Spatial heterogeneity in root litter and soil legacies differentially affect legume root traits

Sirgi Saar, Marina Semchenko, Janna M. Barel, Gerlinde B. de Deyn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background and Aims: Plants affect the soil environment via litter inputs and changes in biotic communities, which feed back to subsequent plant growth. Here we investigated the individual contributions of litter and biotic communities to soil feedback effects, and plant ability to respond to spatial heterogeneity in soil legacy. Methods: We tested for localised and systemic responses of Trifolium repens to soil biotic and root litter legacy of seven grassland species by exposing half of a root system to control soil and the other half to specific inoculum or root litter. Results: Soil inoculation triggered a localised reduction in root length while litter locally increased root biomass independent of inoculum or litter species identity. Nodule formation was locally suppressed in response to soil conditioned by another legume (Vicia cracca) and showed a trend towards systemic reduction in response to conspecific soil. V. cracca litter also caused a systemic response with thinner roots produced in the part of the root system not directly exposed to the litter. Conclusions: Spatial heterogeneity in root litter distribution and soil communities generate distinct local and systemic responses in root morphology and nodulation. These responses can influence plant-mutualist interactions and nutrient cycling, and should be included in plant co-existence models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-264
JournalPlant and Soil
Volume428
Issue number1-2
Early online date11 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

Keywords

  • Functional traits
  • Local and systemic response
  • Plant-soil feedback
  • Root litter
  • Soil heterogeneity
  • Spatial root distribution

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