Rapid environmental change challenges plant survival and persistence. In response to this challenge, plants have to migrate or adapt in situ. As many species are unlikely able to track the moving environmental envelope, their adaptive responses are critical. We study the ecological mechanisms that confer/constrain plant adaptation in changing environments.
In particular, we assess a long-lasting, but rarely tested, hypothesis that plants with multiple sets of chromosomes (polyploids) outperform diploids in response to environmental change, owing to enhanced adaptive plasticity, phenotypic divergence, and phyllosphere and rhizosphere microbiome.
i) Species interactions between polyploids and diploids in the context of stress gradient hypothesis
ii) The role of microbiomes in mediating polyploid advantage in response to stress
Plants harbor rich communities of microbial symbionts. This collection of microbiota and their genomes can profoundly influence plant adaptation to environment.
Our lab’s previous work has revealed: (1) host species and genotypes play important roles in the assembly of bacterial (Scientific Reports, 2018), fungal (Molecular Ecology, 2021), and viral microbiomes (Nature Communications, 2022); (2) plant phenotype including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) influence microbiome diversity and composition (Molecular Ecology, 2021; Horticulture Research, 2022); (3) plant–pollinator interactions contribute to microbiome assembly in the anthosphere (Molecular Ecology, 2021).
i) Eco-evolutionary dynamics of plant-microbiome symbiosis (in duckweeds)
ii) Principles and functions of microbiome assembly and network (in strawberries, apples, and monkeyflowers)
Genomics of adaptation
Local adaptation is ubiquitous in nature. Understanding its genomic basis is of particular relevance to environmental change, food sustainability, and genetic conservation. We study the genetic mechanisms that favor/constrain local adaptation, using RNA-seq, RAD-seq, targeted sequence capture, and whole genome sequencing.
i) What are the genomic mechanisms of ecological adaptation to environmental change?
ii) How does genetic variation shaped by past selection influence adaptive responses to future environmental scenarios?