A New Trait-Based Approach for Resolving Plant-Root-Water Interactions Across Plant Communities and Land Biomes

2019 Faculty Research Award

Award Period: 2019-2021

Princeton University faculty members Lars Hedin and Amilcare Porporato will conduct the first in-depth study of how root traits and the below-ground competition for water shape the structure and resilience of land ecosystems in a changing world. They will develop an adaptive computational model for a range of spatial scales that sheds light on the feedback between plants, water and soil. In particular, this collaborative project will combine Porporato’s research on ecohydrology with recent work from the Hedin lab on the role of root traits and competition in the assembly of plant communities. Their results could have a significant impact in understanding how climate change will influence the movement and stability of land ecosystems, as well as inform strategies for agriculture and conservation in a warmer world.


Educational Impact

Essential to this research will be the building of a cooperative research group of Princeton researchers and students from ecology and evolutionary biology and from civil and environmental engineering. The project will include two to four undergraduate students working on PEI summer internships and senior thesis research. Hedin and Porporato will provide guest lectures in one another’s undergraduate courses on their respective areas of focus. In addition, the project will provide research and collaborative opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in related fields. 

Participating Departments

Related Media and Press Coverage


George M. Moffett Professor of Biology and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Princeton Environmental Institute
Thomas J. Wu ’94 Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Princeton Environmental Institute