Allelochemical arms race in peatlands: the role of polyphenols in aboveground-belowground interactions


Funding : Swiss National Science Fundation (grant number: 315260_149807)


Year : 2015-2017


Description : 

Research efforts on allelochemical interactions in ecosystems mostly involved vascular plants rather than non-vascular plants. However, Bryophytes represent a crucial group of plants, are found in many ecosystems, and posses allelochemical interactions. In Sphagnol, we envisage that polyphenols play a significant role in the competition between Sphagnum mosses and Sphagnum-vascular plant competition. More specifically, we hypothesize that species-specific polyphenols invoke a ‘home-advantage’ for the producing species, directly or indirectly, by hampering growth or growth related processes of competing species. The aims of this project are (i) to determine if Sphagnum species-specific secondary metabolites are allelopathic to competing species, (ii) to understand if species-specific polyphenol production of dominant species is the major driver of the growth of the competing species. It is envisaged that this effect is driven by two key processes; direct inhibitory effects on photosynthesis rates, and impacts on microbial abundance, diversity, trophic links and activities, which in turn will affect Sphagnum competitive strength. Finally, we will determine (iii) if climate changes affect the allelochemical arms race in Sphagnum communities. Species susceptible to drought and high temperature are hypothesized to lose their competitive advantage provided by phenolics, due to direct effects of climate changes on phenolic synthesis, thereby leading to a modification of the Sphagnum-Sphagnum and Sphagnum-microbe(s) interactions.


Keywords :
peatlands, chemical interactions, microbial food web, Sphagnum mosses, aboveground-belowground interactions, climate change, mesocosms


Internal collaborators :

Prof. Alexandre Buttler (PI)

Dr. Vincent Jassey (post-doc)

Dr. Bjorn Robroek (post-doc)

Dr. Constant Signarbieux (post-doc)

Prof. Luca Bragazza

External collaborators :

Prof. Jean-Luc Wolfender (University of Geneva)

Dr. Pierre-Marie Allard (post-doc, University of Geneva)

Dr. Shuaizhen Zhou (post-doc, University of Geneva)

Dr. Geneviève Chiapusio (Univeristy of Franche-Comté)

Dr. Philippe Binet (Univeristy of Franche-Comté)


Study site :
Store Mosse National Park


Links :