Belowground facilitation and trait matching: two or three to tango?

Rui Peng Yu, Hans Lambers, Ragan M. Callaway, Alexandra J. Wright, Long Li

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)
88 Downloads (Pure)


High biodiversity increases ecosystem functions; however, belowground facilitation remains poorly understood in this context. Here, we explore mechanisms that operate via ‘giving–receiving feedbacks’ for belowground facilitation. These include direct effects via root exudates, signals, and root trait plasticity, and indirect biotic facilitation via the effects of root exudates on soil biota and feedback from biota to plants. We then highlight that these two- or three-way mechanisms must affect biodiversity–ecosystem function relationships via specific combinations of matching traits. To tango requires a powerful affinity and harmony between well-matched partners, and such matches link belowground facilitation to the effect of biodiversity on function. Such matching underpins applications in intercropping, forestry, and pasture systems, in which diversity contributes to greater productivity and sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1227-1235
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Plant Science
Issue number12
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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