One of the objectives of the Biodiversa project ‘RangeX’, is to better understand how altered plant interactions with soil biota mediate the impacts of climate warming on range-expanding plant species and how altered plant-soil biota interactions as a result of range expansions will impact key ecosystem functions.
The project's full name is "Mechanisms underlying the success and impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of range-expanding species under climate change".
Plants on the move
Plants are on the move due to climate change and through biological invasions, many expanding their ranges across elevation gradients. This is resulting in novel biological communities of resident and range-expanding species. But which species will be the winners and losers of climate change, and what their impacts will be on biodiversity and key ecosystem services like carbon storage or pollination, remain poorly understood.
There is therefore a need to achieve both a process-based understanding of range expansions, and a shared understanding of this issue between researchers, natural resource managers and policymakers.
Elevation gradients as a model system
We use elevational gradients in mountain ecosystems as a model system, and we combine survey data, innovative field experiments and comparative studies under controlled conditions to disentangle the drivers of range expansions, and their ecosystem impacts.
Specifically, we try to link soil chemistry and soil biota (microbes, fauna) with the success of novel species establishment using soils sampled from elevational transects established by the global Mountain Invasion Research Network. We also parse out effects of soil chemical and biotic properties in the performance of range-expanding plant species under climate warming using controlled climate-chamber soil inoculation experiments.