Microbial drivers of plant richness and productivity in a grassland restoration experiment along a gradient of land-use intensity

Anna Abrahao, Sven Marhan, Runa S. Boeddinghaus, Ali Nawaz, Tesfaye Wubet, Norbert Hoelzel, Valentin H. Klaus, Till Kleinebecker, Martin Freitag, Ute Hamer, Rafael S. Oliveira, Hans Lambers, Ellen Kandeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Plant-soil feedbacks (PSFs) underlying grassland plant richness and productivity are typically coupled with nutrient availability; however, we lack understanding of how restoration measures to increase plant diversity might affect PSFs. We examined the roles of sward disturbance, seed addition and land-use intensity (LUI) on PSFs. We conducted a disturbance and seed addition experiment in 10 grasslands along a LUI gradient and characterized plant biomass and richness, soil microbial biomass, community composition and enzyme activities. Greater plant biomass at high LUI was related to a decrease in the fungal to bacterial ratios, indicating highly productive grasslands to be dominated by bacteria. Lower enzyme activity per microbial biomass at high plant species richness indicated a slower carbon (C) cycling. The relative abundance of fungal saprotrophs decreased, while pathogens increased with LUI and disturbance. Both fungal guilds were negatively associated with plant richness, indicating the mechanisms underlying PSFs depended on LUI. We show that LUI and disturbance affect fungal functional composition, which may feedback on plant species richness by impeding the establishment of pathogen-sensitive species. Therefore, we highlight the need to integrate LUI including its effects on PSFs when planning for practices that aim to optimize plant diversity and productivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1936-1950
Number of pages15
JournalNew Phytologist
Volume236
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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