Welcome to the Laforest Lab at Université de Sherbrooke

This website showcases research led by the team of Pr. Isabelle Laforest-Lapointe, Canada Research Chair Tier II in Applied Microbial Ecology and Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the Université de Sherbrooke (UdeS). As microbial ecologists, we use community ecology concepts to study host-microbe interactions and their influence on host fitness (plant and human) as well as on ecosystems.

Figure 1. Our research provides an integrative understanding of the extrinsic (environment- and host-related) and intrinsic factors (microbe-microbe interactions and their retroactions on host phenotype and fitness) that determine host microbial community assembly, diversity, resilience, and resistance to pathogens.


Microbial ecology, a synergy between microbiology, ecology, and bioinformatics, has revealed an important role for host-microbe interactions as drivers of ecosystem functions such as productivity, resilience, or resistance to pathogens. In our group, we use microbial ecology to explore multi-domain host-microbe interactions in a context of (1) temporal variation of taxonomic and functional microbial community structure; (2) increasing abiotic stresses due to global change; and (3) development of microbial bio-control technologies (synthetic communities) as an alternative to chemicals.

My Canada Research Chair T2 in microbial ecology aims to expand our mechanistic understanding of plant-microbe symbioses and improve technologies aimed at maintaining ecosystem productivity, resilience, and resistance.


In macro-ecology, research on biodiversity-ecosystem functioning has demonstrated links between plant diversity and ecosystem functions (e.g. productivity).

In a study published in Nature (Laforest-Lapointe et al. 2017), we demonstrated that leaf-associated microbial communities play a significant role in driving terrestrial ecosystem productivity and we suggested that incorporating data on host-associated microbial community improves models of biodiversity-ecosystem functioning.

Figure 2. A multi-trophic (plant and bacteria) structural equation model showing significant drivers of both microbial diversity and plant community productivity published by Laforest-Lapointe et al. (2017) in Nature.
Figure 3. Plant-Microbe Interactions Are Involved in and Impacted by Global Change A) Summary of characteristics and drivers of plant-microbe interactions. B-D) Plant-microbe interactions are impacted by stresses related to global change: B) urbanization, C) range shifts, and D) climate change.


Global change is a defining feature of the Anthropocene, the current human-dominated epoch, and poses imminent threats to ecosystem dynamics and services such as plant productivity, biodiversity, and environmental regulation. In this era, terrestrial ecosystems are experiencing perturbations linked to direct habitat modifications as well as indirect effects of global change on species distribution and extreme abiotic conditions. Microbes are an important reservoir of biodiversity that can influence macro-organisms as they face global change.

In this review in ISMEJ (Perreault & Laforest-Lapointe 2021) we show how plant-microbe interactions in the phyllosphere can influence host survival and fitness in the context of global change.