Plant Ecology

, Volume 220, Issue 4–5, pp 441–456 | Cite as

Soluble phenolics extracted from Larrea divaricata leaves modulate soil microbial activity and perennial grass establishment in arid ecosystems of the Patagonian Monte, Argentina

  • L. Segesso
  • A. L. CarreraEmail author
  • M. B. Bertiller
  • H. Saraví Cisneros


Sheep grazing induces the reduction of perennial grass cover and the increase of shrub cover with high concentration of chemical defences. We analysed the effects of secondary metabolites released from green and senesced leaves of the shrub Larrea divaricata on soil microbial activity and the establishment of perennial grasses in arid ecosystems of the Patagonian Monte. We carried out microcosm experiments with soil from plant patches without and with L. divaricata and inert substrate seeded with the perennial grasses Poa ligularis and Nassella tenuis, which are characteristic of the Patagonian Monte. Microcosms were subjected to three watering treatments: distilled water and aqueous extracts of green and senesced leaves of L. divaricata with high concentration of soluble phenolics. We assessed the microbial N-flush and net-N mineralization in soil, and seed germination, survival, and biomass of both perennial grass species. Aqueous leaf extracts led to a 29% increase in microbial N-flush and a 20% reduction in the net-N mineralization. Seed germination was less negatively affected by aqueous leaf extracts in P. ligularis ( < 18% reduction) than in N. tenuis (2–69% reduction). Survival of P. ligularis was not affected by aqueous leaf extracts while that of N. tenuis was 21–45% reduced only in the soil from plant patches without L. divaricata. Biomass accumulation of both perennial grass species was negatively affected by aqueous extracts of senesced leaves. We concluded that soluble metabolites extracted from L. divaricata may have positive or negative effects on microbial activity and potential allelopathic effects on perennial grass regeneration depending on species.


Nassella tenuis Plant–plant interaction Plant–soil interaction Poa ligularis Shrubs 



We thank the editor Christina Birnbaum and two anonymous reviewers of this manuscript for their valuable comments. This work was supported by the National Agency for Scientific, Technological Promotion (PICTs 1349, 1368, 2074) and the National Research Council of Argentina (PIPs 112–200801-01664 and 112–201301-00449- CONICET). This paper was written within the framework of PUE-IPEEC-2016 22920160100044. Samples processing and chemical analyses were performed in the Laboratorio de Ecología de Pastizales (LAEPA-IPEEC-CONICET).

Supplementary material

11258_2019_926_MOESM1_ESM.doc (109 kb)
Supplementary file1 (DOC 109 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Segesso
    • 1
  • A. L. Carrera
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • M. B. Bertiller
    • 1
    • 2
  • H. Saraví Cisneros
    • 2
  1. 1.Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco (UNPSJB)Puerto MadrynArgentina
  2. 2.Instituto Patagónico para el Estudio de los Ecosistemas Continentales (IPEEC)–CONICETPuerto MadrynArgentina

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