Monster Seminar JAM - Using A 400 Million Year Old Biological Tool To Mitigate The Impacts Of Climate Change On Aquatic And Terrestrial Ecosystems
Presenter: Dr. Rusty Rodriguez, Western Fisheries Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey
During this century, climate change is predicted to negatively impact aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems due to increased frequency and severity of drought, disease, salinization and biological invasions. This will result in difficult decisions concerning water allocations for agriculture, public utilities, generating electricity, and sustaining ecosystems. While significant research effort has been invested in climate predictions, comparatively little effort has gone into designing strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Research in my lab focuses on genetic mechanisms responsible for biological invasions and mitigating impacts of climate change via plant microbe symbioses. We have found that fungal symbionts adapt to environmental stress (eg. drought, salinity, disease, temperature) and confer stress tolerance to host plants. Plants appear unable to adequately adapt to stress making fungal symbionts significant adaptive components of plant communities. The mechanism(s) responsible for symbiotically conferred stress tolerance involves diminishing the amount of reactive oxygen generated under stress. In addition, drought tolerance is based on increased water efficiency in symbiotic plants which require less water for normal growth and development. Symbiotically conferred stress tolerance occurs in a habitat-specific manner(defined as Adaptive Symbiosis) and both plants and fungi switch partners across microhabitats in order to maximize fitness (defined as Symbiotic Modulation). These symbiotic phenomena apply to both native and invasive species and may provide an epigenetic mechanism for plant invasions. Moreover, decreased water needs in symbiotic plants can translate into decreased irrigation demands allowing more water to be allocated for sustaining aquatic ecosystems. We hypothesize that fungal symbionts: (1) provide an important adaptive component of plant communities, (2) can be used to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and (3) provide a mechanism to explain plant invasions. I will discuss the development of these hypotheses, mechanisms responsible for stress tolerance, the ecological significance of symbiosis, and how symbionts may be used to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Date and Time:
May 3, 2007,
11:00 am - 12:30 pm