Does cluster-root activity benefit nutrient uptake and growth of co-existing species?
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Species that inhabit phosphorus- (P) and micronutrient-impoverished soils typically have adaptations to enhance the acquisition of these nutrients, for example cluster roots in Proteaceae. However, there are several species co-occurring in the same environment that do not produce similar specialised roots. This study aims to investigate whether one of these species (Scholtzia involucrata) can benefit from the mobilisation of P or micronutrients by the cluster roots of co-occurring Banksia attenuata, and also to examine the response of B. attenuata to the presence of S. involucrata. We conducted a greenhouse experiment, using a replacement series design, where B. attenuata and S. involucrata shared a pot at proportions of 2:0, 1:2 and 0:4. S. involucrata plants grew more in length, were heavier and had higher manganese (Mn) concentrations in their young leaves when grown next to one individual of B. attenuata and one individual of S. involucrata than when grown with three conspecifics. All S. involucrata individuals were colonised by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, and possibly Rhizoctonia. Additionally, P concentration was higher in the young leaves of B. attenuata when grown with another B. attenuata than when grown with two individuals of S. involucrata, despite the smaller size of the S. involucrata individuals. Our results demonstrate that intraspecific competition was stronger than interspecific competition for S. involucrata, but not for B. attenuata. We conclude that cluster roots of B. attenuata facilitate the acquisition of nutrients by neighbouring shrubs by making P and Mn more available for their neighbours.
KeywordsFacilitation Manganese Phosphorus Proteaceae Rhizosphere
H. L. and E. J. V. were supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC). This research was also funded by the University of Western Australia. We are thankful to Stuart Pearse and Ricarda Jost for helping us with the nutrient analyses, to Michael Shane, Etienne Laliberté and François Teste for helpful discussions, to Ana Elena Muler and Mariana Cruz Campos for assistance with harvesting the plants, to Bruno A. Buzatto for all the help with the experiments, as well as with statistical analysis, and to Evonne Walker and to Megan Ryan for helping with the mycorrhizal colonisation analysis. Constructive comments from reviewers and the editor helped improve the manuscript.
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