Plant–Microbe Interactions Change Along a Tallgrass Prairie Restoration Chronosequence


Anna J. Herzberger, Scott J. Meiners, J. Brian Towey, Paula A. Butts, Daniel L. Armstrong

Journal or Book Title: Restoration Ecology

Keywords: C 4 grasses; grassland; legumes; negative feedbacks; root nodules; soil microbial communities

Volume/Issue: Online

Year Published: 2014


Soil microbial communities are critical in determining the performance and density of species in plant communities. However, the role in regulating the success of restorations is much less clear. This study assessed the ability of soil microbial communities to regulate the growth and performance of two potentially dominant grasses and two common forbs in tallgrass prairie restorations. Specifically, we examined the effects of soil microbial communities along a restoration chronosequence from agricultural fields to remnant prairies using experimentally inoculated soils. The two grass species, Andropogon gerardii and Sorghastrum nutans, grew best with the agricultural inoculates and experienced a decline in performance in later stages of the chronosequence, indicating that the microbial community shifted from being beneficial to grasses in the early stages to inhibiting grasses in the later stages of restoration. Growth of the forb, Silphium terebinthinaceum, varied little with inoculation or position along the restoration chronosequence. Growth of Baptisia leucantha, a legume, appeared limited by nodule formation in agricultural soils, peaked in young restoration soils along with nodule formation, but decreased in older soils as the microbial community became more antagonistic. Overall, negative feedbacks tended to be less important early in restoration, but appeared important in remnant and older restored prairies. Our results provide evidence that it may be advantageous for management practices to take negative soil feedbacks into consideration when trying to recreate the diversity of tallgrass prairies.

DOI: 10.1111/rec.12165

Type of Publication: Journal Article