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Individual Highlight

Assessing the Response of Forest Understory Plants and Soil Microbes to Drought and Heat

Photo of Image of the beech forest from which the soil monoliths were removed (Hainich National Forest, Germany). Project partners searching for appropriate sampling sites. Zachary Kayler, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Image of the beech forest from which the soil monoliths were removed (Hainich National Forest, Germany). Project partners searching for appropriate sampling sites. Zachary Kayler, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : An international team of scientists from the Forest Service and other organizations examined the effect of drought and heat on the carbon linkage between understory plants and their soil microbial counterparts. The study highlights the contribution of understory plants and soil microbes to carbon cycling in the face of climate change.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Kayler, Zachary 
Research Location : Germany
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1021

Summary

Drought duration and intensity are expected to increase with global climate change. How changes in water availability and temperature affect the combined plant-soil-microorganism response remains uncertain. Little is known about biological responses to extreme climate events, especially with relation to carbon cycling. Forest Service scientists and their partners from the Leibniz Center for Agricultural Landscape Research in Germany simulated extreme environmental stress on a forest understory to learn how plants and soil microorganisms will respond under climate change. Overall, microbial communities endured a high level of drought and temperature stress before significantly changing. Furthermore, plant carbon delivered belowground was critical for some phyla and these microbes received plant carbon even under stress. The study suggests that many of the shifts in the microbial communities that we might expect from extreme environmental stress will result from the plant-soil-microbial dynamics rather than from direct effects of drought and heat on soil microbes alone. Results from studies like this one are important as they contribute information that lead better carbon stewardship of our nation’s forests and wildlands.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Leibniz Center for Agricultural Landscape Research
  • Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries

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