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K-State Today

February 28, 2019

Division of Biology seminar March 1

Submitted by Division of Biology

The Division of Biology will host a seminar at 4 p.m. Friday, March 1, in 221 Ackert Hall as part of its seminar series.

Jason West, associate professor in the ecosystem science and management department at Texas A&M University, will present "Physiological Ecology of Woody Plants in Water-Limited Environments." 

A central question in plant physiological ecology is, "how do plants cope with water limitation?" As a result of decades of work, we now know a great deal about how plants access, transport and respond to spatially and temporally variable water availability. In spite of these advances, major uncertainties remain. These range from questions about how water — and water vapor — moves inside leaves to how plants access and partition water resources below ground.

In this talk, West will present results from ongoing work in tropical and temperate ecosystems and share what they are learning about the characteristics of co-occurring woody plants in strongly water-limited habitats. In the sub-humid forests of the Yucatán Peninsula, DNA barcoding and stable isotopes suggest access to deep-water impacts tree water stress and is more common in specific species, with implications for above ground dominance and drought tolerance. West's work in the largest tropical dry forest in South America — the Caatinga Forest in northeastern Brazil — shows that co-occurring species exhibit remarkable variation in water use strategies in the face of a strongly seasonal rainfall pattern. West finds striking differences among functional groups as well as interesting variation among species within functional groups. West is initiating a new project on the temperate, semi-arid Edwards Plateau in Texas where they are working to improve our understanding of savanna tree water use and productivity, with a particular interest in scaling up to ecosystem and regional scales. If time allows, West will share early results from that project as well.

Overall, his work points to a continuing need to focus research efforts below ground if we are to gain a better understanding of plant water use.

If you would like to visit with West, please contact Rory O'Connor at rory9@k-state.edu