A global initiative to understand gypsum ecosystem ecology
Gypsum soils occur worldwide and represent natural laboratories of evolution and ecology. The unusual mineral content of gypsum soils is a significant barrier to the growth of most plants, and yet these soils host highly diverse endemic floras that have evolved independently on five continents. Nevertheless, these ecosystems are poorly understood compared to those of other unusual substrates. Little is known about the conservation status of gypsum floras, the potential impact of climate change on them, and their responses to mitigation and restoration. We propose an integrated global study of the ecology and evolution of plant and lichen life on gypsum, including eight gypsum-rich regions from four continents that differ in geological origin, climate, and flora. We will 1) assess the plant and lichen diversity of gypsum; 2) investigate the evolutionary origins and assembly of these floras; 3) evaluate potential adaptive mechanisms on gypsum, the functional structure of gypsum plant and lichen communities, and the processes regulating gypsum ecosystem function; 4) analyse the responses of gypsum communities to global change drivers and explore how gypsum ecosystem restoration/conservation may help mitigate the effects of global change; 5) promote the study of gypsum ecosystems; and 6) communicate the ecological and conservation value of these ecosystems to the public. With the involvement of gypsum experts from 18 academic and non-academic organizations from 11 countries, this project provides an innovative, integrative, and interdisciplinary approach to address key questions in gypsum ecosystem ecology, evolution, and management. The project thus strengthens existing international collaborative networks and consolidates Europe’s leadership in gypsum ecosystem research, including management and conservation plans and the identification of traits for crop improvement on gypsum soils, enhancing its attractiveness as a leading destination for related R&D.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 777803 (Marie Slodowska-Curie RISE). Disclaimer: this summary reflects only the author’s view and the Research Executive Agency of the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.