by University of California, Irvine
University of California, Irvine, biologists have discovered that plants influence how their bacterial and fungal neighbors react to climate change. This finding contributes crucial new information to a hot topic in environmental science: in what manner will climate change alter the diversity of both plants and microbiomes on the landscape? The paper appears in Elementa: Sciences of the Anthropocene.
The research took place at the Loma Ridge Global Change Experiment, a decade-long study in which scientists simulate the impacts of climate change on neighboring grasslands and coastal scrublands in Southern California. Experimental treatments there include nitrogen addition, a common result of local fossil fuel burning, and simulated drought imposed by covering patches of land with waterproof roofs during rainstorms.
In the project's early years, researchers focused on answering climate questions involving plants only. A research team led by Jennifer Martiny, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology and co-director of the UCI Microbiome Initiative, decided to examine whether the vegetation itself influences how climate change affects the bacteria and fungi in the ground. Soil microbes decompose dead plants, regulating the amount of carbon dioxide exchanged with the atmosphere.