Plant-Soil Feedbacks Persist Following Tree Death, Reducing Survival and Growth of Populus tremuloides Seedlings
Plant and Soil
Most plants interact with soil biota that positively or negatively affect seedling performance. These plant-soil feedbacks (PSFs) can strongly affect recruitment, potentially for years after death. We tested whether PSFs persisted following death for Populus tremuloides Michx. (aspen) and if these effects were environment dependent using soils collected from live and dead aspen and heterospecific Picea glauca (Moench) Voss in 24 stands across two ecosystems.
We conducted a greenhouse experiment using soils from 24 aspen stands. At each stand, we collected soil from three trees of each tree type and used live and sterilized versions of these soils to inoculate aspen seedlings. We then recorded mortality and growth of the seedlings over three months.
Live inocula reduced aspen survival and growth relative to sterilized inocula, suggesting that pathogens drive PSF. Plant responses to live and dead aspen inocula were correlated across environments; however, responses to aspen and heterospecific Picea inocula were uncorrelated, suggesting that specialized pathogens may drive PSF.
Pathogen-driven negative PSFs can persist for multiple years irrespective of the environment, potentially limiting the regeneration of aspen stands following dieback. Persistent PSFs thus have potential to cause lagged effects on population and community dynamics.
Bennett, J. A., J. Franklin, and J. Karst. 2022. Plant-soil feedbacks persist following tree death, reducing survival and growth of Populus tremuloides seedlings. Plant and Soil. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-022-05645-5