You may have noticed these new infrastructures near the GR building at EPFL, home to hundreds of plants. They’re called “polytunnels” and they can modify the conditions in which the plants evolve, by modifying the temperature and the humidity in the air.
Thanks to these infrastructures, a doctoral student from the laboratory is studying the survival mechanisms of plants faced with increasingly demanding conditions (heat / drought), in particular the challenges of adjusting metabolism, and the associated morpho-anatomical traits of trees. Five species are represented in this study: European ash (Fraxinus excelsior), sessile oak (Quercus petraea), field maple (Acer campestre), common beech (Fagus sylvatica) and common hornbeam (Carpinus betulus).
This first year will be the acclimation phase of the plants during which different conditions will be applied in each tunnel. Then the following year, a drought phase will be launched in spring to see which components of the adaptation process promote the survival of plants in extreme conditions.
Several measurements will be carried out throughout the duration of the experiment in order to understand the dynamics of plant acclimation, including the monitoring of the hydraulic capacities of plants through MicroCT scans carried out at the PIXE platform (EPFL).