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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Joseph Morton

PhD student



Project title: To determine if N and P availability in the environment explains why most plant genomes are small, despite a huge range in angiosperm genome sizes

Summary: Angiosperms show a 2400-fold range in genome size (GS) (Hidalgo et al., 2018), yet the majority of species have small genomes. Many potential drivers of this skewed distribution have been considered, of which one is nutrient availability. Nitrogen and Phosphorus are important elements of DNA and RNA, comprising 39% and 9% of nucleic acid mass respectively (Elser et al. 2011). N and P limitation may therefore constrain nucleic acid synthesis, create trade offs with other N- and P-demanding cellular functions and impose selection pressure against plants maintaining large genomes. While the relationship between GS and nutrient availability has been well examined in temperate field trials (Šmarda et al. 2013; Guignard et al., 2016), there is limited research of this in natural systems (Kang et al. 2015), especially outside of temperate grasslands.

My project aims to apply existing experimental designs and techniques to examine GS-nutrient relationships across a wide range of climates, both in experimental field trials and natural systems. I also aim to look at interactions of nutrient availability with other drivers of GS, such as water availability and herbivory, to understand how these collectively alter vegetation composition and, ultimately, shape GS diversity.



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