We selected the meta-analysis by Kulmatisk et al on the impact of soil foodwebs on plant growth and the forum on the relative importance of neutral stochasticity in community ecology by Vellend et al. as editor’s choice. These two papers create synthesis in community ecology. The first by pointing the first widespread support for the presence of trophic cascades in soils, the second one by providing conceptual clarity on the main prevailing stochastic processes in community dynamics.
Kulmatisk and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis based on 1526 experiments that measured plant growth responses to additions or removals of soil organisms to test how different soil trophic levels affect plant growth. They demonstrate the top down control by predators and parasites on belowground herbivory and estimate the impact of belowground biota on plant growth overall positive and strong. Omnivory in the soil food web generally increases plant productivity by (i) pest reduction and (ii) increasing nutrient cycling.
Vellend and colleagues continue to set the scene of community ecology. They address several profound philosophical, theoretical and empirical challenges on the relative importance of stochasticity in community dynamics. They clearly clarify differences between ‘stochastic’ or ‘neutral’ processes by synthesizing their importance in different community processes. They subsequently provide a guide how different observational and experimental approaches will forward the field by allowing a thorough understanding of the role of neutral stochasticity in community ecology.
Dries Bonte, Editor in Chief