Ylva Lekberg to speak on plant invasion March 9
Ylva Lekberg, an ecologist at MPG Ranch, will present "Legacies of Plant Invasions - Not Always a Story of Doom and Gloom " as part of Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment Speaker Series at noon on Friday, March 9, in Academic West 304 on the Western campus. The presentation is free and open to the public. Invasions by non-native plants can cost billions of dollars, alter ecosystem functions, and reduce native plant diversity, but relatively little is known about associated changes in below-ground microbial communities that could influence further invasion and restoration success. The great majority of plants form a root symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), in which the fungi acquire carbon from the plant in exchange for enhanced nutrient uptake and potential other services. It has been suggested that invasive plants either do not form this symbiosis or have a low mycorrhizal dependency, yet AMF increase growth and competitiveness of the two strong invaders leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) and knapweed (Centaurea stoebe). Lekberg will discuss her research findings that question many general assumptions in invasion biology, and show that knapweed and leafy spurge invasions harbor a greater abundance and more AMF taxa than remnant, grass-dominated, native communities. This suggests that single species of plants can support rich below-ground communities, which questions the relationship between above and below-ground diversity. She will address underlying reasons for this higher richness, its functional consequence, and the potential implications for restoration. Lekberg earned a master’s degree in Biology and Horticulture from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in 1996 and a doctorate in Ecology from Pennsylvania State University in 2004. She received the Alumni Association Dissertation Award for her work in agroecology and subsistence farming in Sub-Saharan Africa. Post-doctoral positions at Montana State University and later at Copenhagen University as a Marie Curie Fellow have allowed her to explore the role of mycorrhiza, a root-fungus symbiosis, for geothermal plants in Yellowstone National Park and coastal grasslands in Denmark. Her research has been published in journals such as “Ecology”, “Journal of Ecology” and “New Phytologist”. Anyone interested in this topic is encouraged to come and participate; the presentation will include a question-and-answer period. The speaker series is held by Western's Huxley College of the Environment to bring together the environmentally minded community and other interested members of the WWU and Bellingham communities. Speakers address topics of contemporary environmental concern in the region and the world. For more information, please contact the main office of Huxley College of the Environment, at (360) 650-3520. Western’s Huxley College of the Environment is one of the oldest environmental colleges in the nation and a recognized national leader in producing the next generation of environmental stewards. The College’s academic programs reflect a broad view of the physical, biological, social and cultural world. This innovative and interdisciplinary approach makes Huxley unique. The College has earned international recognition for the quality of its programs.