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Harvard Forest Research Project 2022

  • Title: Regional control of local functions: Dispersal and the biodiversity-ecosystem function relationship in microorganisms associated with the purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea).
  • Principal investigator: Catalina Cuellar-Gempeler (
  • Institution: Humboldt State University
  • Primary contact: Catalina Cuellar-Gempeler (
  • Team members: Victoria Cifelli; Jakob Joachin; Megan Teigen
  • Abstract:

    Biological diversity has the potential to maintain healthy ecosystems. Multiple species work together to sustain ecosystem processes such as recycling nutrients, detoxifying water and soils, and maintaining water availability. However, the shape of the biodiversity-ecosystem function relationship remains a lingering question in ecology. As a result, it is still challenging to predict how the ecosystems will respond to environmental change and habitat loss, and how we should manage biodiversity to optimize functioning. By focusing on the discrete microbial communities within a pitcher plant leaves, we can study general relationships between diversity and function, and begin to understand the role of dispersal and colonization. Sarracenia purpurea and Darlingtonia californica are carnivorous plant that rely on microbes within their specialized leaves to degrade the insects they captures. D. californica is found along the West Coast of North America while S. purpurea occurs in the East coast, both found at locations with differing environmental conditions. How do these plants maintain the microbial digestive function along their biogeographical ranges? We anticipate that results from this research will inform us regarding pitcher plant biology, and, more broadly, regarding long standing questions in ecology.