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Biodiversity and evolution

Our research delves into the fascinating world of biodiversity and evolution, exploring the intricate relationships between organisms and their environment. We strive to understand the processes that shape the rich tapestry of life on Earth, from the smallest microorganisms in the soil to the most complex ecosystems.

A small insect-looking animal is sitting on a grain of sand. Photo.

Exploring the Interactions in Nature

We research the interactions between vegetation and soil microorganisms, and how these interactions are influenced by abiotic factors such as nutrient availability. The arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis, a mutually beneficial relationship between a fungus and a plant, plays a fundamental role in understanding ecosystem processes. The regulation of nutrient exchange in this symbiosis, from the physiological level to the ecosystem level, is a central research issue. Other projects delve into the biodiversity of grasslands, examining plants, fungi, and insects, and exploring how this biodiversity can be preserved most effectively.

The Role of Genetic Variation in Evolution

A key area of interest is the evolutionary genetics of sex differences, particularly sexually antagonistic genetic variation. This refers to when the same gene has opposite effects on the fitness of males and females. Sexually antagonistic genes and traits may hold the key to one of the long-standing paradoxes in evolutionary biology: the maintenance of standing genetic variation. When selection is strong and traits are heritable, it is expected that standing genetic variance for fitness should be rapidly depleted. However, this is not what is observed when looking at natural populations. Sexual antagonism may provide an answer since it means that the fitness of any given allele is context-dependent, preventing the rapid depletion of genetic variance.

Two flatworms mating. Photo.
Photo: Lukas Schärer

Bridging the Gap Between Zoology and Botany

The research bridges the traditional gap between zoology and botany by integrating studies of animal and plant ecology, life-history biology, behaviour, and molecular and chemical ecology. The evolution of small, selfing flowers from large, animal-pollinated flowers is one of the most common evolutionary trends in the plant kingdom. Much attention has been given to the selective advantage of self-pollination, but there have been few attempts to explore the selective and genetic mechanisms underlying the floral reduction prevalent in selfing lineages. The evolution of floral colour polymorphisms has also been a topic of long-standing interest. Several selection pressures, operating at both vegetative and reproductive stages, contribute to the maintenance of these pollen-color dimorphisms.

In summary, the research conducted in this environment provides a comprehensive understanding of the intricate relationships and processes that shape our natural world. From the interactions between plants and soil microorganisms to the genetic variations that drive evolution, the research aims to unravel the complexities of biodiversity and contribute to the preservation of our ecosystems.

A bumble bee among apple blossoms. Photo.
Photo: Maj Rundlöf.