The University of Montana
College of Forestry and Conservation
UM Home | UM A-Z | UM Search


Species Diversity & Ecosystem Function

One of the long-term goals of my research is to begin to understand the relationship between soil processes and the identity of the organisms carrying out those processes. Current measurements of biogeochemical variables (e.g., soil CO2 efflux) represent the net effect of the processes carried out by a suite of microorganisms. However relationships between the structure of the soil microbial community and specific biogeochemical processes are not well understood, especially in tropical ecosystems. Thus, one primary objective of our work is to study linkages between microbial community composition and specific biogeochemical processes. In collaboration with researchers at the University of Colorado, we are using molecular microbiological techniques to attempt to link the composition of the microbial community (i.e., phylogeny) to a specific functions (e.g., dissolved organic carbon (DOC) decomposition). Previous data from our site in Costa Rica suggest that both short term (diurnal) and long term (seasonal – annual) changes in soil resource availability drive changes in microbial community structure and function. Such information is critical for assessing the role of soil diversity in regulating ecosystem processes.

Another objective is to begin to investigate how differences in tree diversity (reflected as differences in plant leaf chemistry)litter regulate soil microbial community structure and function. Our previous data suggest substantial between-species differences in the C and nutrient stoichiometry of litter leachate, and that variations in the nutrient content of leach dissolved organic matter (DOM) drive differences in the proportion of that DOM that is lost as CO2. We believe such differences occur via changes in microbial community composition resulting from differences in litter chemistry. To begin to address the links between above- and belowground species composition, we have established a set of litter manipulation plots in which we control litter composition. We are using several species that vary in C, N and P content, and are assessing the effect of tree diversity on DOM production and chemistry, belowground respiration and rates of nutrient cycling, and belowground community composition. This experiment is a useful first step in determining the connections between plant and soil diversity, and will provide insight into how belowground diversity regulates belowground ecosystem function.

 

 



For questions about the research we do, or for information about opportunities in the lab, please contact me directly.

Cory Cleveland, Associate Professor
Department of Ecosystem & Conservation Sciences
College of Forestry & Conservation
CHCB 423/32 Campus Drive
University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812

Phone: 406-243-6018 | Fax: 406-243-6656
Email: cory.cleveland@umontana.edu |