Responses of root-feeding nematodes (Helicotylenchus spp.) to local and non-local populations of the host plant Ammophila arenaria

C. Schreck Reis, H. Freitas, W.H. van der Putten

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The root-feeding nematode community of wild plants may vary throughout their natural range. Little is known about how the variation of wild plants along their range affects their relationship with root-feeding nematodes. In the present study, we examined local and non-local combinations of host plants and root-feeding nematodes to test the hypothesis that nematode reproduction is favoured by local hosts. In two indoor experiments, we exposed populations of the wild dune grass Ammophila arenaria from northern and southern European coastal sand dunes to plant parasitic nematode species (Helicotylenchus spp.) from those same geographical origins. First, we used the southern nematode species to determine whether the effect of a local versus a non-local host may depend on nematode density. Then, in a cross-inoculation experiment we investigated how both nematode species performed with their local, as compared to the non-local hosts. In both experiments, plant biomass and ontogenetic characteristics were not significantly different between the northern and southern populations. The applied nematode densities did not have a negative impact on plant performance. This allowed us to consider the response of the two different nematode species and their host plants without co-varying differences in plant responses. Reproduction of the nematode species differed according to host origin, but contrary to what we expected, nematode species did not perform better on their local hosts. Helicotylenchus n. sp., the southern species originating from Portugal, performed better on the non-local than on the local host. Male to female ratios were significantly different between the two nematode populations and were lowest in Helicotylenchus pseudorobustus from The Netherlands. Female and juveniles percentages were also quite distinct, with more females in the nematode species from The Netherlands and more juveniles in the nematode species from Portugal. We concluded that ectoparasitic root-feeding nematodes Helicotylenchus spp. do not necessarily perform best on their local host population of the foredune grass A. arenaria. Our results imply that the natural distribution of Helicotylenchus spp. along the European coast is determined by other factors than host populations. These other factors that could be abiotic, e.g. water availability, or biotic, e.g. local natural enemies adapted to Helicotylenchus spp. Introducing plant genotypes from other parts of the natural range will, therefore, not necessarily lead to reduced abundance of semi-endo or ectoparasitic root-feeding nematodes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-253
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • parasitic nematodes
  • l. link
  • mycorrhizal fungi
  • soil organisms
  • grass
  • degeneration
  • communities
  • vegetation
  • feedback
  • dunes

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