January 23, 2020
12:00pm The Hershey Hall Grand Salon, Room 158, Hershey Hall
Michael Van Nuland
Department of Biology, Stanford University
Interactions between plants and associated microbial communities help regulate important ecosystem processes. Plant root symbionts (e.g., mycorrhizal fungi) form widespread mutualisms with large effects on soil nutrient cycles and are critical to the productivity and stress tolerance of many terrestrial plant species. However, understanding the geographical links between microbial diversity, plant range dynamics, and ecosystem functioning remains a major research frontier, particularly in systems threatened by intensifying global change pressures. In this seminar, I examine: 1) the mechanisms affecting how different mycorrhizal fungi expand plant niche dimensions across soil resource gradients, 2) whether changes in mycorrhizal fungal communities correspond to the climatic breadth and range limits of dominant plant species, and 3) how soil microbial heterogeneity may alter the climate-driven range shifts of plants towards higher elevations. Together, this research highlights how patterns of microbial diversity impact plant ecological niches and the importance of considering such above-belowground linkages for predicting community and ecosystem responses to environmental change.
Host: Michael Alfaro