Invited Seminar at CES on 22 February 2021 at 9:30 am titled "Stomata: adjusting and responding to environmental changes" by Dr. Varsha Pathare from Washington State University
Climate change factors, like elevated CO2 and high temperature, are expected to increase the frequency and severity of drought events thus affecting the processes of plant photosynthesis and productivity across both natural and crop ecosystems. Plant ecosystems are critical for sustaining a habitable climate and life on Earth. Hence, there has been a constant pressure to accurately predict plant ecosystem responses to climate change for effective management and use of the ecosystems and to develop climate-resilient crops. Stomata - the microvalves on leaf surfaces, dynamically regulate photosynthetic CO2-uptake and water-loss in response to changing environments. Consequently, stomata determine plant growth and productivity and exert a major influence on global climate by controlling about 95% of all the CO2 and water fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. Hence, stomata are of central importance in attempts to accurately predict plant and ecosystem responses to climate change and develop climate-resilient crops.
In this talk, I will present my previous research on how stomatal traits (behavior and anatomy) vary among diverse plant groups and influence plant responses to changing environments. In addition, I will outline my future research plans to study stomatal traits in the grasses. Grasses form one of the most widespread biomes (grasslands) on Earth, can successfully thrive in extreme environments and are critical for global food security as they include cereal crops like wheat, rice, and sorghum. Despite the importance of grasses for both natural and agricultural ecosystems, surprisingly little is known about stomatal trait variation and the selective pressures giving rise to or maintaining this variation in grasses. In this talk I will specifically discuss my plans to (1) study the shift in stomatal traits that occurred during domestication of grasses (2) investigate changes in stomatal traits during evolution of grasses with different photosynthetic pathways and (3) investigate the role of stomatal traits in adaptation of grasses to diverse environments. Finally, I will highlight the implications of my research for improving representation of grasses in climate change models and for development of cereal crops that perform better under future climate.