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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Plant-soil feedbacks among boreal forest species

Straus, Dora; Redondo, Miguel Angel; Castano, Carles; Juhanson, Jaanis; Clemmensen, Karina E.; Hallin, Sara; Oliva, Jonas


1. Plant-microbial interactions in soils are considered to play a central role in regulating biodiversity in many global ecosystems. However, studies on plant-soil feedbacks (PSFs) and how these affect forest stand patterns in boreal regions are rare.2. We conducted a fully reciprocal PSF glasshouse experiment using four boreal tree species. Alnus glutinosa, Betula pendula, Picea abies and Pinus sylvestris seedlings were grown under controlled conditions in sterilised soil with or without soil inoculum collected under mature trees of each of the four species. Bacterial, fungal and oomycete communities in the rhizosphere were investigated using metabarcoding and correlated with differences in plant biomass.3. Alder grew best in conspecific soil, whereas birch grew equally well in all soil types. Pine and spruce grew best in heterospecific soil, particularly in soil from their successional predecessor. Ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) enhanced the growth of most seedlings, and Actinomycetota supported alder and birch growth and fungal plant pathogens hampered pine growth. Increased growth was linked to the ability of trees to recruit specific EMF and root-associated fungi in heterospecific soils.4. Synthesis. This study experimentally examines the influence of root-associated microbiota on the growth of boreal tree species. The observed plant-soil feedbacks mirror the successional patterns found in boreal forests, suggesting a possible contribution of soil microbiota to the successional progression. Species-specific ectomycorrhizal fungi and a few bacteria rather than fungal plant pathogens or oomycetes seem to drive the feedbacks by promoting seedling growth in heterospecific soils.


Alnus glutinosa (alder); bacterial community; Betula pendula (silver birch); fungal community; Picea abies (Norway spruce); Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine); plant-soil feedbacks; succession

Published in

Journal of Ecology
2024, Volume: 112, number: 1, pages: 138-151
Publisher: WILEY