Zooming in: spatial and temporal complexity in plant-soil feedback

E.R.J. Wubs, T.M. Bezemer

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Plant-soil feedback (PSF) studies have become a central component of our understanding of many terrestrial plant community processes, such as succession, invasion, local coexistence and diversity, and the biodiversity-productivity relationship. Much of this understanding is based on the preliminary assumption that local PSFs are independent of the feedback at neighbouring patches and the direct and indirect feedback build-up during previous seasons – in mathematival models responses are modelled only locally and without timelags. However, since PSFs are generated by the changes in abundance and interactions of soil biota in response to plants and soil biota can disperse and stay dormant in the soil, this assumption needs to be tested. We present data from two simple experiments demonstrating that both feedback of neighbour patches and the sequence of previous occupants of a patch affects the local PSF at present. First, we varied the spatial heterogeneity in PSF, and found that plant performance cannot be predicted simply from the PSF in homogeneous soils. In the second experiment we found that the sequence of plant species conditioning the soil affects the current PSF. While it is premature to generalize based on these experiments, they do suggest that PSFs interact in complex ways in space and time. Quantification of the spatial and temporal dynamics of PSF is not only important for our fundamental understanding of plant communties, but also has important potential applications in nature restoration (e.g. legacy effects, nurse plants, soil transplantations) and agro-ecology (e.g. intercropping). Consequently they deserve more empirical and theoretical investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventNetherlands Annual Ecology Meeting 2015 -
Duration: 10 Feb 201511 Feb 2015


ConferenceNetherlands Annual Ecology Meeting 2015

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