Our objective in this session is to synthesize disconnected pieces of knowledge from soil- and root-centric studies into an integrated understanding of important belowground ecosystem processes such as soil carbon and nitrogen cycling. This session will feature a diversity of speakers working at the interface between plant roots and the soil ecosystem. Belowground processes are notoriously difficult to study because most measurements dramatically disturb the soil system and belowground processes occur across a range of spatial and temporal scales. New approaches are needed to advance our understanding of the sustainability of vital belowground processes in the 21st century.
Our speakers will address two key questions:
(1) Can we synthesize an overarching framework for understanding the continuum from plant root inputs to long-term SOM pools from current studies?
(2) What new studies or tools are needed to facilitate our understanding of how plant dynamics drive belowground processes such as SOM formation and ecosystem carbon and nitrogen cycling?
We envision that this session will have broad appeal to ecologists interested in belowground processes, as speakers will discuss topics ranging from the effects of root exudation, chemistry, and soil organisms on the transition of roots to SOM, to the influence of soil attributes on the stabilization of root-derived SOM. An ecosystem modeler will synthesize the importance of these processes by placing them in the context of large-scale ecosystem and soil carbon cycling models.