Evolutionary Dynamics and Biodiversity of Host-Microbe Systems

Plant-microbe associations are enormously diverse, ranging from parasitism through mutualism to symbiosis. Many of these interactions may have profound effects on the dynamics and structure of host communities. These effects may be induced through differential parasitic attack affecting some components of a community more than others; through an enhanced nitrogen economy resulting from the establishment of rhizobial -plant associations; through the establishment of endophytic mutualisms; or through complex mycorrhizal associations between host and fungus. The work in this project has the overall aim of understanding the processes leading to the development and maintenance of coevolutionary associations between plants and the microbial world. A primary motivation for our disease research is that a broad understanding of the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of host-pathogen interactions must take spatial structure into account. To that end, we are applying an integrative approach using both theoretical models as well as empirical studies centred around several well-characterised natural plant host-pathogen interactions.