The study will examine how plants absorb and use nutrients from the soil.
SLIPPERY ROCK -- A Slippery Rock University biology professor and students will study how plants respond to climatic change through a research project that could enhance scientists' understanding of future changes in crop and forest growth.
University officials recently announced the school had received a $50,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture -- its first from the USDA -- to fund a yearlong examination of how plants absorb and use nutrients from the soil.
Carbon dioxide levels: Specifically, the researchers will study how the activity of specific proteins in plants responds to elevated carbon dioxide levels and the impact of that change on plant nutrition and growth.
While all plants require carbon dioxide to grow and frequently increase growth at elevated carbon dioxide levels, it is unclear if sufficient amounts of the nutrient nitrogen exist in the soil to support the growth increase over many years, says Dr. John Constable, the SRU biology professor who wrote the federal grant application.
An understanding of how plants acquire and use nitrogen to support their growth should contribute to a better understanding of how global climatic changes, specifically the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, will influence the growth of plants in agricultural and natural ecosystems.
Travel: The research will take Constable and one biology student to field sites at the University of Minnesota, Duke University in North Carolina and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where plants are grown under natural conditions at elevated carbon dioxide levels. Subsequent analytical work at SRU will employ two additional biology students.