My research focuses on the effect of drought on the changes in quantity and quality of root exudate.
The project I focus on doing during my PhD is the role of root exudate in drought-induced changes in soil carbon cycling:
With episodes of drought increasing with climate change across most of the world, understanding whole-plant response and adaptation to drought is critical for maintaining the productivity of managed and natural ecosystems. Root systems, which are considered to be the belowground equivalent of leaves, help plants acquire nutrients and water. Root exudation, the release of highly dynamic carbon (C) molecules from roots, is a mechanism through which plants communicate with and participate in rhizosphere processes, potentially enhancing a plant’s future fitness in response to drought. Drought can affect the quantity and quality of root exudates, but specific metabolic components of these changes among species remain obscure. In addition, recent experimental evidence shows that root exudates from droughted plants can trigger more soil respiration, potentially resulting in a loss of soil C. Root exudation is gaining momentum as a measurable and informative functional root trait, and its changes in quantity and quality are traceable across different species with different growth strategies in response to drought, but this impact of altered exudates on soil C cycling is still to be determined. I will try to understand the implications of drought-induced changes in root exudates for soil microbial activity and soil C cycling across plant functional groups and root growth strategies. This knowledge will contribute to increasing the resilience and adaptability of natural and managed ecosystems to climate change.