Ecological succession and restoration

Along with the urbanization process, the abandonment of cropland becomes a widespread phenomenon worldwide, which would cause serious ecological, economical and political problems. Our lab focuses on the long-term ​dynamics of diversity patterns and plant invasion in the abandoned cropland. By using the data from the longest continuous study of old-field succession in the world – the Buell-Small Succession Study,  We aim to understand the mechanisms of ecological succession and promote the restoration of old fields. This project is collaborated with Prof. Marc Cadotte, Tadashi Fukami​, Fangliang He, Lin Jiang, and Scott Meiners.

Relevant papers:  

Ecology Letters | Ecology Letters Ecology Letters | Journal of Ecology | Journal of Plant Ecology

The Abandoned Cropland Plot (Credit: Wenbo Yu)

Darwin’s naturalization conundrum

In the Origin of Species, Darwin (1859) proposed that invader species that closely related to the natives in the resident communities could become either more or less successful. This paradox has been named Darwin’s naturalization conundrum. My lab used multiple approaches, which include long-term observational studies, experimental grasslands, and bacterial microcosms, to understand the influence of species’ evolutionary history on biological invasion. We aim to use phylogeny and functional traits to predict the success and impact of invasive species, and reconcile this 160-year-old conundrum.

Relevant papers:  

Global Change Biology | Ecology | ISME | Ecology Letters | Journal of Applied Ecology | Annual Review of Plant BiologyProc. R. Soc.B. | 中文综述

Schematic diagram of Darwin’s Naturalization Conundrum (Credit: Shaopeng Li)

Island biogeography of soil microbes

Microbes are known to exhibit biogeographic patterns. However, we know little about the biogeography of island-dwelling microorganisms. To address the knowledge gap, we plan to sequence soil samples collected on the land-bridge islands in the Thousand Island Lake (China), to explore patterns and determinants of bacterial and fungal diversity on actual islands. We aim to reveal whether the island biogeographical patterns of soil bacteria and fungi are generated by the same or different ecological processes.

Relevant papers:

ISME |  Environmental Microbiology | mLife

The Thousand Island Lake (Credit: Wande Li)

Community assembly of microbial microcosms

Small microcosms have long been considered a powerful tool to answer fundamental ecological questions. The early use of microcosms by G. F. Gause has contributed to the development of important concepts in ecology including the competitive exclusion principle. In our lab, we used bacterial and algal microcosms as a model system to investigate the causes and consequences of biodiversity loss. For example, we have shown that the loss of diversity reduced the productivity and cadmium removal efficiencies of algal microcosms.

Relevant papers:  

ISME | Journal of Applied Ecology | Journal of Applied Ecology | Journal of Ecology

Different bacteria in test tube