Plant-soil interactions: Linking community and ecosystem ecology
About the Event:
Soil nutrients influence forest communities and ecosystem processes. My research examines how soil nutrients affect community assembly and carbon dynamics using a two-tiered approach: 1) natural soil nutrient gradients and 2) large-scale nutrient addition experiments. First, I discuss studies from a soil nutrient gradient driven by differences in underlying geology in a tropical premotane forest in western Panama. I use the diverse understory palm communities found in these Panamanian forests as an example for how soil nutrients determine species distribution patterns. Secondly, I discuss two large-scale nutrient addition experiments to test how specific nutrients influence community and ecosystem processes across tropical forest types. At a low nutrient site in a tropical premontane forest in Panama, I examine how nitrogen addition affects seedling performance of understory palm species with contrasting soil associations. Finally, I introduce the Amazon Fertilisation Experiment (AFEX), which is the first large-scale nutrient addition experiment in a mature Central Amazonian forest. The AFEX project is testing the “Phosphorus Paradigm” which hypothesizes that soil phosphorus is the main soil nutrient limiting forest productivity and carbon dynamics in lowland tropical forests on ancient, highly weathered soils. Together, my research highlights the integration of studies from forest plot networks along soil nutrient gradients to generate hypotheses for community assembly and ecosystem processes which can then be explicitly tested using large-scale nutrient manipulation experiments.
About the Speaker:
University of Edinburgh and University of Exeter
Dr Kelly M Andersen is a tropical forest ecologist who uses an interdisciplinary approach, combining studies of plant ecology and soil biogeochemistry to understand interactions between plant communities and ecosystem processes. Specifically, her research integrates studies from soil nutrient gradients and manipulation experiments to give insights on how soil nutrients regulate tropical forests, from community assembly, such as species coexistence and distribution patterns, to ecosystem processes, such as carbon dynamics and nutrient cycling. Her scientific interests in tropical ecology began at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, where she spent over 10 years in residence. During this time, Dr. Andersen contributed to the establishment of a forest inventory plot network in a premontane forest in western Panama and developed an independent research program examining plant-soil interactions in both premontane and lowland forests. Currently, Dr. Andersen is a Research Fellow with a joint position at the University of Edinburgh and University of Exeter to lead the first large-scale, long-term nutrient addition experiment in a mature tropical forest in Central Amazonia: the Amazon Fertilisation Experiment (AFEX). She is co-advising four master’s students and one PhD student with independent projects within AFEX ranging from leaf physiology and plant-herbivore interactions to root dynamics and nutrient acquisition traits and soil carbon fluxes.