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Environmental adaptation

In an ecosystem in which organisms are challenged with adverse conditions, the ability to respond is crucial to survive. Many studies focus on how environmental shifts lead to adaptations in a single species. Despite the fact that virtually all species are involved in mutualistic associations and mutualistic partners affect each other’s phenotype, the biotic context of organisms is, however, rarely taken into account. We study the impact of environmental pollution on pine trees and their rhizosphere microbiome, with special emphasis on mycorrhizal symbionts. Our work includes detailed studies on genetic adaptation towards heavy metals due to historical pollution and explorative studies on radiation induced changes following the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear accident. Do mycorrhizal fungi have the potential to shield their host tree from selective pressure? And how could we use this potential to valorize waste land? Results of our current projects will provide answers to these questions.

Supported by: FWO, ERAN, NSF