- Sr. Ecologist, Environmental Research Division, Argonne National Laboratory
- Lecturer, Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago
Argonne National Laboratory
9700 South Cass Avenue
Bldg. 203, Rm. E161
Argonne IL, 60439
Phone: (630) 252-3395
Fax: (630) 252-8895
A major obstacle to predicting plant responses to multiple environmental forcing factors is our lack of knowledge of the trade-offs between plant biomass allocation and nutrient acquisition. Thus, we believe that it will be necessary to factor in the attendant responses of mycorrhizal fungi to multiple-factor stressors. The ability of plants to adapt or respond to a changing environment is dependent on homeostatic capacities that minimize the cost of growth and biomass allocation. Plants’ responses to environmental stresses, such as nutrient limitation or anthropogenic effects suggest that they have a centralized system of stress response involving changes in nutrient and water use, carbon allocation, hormonal balances, and reliance on the mycorrhizal symbiosis.
Mycorrhizal fungi contribute to community processes and functions at various hierarchical organizational levels, through their establishment of linkages and feedbacks between whole-plants and nutrient cycles. Even though these fungal mediated feedbacks and linkages involve lower-organizational level processes (e.g., photo-assimilate partitioning, interfacial assimilate uptake and transport mechanisms; disease resistance), they influence higher-organizational scales that affect both community and ecosystem behavior. Hence, incorporating mycorrhizal fungi into research directed at understanding of the diverse environmental issues confronting society will require knowledge of how these fungi respond to or initiate changes in vegetation dynamics, soil fertility, or both.
My research addresses mechanisms controlling the growth and allocation of mycorrhizal fungi. Our premise is that predictions about whole-plant responses, especially those associated with multiple forcing factors, will require a better understanding of how mycorrhizal fungi respond to alterations in host allocation of assimilated carbohydrates and soil nutrients and how fungal responses feed back to the host.