Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Video documentation: Nonhuman Agents in Art, Culture and Theory - 3rd panel

Plant Intelligence
#plants #botany #redefining intelligence
Moderator: Desiree Förster

Špela Petrič (Scientist & artist, Amsterdam/ Ljubljana)
The Vegetal, Intimately

Petrič's artistic research looks at vegetal life as the unchallenged frontier of estrangement, revealing the limits of human empathy as well as its anthropocentric underpinnings. Plants are, in their omnipresence, utterly foreign complexity and lack of identification elements allowing anthropomorphism, ideal subjects of study in an attempt to re-examine relations with the Other. The field of plant neurobiology has tried to uncover mechanisms of plant function by likening the physiology of plants to animal systems in order to raise awareness of the intricate, highly adapted life of plants; however, the plants’ cryptic chemically-based conversations, their biological inter-species networks, their centennial lifespans and non-centralized operation make them the benevolent aliens living among us. How can one draw together the world of human beings and that of plants, while resisting the temptation to sacrifice the specificity of either perspective and respecting the foreignness of vegetal life? The contribution lays out three performative projects –'Skotopoiesis', 'Phytoteratology' and 'Strange Encounters' – through which the artist explores radical and novel modes of human-plant intercognition, which, while discovering the vegetal, delineate our own borders to be overcome. 

Joana Bergmann (Institute of Biology, Free University Berlin)
Hand in Hand. Root Morphological Traits and Their Mediation by Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi

The environmental pressures that shape the evolution of a species root morphology are numerous. Roots have to take up nutrients and water by simultaneously blocking root feeding and colonizing soil biota. Depending on the ecological niche of a species, roots differ in their execution of this balancing act. Ecologists try to quantify these different strategies by measuring root morphological traits. The majority of land plants form mycorrhizal symbioses with soil fungi. Those plant-fungal interactions are mutualistic -meaning that both partners profit from the symbiosis. With their fine hyphal networks the fungi take up nutrients and water from the soil and transport it to the plant roots in exchange for carbon, which the plant photosynthesizes.
Additionally, they can protect the roots from pathogens. The plants fitness and the morphology of roots therefore varies in response to mycorrhizal colonization while the mycorrhizal fungi themselves are nonviable without a living root. 

Literature for Joana Bergmann's talk:

Bergmann, J., Ryo, M., Prati, D., Hempel, S. and Rillig, M. C. 2017. Root traits are more than analogues of leaf traits: the case for diaspore mass. New Phytologist 216: 1130–1139. doi:10.1111/nph.14748.

Camenzind T, Rillig MC. 2013. Extraradical arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal hyphae in an organic tropical montane forest soil. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 64: 96–102.

Ellenberg H, Leuschner C. 2010. Vegetation Mitteleuropas mit den Alpen. Stuttgart, GER: Ulmer.

Heijden MGA Van Der, Martin FM, Selosse M-A, Sanders IR. 2015. Mycorrhizal ecology and evolution : the past , the present , and the future. New Phytologist 205: 1406–1423.

Hempel S, Götzenberger L, Kühn I, Michalski SG, Rillig MC, Zobel M, Moora M. 2013. Mycorrhizas in the Central European flora: relationships with plant life history traits and ecology. Ecology 94: 1389–1399.

Kattge J, Díaz S, Lavorel S, Prentice IC, Leadley P, Bönisch G, Garnier E, Westoby M, Reich PB, Wright IJ, et al. 2011. TRY - a global database of plant traits. Global Change Biology 17: 2905–2935.

Kutschera L., Lichtenegger E. 1992. Wurzelatlas mitteleuropäischer Grünlandpflanzen. Band 1 & 2. Stuttgart; Jena; New York : Gustav Fischer Verlag.

Kleyer M, Bekker RM, Knevel IC, Bakker JP, Thompson K, Sonnenschein M, Poschlod P, van Groenendael JM, Klimeš L, Klimešová J, et al. 2008. The LEDA Traitbase: a database of life-history traits of the Northwest European flora. Journal of Ecology 96: 1266–1274.

Smith SE, Read DJ. 2008. Mycorrhizal Symbiosis. London: Academic Press.

Violle C, Navas M-L, Vile D, Kazakou E, Fortunel C, Hummel I, Garnier E. 2007. Let the concept of trait be functional! Oikos 116: 882–892.

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