Climate change induced range-expanding plants : aboveground and belowground interactions

W.E. Morriën

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

Burning of fossil fuels has raised the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which contributes to global climate warming. As a result the mean earth surface temperature has increased faster in the past decades than in the previous thousands of years before. This rapid climate warming together with habitat fragmentation and other land use changes puts a major pressure on many plants and animals. They should either adapt to the warmer climate conditions or disperse in order to keep up with their optimal climatic conditions. Range expansion brings new interactions within the ecosystem in the new range. This can lead to potential benefits, for example range shifting species that do not encounter natural enemies in the new range might become invasive. Although invasive species are a well-studied phenomenon, there is relatively little known about the general mechanisms of biological invasions under climate change. In this thesis I focus on plant species that expand range due to current climate warming. I examined how these range-expanding plants interact with aboveground herbivorous insects and - mostly - how they establish belowground interactions with components of the soil food web. I examined how these interactions in the new range may play a role in the successful establishment of climate change induced range-expanding plants in plant communities of the new range. The focus of my study was on riverine (riparian) areas along the great rivers in the Netherlands, which are well connected with southern Europe by the Rhine and Rhine-Danube canal.        

            In the first experiment we examined exotic plant exposure to aboveground and belowground enemies. We used plants that originated from Eurasia (intra-continental range expanders) and plants that originated from other continents (inter-continental range expanders). We compared these exotic plants with phylogenetically related natives. We grew the plants with and without non-coevolved polyphagous (generalist) herbivores, a locust Schistocerca gregaria and an aphid Myzus persicae. We also exposed all plants to a general soil community from the invaded range and compared their plant-soil feedback responses. Then I tested how individual plants responded to aboveground and belowground plant enemies and I compared this to their combined effects. I also tested whether the strength of aboveground control by generalist shoot-feeding insects was indicative of the strength of belowground control by plant-soil feedback.

            In the next study I examined how the soil nematode community from the new range responds to exotic plant species compared to related native plants species. As a follow up, I determined the rhizosphere community composition of bacteria, fungi, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and fusaria. All groups of microbes were analyzed qualitatively and the non-mycorrhizal fungal biomass and fusaria were also analyzed quantitatively. I tested the hypothesis that range-expanding plant species have a different rhizosphere microbial community composition than natives.

            Finally, I compared the early establishment of range-expanding exotics and phylogenetically related plant species that are native in the invaded habitats. In a greenhouse I grew five range-expanding plant species and five related natives in sterilized and non-sterile inoculated soils from the new range, both alone and with a background community of plant species present in the invaded habitat. In the field, I grew the same plants species in artificially created sparse and dense plant communities. I tested whether range-expanding exotic plant species establish better under competition with native vegetation than phylogenetically related natives, because exotics may benefit from less negative interactions with the soil community compared to natives.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • van der Putten, Wim, Promotor
Award date20 Sep 2011
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789085859376
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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Keywords

  • plants
  • introduced species
  • climatic change
  • soil fauna
  • free living nematodes
  • soil bacteria
  • rhizosphere
  • pest resistance
  • disease resistance
  • herbivores
  • interactions

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