Bringing an evolutionary perspective to community ecology using plant-fungal symbiotic networks as a model system (Evo-Com)

Main funder

Funder's project number: 342374

Funds granted by main funder (€)

  • 447 650,00

Funding program

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/09/2021

Project end date: 31/08/2026


Community ecology aims at gaining an integrative understanding of the assembly processes that underlie the dynamics of biodiversity across space, time and environmental gradients. Conceptual and theoretical community ecology acknowledges that biodiversity dynamics are fundamentally shaped by the reciprocal interactions between ecology and evolution. Yet, most empirical research on species rich communities has not explicitly involved an evolutionary perspective, even if the need for it has been repeatedly highlighted. This project will advance the current frontline of the newly emerging field of evolutionary community ecology, using symbiotic fungal networks of the plant Bistorta vivipara along altitudinal gradients as the model system. In symbiotic plant-fungal interaction networks, plants from the same species have been observed to associate with different communities of fungal symbionts under different kinds of abiotic environmental conditions. This has been generally assumed to result from the plasticity of plants, i.e. their ability to associate with a wide array of fungi. However, this assumption has remained untested, as no formal assessment has been carried out about on whether the distinct variation in biotic interactions among plants and symbiotic fungi result from local adaptation or plasticity. The overarching aim of this project is to understand whether plants are locally adapted to associate with specific fungi, and how such adaptations influence the fitness variation of plants along environmental gradients. Using both observational and experimental approaches, the project will address three objectives. First, we will resolve the extent to which traits related directly to fitness and traits related to biotic interactions with fungi co-vary at the phenotypic level over altitudinal gradients. Second, we will partition the phenotypic variation in traits related directly to fitness and traits related to biotic interactions with fungi to plasticity, maternal effects and genetic effects. Third, we will identify plant genomic regions associated with variation in traits related directly to fitness and traits related to biotic interactions with fungi. As a key novelty, the project addresses local adaptation of biotic interactions at the community level, asking not only how co-adaptation between two species influences their fitness, but how the adaptation of plants to entire networks of fungal symbionts influence their fitness.

Principal Investigator

Primary responsible unit

Last updated on 2021-18-10 at 10:13