Data from: Biotic and abiotic plant-soil feedback depends on nitrogen-acquisition strategy and shifts during long-term ecosystem development



1. Feedback between plants and soil is an important driver of plant community structure, but it remains unclear whether plant-soil feedback (PSF): (i) reflects changes in biotic or abiotic properties, (ii) depends on environmental context in terms of soil nutrient availability, and (iii) varies among plant functional groups. Because soil nutrient availability strongly affects plant distribution and performance, soil chemical properties and plant nutrient-acquisition strategies might serve as important drivers of PSF. 2. We used soils from young and old stages of a long-term soil chronosequence to represent sites where productivity is limited by nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) availability, respectively. We grew three N-fixing and three non-N-fixing plant species in soils conditioned by co-occurring conspecific or heterospecific species from each of these two stages. In addition, three soil treatments were used to distinguish biotic and abiotic effects on plant performance, allowing measurements of overall, biotic and abiotic PSF. 3. In young, N-poor soils, non-N-fixing plants grew better in soils from N-fixing plants than in their own soils (i.e. negative PSF). However, this difference was not only associated with improved abiotic conditions in soils from N-fixing plants, but also with changes in soil biota. 4. By contrast, no significant PSF was observed for N-fixing plants grown in young soils. Moreover, we did not observe any significant PSF for either N-fixing or non-N fixing plants growing in old, P-impoverished soils. 5. Synthesis. The direction and strength of PSF varied among N-acquisition strategies and soils differing in nutrient availability, with stronger PSF in younger, N-poor soils compared to older, P-impoverished soils. Our results highlight the importance of considering soil nutrient availability, plant-mediated abiotic and biotic soil properties, and plant nutrient-acquisition strategies when studying PSF, thereby advancing our mechanistic understanding of PSF during long-term ecosystem development.
Usage Notes
Soil chemical data. Soils were field-collected along the Jurien Bay dune chronosequence in Western Australia in 2014. A subset of soils were subjected to gamma irradiation (50 kGy). Soil data in this file include: pH, total phosphorus (P), resin P, total carbon, total nitrogen, nitrate, ammonium, exchangeable potassium and exchangeable sodium concentrations, and exchangeable cation-exchange capacity. This NFPSF_JEcol_data_soil_chem.csv file was created using Microsoft Excel 2013. See 'README' file for descriptions of (abbreviated) column headings.
Plant biomass and plant-soil feedback data. Common nitrogen (N)-fixing and non-N-fixing plants grown in field, biotic and abiotic soil treatments established from field-collected soils along the Jurien Bay dune chronosequence in Western Australia in 2014. Plants were grown within a glasshouse at the University of Western Australia for six months and harvested in 2015. Data in this file include: total, above- and below-ground plant biomass (fresh and dry), and plant-soil feedback values of a given plant when grown in soils conditioned by either all co-occurring heterospecific plants, or co-occurring heterospecific N-fixing plants, or co-occurring heterospecific non-N-fixing plants (compared with growth in conspecific soil). This NFPSF_JEcol_data_biomass_PSF.csv file was created using Microsoft Excel 2013. See 'README' file for descriptions of (abbreviated) column headings.
Date made available16 Jul 2019
PublisherDryad Digital Repository


  • ecosystem retrogression
  • plant-soil (below-ground) interactions
  • long-term ecosystem development
  • Chronosequence
  • nutrient-acquisition strategies
  • plant-soil feedback
  • plant functional traits
  • Fabaceae

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