January 16, 2017

Role of dark septate endophytes and ericoid mycorrhiza in ecosystem resilience to chronic drought

Role of dark septate endophytes and ericoid mycorrhiza in ecosystem resilience to chronic drought 400 x 400 px

Global circulation models predict that severe and widespread drought will occur throughout Europe. Soil is the largest carbon pool of the terrestrial biosphere and is an ofter-overlooked carbon pool that can be highly susceptible to climate change.

At one of the UK’s longest running climate change experiments we have found that repeated summer drought has switched a shrubland ecosystem from a carbon sink to a significant carbon source. Investigations so far have revealed that the release of CO2 from the ecosystem is a result in changes in soil physical properties.

The plants present have been extremely resilient to the climate change treatments and there has been little change in plant productivity. Heather (Calluna vulgaris) dominates the ecosystem and we believe that symbiotic organisms that exist in the roots such as mycorrhiza and endophytes may be important in mediating the plant responses to environmental change.

This project will examine the below-ground response of Calluna vulgaris to repeated summer drought. Specifically the successful candidate will: 1. Determine the root distribution and morphology of C. vulgaris in control and drought conditions. 2. Characterise the colonization of roots by ericoid mycorrhiza and endophytes using microscopy and molecular techniques. 3. Will attempt to link the presence of mycorrhiza and endophytes with soil biogeochemical properties and the evolution of CO2 4. Will attempt to determine the role of mycorrhiza and endophytes in drought resilience of Calluna vulgaris.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a 2:1 classification UK Honours degree, or preferably a Master’s degree in subjects such as Environmental Science or Natural Sciences.

For further details please contact Dr. Andy Smith Tel:01248 382297