Nematodes form an important part of soil biodiversity as the most abundant and functionally diverse animals affecting plant performance. Most studies on plant–nematode interactions are focused on agriculture, while plant–nematode interactions in nature are less known. Here we highlight that nematodes can contribute to vegetation dynamics through direct negative effects on plants, and indirect positive effects through top–down predation on plant-associated organisms. Global change alters these interactions, of which better understanding is rapidly needed to better predict functional consequences. By expanding the knowledge of plant–nematode interactions in natural systems, an increase in basic understanding of key ecological topics such as plant–soil interactions and plant invasion dynamics will be obtained, while also increasing the insights and potential biotic repertoire to be applicable in sustainable plant management.