Role of plant-soil feedbacks as selective agents. Ongoing studies on the ecological and evolutionary consequences of genetic variation
Soils are one of the first selective environments a seed and seedling experiences and yet relatively little is known about the evolutionary consequences of plant-soil linkages, plant-soil feedbacks (PSF) and the (co)evolutionary interactions between soil biota and plants that often mediate these relationships. Recent modeling results (in prep) indicate that plant traits can predict the direction and magnitude of PSF, although context and starting conditions are critical. They also show that plants can diverge with or without niche construction, both the strength of the selection on plant traits and degree of gene flow can impact the magnitude of trait divergence and that while niche construction can evolve it homogenizes the landscape. Thus, questions addressing trade-offs and relationships between positive and negative feedbacks (adaptation and maladaptation) are a major frontier in PSF studies, especially in the context of strong gradients that occur with global change. With a series of projects and experiments across multiple plant-soil systems we are examining the role of genetic variation – from genotypes to phylogenetic patterns – on a range of evolutionary interactions among plants, associated soil communities and soils in the context of plant-soil feedback. Stay tuned for results, data and updates on projects!