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EAGER: The Role of Plant-Soil Feedbacks on Species Potential to Expand their Distributional Ranges in Response to Climate Change

Many plant species are expected to shift their distributional ranges in response to global warming. The ecological and economic consequences of such shifts could be enormous and have serious implications for conservation of local biodiversity, for the economic value of local forests (e.g., economically relevant species might expand to new areas, or might experience a reduction on their current ranges), and also for preservation of relevant ecosystem functions (e.g., soil erosion prevention, replenishment of water table, carbon storage, and recreational activities).<br/><br/>It is important to consider that in addition to climate, many other factors will also shape the future composition of plant communities. For instance, plants can change the composition and abundance of soil organisms as well as the chemistry and structure of soil in ways that alter subsequent plant survival and growth. This process, referred to as plant-soil feedbacks will likely have a large impact on colonization success of migrant plant species as they may be released from their natural soil pathogens and/or deprived of key beneficial organisms that have become specialized on them in their native range. At this time, we have little or no information on how plant-soil interactions may influence plant species responses to climate change. <br/><br/>The overarching goal of this project is to conduct exploratory work that evaluates the role that plant-soil feedbacks may play on the migratory potential of dominant temperate tree species within the Great Lakes region. The combination of our ongoing field and proposed greenhouse studies will supply natural resources managers with realistic information on the species that will be able to establish or persist within the region under changing climate, helping to implement successful conservation and management programs.

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