Plant and Soil

, Volume 340, Issue 1–2, pp 491–504

Soil microbial communities from an elevational cline differ in their effect on conifer seedling growth

  • Cameron Wagg
  • Brian C. Husband
  • D. Scott Green
  • Hugues B. Massicotte
  • R. Larry Peterson
Regular Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11104-010-0621-x

Cite this article as:
Wagg, C., Husband, B.C., Green, D.S. et al. Plant Soil (2011) 340: 491. doi:10.1007/s11104-010-0621-x

Abstract

Sub-alpine environments consist of altitudinal gradients associated with dramatic changes in plant growth and community composition, but the role of soil feedbacks and microbe interactions is largely unknown. Here, we examine the influence of the overall soil microbial community, with a focus on ectomycorrhizal and dark septate endophytic root colonizing fungi, from low, mid, and high elevations on the growth of Pinus contorta and Picea glauca × engelmannii. The influence of the soil microbial community was tested on seedlings from the same three elevations in order to determine ‘home’ versus ‘away’ effects on conspecifics of differing elevations. The low elevation soil was the most fertile and harbored a soil microbial community with an overall negative effect on seedling growth. In contrast, the high elevation soil was the least fertile and had a microbial community that enhanced seedling growth. However, only the soil microbial community in the highest elevation soil resulted in a stronger influence on the native P. contorta seedlings than seedlings originating from lower elevations. Despite the overall influence of the soil microbial community, ectomycorrhizal colonization was significantly correlated with P. glauca × engelmannii growth rates, but colonization by dark septate endophytes showed no relationship with seedling growth. The results provide evidence that plant—soil microbial community relationships are dependent on soil environment. Moreover, our results provide further support for the importance of soil microbes in facilitating seedling growth toward the edge of their elevational range.

Keywords

Soil feedback Seedling growth Ectomycorrhiza Dark septate endophytes Soil microbial communities Subalpine soils 

Supplementary material

11104_2010_621_MOESM1_ESM.doc (18.9 mb)
Supplementary Figs (DOC 19398 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cameron Wagg
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Brian C. Husband
    • 2
  • D. Scott Green
    • 3
  • Hugues B. Massicotte
    • 3
  • R. Larry Peterson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Molecular and Cellular BiologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  3. 3.Ecosystem Science and Management ProgramUniversity of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince GeorgeBritish ColumbiaCanada
  4. 4.Agroscope Reckenholz Tänikon Research Station ARTZürichSwitzerland

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