The evolution of functional diversity in plants is most often attributed to selection by abiotic factors, but biotic interactions are just as likely to be agents of selection. In particular, >80% of seed plants form mycorrhizae with soil fungi, a symbiosis which evolved > 400 million years ago. In exchange for sugars from photosynthesis,
mycorrhizal fungi provide plants with enhanced access to soil nutrients and water. Though the symbiosis influences how plants perceive and respond to their environment, its role in generating plant functional diversity is poorly understood. To address this gap, my lab examines how the mycorrhizal symbiosis influences the magnitude and direction of natural selection on the functional and life history traits of plants.
Related publications (*Undergraduate, †Graduate or #Postdoctoral advisee):
†Sherrard M.E., Maherali H. 2012. Local adaptation across a soil fertility gradient is influenced by soil biota in the invasive grass, Bromus inermis. Evolutionary Ecology, 26:529-544.
This is a new research area, so watch this space for new publications…