OEB Special Seminar


Monday, March 4, 2019, 3:30pm


William James Lecture Hall B1, 33 Kirkland Street

Robert SkeltonRobert Skelton
University of California, Berkeley

"Drought Tolerance in Diverse Temperate Trees and Shrubs: Solutions to Long-Standing Problems"

Abstract: Drought is a common abiotic stress for both natural and agricultural plants that can cause major damage to plant communities and reduce photosynthetic yield. The physiological mechanisms of plant drought avoidance or tolerance are complex, involving multiple structural and functional traits as well as physiological and biochemical systems and adjustments. We currently lack adequate knowledge of how key physiological traits and responses vary among major terrestrial plant taxa, particularly those from diverse flora, ensuring that current frameworks for characterizing drought tolerance of plant species are incomplete. My research aims to build upon a rich history of comparative plant physiology and ecology to elucidate the diversity of functional characteristics and traits of temperate trees and shrubs that determine their capacity to tolerate water deficit. I achieve this through a combination of detailed laboratory- and field-based measurements obtained with modern methods and techniques.

My findings provide insight into diverse plant structure-function relationships, trait-climate associations, and complex trait evolution, as well as enhancing predictions of how plant communities are likely to respond to future droughts. A key achievement of my research has been the development of a novel conceptual trait-based framework for characterizing plant drought tolerance within diverse communities. My research into the diversity of lineage-specific physiological systems/responses in North American oaks has revealed that the capacity of oaks to resist air blockage formation in the xylem is essential for understanding species distributions along aridity gradients and predicting future drought damage and mortality patterns.


In this seminar I will explore some of the myriad ways that diverse temperate trees and shrubs cope with water deficit. Along the way I will place my findings in the context of some classic hypotheses, while also revealing promising future directions in plant ecophysiology.


See also: OEB Seminars