Subproject 03: Root trait diversity (1 PhD position)

Principle Investigators: Weigelt, Alexandra, Leipzig University; Mommer, Liesje, Wageningen University


Biodiversity can be considered as the earth’s safety net for mitigating climate change, as biodiversity is known to increase ecosystem functioning and stability. It is often hypothesised that increased species richness in grasslands increases resistance and recovery of plant communities to drought. Despite the urgency of the topic due to the increasing frequency and intensity of droughts worldwide, the underlying mechanisms of these beneficial biodiversity effects are not fully understood. Specifically, we have an incomplete perspective of how plant functional trait composition and diversity drive resistance to and recovery after drought.

In this subproject, we aim to provide an integrated perspective on plant functional traits – with a focus on root traits – to advance our mechanistic understanding of plant community responses to drought. We will build on a recently developed plant trait framework, that for the first time, integrated above- and belowground plant functional traits, and will expand it with 1) plant hydraulic traits,as these have not been implemented in the framework yet, and 2) root biomass allocation,as the potential to increase root biomass allocation to deeper soil layers might be fundamental for understanding plant responses to drought.

First, we will select the most relevant shoot, root, and hydraulic traits in a workshop with a diverse team of international experts and test these traits at the species level in a microcosm experiment. Then, we will scale up to the community level to disentangle effects of average trait composition and diversity for resistance to and recovery after droughts. Finally, we will elucidate the importance of functional diversity at the community level for resistance to and recovery after droughts. This knowledge on plant functional traits will be essential to design and restore plant communities that are resilient to climate change.

Available positions: 1 PhD student

Job advertisement:

Contact: Prof. Dr. Alexandra Weigelt (