Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory

One of the major current challenges for ecologists is to predict how ecosystems will function under future climates. Typically, ecologists extrapolate the relationships of temperature and moisture with the rates of various processes that occur in the soil (e.g. decomposition, N cycling) to estimate the rates of these processes under climate change.  This approach assumes that these relationships are constant through time.  For this assumption to be true, microbial communities must be either functionally redundant or unresponsive to changing climate.  This assumption contrasts with the generally accepted paradigm that plant, animal, and pathogen communities will shift in community composition and function in response to climate change.  Our research examines whether microbial communities acclimate or adapt to changing climate. If they do, do the relationships between abiotic drivers and soil process rates also change?