Genomic Ecology of Global Change

Research

How will ecosystems — complex ecological communities and their environments — respond to rapid changes in climate? Human activities are altering the composition of the atmosphere, affecting the Earth’s climate, and introducing invasive species. Naturally, such changes alter the capacity of native and agro-ecosystems to provide critical goods and services, including food, fiber, fuel, clean air, and fresh water.

The Genomic Ecology of Global Change Research Theme is examining:

  • How changes in networks of genes affect ecosystem metabolism when challenged by elements of global change, including elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide and ozone, increased drought, and altered interactions with insect herbivores and plant pathogens
  • How information obtained from genomes and metabolomes may be used to predict the effect of environmental changes on ecosystem function
  • How this information can be formulated into an overarching framework of mathematical modeling

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has the only facility in the world for studying the interacting effects of and rising levels of carbon dioxide and ozone with biotic and abiotic factors on plants under open-air conditions. IGB researchers are in a unique position to examine the effects of global atmospheric change on the transcriptome and metabolome of agro-ecosystems.

Theme research will focus on agro-ecosystems with significant economic impact and could potentially lead to the development of biorational products for agricultural pest and disease management. Further benefits may include improved quality of ecosystem health, and a better understanding of the environmental implications of various energy supply options.