LAB NEWS-JAN. A nice way to start the new year: Ashley (now a postdoc at Iowa) just published a key paper from her Ph.D. showing that increases in microbial community functioning go hand-in-hand with more favorable climate. The work suggests that microbes adapt to their climatic environment, increasing their functional ability under warmer conditions and decreasing it under cooler conditions. A really nice twist is that you couldn’t discern these patterns in a field experiment alone, suggesting that causality can be obscured in the field and lead to the false conclusion that microbial communities function similarly.

Also coming out is a paper led by Rob Buchkowski showing that microbial population and community processes – such as those that probably underlie Ashley’s findings – change predictions from microbial biogeochemical models. Such insights have far-reaching consequences for the projections we make as to how ecosystem carbon stocks might respond to climate and other environmental changes. More @bradfordlab.

Hi, you’ve reached the homepage of the Bradford lab group at Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Our research explores two main questions:

  1. How do plants and soil organisms respond to environmental change?
  2. How do these responses affect ecosystem function, especially the movement and storage of carbon in soils?

The Wordle compiles the most common words from the titles of papers we’ve published since the lab established (in 2005, then at the University of Georgia, Athens). It gives a good flavor of the topics we primarily focus on under Questions 1 & 2. Below the Wordle there’s a more detailed description of why we do what we do, and how we do it.

wordle for webpage
Why focus on carbon and ecosystems? Soils and plants store huge quantities of carbon. Disturbances that degrade ecosystems release this into the atmosphere – in forms such as carbon dioxide – contributing to our changing climate. But soils and ecosystems are much more than reservoirs for carbon – their health is directly tied to water purification, flood prevention, maintenance of biodiversity, and agricultural production. Understanding how and why plants, animals, microbes and soils respond to environmental change will therefore help us understand the consequences for human well-being, and how we might manage them.

We use experimental and observational approaches to investigate these effects of global change, both in the field and laboratory. We primarily work across forests and grasslands in the north and south of the eastern United States.

The overall goal of our research is to provide the necessary mechanistic understanding required for reliable prediction of global change impacts on ecosystems, and their likely feedbacks to the climate system.