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ARS Home » Plains Area » Miles City, Montana » Livestock and Range Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #348216

Research Project: Adaptive Rangeland Management of Livestock Grazing, Disturbance, and Climatic Variation

Location: Livestock and Range Research Laboratory

Title: Relative importance of competition and plant–soil feedback, their synergy, context dependency and implications for coexistence

Author
item LEKBERG, YLVA - Mpg Ranch
item BEVER, JAMES - University Of Kansas
item BUNN, REBECCA - Western Washington University
item CALLAWAY, RAGAN - University Of Montana
item HART, MIRANDA - University Of British Columbia
item KIVLIN, STEPHANIE - University Of Tennessee
item KLIRONOMOS, JOHN - University Of British Columbia
item LARKIN, BEAU - Mpg Ranch
item MARON, JOHN - University Of Montana
item Reinhart, Kurt
item REMKE, MICHAEL - Northern Arizona University
item VAN DER PUTTEN, WIM - Netherlands Institute Of Ecology

Submitted to: Ecology Letters
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/3/2018
Publication Date: 6/12/2018
Citation: Lekberg, Y., Bever, J., Bunn, R., Callaway, R., Hart, M., Kivlin, S., Klironomos, J., Larkin, B., Maron, J., Reinhart, K.O., Remke, M., Van Der Putten, W. 2018. Relative importance of competition and plant–soil feedback, their synergy, context dependency and implications for coexistence. Ecology Letters. 21:1268-1281. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13093.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13093

Interpretive Summary: • Problems- Plant communities are structured by many factors including plant-plant competition and interactions with soil biota (e.g. replant diseases). Unclear is the relative importance of competition and interactions with soil biota on plant performance. • Accomplishments- Not surprisingly, competitive effects and soil biota effects were often negative. The effects of competition were often of a similar size as soil biota effects. Effects were also often additive. These findings provide a framework for generating theory about interactions across resource gradients.

Technical Abstract: Plants interact simultaneously with each other and with soil biota, yet the relative importance of competition versus interactions with soil biota for structuring plant communities is poorly understood. These uncertainties hamper our ability to make general conclusions about competition and soil biota effects as drivers of community organization, and to include their relative and combined roles in predictive models. Using a meta-analysis of 32 published studies and 131 plant species, we show that the effects of competition and soil biota on plant performance are comparable, often additive and predominantly negative. Importantly, stronger competitors experienced more negative net effects from soil biota than weaker competitors did (R=-0.21, P<0.006), indicating that complex interactions with soil biota could provide a stabilizing force in communities to maintain coexistence. We consider our meta-analyses in the context of resource-driven shifts in plant-plant interactions and plant soil feedback and suggest that soil biota may strengthen competitive interactions in high resource environments and facilitative interactions in low resource environments. Finally, we highlight knowledge gaps and provide a framework to advance our understanding of how these interactions influence plant performance, relative abundance, and community structure.