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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Plant-soil feedbacks of forest understorey plants transplanted in nonlocal soils along a latitudinal gradient

Ma, S.; De Frenne, P.; Wasof, S.; Brunet, J.; Cousins, S. A. O.; Decocq, G.; Kolb, A.; Lemke, I; Liira, J.; Naaf, T.; Orczewska, A.; Plue, J.; Wulf, M.; Verheyen, K.


Climate change is driving movements of many plants beyond, as well as within, their current distributional ranges. Even migrant plants moving within their current range may experience different plant-soil feedbacks (PSF) because of divergent nonlocal biotic soil conditions. Yet, our understanding to what extent soil biotic conditions can affect the performance of within-range migrant plants is still very limited. We assessed the emergence and growth of migrant forest herbs (Milium effusum and Stachys sylvatica) using soils and seeds collected along a 1,700 km latitudinal gradient across Europe. Soil biota were manipulated through four soil treatments, i.e. unsterilized control soil (PSFUS), sterilized soil (PSFS), sterilized soil inoculated with unsterilized home soil (PSFS+HI) and sterilized soil inoculated with unsterilized foreign soil (PSFS+FI, expected to occur when both plants and soil biota track climate change). Compared to PSFS, PSFUS had negative effects on the growth but not emergence of both species, while PSFS+FI only affected S. sylvatica across all seed provenances. When considering seed origin, seedling emergence and growth responses to nonlocal soils depended on soil biotic conditions. Specifically, the home-away distance effect on seedling emergence differed between the four treatments, and significant responses to chemistry either disappeared (M. effusum) or changed (S. sylvatica) from PSFUS to PSFS. Soil biota emerge as an important driver of the estimated plant migration success. Our results of the effects of soil microorganisms on plant establishment provide relevant information for predictions of the distribution and dynamics of plant species in a changing climate.


Biotic interactions; forest understorey; plant emergence and growth; plant migration; soil microbes

Published in

Plant Biology
2019, Volume: 21, number: 4, pages: 677-687
Publisher: WILEY

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG13 Climate action

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

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