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Root and rhizosphere properties are likely one of the most important drivers of Arctic ecosystem response to climate change. On Monday, March 28th, we held the third community meeting of the Arctic Underground Network associated with ASSW2022. The Arctic Underground Network brings together an interdisciplinary team of 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.
  2. Explore linkages between leaf and root traits for extrapolation and scaling of ecological processes in cold ecosystems.
  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 ASSW2022 we hosted an open community meeting. The session included nine participants from five countries. At our open community meeting we provided updates on Network activities during 2021-22, made introductions, and discussed synergies between research agendas that may serve as future international research collaborations. We also made steps towards the planning of an in-person or hybrid meeting in fall 2022. Our workshop was supported by the IASC Terrestrial Working Group and fostered the participation of early career researchers. 

In the last year, the main focus of Network has been the development of a manuscript. This product provides a synthesis of the state of knowledge on root and rhizosphere processes in the Arctic and our perspective on the importance of incorporating and furthering this field in the context of understanding the ‘greening’ and ‘permafrost-climate’ feedbacks from the terrestrial Arctic to the climate system. We held an additional closed meeting to make progress on the internal revision of this manuscript. We anticipate submitting this paper by fall 2022.

Our plan coming out of the community meeting is to meet again in May to select the next synthesis theme to address. We are in dialogue about two future synthesis products addressing themes one and three above.

Highlights

  1. Our open community meeting included nine participants from five countries (Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA).
  2. Our meeting fostered the participant of graduate students and early career faculty.
  3. We outlined our plan for moving forward with two potential collaborative products in the next year and to hold an in-person or hybrid meeting to facilitate progress on these products in the fall of 2022.

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