Fifth Annual Long Island Natural History Conference






















The American beachgrass microbiome:
spying on private conversations underground

Javier A. Izquierdo, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Hofstra University

Ammophila breviligulata, commonly referred to as American beachgrass, is considered an important sand dune architect of barrier islands and other coastal environments in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.  A variety of interesting adaptations allow it to colonize and trap sand in order to promote the formation of dunes that offer protection to these coastal ecosystems.  When severe storms and events like Hurricane Sandy dramatically disturb or eliminate dunes, many efforts in ecosystem restoration are made to replant beachgrass in affected areas. However, many of these efforts are not successful due to a wide variety of biotic and abiotic factors. My research group is interested in the role that microbial communities, or microbiomes, play in healthy beachgrass growth. Microbes in terrestrial environments not only have intimate relationships and interactions with plants but also play a key role in nutrient cycling and chemical modifications of these environments. We have characterized the microbiomes associated with the soils and roots of beachgrass samples collected along the South Shore of Long Island comparing a variety of beachgrass growth conditions. We are learning that the microbial communities associated with beachgrass are not only very well structured but also extremely diverse. More importantly, we have also observed a variety of patterns in these microbiomes associated with the health of the plant. We have also been able to identify microbial species that could play a key role in promoting root growth in their molecular signaling exchanges with beachgrass. This work will serve as the basis to identify and test the specific microbiome-beachgrass interactions that could be promoted in the wild and local coastal communities for successful beachgrass replanting efforts.

Dr. Javier A. Izquierdo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Hofstra University. Research in Dr. Izquierdo's lab explores the metabolic diversity of microbial processes and the applications we can derive from them. He utilizes cross-disciplinary approaches incorporating microbiological, ecological, evolutionary, molecular and genomic techniques to 1) understand beneficial plant-microbe interactions promoting plant growth and health and 2) discover novel microbial applications for the production of biofuels. Dr. Izquierdo holds a B.Sc. in Biology from Case Western Reserve University and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.