Proxies of mortality

One of our research lines is the use of plant proxies of mortality based on the understanding of plant oxidative stress to understand ecosystemic processes.

Not all plant models have age-associated mortality, as is the case, for example, of perennial plants, which, as their age advance, may not show signs of aging and, therefore, not present variations in mortality associated with age. 

In contrast, the mortality of these plants seems to be related to an increase of oxidative stress, triggered by external factors, which causes an endogenous increase of reactive oxygen species (ROS).

To control ROS production effects, plants have developed several antioxidant systems that reduce ROS and allow the maintenance of an adequate oxidation/reduction balance. When plant cells cannot prevent the increase of ROS, an imbalance favoring oxidation reactions occurs, and the plant begins a senescence process that ends in cellular death.

As plants do not follow the logical process of senescence with age we use a number of oxidative stress markers as potential proxies of mortality in natural ecosystems, to be able to predict mortality at the ecosystem level. We include studies on Mediterranean-type ecosystems and exploring the diversity of high-mountain plants. We also study senescence at the whole-level level in species with outstanding longevity. 

To further understand the roles of longevity and functional traits, our group is collaborating with Plant Pop Net, a globally distributed project on spatial plant population dynamics trying to understand the environmental drivers of the population of Plantago lanceolata.

Take a dive into our publications here.