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Seed-Microbial Interactions & Tropical Tree Species Diversity Implications

Speaker: Dr. Camilo Zalamea, University of South Florida; Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Mechanisms that maintain plant diversity at local and regional scales have long captured the interest of ecologists. Recently, the role of plant-microbe interactions in structuring the composition of plant communities has become clear. Early studies focused on antagonism, showing that fungi and fungus-like pathogens promote plant diversity by imposing density- and distance-dependent mortality on seedlings and saplings. However, an emerging perspective is that non-pathogenic fungi also define plant health, with implications for shaping plant community structure. Focusing on seeds, a key component of fitness for most tropical trees, this talk centers on translating individual-level plant-fungal interactions to the processes that maintain tropical tree diversity.