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Stem anatomical characters of grass populations

Investigating stem anatomical characters amongst 17 populations of the grass Dactylis glomerata L. across Europe.

Dr. Frederic Lens 

Naturalis Biodiversity Center, frederic.lens@naturalis.nl

Period & duration
Ca. 6 months, project can start soon

Study & level
MSc project

Background & context
Under climate change, increased high temperatures lead to more frequent extreme climate events such as intense droughts and heat waves in many areas worldwide. These extreme events become increasingly important drivers of future ecosystems. Grasslands are the most important agro-ecosystems worldwide and provide many ecosystem services ranging from forage supply, soil carbon storage and biodiversity preservation. However, the decline of grassland production and long-term degradations from drought are gradually becoming more common. We have measured the water transport in Dactylis glomerata grass stems from 17 different populations from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean to estimate levels of hydraulic failure to drought stress.

Objectives & goals
The objective of this master thesis is to explore the intraspecific variability of anatomical characters in stems of the 17 populations of Dactylis glomerata L. for which hydraulic measures have been performed. These combined physiological-anatomical observations will provide insights into adaptive strategies of an ubiquitous perennial grass in the context of climate change.

Methods, tasks and approach
Material of three populations have been observed already, showing nice trends in liginification that support an ongoing broader study on grasses. Stems of the 14 remaining populations will be sent to Leiden, embedded in the resin LR White, and sectioned with a rotary microtome. The slides will be observed with a light microscope equipped with a digital camera. Pictures will be analysed with Image J.

Interest in sectioning and microscopy observations.

Figure 1 Dactylis glomerata in the field