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Dr. Pierre Mariotte

Toward sustainable agrosystems and preserved ecosystems



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Subordinate plants and fungi: what happens when these minorities join the effort?

Posted on May 3, 2015 at 9:55 PM Comments comments (158)

Another paper from my PhD research, entilted "Subordinate plants mitigate drought effects on soil ecosystem processes by stimulating fungi",  has just been accepted in Functional Ecology! Many thanks to my co-auhors and people who helped me in the field during 4 years.

When I lose faith, I watch that!

Posted on April 21, 2015 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (1)

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Some fungi make zombies

Posted on March 30, 2015 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (145)


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(Presented by Cat Adams / BBC Campus)

While some fungi produce their own wind, other fungi produce the stuff of nightmares.

In tropical forests around the world, species of the fungal genus Ophiocordyceps infect carpenter ants, landing on the ant and then burrowing into its brain.

But this is no simple brain-siege. In Thailand, for example, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis first causes the ant to walk erratically, eventually plummeting from its normal home in the canopy to the forest floor below. The fungus then directs the ant to traverse up trees a precise number of centimetres, just less than a metre above the ground, where the temperature and humidity are ideal for fungi to thrive.

The fungus can control not only the height the ant travels to, but also the direction the ant faces, which is usually north-northwest. An uninfected ant would normally not bite a leaf, but infected ants do, clamping down on the underside of a leaf, almost always in the very middle of the leaf, where it is strongest. Like something from an science fiction story, the zombie ant bites down at precisely solar noon.

The ant then dies in this unusual position, stiff with postmortem lockjaw due to muscle atrophy from the fungi rapidly growing in its head. For up to two weeks, the ant corpse remains locked to the leaf while the fungus reproduces, eventually raining spores on unsuspecting healthy ants walking below, carrying food to their nests in the canopy.

And the zombification cycle repeats.

The zombie ant fungus Ophiocordyceps has perfected zombification to a science that has inspired both movies and video games, and was recently the topic of a science crowdfunding campaign to determine which genes are important for the fungus to control its host.

Everybody loves a good zombie story, perhaps the zombie-makers most of all.


Plants and the fungal web

Posted on March 24, 2015 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Plant-soil interactions are an incredibly interesting topic, which surprises and amazes me every day. Here are an example from the BBC, with plants interacting with the very dense and complex fungal web:

"Plants talk to each other using an internet of fungus"


International Year of Soils - 2015

Posted on January 18, 2015 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Listen this interesting podcast from BBC Inside Science:

Soils. What have they ever done for us?

Adam Rutherford interviews Prof. Richard Bardgett from the University of Manchester, and other researchers, about the importance of soils for the future, related to agriculture and climate change.

Here also the flyer of the FAO.

Post-doctoral Fellowship

Posted on October 24, 2014 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (116)

I recently obtained the advanced postdoctoral fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation and I am currently a postdoc in the Biogeochemistry group of the University of Sydney (Australia) led by Dr. Feike Dijkstra. My research focus on plant-soil interactions and climate change (drought and fire) in australian grasslands. You're welcome to visit !

Book available !

Posted on May 2, 2014 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (431)


The book I edited with Paul Kardol entitled "Grassland Biodiversity and Conservation in a Changing World" is now available in Amazon. I am really happy to see it finished. I thank all the authors who contributed in the 10 chapters and also Paul for his invaluable help during the editing process.

Let's buy it now :)

Plant-soil feedbacks in invasion

Posted on April 29, 2014 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (18)

New greenhouse experiment:

Plant-soil feedback effets of the invasive Elymus caput-medusahead depending on its density. Feedbacks on its own growth and on the dominant species Avena Fatua. Soils collected in the field in 35 plots along a density gradient ranging from 0 to 1800 individuals of E. caput-medusahead. Thanks to the Undergrads who are helping managing this experiment.

Harper Prize - Journal of Ecology

Posted on March 18, 2014 at 1:10 AM Comments comments (83)

My paper entitled "Subordinate plant species enhance community resistance against drought in semi-natural grasslands" has been highly commended for the Harper Prize 2013 of Journal of Ecology and is published in the "Virtual Issue: BES Young Investigator Awards – winners and highly commended papers 2013". I am really happy and want to thank my co-authors Charlotte, Paul, Frank and Alexandre and the Editors of Journal of Ecology.

Litter feedback in plant invasion

Posted on December 1, 2013 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (58)

New experiment in California: Set up!

Litter feedback effects of the invasive Elymus caput-medusahead and the introduced Avena fatua on their establishment and growth, and on native californian species. Thanks to Erica Spotswood and Liana Nichols, best team ever.

Post-doctoral Fellowship

Posted on May 7, 2013 at 11:00 PM Comments comments (1)

I recently joined the Suding's lab at University of California Berkeley with the Fellowship that I obtained from the Swiss National Science Foundation. I will continue my research there, mainly in Californian grasslands, until September 2014. You're welcome to visit !

Paper on Drought Experiment

Posted on May 7, 2013 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (7764)

After so much work in the field, this is done! The paper on my drought experiment is published in the last issue 101:3 of Journal of Ecology. Many thanks to people who collaborated with me on this project.

See the post on Journal of Ecology Blog. 

Special Issue - Plant-Soil Feedbacks

Posted on February 27, 2013 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (567)

Read the last issue of Journal of Ecology - March 2013 - Volume 101, Issue 2 Special Feature Plant-Soil Feedbacks in a changing world, in which I collaborated.