Pål Axel Olsson – December’s Researcher in the Spotlight!

Pål Axel Olsson, professor in Plant ecology specializing in plant-soil interactions

PlantLink Researcher in the Spotlight

-What is currently on top of your research agenda?

A new project in collaboration with Region Skåne and coastal municipalities on coastal protection using ecosystem based approaches. One part of the project is to plant eelgrass (Zostera marina) around the coast of Skåne, and we will do research on the effects of such plantation.

-Tell us about your latest publication?

I participated in a global study on soil microbial diversity that recently was published in Nature (560: 233-237). One of the findings was that bacterial soil diversity was largest in the temporal zone, while fungal diversity was highest in the tropics, but its relative abundance was highest in arctic.

-What led you into your particular field of research?

As a young field biologist I read a book about orchids and got to learn about their underground association with fungi. Since then I have been fascinated by the mycorrhizal symbiosis and studied various aspects of it, mainly focussing on the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis and the exchange of resources between the symbionts.

-What are the implications of your research for the society?

My studies of plant soil interactions have implications for agricultural systems and how they can be developed towards a more sustainable use in the future. The studies on ecosystem functions and plant diversity are important for conservation practices in several types of important habitats.

-Finally, let´s say you got unlimited research funds; where would your research be five years from now?

Then I would dive deeper into the relations between aboveground and belowground diversity and how they relate to each other in space and time. In particular I am interested in processes related to spread of diversity after disturbance events.