8. Microbially Mediated Plant Functional Traits

  1. Frans J. de Bruijn
  1. Maren L. Friesen1,2

Published Online: 18 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118297674.ch8

Molecular Microbial Ecology of the Rhizosphere: Volume 1 & 2

Molecular Microbial Ecology of the Rhizosphere: Volume 1 & 2

How to Cite

Friesen, M. L. (2013) Microbially Mediated Plant Functional Traits, in Molecular Microbial Ecology of the Rhizosphere: Volume 1 & 2 (ed F. J. de Bruijn), John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, USA. doi: 10.1002/9781118297674.ch8

Editor Information

  1. INRA-CNRS Laboratoire des Interactions Plantes-Microorganismes (LIPM), UMR441-2594 BP52627, F-31320 Castanet-Tolosan, France

Author Information

  1. 1

    Section of Molecular and Computational Biology, Department of Biology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA

  2. 2

    Department of Plant Bilogy, Michigan State University, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 18 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 3 MAY 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781118296172

Online ISBN: 9781118297674



  • plant–microbe interaction;
  • symbiosis;
  • mutualism;
  • co-operation;
  • functional trait;
  • ecosystem service;
  • ecology;
  • coevolution;
  • root architecture;
  • phytohormone


Our world is teeming with microscopic life, which underlies many biological innovations. These microbes can vastly outnumber the eukaryotic cells of “macrobes” that they inhabit and are increasingly recognized as playing major roles in the health and disease of their hosts. Most plant functional traits that connect plants to ecosystems are determined in part or in whole by associated microbes, but we require many more studies to draw general conclusions. In particular, all root functional traits studied to date can be altered by microbes; some of the underlying pathways connecting microbes and root architecture are discussed. The functional trait framework provides a conceptual basis for linking plant–microbe interactions to ecosystem processes and services. Microbial influences on plant functional traits can fundamentally alter plant ecology and evolution. By altering plants' interactions with abiotic factors, competitors, herbivores, and other mutualists, microbes can expand or contract plant niches and alter patterns of invasion and community diversity. If plants and microbes experience fitness conflict over functional trait values, ecosystem function could be impacted through antagonistic coevolution. Mechanisms that align host and symbiont fitness are beginning to be elucidated and further work is needed to assess the fitness consequences of functional trait variation for both parties. Ultimately, understanding the response of ecosystems to global change will require quantification of microbes' impact on plant traits.