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ARS Home » Plains Area » Miles City, Montana » Livestock and Range Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #306094

Title: Phylogenetic conservatism in plant-soil feedback and its implications for plant abundance

item ANACKER, BRIAN - University Of California
item KLIRONOMOS, JOHN - University Of British Columbia
item MAHERALI, HAFIZ - University Of Guelph
item Reinhart, Kurt
item STRAUSS, SHARON - Dominican University Of California

Submitted to: Ecology Letters
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/5/2014
Publication Date: 12/1/2014
Citation: Anacker, B.L., Klironomos, J.N., Maherali, H., Reinhart, K.O., Strauss, S.Y. 2014. Phylogenetic conservatism in plant-soil feedback and its implications for plant abundance. Ecology Letters. 17:1613-1621.

Interpretive Summary: • Problem- Variation in plant abundance in the field may relate to phylogenetic signal (i.e. related plants share traits) and interactions with soil biota. Plant traits and interactions with soil biota, however, may exhibit a phylogenetic signal necessitating parsing whether abundance is mainly driven by phylogenetic conservatism in plant traits or soil feedback effects. • Accomplishment- We found that plant abundance and plant interactions with soil biota exhibited a phylogenetic signal. In other words, related plants tended to have similar abundances and interactions with soil biota. We determined, however, that interactions with soil biota explained most of the variation in plant abundance after controlling for phylogenetic similarity. We also determined that associations between soil feedbacks and plant relative abundance did not differ for native vs. introduced plant species. • Theoretical implications- Soil biotic interactions and plant relative abundance exhibited a phylogenetic signal. Negative soil feedback effects were the main predictor of plant rarity. Management implications- Conservation of rare plant species may need to manage negative soil feedback effects.

Technical Abstract: Plant interactions with macro-mutualists (e.g., seed dispersers, pollinators) and antagonists (e.g., herbivores, pathogens) often exhibit phylogenetic conservatism, but conservatism of interactions with soil microorganisms is understudied. We assembled one of the best available datasets to examine conservatism in the effects of soil biota on plant growth and its ability to predict field abundance, which includes 57 native and exotic plant species growing in a natural old field community. We measured plant-soil biota interactions for these plant species using three soil biota response metrics: (1) log response ratio of plant biomass of plants grown in soil with a history of conspecifics divided by the biomass of plants grown in soil with a history of heterospecifics, “whole soil feedback” metric; (2) log response ratio of the biomass of plants with and without inoculation with the most common arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) species at the field site, “Glomus” metric; and (3) log response ratio of biomass of plants inoculated with AMF cultured by conspecifics vs. biomass of plants receiving no inoculation, “AMF of conspecifics” metric.