Understanding Plant and Microbe Interactions
Plant leaves and roots are home to thousands of different species of microbes, including bacteria, fungi and microscopic plants and animals. While some of these microbes are harmful, many have neutral or beneficial effects on their hosts. However, methods to measure microbial biodiversity in depth have only recently been developed, meaning that knowledge about how and why plants and microbes interact is only at an early stage of development.
Dr. Steven Kembel, Canada Research Chair in Plant Microbiomes, is studying the biodiversity of microbes living on plants. He aims to better understand how plant hosts influence the microbial communities living on their leaves and roots, and how these microbes, in turn, influence the growth, health and functioning of their hosts.
Kembel is examining microbial diversity by sequencing microbial DNA from environmental samples. His research includes studying plant-microbe interactions in tropical, temperate and boreal forests, as well as experimental-manipulating microbes growing on plants in the lab and in natural ecosystems.
Kembel’s research is highlighting ecologically important plant-associated microbes in forests around the globe. As well, his research will provide better understanding of the evolution of plant-microbe interactions, and will offer important insights into the potential responses of forest ecosystems to global change.
Kembel’s research could also lead to improvements to sustainable forestry and agriculture through the management of plant-microbe interactions.