Session: Root and Rhizosphere Processes Under Drought: Digging Deeper to Enhance Ecosystem Resilience
Harnessing rhizosphere processes for drought-resilience in ecosystems
Thursday, August 5, 2021
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Alex Williams, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom and Franciska De Vries, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester Manchester, United Kingdom
Background/Question/Methods Plant root exudation is a crucial chemical pathway by which plants communicate with soil microbes and influence rhizosphere processes. Root exudates play an integral role in ecosystem response to climate change, yet the functional consequences of drought-induced changes in the composition of root exudates are still being uncovered. Recent research has demonstrated that drought can continue to affect ecosystem carbon cycling, long after it has passed and potentially denotes a plant strategy to facilitate regrowth by stimulating microbial activity. Mechanistically, this stimulation is likely a function of the metabolomic fingerprint of root exudates, rather than just quantity exuded. Our latest work will be presented, showing that plants exhibit a range of different exudation rates and compositions over a large phylogeny, which may underpin various strategies/ successes in terms of drought resilience and recovery. Results/Conclusions Using an ecologically sound technique for exudate collection has provided a backdrop to explore novel and important plant-soil processes to ever increasing (a)biotic stresses in plant-soil. In this talk the biology of root exudation in the context of drought recovery will be discussed in light of recent findings. Specifically, new data regarding the functional impact that root exudates have over rhizosphere communities will be presented, alongside insight into the metabolomic context of these interactions. Finally, the importance of these exudates in both shaping ecosystem responses to drought and in better managing the impacts to our natural world will be considered. Hypothetically, expression of root-exuded metabolites, as a pathway for plant–microbial communication, play a key role in ecosystem response to environmental change, and can be used to recruit root-associated microbes that improve resilience to stresses such as drought. This talk will aim to synthesize current findings on root exudation processes during drought and highlight the best-practice methodologies used to investigate these processes. Overall, the application of this understanding is globally relevant as it has implications for managing plant and ecosystem response to drought.