Evolutionary EcologyEmerging threats of nanoparticles to plants and microbiomes

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How do nanoparticles – emerging environmental threats – affect plants and associated microbiomes

Project Summary

Engineered nanomaterials released from industrial, agricultural, biomedical, and domestic applications are emerging environmental threats to the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the Anthropocene. While nanoparticles are known to influence plant survival, growth, and reproduction, little is known whether and how the effects of nanoparticles on plants are mediated by plant-associated microbiomes. To address this question, we use manipulative experiments to examine the effects of nanoparticles on plants, microbiomes, and the evolution of plant–microbiome interactions.

We focus on both terrestrial herbaceous and woody plant systems (wild strawberries, Fragaria; wild apples or crabapples, Malus) and aquatic plant system (duckweeds) growing at the Holden Arboretum. This line of research involves a series of related projects. In wild strawberries (Fragaria), we ask (1) how microbiomes influence plant response to nanoparticle stress and (2) how this response is modulated by past plant evolution (i.e. genome duplication and local adaptation). In crabapples (Malus), we ask (3) how ‘home’ vs. ‘alien’ microbiomes influence host plant fitness under nanoparticle stress. In duckweeds, we ask (4) how nanoparticles influence the evolution of plant–microbiome interactions. These projects involve natural and synthetic microbiome inoculation, microbiome sequencing, tissue culture, plant ecophysiological trait measurements both belowground and aboveground.


community assembly, crabapple, NCEP plot, microbiome, polyploidy, soil, strawberry


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