The Grass is Always Greener: Exploring the Dominant Grass Microbiomes of the North American Great Plains

Jordan Alexander Siggers
Jordan Alexander Siggers
Colorado, United States, Kansas, United States, Wyoming, United States
project abstract

The North American Great Plains are composed of vast expanses of shortgrass, mixed, and tallgrass prairies. Each system is dominated by unique plant species, such as Andropogon gerardii and Bouteloua gracilis. Associations with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi play an essential role in maintaining plant dominance in these systems, but the distribution of AMF across this major carbon sink is not well known. With the increasing frequency and severity of extreme climatic events, such as drought, it is critical to understand how these events alter plant-fungal associations across the Great Plains. Hence, we will leverage a network of recently decommissioned precipitation manipulation experiments to investigate the potential legacy effects of drought on plant and fungal communities. We seek to gain insight into the distribution of dominant AMF genera, along with an understanding of how drought of differing intensities influences long-term fungal community composition. We will partner with local nonprofit organizations to meet with community members, discuss the importance of mycorrhizal fungi in provisioning ecosystem services, and train individuals to investigate the fungal diversity around them.