Soils Lab

Kelly Andersen

Kelly Andersen

University of Illinois – Champaign/Urbana
Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology



My research focuses on plant species partitioning of soil nutrient gradients. My Ph.D. research examines how soil heterogeneity is contributing to the maintenance of high species diversity of understory palms in lower montane forests. My primary field site is located in western Panama within the Reserva Forestal Fortuna and adjacent Bosque Protector Palo Seco ( I am using the Fortuna-palm system to examine the extent to which niche and dispersal assembly processes may be responsible for non-random species distributions in this lower montane forest. The 2 major questions my dissertation research can be broken down into are:

  1. How are understory palm communities structured?
    a) Do species distributions appear to follow niche assembly processes resulting in associations between species and nutrient distributions? or b) Do species distributions appear to follow dispersal assembly processes whereby community similarity decreases predictably with increasing geographic distance?
  2. If niche assembly processes are driving palm-soil associations, what mechanisms allow species to partition the soil nutrient gradients? Experimental studies suggest three mechanisms by which plant-soil associations may occur: 1) through differential biomass allocation to below-ground resource acquisition, 2) through differences in use efficiency of limiting nutrients, or 3) through trade-offs in allocation of resources to defense against herbivores versus growth. I am conducting two seedling transplant experiments to test the relative importance of competing mechanisms by which palm species may be partitioning soil nitrogen gradients.



Morris, A., J. Dalling, K. Andersen. 2005. Web-guide to the trees and shrubs of the Fortuna
Forest Reserve, Chiriqui, Panama.

Lovelock, C. E., K. M. Andersen, J. Morton. 2003. Host tree species and environmental
control on arbuscular mycorrhizal spore communities in a tropical forest.

Oecologia. 135 (2): 268-279 APR 2003


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