Plant community development is affected by nutrients and soil biota
Article first published online: 16 SEP 2004
Journal of Ecology
Volume 92, Issue 5, pages 824–834, October 2004
How to Cite
DE DEYN, G. B., RAAIJMAKERS, C. E. and VAN DER PUTTEN, W. H. (2004), Plant community development is affected by nutrients and soil biota. Journal of Ecology, 92: 824–834. doi: 10.1111/j.0022-0477.2004.00924.x
- Issue published online: 16 SEP 2004
- Article first published online: 16 SEP 2004
- Received 26 December 2003 revised version accepted 21 June 2004; Handling Editor: Richard Bardgett
- grassland restoration;
- plant diversity;
- plant-soil feedback;
- soil fertility;
- soil invertebrates;
- 1Plant community development depends to a great extent on the availability of soil nutrients, but recent studies underline the role of symbiotic, herbivorous and pathogenic soil biota. We tested for interactions between these biotic and abiotic factors by studying the effects of additional nutrients and the removal of soil biota on the replacement of grassland plant species typical of different successional stages.
- 2Species representing each of the early, mid and target phases of secondary succession in a grassland community (four per phase) were grown in mid-successional grassland soil. The mixed plant communities were grown in sterilized and non-sterilized soil, at three nutrient supply levels. The distribution of shoot biomass over the different plant species, and the total root biomass, were determined, as well as the composition of nematode and microarthropod communities and soil decomposition rates.
- 3The effect of nutrient supply on plant community composition depended on soil sterilization. In sterilized soil, the plant community was initially dominated by grasses that increased in dominance even without fertilization. In non-sterilized soil, the plant community was more diverse and grass dominance decreased over time, except with high fertilization. Fertilization enhanced the productivity of the plant community in sterilized and, to a greater extent, in non-sterilized soil.
- 4The abundance of root-feeding nematodes was positively related to increased root biomass, pointing to a strong bottom-up control. Increased levels of nutrient supply were associated with reduced abundance of omnivorous nematodes, the cause of this reduction being less clear. Increased soil fertility altered the functional diversity of the soil nematode community, which might, in the longer term, also affect their feedback effects on the plant community.
- 5Increased nutrient supply reduced soil decomposition activity in the non-sterilized soil, but not in the sterilized soil.
- 6Our results imply that soil biota may reduce the effects of nutrient supply on plant dominance. Incorporating the effects of soil biota on plant species interactions into studies on succession, plant species diversity and restoration may therefore considerably increase our understanding of the observed plant community patterns.