PhD candidate / guest
The presence of specific plant neighbours can decrease or increase the vulnerability of a focal plant to herbivores, which was referred to as associational resistance (AR) and associational susceptibility (AS). My research interest is to discover the belowground associational effects and shed light on the mechanisms behind it.
Associational effects have been demonstrated as widespread ecological interactions which are defined as reduced or increased consumer effects in a neighbourhood with non-focal neighbours relative to a monoculture of the focal organism. To date, these type of associational effects has been documented in many systems for aboveground plant-herbivore interactions. Herbivory by soil-dwelling organisms can also greatly influence plant performance, but there is a dearth of experimental studies that examine such belowground associational effects and little is known about the ecological importance of these effects. In many plant communities, the degree of herbivory on a focal plant depends on the identity, diversity and traits of the neighbouring plants. Moreover, plant-soil feedbacks, where a plant influences the soil, which subsequently influences a plant that grows later in the soil, can also alter the performance of competing species and feeding performance of herbivores. Therefore, plant-soil feedbacks could also affect belowground associational effects. Furthermore, despite being separated in space, aboveground and belowground organisms influence each other. Hence, belowground AR and AS can influence aboveground AR and AS on the same plant. My research will highlight the ecological importance of belowground AR and AS and shed light on the mechanisms of these widespread interactions.
2020-present: PhD project on Unravelling plant-soil interactions: The ecological importance of belowground associational resistance and susceptibility. Supervisor: Prof.dr. Martijn Bezemer; Co-supervisors: Dr Klaas Vrieling; Dr Suzanne Lommen.
2015-2019: MSc Ecology at East China Normal University
2011-2015: BSc Ecology at Lanzhou University