Population Ecology

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 35–46 | Cite as

Forest gene diversity is correlated with the composition and function of soil microbial communities

  • Jennifer A. Schweitzer
  • Dylan G. Fischer
  • Brian J. Rehill
  • Stuart C. Wooley
  • Scott A. Woolbright
  • Richard L. Lindroth
  • Thomas G. Whitham
  • Donald R. Zak
  • Stephen C. Hart
Special Feature: Original Article Linking Genome to Ecosystem


The growing field of community and ecosystem genetics indicates that plant genotype and genotypic variation are important for structuring communities and ecosystem processes. Little is known, however, regarding the effects of stand gene diversity on soil communities and processes under field conditions. Utilizing natural genetic variation occurring in Populus spp. hybrid zones, we tested the hypothesis that stand gene diversity structures soil microbial communities and influences soil nutrient pools. We found significant unimodal patterns relating gene diversity to soil microbial community composition, microbial exoenzyme activity of a carbon-acquiring enzyme, and availability of soil nitrogen. Multivariate analyses indicate that this pattern is due to the correlation between gene diversity, plant secondary chemistry, and the composition of the microbial community that impacts the availability of soil nitrogen. Together, these data from a natural system indicate that stand gene diversity may affect soil microbial communities and soil processes in ways similar to species diversity (i.e., unimodal patterns). Our results further demonstrate that the effects of plant genetic diversity on other organisms may be mediated by plant functional trait variation.


Community and ecosystem genetics Extracellular enzyme activity Functional traits Genetic diversity Populus Unimodal diversity patterns 


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer A. Schweitzer
    • 1
  • Dylan G. Fischer
    • 2
  • Brian J. Rehill
    • 3
  • Stuart C. Wooley
    • 4
  • Scott A. Woolbright
    • 5
  • Richard L. Lindroth
    • 6
  • Thomas G. Whitham
    • 5
  • Donald R. Zak
    • 7
  • Stephen C. Hart
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Studies ProgramThe Evergreen State CollegeOlympiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of ChemistryUS Naval AcademyAnnapolisUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesCalifornia State University-StanislausTurlockUSA
  5. 5.Department of Biological Sciences, Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental ResearchNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  6. 6.Department of EntomologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  7. 7.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  8. 8.School of Natural Sciences, Sierra Nevada Research InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaMercedUSA

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