Whether in Life or in Death: Fresh Perspectives on How Plants Affect Biogeochemical Cycling
Thursday, August 14, 2014: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
204, Sacramento Convention Center
Amy T. Austin, University of Buenos Aires, IFEVA-CONICET
Amy E. Zanne, The George Washington University
Melinda D. Smith, Colorado State University
Plant species have been shown to be important in many aspects of biogeochemical cycling, but at the ecosystem scale, plants are often still considered as a photosynthetic ‘green blob’ that assimilate carbon and sessile competitors for nutrients with other organisms. However, recent research has shown that there are many ways in which plant species actively modulate biogeochemical cycling that go beyond the well-studied effects of changes in chemical composition of senescent litter. New perspectives demonstrate that plant species modulate biogeochemical cycling through variation in functional attributes, phylogenetic relationships, stoichiometric flexibility and interactions with beneficial or pathogenic organisms while living and post-senescence in a wide range of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Moreover, the ways in which plants actively respond to a changing biotic and abiotic environment can have important consequences during the lifetime of the plants and in the ‘afterlife’ once these plant tissues have senesced. Finally, dynamic responses of plants to a variety of human impacts including land-use change, elevated CO2 and rising temperatures have opened a wide array of new interesting research avenues to evaluate the importance of plant identity on biogeochemical cycling at the ecosystem scale. This session will present research on some fresh perspectives which broaden our understanding of how plants and the sum of their interactions can modulate biogeochemical cycling.