Side-effects of plant domestication: ecosystem impacts of changes in litter quality

Authors

  • Pablo García-Palacios,

    Corresponding authorCurrent affiliation:
    1. Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory and Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
    • Departamento de Biología y Geología, Área de Biodiversidad y Conservación, Escuela Superior de Ciencias Experimentales y Tecnología, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Móstoles, Spain
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  • Rubén Milla,

    1. Departamento de Biología y Geología, Área de Biodiversidad y Conservación, Escuela Superior de Ciencias Experimentales y Tecnología, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Móstoles, Spain
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  • Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo,

    1. Departamento Sistemas Físicos, Químicos y Naturales, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Sevilla, Spain
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  • Nieves Martín-Robles,

    1. Departamento de Biología y Geología, Área de Biodiversidad y Conservación, Escuela Superior de Ciencias Experimentales y Tecnología, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Móstoles, Spain
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  • Mónica Álvaro-Sánchez,

    1. Departamento de Biología y Geología, Área de Biodiversidad y Conservación, Escuela Superior de Ciencias Experimentales y Tecnología, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Móstoles, Spain
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  • Diana H. Wall

    1. Department of Biology and Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
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Author for correspondence:

Pablo García-Palacios

Tel: +1 970 4917826

Email: pablogpom@yahoo.es

Summary

  • Domestication took plants from natural environments to agro-ecosystems, where resources are generally plentiful and plant life is better buffered against environmental risks such as drought or pathogens. We hypothesized that predictions derived from the comparison of low vs high resource ecosystems (faster-growing plants promoting faster nutrient cycling in the latter) extrapolate to the process of domestication.

  • We conducted the first comprehensive assessment of the consequences of domestication on litter quality and key biogeochemical processes by comparing 24 domesticated crops against their closest wild ancestors. Twelve litter chemistry traits, litter decomposability and indicators of soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling were assessed in each domesticated vs wild ancestor pair. These assessments were done in microbial-poor and microbial-rich soils to exemplify intensively and extensively managed agricultural soils, respectively.

  • Plant domestication has increased litter quality, encouraging litter decomposability (36% and 44% increase in the microbial-rich and microbial-poor soils, respectively), higher soil math formula availability and lower soil C : N ratios. These effects held true for the majority of the crops surveyed and for soils with different microbial communities.

  • Our results support ecological theory predictions derived from the comparison of low- and high-resource ecosystems, suggesting a parallelism between ecosystem-level impacts of natural and artificial selection.

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