Hafiz Maherali

Hafiz Maherali
Associate Professor
Phone number: 
519-824-4120 x52767
SSC 1472
SSC 1409/1410

I’m a physiological and evolutionary ecologist who studies how the functional traits of plants evolve and how these traits influence plant performance, community assembly, and ecosystem function. My work also explores the origin and maintenance of the symbiosis between plants and mycorrhizal fungi, with an aim to understand why the symbiosis is so widespread in the plant kingdom, yet highly variable in terms of its effects on plant growth.

I obtained a B.Sc. in Biology from McGill University in 1992, followed by an M.Sc. in 1997 and a Ph.D. in 1999 in Plant Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I was a postdoctoral fellow in Biology at Duke University from 1999-2002, and started a faculty position at the University of Guelph in 2003.

  • B.Sc. - McGill University
  • Ph.D. - University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Our research focuses on two distinct areas:

First, we aim to understand the evolutionary causes of physiological variation in plants, particularly with respect to the ecophysiology of photosynthesis and water acquisition. By converting light into chemical energy, photosynthesis not only influences plant growth, but also sustains all other trophic levels. Our overall aim is to understand the the role of photosynthesis in plant adaptation to environmental resource variation, particularly limitations imposed by water stress. This work includes studies of natural selection on physiological traits as well as studies that link genome size and plant physiology.

Our second major goal is to understand the evolution and maintenance of the nutritional symbiosis between plants and mycorrhizal fungi. This interaction is widespread, taking place in up to 90% of all plant species on Earth. We study how mycorrhizal fungi influence the evolution of plant structure and function, and also seek to understand why the magnitude of the mutualistic benefit plants obtain from their fungal symbionts is so variable in the plant kingdom. Much of our ecological research is aimed at understanding how variation in mutualistic benefit among plant species influences diversity and productivity in plant communities.

*Undergraduate, †Graduate or #Postdoctoral advisee

  • Bennett J., Maherali H., Reinhart K., Lekberg Y., Hart M.M., Klironomos J.N. 2017. Plant-soil feedbacks and mycorrhizal type influence temperate forest population dynamics. Science, 355: 181-184.
  • †Stanescu S., Maherali H. 2017. Mycorrhizal feedback is not associated with the outcome of competition in old-field perennial plants. Oikos, 126: 248-258.
  • Maherali H., Oberle B., Stevens P.F., Cornwell W.K., McGlinn D.J. 2016. Mutualism persistence and abandonment during the evolution of the mycorrhizal symbiosis. American Naturalist, 188: E113-E125.
  • †Poon G.T., Maherali H. 2015. Competitive interactions between a nonmycorrhizal invasive plant, Alliaria petiolata, and a suite of mycorrhizal grassland, old field, and forest species. PeerJ, 3:e1090; DOI 10.7717/peerj.1090
  • *Thompson K.A., Husband B.C., Maherali H. 2015. No influence of water limitation on the outcome of competition between diploid and tetraploid Chamerion angustifolium (Onagraceae). Journal of Ecology, 103:733-741.
  • #Vogan P.J., Maherali H. 2014. Increased photosynthetic capacity as a mechanism of drought adaptation in C3 plants. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 175:1033-1041.
  • Maherali H. 2014. Is there an association between root architecture and mycorrhizal growth response? New Phytologist, 204:192-200.
  • BOT*3050 Plant Functional Ecology
  • BIOL*2060 Ecology
  • BIOL*3010 Laboratory and Field Work in Ecology
  • Evan Pacey (PhD) - Co-advised with B. Husband
  • James Franklin (MSc)
  • Mackenzie Lauermeier (MSc)