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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Separating effects of soil microorganisms and nematodes on plant community dynamics

Wang, Minggang; De Deyn, Gerlinde B.; Bezemer, T. Martijn


Aims Soil food webs include multiple groups of organisms that each can favor or repress particular plant species in a plant community. This study explores how microbes and nematodes alter the temporal dynamics of specific plant species and functional groups (i.e. grasses and forbs) in mixed grassland communities. Methods We extracted communities of nematodes and microorganisms from natural grassland soil and inoculated them, separately and in combination, into containers filled with sterilized grassland soil to examine how these groups of soil organisms influence the compositional dynamics of a diverse grassland plant community consisting of 12 species. Results Addition of soil microorganisms altered the composition of the plant community by enhancing forb species and promoting evenness, but these effects took time to develop and became significant only 6 months after inoculation. Addition of soil nematodes showed faster effects and reduced plant community evenness via suppressing several subordinate plant species. The nematode community was dominated by root-feeding nematodes that were less abundant when microorganisms were present, indicating a potential inhibitory effect of microorganisms on plant-feeding nematodes. Conclusions Our results show that soil microorganisms and nematodes may differ in the magnitude and direction of their effects on the compositional dynamics of plant communities in natural grasslands, and that these effects may operate at different timespans. This study highlights the complexity of plant-soil biotic interactions and the importance to explore these interactions at multiple temporal scales.


Soil biota; Grassland; Temporal dynamics; Soil inoculation; Plant-soil interactions

Published in

Plant and Soil
2019, Volume: 441, number: 1-2, pages: 455-467
Publisher: SPRINGER

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG15 Life on land

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Soil Science

    Publication Identifiers


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