Plants live in tight association with microbes, especially belowground where fungi and bacteria live on and inside the roots of plants. The relationship can be beneficial or harmful to the plant. Some microbes cause plant diseases by decomposing roots. Others trade nutrients with the roots in return for sugars produced aboveground by leaves.
We investigate two main aspects of the relationship between plants and microbes in the soil. First, as it pertains to weeds, we want to know if soil microbes can help or hinder plant invasions. Three highly invasive weeds of contrasting life history strategies; cheatgrass, knapweed and leafy spurge, co-occur with remnants of native plant vegetation. This creates a unique opportunity to observe, characterize, and manipulate interactions between plants and belowground microbial communities. We outline a number of short, intermediate and long-term research projects that will significantly enhance our knowledge regarding plant microbe interactions and soil processes, with the overall goal to better understand, predict and counteract plant invasions, and to restore and manage invaded ecosystems.
Second, we seek to understand how the relationship between plants and soil influences the function of ecosystem processes. Soil microbes are responsible for organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling between the atmosphere and the land. On this project we collaborate with the Earth Microbiome Project (EMP). The goal is to map and understand the diversity of microorganisms in habitats around the world. We mapped microbial diversity and function across gradients of weed invasions.
Vasilis Kokkoris, Ylva Lekberg, Pedro M. Antunes, Catherine Fahey, James A. Fordyce, Stephanie N. Kivlin, Miranda M. Hart (2020). Codependency between plant and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities: what is the evidence? New Phytologist 228: 828-838. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.16676.
Bullington, L. S., Lekberg, Y., Sniezko, R., & Larkin, B. (2018). The influence of genetics, defensive chemistry and the fungal microbiome on disease outcome in whitebark pine trees. Molecular plant pathology 19(8), 1847-1858. https://doi.org/10.1111/mpp.12663.
Lekberg, Y., Bever, J. D., Bunn, R. A., Callaway, R. M., Hart, M. M., Kivlin, S. N., ... & Remke, M. (2018). Relative importance of competition and plant–soil feedback, their synergy, context dependency and implications for coexistence. Ecology Letters 21(8), 1268-1281. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13093.
Waller, L. P., Hahn, P. G., Maron, J. L., & Lekberg, Y. (2018). Trait differences in responses to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are stronger and more consistent than fixed differences among populations of Asclepias speciosa. American Journal of Botany 105(2), 207-214. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajb2.1038.
Hahn, P. G., Bullington, L., Larkin, B., LaFlamme, K., Maron, J., & Lekberg, Y. (2018). Effects of Short-and Long-Term Variation in Resource Conditions on Soil Fungal Communities and Plant Responses to Soil Biota. Frontiers in Plant Science 9, 1605. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2018.01937.
Hahn, P. G., Bullington, L., Larkin, B., LaFlamme, K., Maron, J. L., & Lekberg, Y. (2018). Effects of short-and long-term variation in resource conditions on soil fungal communities and plant responses to soil biota. Frontiers in Plant Science 9, 1605. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2018.01605.
McLeod, M. L., Rummel, A., & Lekberg, Y. (2018). A rapid, quantitative, and affordable fluorometric method to determine the viability of roots with potential application in fungal hyphae. Rhizosphere 6, 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rhisph.2018.01.008.
Lekberg, Y., Wagner, V., Rummel, A., McLeod, M., & Ramsey, P. W. (2017). Strong indirect herbicide effects on mycorrhizal associations through plant community shfts and secondary invasions. Ecological Applications 27(8), 2359-2368. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1613.
New Phytologist (2017). Historical biome distribution and recent human disturbance shape the diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Partel, M., Opik, M., Moora, M., Tedersoo, L., Szava-Kovats, R., Rosendahl, S., Rillig, M. C., Lekberg, Y., Kreft, H., Helgason, T., Eriksson, O., Davison, J., deBello, F., Caruso, T., & Zobel, M. 216(1), 227-238. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.14695.
Reinhart, K. O., Lekberg, Y., Klironomos, J., & Maherali, H. (2017). Does responsiveness to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi depend on plant invasive status? Ecology and Evolution 7(16), 6482-6492. doi: 10.1002/ece3.3226.
Bennett, J. A., Maherali, H., Reinhart, K. O., Lekberg, Y., Hart, M. M., & Klironomos, J. (2017). Plant-soil feedbacks and mycorrhizal type influence temperate forest population dynamics. Science 355(6321), 181-184. doi: 10.1126/science.aai8212.
Lekberg, Y., & Waller, L. P. (2016). What drives differences in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities among plant species? Fungal Ecology 24, part B, 135-138. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.funeco.2016.05.012.