Soil Conditions in Natural, Declining and Restored Heathlands Influence Plant–Pollinator Interactions of Calluna vulgaris

Authors

  • Eduardo de la Peña,

    Corresponding author
    1. Terrestrial Ecology Unit (TEREC), Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000, Ghent, Belgium
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  • Helena Van De Velde,

    1. Terrestrial Ecology Unit (TEREC), Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000, Ghent, Belgium
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  • Luc Lens,

    1. Terrestrial Ecology Unit (TEREC), Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000, Ghent, Belgium
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  • Dries Bonte

    1. Terrestrial Ecology Unit (TEREC), Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000, Ghent, Belgium
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E. d. l. Peña, email eduardo.delapena@ugent.be

Abstract

We hypothesized that the contrasting soil conditions resulting from different historical land use in heathlands mediate the interactions of Calluna vulgaris with pollinators. We compared using a common garden experiment, the flowering phenology, the interaction with pollinators, and the colonization by ericoid mycorrhiza of mature C. vulgaris on three types of soils namely: (1) natural rhizospheric soil collected in a natural heath, (2) soil from an arable land recently restored into a heathland, and (3) soil of C. vulgaris from an area in which a high degree of heterospecific competition with perennial grasses occurred. The results of the experiment showed a strong effect of soil on flower phenology and synchrony. There was also an interaction with pollinators because not only did visitation rates depend on soil provenance but also the choice of plant by the pollinator, at least for honeybees, was affected by soil provenance. An a posteriori correlation analysis suggests that ericoid mycorrhizal fungi and not abiotic conditions across the different soil provenances may be involved in the interaction between plants and pollinators. The results obtained from this study highlight the importance of soil processes to understand plant–pollinator interactions and point at plant–soil feedbacks as an important mechanism for understanding heathland ecology.

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