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Plant landscape abundance and soil fungi modulate drought effects on plant-soil feedbacks


Xi, Nianxun; Crawford, Kerri; De Long, Jonathan (2022), Plant landscape abundance and soil fungi modulate drought effects on plant-soil feedbacks, Dryad, Dataset,


Plant-soil feedbacks (PSF) play an important role in determining plant community structure and dynamics. However, previous studies have provided mixed results for the relationship between PSF and plant landscape abundance (i.e., abundance across local communities). This may reflect the mediation of climate factors on PSF. Here, we tested how PSF of tree species varied with local abundances by growing seedlings in conspecific versus heterospecific soil and how simulated drought altered PSF-plant abundance relationships. Six tree species were selected and half of the seedlings were grown under ambient moisture conditions, while the others experienced a 2-month period of drought following 3-months of growth under ambient moisture conditions. Fungal communities in the rhizosphere soil were analysed using DNA amplicon sequencing to link shifts in soil fungi to the observed PSF. We found that drought reduced negative PSF for all plant species except one species (Lithocarpus lohangwu). In the drought treatments, PSF were positively correlated with the relative abundance of total putative pathogens, but negatively correlated with the proportion of unique pathogens (those pathogens that were present in conspecific soil rather than heterospecific soil, thereby potentially species-specific). In addition, we found that PSF only significantly predicted plant relative abundance in the drought treatment, indicating that abiotic stress made PSF a stronger predictor of plant landscape abundance. This finding also implies that future extreme drought events could promote the dominance of the abundant plant species, thereby leading to the loss of biodiversity. Collectively, our results provide evidence for microbial mechanisms of PSF and suggest that accounting for abiotic stress can make PSF a stronger predictor of plant landscape abundance due to the omnipresence of stress under natural conditions.