Global changes are shifting the distribution and abundances of species globally, yet the consequences are poorly understood. Here, I present a framework that seeks to unify the heterogeneity of plant-microbe-soil interactions, as a means for predicting the impacts of community change on ecosystem functioning. The Mycorrhizal-Associated Nutrient Economy (MANE) hypothesis predicts that species that associate with different types of mycorrhizal fungi possess an integrated suite of nutrient-use traits that lead to the maintenance of biogeochemical syndromes. I combined observations, experiments, syntheses and modeling to test the MANE hypothesis in forests dominated by tree species associating with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi vs. ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi. Collectively, my results suggest that shifts in the relative abundance of AM and ECM trees may have profound implications for forest sensitivity to global change.
Richard P. Phillips is a professor and the scientific director at the department of Biology, Indiana University. His research seeks to quantify and better understand how plants and soil microbes influence energy flow and nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems in the wake of human-accelerated environmental change. Of particular interest is the degree to which plant-microbial interactions in soils influence feedbacks to regional and global change through their effects on ecosystem carbon storage and nitrogen and phosphorus retention. He uses a complimentary suite of approaches that integrate field observations with novel techniques (e.g. stable and radioactive isotopes) and controlled environmental systems (e.g. growth chambers, FACE sites) to address questions that intersect plant physiological ecology and soil microbial ecology in an ecosystem context.