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How Nutrients and Plant Strategies Interact to Shape Terrestrial Ecosystems under Global Change

Speaker: Dr. Michelle Wong, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Forests play a critical role in cycling water, housing biodiversity, and sequestering anthropogenic CO2. Nutrients are major limiting factors for plant and forest productivity, but it is unclear to what extent plants are able to overcome nutrient limitation and continue to absorb CO2 at current rates.

Our ability to make predictions on the future terrestrial carbon sink is impeded by a mechanistic understanding of when and where nutrients are limiting and whether–and to what extent–plants can overcome nutrient limitation. To address this, Dr. Wong will discuss observational and experimental data from the lab, greenhouse, and field to ask: 1) how global processes distribute nutrients across forests and 2) to what extent plants interact with their nutrient environment and ultimately express nutrient limitation.

Together, answers to these questions will inform how forests will function in response to global change, providing critical insights for predicting the carbon-capturing potential of terrestrial ecosystems—one of the largest unknowns controlling the trajectory of global climate change.

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