Seasonal changes in Salicornia depressa metal accumulation and rhizosphere composition 

Duration: June 2023—September 2023

Funding Source: Startup grant from the University of Massachusetts Boston to B. Moyers

Principal Investigators, institutional affiliation: Brook Moyers / Alice Palmer

Affiliation: University of Massachusetts Boston, Biology


Project Description: Salicornia species, known in New England as pickleweeds, form mutually beneficial relationships with soil microbes living on the plant’s roots (the rhizosphere), which can help improve plant growth under stressful conditions. They are also capable of accumulating metals from the soil at high concentrations. We are studying how the bacteria present in the Salicornia depressa rhizosphere differ from those in the soil surrounding the plant. We also are interested in how changes in the plants’ biology over the course of the growing season and seasonal changes in salt marsh soil chemistry affect both the rhizosphere’s composition and its ability to accumulate metal from soil. To investigate this, we are collecting samples of S. depressa, its rhizosphere, and the surrounding soil in June, before the plants begin to flower, in August, as they are flowering, and in September, as they begin to senesce. We will sequence bacteria in the rhizosphere and surrounding soil for each timepoint. We will also test the amount of metal in the soil, in S. depressa’s roots, and in S. depressa’s shoots at each timepoint to determine how much metal the plant is accumulating and where it is being stored. These results will help us understand how S. depressa copes with metal stress and its potential in removing metals from polluted marshes.