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Evolutionary potential in functional traits of a wetland macrophyte (Juncus effusus) relevant for natural degradation of contaminants
An important ecosystem service of wetland ecosystems is the natural degradation and retention of contaminants. The remediation potential of plants and associated microorganisms is used also as cost-effective and sustainable biotechnology. Hence, for many plant species, functional traits with relevance for the degradation of contaminants are well characterized. However, species are mostly treated as constant entities, neglecting intraspecific genetic variation and resulting in a significant gap in the understanding of the microevolutionary background for this ecosystem service. Applying a combination of molecular and quantitative genetics, the project aims to quantify intra-specific variability in functional traits relevant for the degradation of nitrogen compounds, to investigate its genetic basis and its response to selection. A representative wetland plant (Juncus effusus) will be established as a genetic model system by characterizing its root transcriptome and identifying alleles in putative candidate genes relevant for nitrogen degradation. Furthermore, natural populations of the species along a gradient in concentration of nitrogen compounds will be studied by two approaches. First, nonneutral variation in putative candidate genes will be assessed and the observed patterns will be compared with that of neutral genetic markers and environmental conditions. Second, it will be tested for local adaptation and differentiation in quantitative traits relevant for the degradation potential, such as uptake of nitrogen compounds, root morphology, decomposability of plant biomass and 2 composition of the microbial community in the rhizosphere by reciprocal transplant and common garden experiments. The project will help to understand how intra-specific genetic variability affects a community based regulating ecosystem service.
Bioinformatics, Biology, Molecular and quantitative population genetics, Plant Ecology
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