Plant and Soil

, Volume 370, Issue 1–2, pp 671–686 | Cite as

The root microbiota—a fingerprint in the soil?

  • Aleklett Kristin
  • Hart Miranda
Review Article



The root system of a plant is known to host a wide diversity of microbes that can be essential or detrimental to the plant. Microbial ecologists have long struggled to understand what factors structure the composition of these communities. An overlooked part of the microbial community succession in root systems has been the potential for individual variation among plants shaped by early colonisation events such as microbial exposure of the seed inside the parent plant and during dispersal.


In this review we outline life events of the plant that can affect the composition of its root microbiota and relate ecological theory of community assembly to the formation of the root microbiota.


All plants are exposed to environmental conditions and events throughout their lifetime that shape their phenotype. The microbial community associated with the plant is ultimately an extension of this phenotype. Therefore, only by following a plant from its origin inside the flower to senescence, can we fully understand how the associated microbial community was assembled and what determined its composition.


Root microbiota Plant life stages Community assembly Historical contingency 



We would like to thank our reviewers for good inputs and ideas on how to present our model in a clear and informative way as well as help with editing and inspiration from colleagues and friends such as David Kadish, Monika Gorzelak and Megan Rúa.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of British Columbia-OkanaganKelownaCanada

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