Catalysis Meeting

Scaling evolution from genomes to ecosystems in peatmosses (Sphagnum)

PI(s): Jon Shaw (Duke University)
Merritt Turetsky (University of Guelph)
David Weston (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
Start Date: 1-May-2014
End Date: 30-Jun-2015
Keywords: gene structure and function, genomics, climate change, local adaptation, evolutionary genetics

Sphagnum (peatmosses) dominate wetland ecosystems where they occur and are largely responsible for the structure and function of these ecosystems. Northern peatlands are estimated to harbor some 30% of the terrestrial carbon pool because they accumulate thick layers of partially decomposed plant material (peat). Because of their role in the global carbon cycle, peatmosses are crucial determinants of present and future climate.

Sphagnum and peatlands have long served as a model for work on niche partitioning and community assembly. Simultaneously, the genus has become a focus for phylogenetic, biogeographic, and population genetic research. The Joint Genome Institute recently accepted our proposal to generate a genome sequence for a representative species of Sphagnum, along with complementary transcriptome analyses from plants grown under experimental treatments differing in nutrient, water, and temperature conditions. Previous research has shown that Sphagnum species differ in important functional traits that scale up to affect ecosystem-level processes.

The availability of genomic data for Sphagnum provides an unprecedented opportunity to link comparative, structural and functional genomics with the evolution of whole-plant functional traits, and through these traits to global biogeochemistry and climate. Our proposed workshop will bring together inter-disciplinary representatives from the genomic sciences and molecular evolution, physiology, peatland ecology, and climate research. Our general goal is to assess what we know about peatmoss ecology and evolution, and what we need to know in order to leverage our genomic knowledge to develop an international research program focused on how evolution at multiple levels of biological organization scale up to impact ecosystem function and global climate.