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

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

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    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
    JournalPlant and Soil
    Early online date11 May 2018
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Keywords

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

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