The Kwongan is a unique ecological region of south-western Australia where we find a type of shrub vegetation exceptionally rich in species. The Kwongan unveiled the secret underground plant kingdom to researchers at the University of Montreal and the University of Western Australia.
The Kwongan is a unique ecological region of south-western Australia where we find a type of shrub vegetation exceptionally rich in species that grow on soil among the barren world.
This feature allowed the researchers discovered that plants use a breathtaking variety of nutrient acquisition strategies in these extremely infertile soils. "In the wild, the plants adapted to infertile soils using almost all the same air strategy allowing them to use soil nutrients very efficiently. They produce very leathery leaves that persist for many years By cons, to date the diversity of adaptations underground roots in poor soil was unknown, "says Professor Etienne Laliberté, one of the authors of the study.
According to their study published today in the journal Nature Plants on Kwongan contains almost all adaptations acquisition of nutrients known in the plant world, on such poor soils that agriculture is totally impossible without recourse a phenomenal amount of fertilizers. "Until now, scientists believed that natural selection should have favored a single root particularly effective strategy for the acquisition of nutrients, given the extreme soil infertility, says Professor Laliberté. Contrary to what the the foliage is observed when different plant species all point to the same strategy of efficient use of nutrients in the leaves, it does not seem to nutrient acquisition by the roots quick fix in very poor soils. plants growing side by side can use completely different strategies with equal success. It was a surprise to us. "
If ideas are the semi-arid scrublands of Australia are seen as trivial and homogeneous reality turns out completely different. "Some plants form root symbioses with fungi, others with bacteria, while others capture and digest insects for nutrients they contain. In addition, another large group of species excrete organic compounds allowing them to increase the availability of nutrients, says Graham Zemunik, the first author of the study. The Australian Kwongan is one of the hotspots of plant diversity on the planet, as well as tropical forests. " This quality encourages the scientific team to support an initiative to register the Kwongan in the list of UNESCO World Heritage.
"Around the world, ecosystems are converted at an alarming rate, says M Zemunik. To protect biodiversity in the extent possible, it is essential to understand the functioning of ecosystems. To achieve this, our study demonstrates the importance to study what is hidden underground and that is not immediately obvious. "
This study, funded by the Australian Research Council and Kwongan Foundation, is part of a larger research program led by Professor Etienne Laliberté explores the links between soil fertility, plant biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. It is affiliated with the Plant Biology Research Institute of the University of Montreal and its Department of Biological Sciences. It is also affiliated to the School of Plant Biology of the University of Western Australia, where he was PhD supervisor first author of the study, Graham Zemunik.