Research conducted by the Laboratory of Nematology is part of the research program of the Graduate School Experimental Plant Sciences (EPS) and the C.T. de Wit Graduate School for Production Ecology & Resource Conservation (PE&RC).
Uncovering intimate links between soil protists and plants as a model to better understand the plant holobiont
The study consists of the interactions between plants and their microbiome. It is known that plants are associated with a huge diversity of microorganisms in the soil, named the rhizosphere microbiome. This microbiome determine the performance of plants and also other ecosystem services, such as by controling plant nutrient availability. Protists control the microbiome through predation and therefore likely indirectly affect plant performance. We only have a limited understanding of the importance of protists as links between the microbiome and plants, with knowledge mainly based on few model protists from highly reduced artificial experiments. Often, however, the effects of distinct organisms depends on their diversity with increasing diversity often leading to higher functioning, a field often studied under the name Biodiversity Ecosystems Functions (BEF). Although this BEF relation exists among the hyperdiverse microbes, including protists, it remains unknown at a scale beyond the diversity of few species.
I aim to use well characterized protists as models to uncover if BEF is present among soil microbes, by testing the diversity effect of an unprecendented number of 100 species on the performance of plants.
Furthermore, I want to expand on this knowledge by manipulating abiotic factors that are meant to change in the era of global change. In that sense, I want to test the effect of different global change scenarios on microbial BEF.