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The role of plant-microbiota interactions in the resilience and collapse of mediterranean forest of holm-oaks  


Despite being a species historically adapted to Mediterranean drought conditions, Holm-oak (Q ilex subp Ballota) has shown clear signs of vulnerability in recent years reflected in an incipient process of defoliation and mortality. Given the urgent need to promote the conservation of this species of enormous ecological and socioeconomic importance in the Iberian Peninsula, it is a priority to improve our current understanding on the mechanisms and agents involved in health loss and vulnerability to extreme droughts and/or pathogenic attacks (eg Phytophthora cinnamomi). In this respect, the development of new "omics" has allowed to advance in the exploration of territories so far unexplored, such as the multifunctional role of the microbiota, the most diverse yet unknown ecosystem community, and its relation to physiological health. The project IBERYCA brings together an international and multidisciplinary team of experts (microbial ecologists, modelers, ecophysiologists, phytopathologists and biogeochemists) that will use the latest generation of "omics" techniques (metabarcoding and metabolomics) to deepen the multifunctional role of the microbiota (Prokaryotes, archaeas and fungi) in the health of Holm-oaks and their resilience to the increasing incidence of, e.g. extreme summer droughts and/or pathogen attacks.


The IBERYCA project will benefit from the 18 permanent plots previously established (2015) throughout the distribution range of oak in the Iberian Peninsule, with more than 400 oaks under a different degree of defoliation described. Some of the specific questions that IBERYCA poses are: What architecture of the microbial community allows to optimize the resilience of the oak to disturbing agents? What dimensions of biodiversity (eg alpha, beta, phylo-diversity, functional diversity) relate the best to health/resilience? Which metabolic routes might bet more fragile and/or determinant in the loss of physiological health? The IBERYCA project plans to answer these questions based on: (1)

An initial sampling using the whole range of peninsular distribution of Holm-oaks for the study of their physiological health (Nitrogen content and 13C/15N of roots and leaves), Coupled with studies of diversity of microbiota (metabarcoding with Illumina MiSeq) and metabolomics in key plant-microbiota contact organs: rhizosphere and phylosphere. (2) Make use of bioinformatics, mathematical modeling, and a multidisciplinary group of experts (work team) to successfully address the objectives of IBERYCA. We hope that the results obtained at IBERYCA will provide the biological and ecological basis for updating conservation strategies to take into account the importance of biological interactions and, in particular, the role of the micro world in the conservation of the macro.

Start date:  01 January 2018

End date: 31 December 2020



Partners in IBERYCA:

BC3 Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3)

Key people involved in BC3:

Jorge Curiel


 Iberyca logos ministerio


Proyecto financiado por el Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad y la Agencia Estatal de Investigación con el nº exp: CGL2017-84723-P


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