leaf mass per dry area (LMA). It was as the result of a wonderful collaboration between six academic institutes from four countries. The paper titled “Predictability of leaf morphological traits for paleoecological reconstruction: the case of leaf cuticle and leaf dry mass per area” is one of the two papers representing our team in the International Journal of Plant Sciences special issue – Functional Trait Evolution.

The reasoning behind this paper was to test a paleoproxy for estimating LMA from cuticle thickness (CT) in broad-leaved gymnosperms, and expand it across different foliage types and through the light gradient. This LMA-CT paleoproxy is a very attractive concept for assessing past ecosystem properties as cuticles are much more likely to be preserved in fossils than mesophyll. At the same time LMA is connected to many traits underlying the leaf economics spectrum as well as to some growth conditions like CO2 concentration and light availability. Paleoproxies are indeed a great tool to reconstruct the past environmental and ecological conditions for the plant, whose minute piece paleobotanists are studying millions of years later. However, as large generalizations are made based on tiny tiny preserved plant bits, we must make sure the correlations hold across many species and in different conditions. Thus, we tested the LMA-CT relationship on 86 gymnosperm species with broad leaves, needles and scales and used a sub-set to study the effect of growth light conditions on CT as its effect on LMA has been previously well established.

The relationship between LMA and CT in different leaf form types (graph from the paper)

Our results were promising! The proxy could be used for broad- and scale-leaved species, while the correlation does not hold for needles. Importantly, the reliability of the proxy increases for species at the lower end of the leaf economic spectrum (LES) – for species with tough robust leaves with high LMA – which is good considering that many of the so-called “living fossils” belong to that end of LES. However, we advise caution as taxonomy and light conditions affected the LMA-CT relationship, so just measuring CT from a diverse set of fossils may give you wrong results. Further tests distinguishing the morphotype of the fossilized leaf and the LMA-CT relationship in the nearest living relatives should be carried out. Nevertheless, CT on itself can give valuable information about the environmental conditions and stresses for the plant!

Full citation: Veromann-Jürgenson, L. L., Brodribb, T., Laanisto, L., Bruun-Lund, S., Niinemets, Ü., Nuño, S. L., Rinnan, R., Puglielli, G. & Tosens, T. (2019). Predictability of Leaf Morphological Traits for Paleoecological Reconstruction: The Case of Leaf Cuticle and Leaf Dry Mass per Area. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 181(1), (link to full text)

A living fossil in its natural habitat in Australia (pic by Linda-Liisa)


Our power to predict the future relies on our knowledge of the past. Paleoproxies are a powerful tool for understanding environmental and ecological conditions, and changes across different time periods. However, constructing a functioning paleoproxy requires a well-constrained and robustly tested model. This is challenging, especially if ecological traits are involved. In the current study we constructed an extended dataset to test the reliability of the derivation of leaf dry mass per unit area (LMA) from the thickness of fossil gymnosperm cuticle. Specifically, we tested if different leaf types (broad leaves, needles, scales), intraspecific variability in cuticle thickness, and growing conditions affect the functioning of the proxy. Taxonomic groups were analyzed to uncover the possible taxonomic influence on LMA, cuticle thickness and the LMA-CT relationship. Our results indicate that the cuticle thickness versus LMA relationship depends on multiple factors that can have various and incongruous effects on this relationship, depending especially on leaf type and growing conditions. We conclude that cuticle thickness measured from gymnosperm fossils could be used as a proxy for LMA in past ecosystems for some broad- and scale-leaved, but not needle-leaved gymnosperms. However, caution must be taken when comparing species from different environments or growth conditions.

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Welcome Upasana – new PhD student to study cryptogam diversity and stress tolerance

Text and pic by Upasana Sharma

Hello! It’s my pleasure to introduce myself ―  I am Upasana Sharma from India, pursuing my PhD in Estonian University of Life Sciences (Environmental sciences and applied biology) under the supervision of Professor Ülo Niinemets and Dr. Kristiina Mark.  First of all, I wish to thank my supervisors who found me suitable for the position and selected me for the program.

I am extremely happy to be a part of one of the best plant physiology labs in Europe, lead by a renowned plant physiologist prof. Ülo Niinemets and his team.

I completed my masters (M.Sc. in Botany) from University of Allahabad, India in 2015. Later on, I worked as a science teacher in a school for two years. Then again came back to the research field which was my core interest. After qualifying a National Eligibility Test (CSIR- NET/JRF) for lectureship as well as for research I joined as a junior research fellow the lichenology lab of CSIR- National botanical research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow, India in 2018.  One day while working in NBRI I got informed about the PhD position in physiology and ecology of cryptogams in the Estonian University of Life Sciences. The topic was interesting and related to lichens and mosses as I was already working in lichenology. So I was pretty excited to get the opportunity and to gain more knowledge about the physiological and ecological aspect of cryptogams. I applied for the position and was fortunate enough to get selected  after many formalities and paperwork.

I will work on the topic “ Cryptogam-associated  green algal diversity and stress tolerance in the perspective of global change” during my PhD.  As we know, people are working more and more focused on higher plants while cryptogams are less explored. But we should not ignore the crucial role of cryptogams in the ecosystems.   

I am also thankful to our plant physiology group members Tiia, Pille, Helina, Piret, and others, who have been very helpful. I am looking forward to give my best in contribution to science as a researcher, and as a person, always try to be a better version of me.

 Plethora of thanks!

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