Soil biota effects on clonal growth and flowering in the forest herb Stachys sylvatica
Acta Oecologica-International Journal of Ecology
The composition of a soil community can vary drastically at extremely short distances. Therefore, plants from any given population can be expected to experience strong differences in belowground biotic interactions. Although it is well recognized that the soil biota plays a significant role in the structure and dynamics of plant communities, plastic responses in growth strategies as a function of soil biotic interactions have received little attention. In this study, we question whether the biotic soil context from two forest associated contrasting environments (the forest understory and the hedgerows) determines the balance between clonal growth and flowering of the perennial Stachys sylvatica. Using artificial soils, we compared the growth responses of this species following inoculation with the mycorrhizal and microbial community extracted either from rhizospheric soil of the forest understory or from the hedgerows. The microbial context had a strong effect on plant functional traits, determining the production of runners and inflorescences. Plants inoculated with the hedgerow community had a greater biomass, larger number of runners, and lower resource investment in flower production than was seen in plants inoculated with the understory microbial community. The obtained results illustrate that belowground biotic interactions are essential to understand basic plastic growth responses determinant for plant establishment and survival. The interactions with microbial communities from two contrasting habitats resulted in two different, and presumably adaptive, growth strategies that were optimal for the conditions prevalent in the environments compared; and they are as such an essential factor to understand plant plant, plant animal interactions and the dispersal capacities of clonal plants. (C) 2011 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.
Author(s): de la Pena, E; Bonte, D
Journal: Acta Oecologica-International Journal of Ecology