Belowground ecosystem properties are likely one of the most important drivers of Arctic ecosystem response to climate change. At ASSW2020 we held the first meeting of the Arctic Underground Network. The Arctic Underground Network brings together an interdisciplinary team of biologists and ecologists to synthesize what is known about root traits and rhizosphere processes in cold ecosystems with soil profiles dominated by thick organic horizons - tundra, boreal forest, and peatlands. This network includes belowground ecologists spanning molecular biologists investigating rhizosphere processes, to plant ecologists and evolutionary biologists that use a trait framework to understand vegetation patterns and function, to ecosystem ecologists measuring the interplay between terrestrial ecosystem function and the climate system, to ethnobotanists and social scientists interested in human uses of plants. We have four thematic areas that served as the foci for our meeting and provide the framework for upcoming products of the Network:

1. Synthesize mechanisms by examining the effects of soil warming experiments on root and rhizosphere processes. This will address belowground responses to climate warming at multiple spatial scales utilizing molecular to circumarctic analyses.

2. Explore linkages between leaf and root traits for extrapolation and scaling of ecological processes in cold ecosystems. This will inform unifying concepts that can be used for scaling and modeling ecosystem processes.

3. Add cold soil roots and their symbionts to a “worldwide root economic spectrum,” filling in a data gap in global plant traits databases and model parameters.

4. Integrate traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of plants and belowground properties into our understanding of Arctic ecosystem change and educate scientists on indigenous perspectives.

At our first meeting during ASSW2020 we introduced the four themes and formed working groups for each area. Our plan coming out of the workshop is to synthesize the state of knowledge and future research directions for each of the four themes. The product of this meeting with be a perspectives piece to be submitted to New Phytologist as a Viewpoint article, which provides a roadmap for future research. We plan for each working group to meet regularly along with meetings of the full network as we work on the perspectives piece and continue our dialogue about future synthesis products. Our workshop was supported by the IASC Terrestrial Working Group and fostered the participation of many early career researchers.


Recorded meeting on Zoom