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Midgley MONet Request

EMSL Project ID


Using a series of mature, mono-specific forestry plots, our collaborative team here at The Morton Arboretum together with our partners outside the Arboretum are addressing interdisciplinary questions regarding tree responses to climate change; relationships among leaf, stem, root and mycorrhizal phenology; forest carbon and nutrient dynamics; and the connections among tree traits, soil invertebrate and microbial communities, and soil biogeochemistry. The specific sites used in our study were intentionally selected to include wide phylogenetic and functional diversity among tree species ensuring relevance of our findings to ecosystem processes across northern hemisphere temperate forests and ready incorporation into terrestrial biosphere models (e.g., Wang et al. 2023). To address our questions, we developed a comprehensive platform for long-term monitoring of leaf, stem, and root growth; growth of mycorrhizal fungi and repeated sampling of mycorrhizal communities; soil respiration; and stem and sap flow. We then couple these observations with ongoing monitoring of abiotic conditions including soil moisture, temperature, electrical conductivity, and standard meteorological measurements. We have also conducted intensive sampling campaigns assessing invertebrate communities, root exudation rates, tree demography, ecosystem nutrient budgets, and specific soil properties associated with individual species (Midgley and Sims 2020).

For our proposed sampling with the Molecular Observation Network (MONet), we will focus on a series of 11 mono-specific sites, all under the same climate conditions within the 690-hectare Arboretum grounds. The 11 sites are roughly evenly split between angiosperms and gymnosperms and within each group, split between both arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal associating species, with additional stratification across our two dominant soil types, Alfisols and Mollisols. MONet therefore provides an opportunity for us to better link tree species effects to soil and ecosystem properties. We are particularly interested in gaining greater insights into the organic matter fractions among our sites as well as detailed soil hydraulic properties and pore network structure. Furthermore, we expect the metagenomics data and enzyme activity will closely complement our planned sampling and analysis of mycorrhizal fungal communities among our sites. We further propose to repeat our sampling at two time points. The first sampling will take place during the typical growing season (June/July). The second sampling will be outside of the typical growing season after fall leaf senescence occurs in deciduous species (October/November). We are selecting this second date as our previous observations indicate this to be an important period of growth for both roots and mycorrhizal fungi across our sites. We therefore expect changes in many of the properties assessed by MONet, especially metagenomics, enzyme activity, and respiration.

Project Details

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Principal Investigator

Meghan Midgley
The Morton Arboretum


Michael McCormack
The Morton Arboretum