Effects of Precipitation Regimes on Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungal Communities
Climate change is a major threat to Australian ecosystems, where climatic scenarios predict enhanced drought. Those changes are expected to affect the plants but will also impact their associated beneficial microorganisms. Associating with more than 80% of plant species, the Arbuscular Mycorrhizal (AM) fungi form obligate symbiotic associations with the plants, promote their growth via nutrient uptake and contribute to their defence against pests and environmental stress. In fact, the AM fungi can help the plants to overcome the impacts associated with drought through changes in the host physiology and increasing access to water. However, little is known about how AM fungal communities are likely to respond to drought. This is particularly important because understanding how drought drives changes in AM fungi will allow us to better predict the outcomes of climate change on this community, and its repercussions for vegetation dynamics and ecosystem functioning.
The overarching aim of my thesis is to understand how the AM fungal community composition will be affected under climate change, and to evaluate how those shifts will affect the plant community in return. I specifically aim to describe the AM fungal community composition under water stress study the temporal dynamics of the community in the soil and in the roots under water stress. Furthermore, I will study the AM fungal traits related to their capacity to survive environmental changes. Using a trait-based approach will allow us not only to better predict the outcomes of changing precipitation regimes in the AM fungal community assembly but possibly also inform how those changes will affect their interaction with the plants. Finally, I will evaluate the effects of shifts in the AM fungal communities due to water stress on the plant community.
Deveautour C, Donn S, Power SA, Bennett AE, Powell JR, (2018) 'Experimentally altered rainfall regimes and host root traits affect grassland arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities', Molecular Ecology, vol.27, no.8, pp 2152-2163, Special Issue: SI
A/Professor Jeff Powell, Professor Sally Power and Dr Alison Bennett (James Hutton Institute)