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Ylva Lekberg exposes the fascinating world of soil ecology.

Did you know that up to 16,000 invertebrates support your feet when you take a step in a mature forest? Did you know that the smell of soil is due to actinomycetes? One cup of forest soil can hold as many bacteria as there are people on Earth and hundreds of miles of fungal hyphae. Come learn more about the functions and interactions of the creatures that inhabit our soils this Wednesday (February 27th) at 7 pm at the Montana Natural History Center in Missoula. Ylva will discuss indicators of healthy soil ecosystems, the ways to maintain them, and the beauty of ectomycorrhizal fungi from her backyard!

Ectomycorrhizal fungi colonize a small pine seedling

Above: Ectomycorrhizal fungi colonize a small pine seedling. The plant gives carbon to the fungus and receives nutrients in return. The white hyphal tissue shows the increased surface uptake area provided by the fungus. Fungi form symbioses with about 90% of all plants, including many garden plants like tomatoes, onions and corn. Photo credit: Aberdeen Mycorrhiza Research Group

About the Author

Ylva Lekberg

Ylva graduated from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences with a M.Sc. in Biology and Horticulture in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Penn State University in 2004. She received the Alumni Association Dissertation Award for her work in agroecology and subsistence farming in Sub-Saharan Africa. Post-doctoral positions at Montana State University and later at Copenhagen University as a Marie Curie Fellow allowed her to explore the role of arbuscular mycorrhiza, a root-fungus symbiosis, for geothermal plants in Yellowstone National Park and coastal grasslands in Denmark. Her research has been published in international journals such as Nature Communications, Ecology Letters, and New Phytologist.

Ylva joined MPG Ranch in 2010. Since then, she has explored how invasive plants common to western Montana, including spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe), leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) and cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), influence soil microbial community composition and function, and how this in turn may affect invasive success. A lot of her research also focuses on the AM symbiosis in terms of community ecology and physiology. A current project addresses how exchange ratios in this symbiosis may differ among co-occurring plants and depend on soil nutrient availabilities. She uses surveys, field and greenhouse experiments, and literature approaches such as meta-analyses to address questions. To learn more about research and publications from Ylva and her group, see CV below and the Soils, Plants and Invasion section.

In addition to her work at MPG Ranch, Ylva is an adjunct professor at University of Montana at the Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences.